Tripods (Nov 2023)
I use a medium size tripod Benro that can fit into my check-in luggage. It doubles as a monopod. I simply twist off one of the legs and extend it with the center column. I always use spiked feet for maximum stability. The one thing I would not settle on is Carbon Fiber. This material is light weight, but sturdy and comfortable to touch in both hot and cold weather.
Fluid Video Heads
I use a 2-way Fluid Video Head. I am happy with the Benro and Manfrotto heads. They are very priceworthy, but unfortunately still not using the universal “Arca-Swiss Quick Release System”. I therefore I put an “Arca-Swiss” quick-release clamp on all my tripod heads. I have mounted an “Arca-Swiss” plate on the lens foot. The smooth pan of these types of heads are perfect for spottingscope users following a bird, or for videographers.
The standard for supporting super telephoto lenses on tripods, replacing the video fluid head as they would tip over with all that weight. The most famous Gimbal Heads is the Wimberley heads. They enable amazing maneuverability for huge lenses, and have been recommended by the best. The closest competitors are Sirui Gimbal PH-20 followed by Induro GHB2.
Ballheads - The FlexShooter
This tripod head is the evolution of ballheads, combining the versatility of the ballhead with the gimbal tilt. Basically it allows you to get the functionality of the large and cumbersome gimbal heads in a smaller and more versatile ballhead. It is recomended by famous bird photographers. I just wish the smallest head would include the levered quick release clamp. The quick-release lever is so important to be able to quickly attach/detach a camera from a tripod, especially for handholdable lenses such as the Sony 200-600mm or the Canon 100-500mm.
Skimmer Ground Pod
When getting low on muddy and sandy soil then a tripod can be awkward to move about. Naturescapes Skimmer Ground Pod II ($100) is the best product for this type of terrain. You can also create your own with a frisbee and a beanbag. The key is to get low when photographing shorebirds especially.
I have had BlackRapid shoulder straps since 2011 and it has made it much easier walking around with my Canon R7 + Canon 100-500mm, not worrying about it sliding off my shoulder.
I have also tried the Peak Design Slide Lite, but it is not as comfortable or secure as the Blackrapid Sport Breathe. It can however be useful with its Peak Design Standard Plate which easily mounts on a tripod/monopod without having to fiddle with taking off the strap or anchors (like with the Black Rapid fastener). But there are tripod solutions also for the Blackrapid users.
These have long been custom made contraptions. I was lucky to buy a very good model from the former Bushhawk company. I wish it could resurrect and make cable adapters to my new Canon camera. I liked it especially when photographing from a boat.
Backpacks & Belts
I have used a Lowe Photo Backpack for years. I usually put it into my carry-on with wheels when travelling so that I can pull it along instead. When I arrive to where I will be staying I simply unzip it and lift out my camera backpack, ready to go.
I also have a thinkTank padded belt and a camera pouch that I can attach to it. I hope it will be better for shorter hikes, or when maneuvering in difficult terrain. Not to mention the less strain it will be on my shoulders compared to straps and backpacks.