Sooner or later any nature photographer has to the question – “Am I carrying too much?” The answer is always “yes” because any or all of Sod’s law, Murphy’s rule or Finagle’s corollary dictate that anything you leave behind will become essential.
Tripods are the obvious place to start. I have often (masochistically) carried an old-type Benbo tripod then, for a time, I substituted the old-pattern Baby Benbo when photographing alpines in situ (even with medium format). Foolishly, I left mine with somebody who then moved house and mislaid it. A couple of years ago I bought the newer Mini Trekker version with lighter gauge tubes and plastic right-angled elbow. Unfortunately, it is an inferior piece of kit in comparison: the plastic joint flexes and I don’t use it with a camera.
However, I am now the proud owner of a Novoflex Minipod – it is not cheap but the quality and precision engineering is superb, as with all Novoflex products. It is simple, astonishingly flexible and, most important, rigid when I mount a Nikon D300 with battery pack, 150mm macro lens and flash set up.
Each of its three legs (25cm length) is connected to a mini ball and socket joint: these can be independently swiveled and tilted. In addition, each joint carries three grooves of different depth which form preset stops. Each leg ends in a hard rubber ball of 3cm diameter effectively stopping it slipping on (or scratching) smooth surfaces: they also allow it to be set on a table, on stones, against a column… on a camera bag or even against one’s chest or thigh giving a height from about 30cm (depending on the head used) to a few centimetres. A suitable ball & socket head is extra.
Used with a ball and socket head the combination is ideal for getting shots of subjects at ground level – something I often do with wide-angled plant and insect shots. You can purchase a set of 15 cm extension rods (£25) in the same anodized, black finish creating a slightly higher support with little or no loss in rigidity.
I purchased mine at £95 from Speedgraphic, my main source of gadgetry for many years. Their service is excellent and prompt (www.speedgraphic.co.uk) and their catalogue of all those essential bits and pieces is a treasure trove.