A 4x5, High Winds and Light Tripod Don't Mix

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Colorado CJ, Dec 18, 2017.

  1. Colorado CJ

    Colorado CJ Member

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    Yesterday I went hiking through Rocky Mountain National Park with my Zone VI 4x5. Since I was going to be hiking in the high country and taking some other cameras, I took along my carbon fiber tripod instead of my normal Berlebach wood tripod.

    Anyway, yesterday was a windy day. Towards the evening, after I got down off the trails, I decided to take one last photo. Lower down the wind wasn't bad. After taking the photo, I turned around to pack away my Grafmatic holder and a big gust came up.

    Before I knew it, I heard a crash and my heart fell into my stomach. I turned around and saw my beautiful Zone VI smashed against the rocks.

    I put everything back in my pack and left it until today. I was pretty disgusted.

    Today I took the camera apart at my shop. With clamps alcohol and some epoxy I have it all back together again. Cosmetically there are a couple of small scratches but you can hardly tell.

    Lesson learned. I'll be hiking with my Berlebach whenever I take the 4x5 out again.

    [​IMG]4x5 Repair by Andrew Marjama, on Flickr
     
  2. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    A Berlebach is nice and fancy, but in this case it is not the answer. What is missing is attention to technique.
    Splay the tripod legs. And never ever turn your back on a tripod, in even the slightest breeze. Why does it take an accident like this for people to understand that a tripod set to full height and unsupported is vulnerable to even a slight knock? Sadly the same incident has happened to quite a few people here on Photrio. Pointedly, all things being correctly matched and set up, the safety of the camera is not dependent on a fancy tripod, it is how the tripod is used and set.

    A friend lost a Wista 4x5 to a sudden gust of wind a year or so ago.
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2017
  3. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    The photograph of the damage looks very painful.

    Splay the legs
    Use the leg spikes to dig into the ground
    Never turn your back
    Hang a heavy weight from a hook at the base of the tripod center post
     
  4. Patrick Robert James

    Patrick Robert James Subscriber

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    Sounds like you are a pretty handy guy, so if your Gitzo doesn't have a hook at the end of the center column, put one on it. Splaying the legs is a great way to trip over them and knock your camera down all at the same time.

    I had the same thing happen to me last year for the first time ever. Straight up face plant, right on the lens! Custom 4x5 Polaroid conversion too, so it took two days to get it back in shape. What a pain! Welcome to the I-don't-want-to-be-in-that-club Club.

    And ignore the negative nellies. Sh!t happens. If you are doing it right eventually something bad is going to happen. Just the way it is. At least you were able to fix it. Cameras are like hammers. You never see a carpenter complain he got a nick on a hammer.....
     
  5. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    A 4x5 in high winds and danged near any tripod wouldn't have stopped that. I was fortunate one day a couple years ago, I caught mine just as it lifted up and started to sail off. My condolences.
     
  6. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    Yeowwwww, that’s a sad story. Glad you were able to put Humpty back together again!
     
  7. shutterfinger

    shutterfinger Subscriber

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  8. WilmarcoImaging

    WilmarcoImaging Member

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    Sorry to hear. Did the lens survive the incident?
     
  9. shutterfinger

    shutterfinger Subscriber

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    The lens was big zoom and is what bent the mount ring on the body. I replaced the body mount ring and could not tell it had hit concrete except for the minor scuffs on the top cover.
    The lens was not harmed. The top of the camera and tilt handle of the head took the brunt of the impact. It was an economy tripod and I quickly got rid of it.
     
  10. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    First time I visited Hawai'i, I learned that my ultralight 8x10" Gowland Pocket View would make a great box kite. No damage, but it was a struggle to make steady exposures when the clouds, light, and wind were all good at the same time. After that I generally brought the 4x5" or 2x3" Technika, which are much more stable in the wind, and now that I live here, I have to admit that the big Gowland doesn't get out enough.
     
  11. Pioneer

    Pioneer Subscriber

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    My condolences and I hope your repairs work out. I haven't been in your shoes yet but I have tried really hard a couple of times.

    The closest was when my Dorff and the Berlebach it was sitting on top of tilted over right into me. No harm done. If it had gone the other way it would have rolled down a pretty steep and rocky incline instead.

    I am fond of hanging weight off the bottoms of my tripods. Not sure it would really help in a strong gust but I hope it will.
     
  12. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member

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    I carry an empty canvas bag, when I need to weight the tripod it gets filled with rocks.
     
