Tripods – Care and Maintenance of the Three Legged Beasties

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I was working on my project “Everyday Objects’ this weekend and shot the image above of what I believe is a wasp’s nest with my newly renovated tripod.

In reading about how to care for and maintain your tripod I actually went and read some of the manuals that are supplied with Gitzo, Really Right Stuff etc. style tripods. Not something that I would normally do being the type of person who shuns manuals in favor of a more intuitive exploration of the functions of a new piece of gear. You should have seen me trying to start the rental car in Iceland – but that’s a topic for another day.

Really Right Stuff tell you that ‘Sand and saltwater are your tripod’s worst environmental enemies.’ About half, if not more, of my tripod use is at the beach so it’s hardly any wonder then that my tripod finally started to complain recently after many years of good service.

Carbon fiber tripods such as my old Gitzo 1325 are generally simple to look after and should last for an exceptionally long time. I’d hoped that I’d only have to buy one tripod which now seems like wishful thinking but a few simple precautions should keep your tripod in good shape.

General Cleaning

Wipe down the tripod legs with a damp cloth to remove mud, sand and salt water. Dry the legs off before collapsing.

Check all metal fittings for signs of corrosion and replace as necessary. Spare parts should be available from the manufacturer. Here’s a pdf of the parts for my 1325 tripod to see how it breaks down. The Gitzo Service Center can be found here. For old tripods spare parts can be a pain to find. It pays to anticipate future needs!

Disassembly

Disassembly and a more thorough cleaning is recommended after immersing one or more of the leg joints in water and getting water up inside the tripod legs.

This is a case of do as I say rather than do as I do. Although I’m sure if I followed my own advice I would have had less problems over the years.

Water, mud, sand or saltwater inside the legs causes a number of problems, including :

  • initiation of corrosion on some of the internal parts that is difficult to diagnose until too late
  • causes the bushings to swell making it difficult to open the tripod legs

Taking the tripod apart is remarkably easy even though I was convinced that I would break the whole thing if I attempted it. While the process described here is for the Gitzo 1325 from digging around it looks as though most of the equivalent tripods from other manufacturers come to disassemble in a very similar way.

Things to have on hand during disassembly:

  • Spare bushings if you’ve been having problems
  • Shop rags or paper towels for clean up and drying the legs.
  • WD-40, used sparingly this can cut through the muck on even the most sadly neglected of tripods.
  • An old tooth brush is handy to clean grit and grime from the tripod collars and threads.
  • A good lubricant for the nicely cleaned threads. I used Lanocote because I had a tub handy.

Here’s the lower section of one the legs:

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Diassembly is simply a matter of unscrewing the leg collar all the way until it releases as shown here:

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Hopefully you can then just pull on the leg and it will smoothly come free (- or not if you read my previous post on my disassembly efforts):

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The carbon fiber bushing appears to sit under the join of the two legs and is compressed as you screw the collar tight, holding the leg where you’ve set it. You can see where it normally is in the picture above.

The plastic guides keep the leg centered as it slides inside the fatter leg above. The plastic bushings were particularly salty but cleaned up nicely as shown below.

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If you look carefully you can see that the salt build up has caused some wear of these guides. I also found that it could be tricky to get these guides to sit in groove in the tripod leg properly after removing them for cleaning. This was easily fixed by compressing them as shown below.

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This compression was sufficient to close the gap that you can see in the upper guide which meant that the guide seated more closely into the groove on the tripod leg making it easier to reassemble the leg.

Getting everything back together is simply a matter of reversing the process. It’s relatively easy to do, although it might take you the best part of an evening to clean up the entire tripod or longer if you have to deal with stuck leg joints as I did!

Good luck and let me know if you have any suggestions.

Friday Inspiration: Hobie Porter

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When I first saw Hobie Porter‘s work I wasn’t sure what I was looking at – a ‘straight’ photograph, a digital mash-up or what. He is of course a landscape painter, and his work is a juxtaposition of the grand landscape with artifacts that he’s found. Perhaps not surprisingly what caught my attention are his seascapes in which he incorporates old ropes, propellers and a variety of other things that he’s found at the beach. One of the advantages that painters have over photographers is that they are able to paint what ever they imagine and so I had assumed that these beach artifacts were figments of Porter’s imagination. Not so. While there may be an element of interpretation he actually collected these objects for use as reference and then for the exhibition shown in the video below displays them as part of the exhibition. Check out the videos of Porter at work and of him discussing his art below.

Hobie Porter ‘Continuum’ from Arthouse Gallery on Vimeo.

Hobie Porter ‘Full Circle’ from Arthouse Gallery on Vimeo.

Change Your Habits With Three Simple Steps

I was having a conversation with a friend recently about whether it’s possible to change behaviors, specifically negative behaviors, or are you stuck with them?

I was of the opinion that you can’t change behaviors, or at least it’s exceptionally difficult, and the best you could would be to blunt the impact of negative behaviors.

If you watched the video above you’ll have seen that Charles Duhigg believes that it is possible to change habits using a simple three step process described in the flow chart below.

