There is no doubt about it, you have to have a tripod when shooting at night.. None of us can handhold the camera for 1 second or longer. If you can, please show me! We teach about 10 night photography workshops a year and see all kinds of tripods. Big heavy ones, little ones that look like toothpicks and some medium sized ones. In all honestly, some people are very new to night photography and their little tripod does well for them when they are traveling and working in daylight conditions.
After finishing up our May workshops I knew it was time for me to get a new set of tripod legs. I wanted light weight yet solid. twist grips on the legs, something that wasn’t too tall and wouldn’t break the bank.
I am not sure where, but I saw an ad for Robus Tripods and at the time thought they looked like a good fit for my shooting style. I didn’t think much of it until it was time to upgrade my tripod legs. I did a bit more research and didn’t find them on any social media sites. Instagram only has a few #Robustripod tags so I decided to reach out to the company and see about the possibility of working together. I did not need their biggest, most expensive tripod. Just something that worked great and and fit my needs. I ended up getting the Robus RC Vantage Series 3 5558
When I think about tripods, I think about how they will work at night. Generally, when shooting sunrise, sunset or during the day the exposures are not that long and therefore it’s not as crucial to have a really solid tripod as it is to have one at night. Often times our exposures are anywhere from 10 seconds to an hour or more. This really gives a lot of time for things to happen. Wind is a big issue with night photography and needs to be taken into consideration when shooting the night sky. If you’re shooting and winds are gusting it’s pretty natural for you to want to grab your tripod and hold it down. This works well if you are already holding it before the exposure starts and you hold it all the way through the shot. If you feel wind and grab your tripod during the exposure there is a good chance that your image wont be as sharp as you like. After having shot in the wind quite a bit over the last week I have realized that this tripod works pretty well even in gusty winds. That makes me a pretty happy camper.
When stability is key so that your images are as sharp as possible you want to keep your camera as close to the tripod base as possible. This means you don’t want your center column extended very far if at all. I recommend purchasing a tripod that has a short column or no column at all. The Robus does not have a center column but can be purchased separately if you really want one. I, personally, like the fact that my camera is extra solid on the tripod because I don’t have a center column. When choosing a tripod size be sure to not use the center column height to help you determine if the tripod is right for you. I would suggesting going off the base height and then figure in the ballhead height and the distance from the base of your camera to the eyepiece.
Design and functionality are also important. You don’t want to be out in the dark fiddling around with your tripod while your friends are all shooting already. You want to keep things simple and easy to use. I love the design of the legs and how they extend out to get the camera even more solid. You simply pull the silver lock out and then you can move the legs freely to the desired width. I also love the twist locks for the leg extensions. In the past I have owned tripods that that had clamp locks and I found they jammed too easy and were a pain to clean. The twist locks make for simple extension and retraction in just a second or 2.
I like and sometimes need to get my tripod into odd positions to get a shot. This is where I really like Robus’ decision to make this tripod without a center column as well as make the legs go out almost flat. For both landscapes and nightscapes this is a real benefit.
Having a larger base at the top with the legs on the outside make the tripod very easy for me to hang my camera bag on the oversized hook in between the legs. On my last tripod the legs were mounted under the base and my Mindshift 36L did not fit. Why do I hang my almost 40lb camera bag under my tripod when I am shooting? Added stability. By doing this it does 2 things.. It keeps my gear all in one place and it adds a whole other level of solidness that you can’t get by doing anything else. This allows me to shoot in really windy conditions without worry. I know my images are gonna be razor sharp no matter how long I am shooting. Because I can spread the legs nice and wide, I can put the bag on the hook and even if the wind moves the bag a little I still don’t have to worry about the camera moving during the exposure.
Your tripod should fit in or on your camera bag to help keep your hands free during hiking. Trying to carry your gear in your hands isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Too many chances to have something happen and the gear get’s broke or damaged. At the same time you don’t want to put a huge tripod on your little camera pack. They should fit each other well and it should wear well when you’re hiking or walking. I did several hikes in Utah over the last couple months and found that I didn’t even know the tripod was on my back. It fit really well. Balance was good and it’s easy on easy off.
You may notice the white tape on the legs and ask what that’s for. It’s glow in the dark tape so that I can see where my tripod is in the dark without having to turn on lights. Even if you only shoot at night occasionally, I highly recommend it. You can get it on Amazon. I checked all of my local hardware stores and no one had it.
In review – things to look for when purchasing a tripod for night photography
- short or no center column
- proper height
- legs that extend wide
- legs on the outside of the base, not under it
- Hook to hang your bag for added stability
- Twist lock leg sections
- Carbon Fiber – Weight
Had Robus and I not been able to work something out, I would have still purchased this tripod and I would have been thankful that I did. I like to keep a $500 budget for my tripods and this one fits right into that amount without going over.
Robus is owned by B&H Photo and the Gradus Group
Thank you for taking the time to give this a read. I appreciate it and look forward to more blog posts in the near future.
Links where you can read more about the products and my work
- Robus Tripods
- Sigma Lenses
- Darren White Photography – Website
- Night Photography Workshops
- Oregon Coast Workshops
- Being a good land steward when it comes to photography