  13. jim10219

    jim10219 Member

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    For windy conditions, I use my Sinar F1 and Bogen 3050 tripod with a 3047 head. That setup weighs probably 30+ lbs. all together. With the legs splayed out and the center column lowered, it's pretty sturdy. It's far from portable however. I built a travel case for it using a hard roller suitcase that I can attach to a camper's backpacking frame to move it around in places that I can't roll it. It's not at all convenient. And it kills my back to go more than half a mile or so. But it is serves its purpose where my other cameras won't.

    One of the issues with large format photography is I usually use much longer exposure times than I would with other formats. So if camera shake is going to be an issue, then I usually just don't set up. There's no point in risking your camera for a blurry shot. But still, I've made some decent photographs on the beaches of Hawaii and on the windward side of several mountains and canyons with that Sinar and Bogen setup, which testifies to their ability to withstand modest gusts and steady winds. But in those situations I still make multiple exposures, because not all will come out tack sharp.
     
  14. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Bad luck at least you've salvaged the camera. My own Wista 45DX fell of my tripod once when a quick release tripod fitting failed, a corner was badly grazed and the case part spilt on a joint. luckily it pushed back together. I no longer use a quick release plate !!!

    When using my light weight tripods I hang my back-pack from it as an anchor.

    Ian
     
  15. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    Ouch! Our coastal winds here are incessant much of the year, so whenever possible, I use my Ries wooden tripods, even for smaller cameras. I've even had my big Ries with an 8X10 on it picked up and tossed by a sudden gust twenty feet or more! Lucky on the landings so far. But on long backpacking trips in the mts, I simply have to resort to carbon fiber tripods to conserve overall weight. Incidentally, I bolt my view cameras right to the tripod platform using the turn-knob, and never use a tripod head with a view camera, since that's the first thing likely to vibrate.
     
  16. Doremus Scudder

    Doremus Scudder Member

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    I second the idea of hanging a weight on the tripod when needed. I have a collapsible water bucket (really just a coated nylon bag) that I carry with me in the field. It's very light but does the job when needed. Also, when it's windy, keep a hand on the tripod or camera at all times. Kind of like the sailors adage: one hand for you, one hand for the boat (tripod/camera in this case). I've had a camera or two take a fall, but never so much damage as you have. I'm glad you are able to cobble it back together again.

    I hate quick-release plates/heads; they're too easy to release... I simply tip the camera platform 90° when mounting the camera; I think I'm just about as fast as a lot of quick release systems.

    Best,

    Doremus
     
  17. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    I've even used my own body weight hanging via cord, laying on the ground, to stabilize the gear, with a very long cable release, of course. I once did this laying on lake ice to get an 8X10 shot of an intricate high-strung "ice flower" in a 70mph wind. Strange as it might seem, the shot came out perfectly sharp, because it's not sustained winds pressure that shakes the camera, but gusts. You just don't want an expensive kite!
     
  18. Steve Goldstein

    Steve Goldstein Subscriber

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    One thing I've considered is to tie a short piece of cordage to the hook, with the loose end secured under (or wrapped around) my foot. This would allow for variations in both height and tension. I know the cord itself could vibrate in the wind and this is certainly a potential issue.
     
  19. Zelph

    Zelph Member

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    If you splay the legs and put the camera bag on one of them it may give you a more solid platform. Doing this also makes it more solid and absorbs vibration better than hanging the bag from the center post.
     
  20. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    ...then there are those times I simply find it necessary to default to medium format, without the bellows. For example, my wife and I go to the Islands about once a year, and always find the summit area of Haleakala photographically rewarding. But it's also typically very windy. So I eventually gave up on view cameras up there. Down in the crater might be a different story.
     
  21. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    i don't bother with the sand bags or the legs of the tripod spread open
    i just have a person i regularly hire during high winds. this person lies on their back
    UNDER the tripod and holds it steady pulls down on the center post or 2 legs
    .. usually i pay the person in pixie sticks, jujubes and a thermos of warm liquid jello afterwards
    the sugar and jello keeps them warm if its wintertime and gets them excited for the 2nd spot we set up.
     
  22. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    Well hell, I might volunteer to do that if there's jello shots involved!
     
  23. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    Cell phones and other digital cameras make good weights in a mesh bag hanging from a tripod hook, as long as you have enough of them. I can't think of any other use for those things; but they are more common than rocks.
     
  24. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    They also make good door stops and wheel chocks.
     
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