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I’ve just finished reading Duhigg’s book ‘The Power of Habit‘ in which he describes in detail how individuals, organizations and societies all seem to exhibit this same pattern of a cue triggering a specific behavior, presumably for a specific reward.

For individuals habits are an automatic behavior that involve little conscious thought. You are unthinkingly going through the motions. This of course explains why it’s so hard to change engrained habits but this book provides a practical way of identifying your triggers, testing what they are, understanding what the reward is that you’re seeking and then packaging all this together to make the cue trigger a different, more productive behavior.

I don’t know about you but I feel as though I’ve just been shown an important key to universal behavior and I’m looking forward to working out ways to cut out the Boston Cream donuts!

Friday Inspiration: Richard Long

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As I was thinking about British artists that I remembered seeing when I was younger Richard Long came to mind. The stone circles that I remember him making resonated with me at the time, and I still find that I’m drawn to simple geometric shapes, his sculptures, lines made by walking, was more of a mystery to me. I find some of his recent ‘mudworks’ to be quite interesting. Long considers these to be two dimensional sculptures having originally started this work on the ground before progressing to working on walls at quite a massive scale. The mud that is used in the work comes from the river Avon, a choice that reflects his upbringing on the banks of this river. As can be seen in the image above he’s brought some of his stone work indoors, making both mudworks and stone circles that interact with each other for some of his exhibitions.

I’m enjoying reading Juliet Miller‘s analysis of Long’s work in her book ‘On the Track of Richard Long‘. It’s worth a read if you can find the book.

Check out Richard Long at work in the videos below:

Defining Your Day

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I was excited to see my copy of Norman Ackroyd‘s book The Stratton Street Series and my day planner arrive from the UK on the same day last week. Always good to get new books of images and tools to help me figure out where I’m going to find time to look at them.

Squeezing everything in is an on-going battle and forgoing sleep is becoming a less and less attractive option given what I’m finding out about sleep deprivation.

Being intentional then about how I spend my time seems like the next best alternative. While I bridle at the thought of having every moment of my day scheduled it’s one way, and really the only way I can think of at the moment, to ensure that I have the time to work on everything that I want to move forward.

I found the Day Ticket planner from Half Three when I was poking around on the Kickstarter website – Lauren and Andy Clark explain why they put this together in the video below.

Half Three – Day Ticket Kickstarter Film from Andy Clark on Vimeo.

Here’s a shot of a page from the planner

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I love paper so I’m all in for notebooks and paper planners. While you obviously don’t need to buy this planner the general thrust behind it is perfect. It provides a framework to help you chunk out your day to schedule all the things you want to get done. This may lead you to the realization that you need to cut out some things like watching TV in the evening or getting up a little earlier being conscious and intentional about these decisions will allow you to get more done in your day.

Try this out and let me know how it goes.

Trouble with Tripods

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As I was setting up my tripod for this shot this summer as I collapsed, de-telescoped, closed or whatever you call it, one of the legs the rubber foot shot off sending me scrambling to find it. Luckily I did! The glue had finally given up on the Gitzo 1325 legs of my tripod. Not bad after taking a beating for 8 years. I got a two part adhesive and glued it back in place and my tripod problems were over. Or at least I thought my tripod problems were over.

When I was using the tripod this week one i found that one of the legs was impossible to fully extend. Years of neglect had finally come home to roost. Photographing in and around the ocean means that your gear takes a pounding. Ideally you would rinse the salt water off your gear with fresh water. There are obvious problems doing that with cameras and lenses but you can and should do some clean up of your gear with a soft damp cloth after you’ve been out. I do this as needed after every shoot but I’ve never properly cleaned my tripod. This has largely been out of fear of getting the tripod to pieces and not being able to get it back together again.

I actually found that taking the tripod to pieces was much easier than I’d expected. On the old Gitzo that I have it’s simply a matter of unscrewing the leg lock the whole way and then pulling on the leg. The one that was stuck needed me to stand on the head of the tripod and then yank hard on the leg. Eventually it yielded to force! While the tripod was in pieces I took the opportunity to clean up the threads both on the leg and on the screw lock. The leg locks had been making awful grinding noises for years, presumably from sand and salt getting in there. This was easy enough to do with a rag for the legs and a toothbrush to get into the locks. As an aside I had always been taught to extend the tripod fattest section first, which of course meant that the lower section lock ended up under water the first time I used the tripod at the beach. While this advice is generally sound I typically have the lower section extended the width of my hand – about 4 inches – and then when working at the beach this is the first section that gets extended.

At the top of the tripod legs I found 3 bushings – two plastic and one that could easily be carbon fiber. Trying to get the legs back together was a little tricky and after a little bit of trial and error I realized that it was the plastic bushings causing the problems. I took these off the tripod and wound them into a tighter circle and then when they went back on the tripod the plastic stayed in this tighter configuration long enough to allow me to reassemble the whole thing relatively easily,

It was quite an educational process and easy enough that I could have been doing regularly all along!