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Misc. Ramblings on the Gitzo 3540XLS


Talkeetna, US
95 posts

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AKFlyr Registered since 25th Feb 2006
Mon 07-Apr-08 11:10 PM

All righty then...

After the 3540XLS arrived, and I had attached the Markins M20 ballhead, and done the prerequisite test pattern shots, I decided to actually take some photos with the 80-400 VR sitting on a Kirk replacement foot. This stuff ain't for the faint of heart. Here are some miscellaneous ramblings,impressions, and dilemmas.

First, because of my 5'11" stature, I was sure I needed the height of at least the 3530LSV (listed at 58.3 inches) or the XLS at about 58" with only 3 sections extended. As it turns out, with 3 sections extended on the XLS, the viewfinder of the D300 with the Kirk replacement foot on the 80-400 is just at eye level. Hooray for calculations. Well, except that eye level may be slightly too high for using the tripod. I didn't realize how much I counted on using the top LCD for tasks like setting the exposure compensation and white balance. I worked at using the rear LCD which is really excellent on the D300 - repeating everything shown on the top and more. So it's truly a learning experience. Of course I could always not fully extend the (3) legs. I'll have to work with it more to see which seems best.

I'm really impressed at how solid the XLS is; heads and shoulders above other tripods I've used (no pun intended).

The next day I decided I needed a field trip, so Wiley and I headed up to see if we could find some hawks. There's a place not far from here where I've previously had some success. The first dilemma arose as I tried to choose which camera bag to use to carry everything. I realized the only bag I have with any means of attaching a tripod is a Tenba medium Shootout backpack. This is still a fairly large bag, and the whole enchilada with the tripod attached is huge. It worked fairly well, although I wouldn't really consider the Shootout to be a good pack for hiking. It's meant more to carry a whole bunch of gear (including laptop) on short walks. What I really want is something to carry a minimum amount of gear on longer and more strenuous hikes. I have some backpacking and hiking backpacks that I might try adapting. Does anyone have any good ideas on something made specifically to purpose. The Think Tank Rotation360 looks interesting. The support system looks good, and it looks to be about the right size. My only concern is that it may be too "gimmicky". While the Glass Taxi looks about the right size, it doesn't really look like it's made for travelling any distance. Most of the other "backpacks" are really just designed for carrying incredibly huge amounts of gear, but not really hiking. I doubt too many people go out to hike 6 miles with every lens, camera body, tripod, flash, battery system and light meter, laptop, and instruction manual they own. Or else they're in much better shape than I am. I've learned to be a minimalist.

OK so we finally get out on the trail, walk uphill a few miles and find a good spot to set up. There are a few hawks in the area. Of course none come anywhere near. After about an hour Wiley (the golden retriever) is getting bored. So we pack up and walk on another mile uphill to a promising looking ridgeline. Wouldn't you know it - as soon as we get there, here's a beautiful redtail working towards us along the ridge. Wiley assumes his best hidden position, and I struggle to get the tripod up and the camera out. But too late - the hawk has passed (within about 20'). I thought that when you bought a Gitzo, the animals would at least wait for you to get set up. Isn't there some sort of warranty? I'll write my congressman. I guess I learned that it's better to get the camera out first, and then (if you have time) worry about the tripod. The day was still young, but to no avail as we hung out for over an hour more and our only avian visitors were a few crows and some swallows. I took a total of 18 photographs with exactly zero keepers. It was a beautiful day in the hills though - I can't think of too may other places I'd rather have been.