GITZO GT2531EX & AcraTech GV-2 Gimball Ballhead “In-field Review”

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To get this shot, my tripod was set up like this!!!2016 tripod review 1f

This a “in field review”, I am NOT going to list product numbers and show studio shots. These are shots of a camera and tripod/ballhead system in use, why I like it and WHY I CARRY THIS SYSTEM.

Yeah, just another version. Why not share and FOR SALE on my Zenfolio site Copyright Vanderhoof Photography 2016

Yeah, just another version. I was able to push the head over and as you can see; it was happening, no time to re-set the tripod.  FOR SALE on my Zenfolio site Copyright Vanderhoof Photography 2016

Professional Photographer, freedom fighting activist, over 40 years of photography, Landscape, cityscape, night photography preferred shooting. First darkroom, 1974, age 16…no classes or lessons, just me and a darkroom and my CAMERA, love the creativity of digital.
As an old photographer, I still love my tools, and anyone who shoots with me can tell you, I carry a lot of stuff, and I have injures from my activist life that cause me 24/7/365 pain in my shoulder and chest. My injures put me in the same pain bracket as a cancer patient.
So my tripod, being necessary at any moment, had to be light, strong, and versitable. Night shooting meant easy to use in the dark for both the tripod and the head. But once I set the camera up, it may have to remain in position for hours with OUT movement, even if changing batteries or memory cards.
After a couple years, I now use a Gitzo GT2531EX with an AcraTech GV-2 gimbal head. And an L bracket on the camera. Plus a pano slide attachment.
2016 tripod review 1h
I carry several Camelbak hydration backpacks in my equipment, depending on what I want to carry for the day or night, my CamelBak “Hawg or Mule”, will let me carry 3.5 liters of water and 40+ lbs of gear. A back breaking load, but if you are going in miles of hiking from your vehicle, I don’t want the have to leave stuff behind. I carry 2 camera rigs standard, sometimes 2 tripods.

Clive, a man I have been shooting with for the past couple years, constantly realized “I should have brought the…”.

When we parted company in L.A. last year, he was wanting to stop shooting digital and hike the into Yosemite back country with “A” roll or two of film, and one camera & lens. Clive may become a purist of film, that is his choice, I am an Artist, tools help me make ART. A craftsman will refine an object into a marketable product, mass produce-able, I am an Artist, I create original works of art. While I can not say “Film is Dead!”, spending huge amounts of time, in a field over saturated by people who want to do film, I have no interest. I have watched digital photography grow for 30 yrs, I like what I see of the potential in NEW ART. So yes, I carry tools to do the job, even miles into the back country.
As you can see by these shots, NO, I DO NOT shot the “common”. I climb rock walls, stand on logs, crawl in caves, I go where the others DON’T WANT TO GO! And if you look at the people who’s photography I admire, yeah, they are the same kind of people and they were OR ARE, Good to Great photographers.

2016 tripod review 1
Shooting timelapse stars, or more common, being in a weird position to get that shot “no one else has”, versatility was key.
Saw this bloom from across the canyon at sunset, came back for sunrise only to find the angle I wanted included rock climbing. Since I was there and the plant was not going to move into a different position, rock climbing to find myself a composition I liked. Tripod system got the shot. I have the Vanguard 200GH griphead on in this shot, too sloppy a head, added inches in height, too. So I did some research and got the AcraTech GV-2.
I want shots fast and move on. So the gear has to solid when I get to the shot, and  may sit that way for hours, doing a star trails or time lapse.

In the next shot you can see by the shadow angle, it was morning and the angle I wanted was on a rock, no matter what.

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But this shot,

Copyright Vanderhoof Photography 2015

Copyright Vanderhoof Photography 2015

is one of  a series in which this angle put the flower in the face of the viewer, while leaving the desert background, to provide stark contrast.
The Gitzo GT2531EX is the cantilever center column carbon fiber tripod. Yes, as a landscape photographer I heard all about not getting a center column tripod, but as this shot shows I can get low to the ground and while I did just adjust the center column back for a shot composition I liked, a quick 180 in the gimbal head and the post is out of the frame even in a fish-eye lens.

