Over my career in photography, I've had approximately 30 different tripods and 7 different monopods. But today, I'd like to talk about tripods. I have always exclusively used Gitzo or Manfrotto. The simple fact of the matter is that they have never failed. There have been some bizarre situations for example this comes to mind- I was on an assignment for Jacques Cousteau, photographing the whales mating in Scammon's Lagoon. We were taken out to a key that was approximately 200 yards long and 20 yards wide. We were shooting with 400s and 600mm lenses. The slight miscalculation is that we were dropped off at low tide. As the day progressed, the tide came in. The two Gitzos saved our cameras and long glass. The water came up to the second leg. Salt water and sand are not good for anything photographic. When we returned to shore, they were washed in fresh water and continued to work fine for the balance of the month we were there. When we returned to New York, they did require new bushings and grease. I still have that tripod today. It is 35 years old.
Ten years later, on a major advertising shoot for Saatchi & Saatchi, the tripod was elevated all the way up, including the center post. A ladder was needed to for me to be eye level to the viewfinder. I was using a 800mm lens. I needed the focal length for the creative director's vision and also to remove the extremely ugly background. Tripods - you've got to love 'em! When do you hate them? The reality is, when you carry a tripod all day long and do not use it, this is not a good thing. A reasonable tripod takes up as much space as 3 lenses. Or, a camera, lens, and a strobe. It can also slow you down at a time where you want to be as mobile as possible. But what happens when you don't take that tripod? Invariably, you come across a situation where you say "Oh god, what have I done"? I think I've come up with a great solution. Well, not really me, but Manfrotto. I've recently purchased a Manfrotto 190CXPro3 tripod, and a 701HDV Manfrotto head. The tripod is unbelievably small and light and the head, even though relatively inexpensive, works extremely well for moderate DSLR video shooting. I've pushed past the envelope of weight, and it's worked great with a 70-200mm f/2.8.
Tripods, love them or hate them? When you need them, you've got to love them!