I could and probably should have taken my Velbon-343E on my vacation. This 62-inch high (when extended), 17.5 inch (collapsed) economy travel tripod, weighing just under two pounds, had been designed to my specifications and was last seen just before discontinuance selling at major stores for $69.95.
But there in my travel tripod drawer also was an even more ancient Vivitar traveler, lighter (26.5 oz) only 15.5 inches (collapsed) reasonably high ( 51 inches, when extended). I had replaced its original rinkydink one handle three-way head with a compact Slik ballhead.
|Quick, efficient tripod leg locking levers: With a bit of practice, you can learn to lock or unlock tripod legs in a few seconds.|
The Velbon has snap leg locks allowing me to extend the legs fully and lever them tight within 30 sec. The Vivitar takes but 20 sec to pull out the telescoped legs whose spring-loaded locking pins pop out of their holes and automatically hold all the leg sections together.
That's what is supposed to happen, but anyone who has ever owned a tripod with pin locking legs knows the sinking sight of one or more legs gently collapsing earthwards caused by one or more pin locks not locking properly.
At least one tripod engineer tackled this awful collapsing propensity. He inserted a locking mechanism in each leg. Once all legs were fully extended, a twist of the locking collar at the top of each leg caused all tripod sections to hold fast until the collars were reverse twisted and the three legs were collapsed at one time by pushing on the three leg ends simultaneously with the palm of one hand. If the tripod was extended and collapsed snappily, the feat appeared to be a trick of legerdemain, which it was.
I would be depending on my Pentak K100D with four 1.5 volt AA cell lithium Energizers, a power source which I prefer over lugging a charger and NMH hydride batteries, a choice the rest of the Popular Photography staff consider addled and too expensive.
I'd have the Sigma 18-125mm f/3.5-5 and my constantly carried 10-17mm f/3.5-4.5 Pentax Fisheye zoom, in case I ran across an extra wide subject in which I could possibly hide the fisheye's barrel distortion.The Pentax's built in flash probably would be insufficient so I would carry the Pentax AF540 FGZ shoe mount flash.
Before I fill in the rest of the photo paraphernalia, let me explain it is all to take one annual picture during a ten day business-pleasure vacation. During the rest of my picture taking in Yosemite National Park, I could be as free as a bird -- tripodless and flashless.
This one picture would be my attempt to photograph the yearly directors' and stockholders' meeting of Ian McFee's Grill In Templeton California. Everyone would be sitting on either side of a long table set smack bang in the middle of the restaurant loaded with other diners. The ceiling is about 16 feet high so forget about bounce flash.
Please don't tell me how I should have taken this picture -- throw out the other diners and bring in a multiple wireless flash setup, but this ain't gonna happen, this year or any year. Instead, I am faced with about 14 subjects impatiently waiting to tear into their appetizers and be done with me and the picture. Oh, I forgot to tell you that I'm supposed to be in the picture too thanks to the Pentax wireless infrared Remote Control which works up to about 15 feet.
Regretfully passing up the appetizers to set up the camera, flash and tripod, I found a neat middle aisle equidistant from the two ends of the table and peered through the viewfinder with the 18-125mm set at widest angle. In no way could I get in the whole table without backing up into the next room.
Fisheye zoom to the rescue! Set at 14mm with the table at the centerline there was virtually no barrel distortion, although it''s clearly visible at the ceiling and windows. I did my little trick of extending the tripod legs, heard the pins click and turned the collars to lock the legs at maximum height.
Damn, one leg section would not cooperate and kept sliding inwards. The flash foot of the AF540 FGZ did not want to slide into the Pentax hot shoe.
That's strange, I thought, they fit perfectly together last year. Then I remembered. It wasn't the same camera or flash unit. The previous year I had used the Pentax *ist D with the predecessor of the AF 540 FGZ, namely the AF 500 FTZ. So this year's annual dinner was the first time the new flash had met the new camera! And as you have probably discovered, new flash unit feet don't necessarily fit new hot shoes without a bit of jiggling. I jiggled and finally the foot slid in and I locked it.
|Miracles happen: Despite doing nearly everything wrong, group picture turned out out passably right. Note: by keeping table reasonably central, fisheye lens effect was nearly eliminated.|
If you look carefully at the first and only exposure I made, you still won’t find my face in it. I hand held a direct flash program exposure with the flash's wide angle panel in place The tripod never behaved properly until I got it home and then when I tried it, it worked just fine. This picture is the plain, un-Photoshopped result complete with annoying chairs in right foreground, plus light falloff at edges and corners. Even two people who just happened to shut their eyes can be repaired, and with a lot more Photoshop prestidigitation, I could have been inserted in the empty chair to the right of the man with the red shirt.
Where had I gone wrong? Practically everywhere. I should have taken the Velbon tripod and tried out everything before I even left for the trip. Prior to anyone being seated at the table, I could have set up the camera, determined the right distance and lens focal length and fired off a few shots to to make certain all was well including the exposure, flash and remote control.
Then, with tripod legs extended and locked but folded and flash in its shoe, I should have stashed the equipment in a corner of the dining room until the time came that it and I and were needed. I could have set up quickly, shot the picture and eaten my appetizers. Morals: Always check your equipment before you have to use it but keep it nearby at the ready.
And now I have nearly 360 days to drill this into my head before the next session. Any other suggestions?