Why I Chose to Travel Without My Tripod -- And Still Got Amazing Shots

Photo by Rachel Sykes

Photo by Rachel Sykes

I recently took a backpacking trip to Italy — 10 days, five cities and one critical choice.

To bring a tripod — or not.

As a long-exposure landscape photographer, this choice was not a simple one. Seeing that a tripod is the main tool I use to capture these photos, a tripod was almost a non-negotiable option.

... or was it?

Making the trip halfway across the globe, I wanted to make sure my decision was the right one, and being the obsessive “Fear-of-Missing-that-Once-in-a-Lifetime-Perfect-Shot” photographer that I am, I did a ton of research before making my decision. I would hate to see a shot that I wanted, only to not be able to capture it because I made the mistake of leaving a critical piece of gear at home.

But I did still leave my tripod at home. And I captured all those shots that I wanted without concern.

Here are some of the factors that led me to leave my tripod at home:

The first was simple and obvious. I frankly didn’t have the room to bring a tripod. Packing for 10 days takes space, and space is a hot commodity in a 50L backpack. The tripod would simply take up too much room that I needed for other pieces of gear and essentials.

I frankly didn’t have the room to bring a tripod. Packing for 10 days takes space, and space is a hot commodity in a 50L backpack.

The second was location. I knew this trip was going to be heavy on the museums and cathedrals. This led me to start researching the restrictions these places had to photographers. And wouldn’t you know it — a majority of them did not allow tripods inside the buildings AT ALL! If that's the case, then I’d only be using the tripod for maybe a quarter of all my shots.

And finally, traveling distance. The days were long and the traveling distance would average about 10 miles walking a day. If I had to lug around a tripod all day and then not even be able to use it, not only would it have been very frustrating and but also a giant waste of energy.

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After realizing the limitations, I needed a solution that would be lightweight and compact, yet durable enough to hold my camera to get some great long exposure shots.

Enter the Platypod, basically the greatest photography tripod alternative known to man! The Platypod is simply awesome. Essentially, it is a mount for your camera that takes up less space than a spiral-bound notebook and weighs about the same. With adjustable legs, it can give you balanced, level shots on the ground or any ledges or railings you mount it to. I mounted a ball head to the base and I was good to go with my camera and no fear of missing that shot.

Essentially, it is a mount for your camera that takes up less space than a spiral-bound notebook and weighs about the same

I’ll be honest, in the back of my mind I was a bit worried that all my shots would be on the ground, but with a bit of creativity, the shot possibilities were endless. While I used the Platypod on the ground for some lower landscape photos, I also used it on ledges and grouped barricades. I even tied the Platypod to a metal gate with the strap in order to get the shot I wanted.

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I instantly realized that I made the right choice. I got the shots I wanted in the places I wanted them and all in a compact, lightweight system that wasn’t a back-breaking decision. I will, without hesitation, be bringing my Platypod with me everywhere I go.

There’s just no other way.

Rachel Sykes is a Tampa, FL-based photographer and videographer, with skills in camera operating, video editing, producing, directing, lighting, and drone operation.

Ajna Adams