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Table Top Tripod as "Chest-Pod"

By Dan Davenport

Camera on Table Top TripodMost photographers today, both amateur and professional, have a Table Top Tripod in their gadget bag for use when photographing small objects on a "table top," or for bracing on top of a car, wall, or fence when a full size tripod isn't available or practical.

There are times, however, when you want the support and vibration stopping of a tripod, but the subject is moving around way too quickly - you just can't get reoriented fast enough to get the shot: just think about shooting photos of an active child on a playground. But you really do want the steadiness that a tripod affords for sharper photos that can be blown up big and still be eye-catchingly sharp.

Enter the classic table top tripod.

By twisting it around into a novel configuration, you can brace the camera against your chest and get much of the stabilizing power of a tripod on the floor - but the flexibility to move around quickly with fast moving subjects.

Photographer using Table Top Tripod as Chest Pod
Leitz Table Top Tripod with Large Ball and Socket Head

I have two. First, a classic Leitz Table Top Tripod with Large Ball and Socket Head which I think is no longer made (mine is over 40 years old - Leica makes good stuff!). It has one disadvantage in that you cannot set the ball head for limited or smooth drag. It is either loose or locked. And though it folds flat, it doesn't fold compact (unless you separate the two parts, which makes it more difficult to set up quickly).

I used this setup several times at the Milwaukee Speedway photographing Indy Type race cars going by at over 200 miles per hour! I was standing about 50 - 60 feet from the track and just panned my whole body, with the chest pod supporting the camera, and released the shutter while I was moving through the pan. Great action shots!

Race Car passing at high speed

And, of course, slowing down a bit, you can use it on hikes to increase the stability and sharpness of your photos while lightening the load you carry. And it sets up more quickly than a full size tripod.

My other, newer model is the Slik Mini-Pro V Tripod with 2-Way Pan/Tilt Head (shown above and right and available from my partner, Amazon.com). These folks make many, many tripods in all sizes, weights, materials - you can select just the right one for your needs. The tripod folds up very small, and comes with a typical (though small) pan head. The small pan head is great for table tops, but it is somewhat awkward for chest pod use.

Slik Mini V Table Top Tripod
Kaiser Ball Head

Far easier and more effective, I recommend a Kaiser Ball & Socket Head to replace the pan head that comes with the tripod (don't throw the pan head away, you will always find times when you still want to use it). When you are actually using it, you may not want to totally lock up the ball head, just use a slight drag. This gives you much more flexibility to smoothly move with the subject, while giving you the extra support for extra sharp photos.

Since the Leitz model is no longer available (unless you find one used), the Slik/Kaiser combination is a Great Photo Tool and a valuable addition to your gadget bag. It gives you a great deal of freedom and flexibility for photographing fast moving subjects while keeping the camera stable enough for the sharpness to encourage large prints you'll be proud to display. This is especially true for newer cameras with image stabilization. The tripod working with stabilization will give you great photos.

By all means try this valuable technique. It will really help you get more great photos to make really big prints to proudly display.

My partners at Kodak are offering 50 free prints for those folks who join their Gallery Program. This is a fun deal:

50 free prints

© 2010 Dan Davenport

Dan Davenport has been involved in photography for more years than he cares to think about. He worked with Minolta Cameras for over 30 years and taught photography as well as developing the Minolta School of Photography that evolved into The Maxxum Experience photo education seminars. He wants photographers to take the best photos they can and encourages them to proudly display their work for all to see.

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