2016 tripod review 1a

2016 tripod review 1b
In one case the ground was so soft, that the legs flexed a bit, so I put the center column straight down for more support. Got lucky, that is fit, but got rid of the flexing in the sand movement. Blame it on the ground or the tripod, it solved the problem, got the shot and later I could get the tools out and tighten up the legs, in case that was the issue. The legs are not hard stop setting, you have whatever angle you want to lock at, so yes, it is necessary to tighten the leg locks from time to time. Your usage will determine how often. I had done it a couple times in a couple years of use.
In this next shot what I saw, the plant was in the way, so the center column sliding in for the close-up of mouse hole and flower, was easy to do. The center column made it happen, put the camera where I wanted it. (still going through files for this shot)

2016 tripod review 1c

The Archtech Vg-2 gimbal head allowed me to position the camera, shot a shot. Tilt it up check and then with venier numbers on it’s movements, reposition, adjust and shoot my shots. 15-20 minutes of crawling around I had a fun shot, maybe just a bit unusual.


In this shot, you can see that the non-stop setting of the legs made it possible to fit in the slot and have each leg out as necessary.

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But the composition was a nice one, for me.
In this next shot I am once again on a rock in a hard space, steel points very necessary here. I think I did push it off center, it was balanced, and I had to pull the center column out to get the height, if the shot was more interesting, or later in the evening I would have used a different arrangement. Small area, high on legs, more solid, maybe a little harder working around sharing the rock top. Just a quick grab.

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In these next shots, yeah, I’m in a mine shaft, but the shot of a rising full moon through the opening, was worth the attempt. Not the rodent dropping on the ground, not a place to stand around fumbling with gear.

Emerging, ...Moon Rising. Copyright Vanderhoof Photography 2015

Emerging, …Moon Rising.
Copyright Vanderhoof Photography 2015

And then I ran down the hillside with my gear to take this shot, the reason I came to the area in the 1st place!

Traveling Moon. Copyright Vanderhoof Photography 2015

Traveling Moon.
Copyright Vanderhoof Photography 2015


Again, stuffing my camera in a spot,

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To get this shot.

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This gimbal head & center column was useful shooting the 2015 Long Beach Indy Grand Prix. General admission ticket crowds, found my holes in fences, twisted the GT2531EX into place to make a composition, wait for cars.

Here the tirpod let me get sharp background and blurry cars Copyright Vanderhoof Photography 2015

Here the tripod let me get sharp background and blurry cars Copyright Vanderhoof Photography 2015

Hit some shots, collapse it down and find a new corner or angle.

Got some unusually fun 4 wheel truck shots because I was thinking about lunch and they announced the demo truck race, “with Jumps”. My Gt2531EX was set up on the bottom of series of S turns, cars turning left to right of frame. As I wondering about the jumps and looked at the Gitzo, a forklift can up the track with a jump and placed the jump in view where the race cars were momentarily straight then turning from one turn to the next turn. I stared, dug in my pocket for a protein bar and shot totally fun shots, I have shots in which I have 3 trucks visually in the air, and a couple of the truck with the broken wheel axle yeah, dragging on the ground.

Just one of the jump photos, tripod and fast head if I wanted to change. Copyright Vanderhoof Photography 2015

Just one of the jump photos, tripod and fast head if I wanted to change. Copyright Vanderhoof Photography 2015


It isn't everyday you get a racecar going by with out it wheel on!! Copyright Vanderhoof Photography 2015

It isn’t everyday you get a racecar going by with out it wheel on!! Copyright Vanderhoof Photography 2015

However, like I said, this is light and compact, so a little later, in a thin crowd, I was able to do some panning shots, without hitting anyone. Yes this is full frame of the car as I shot it… (takes practice and patience)

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Last August, I was in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in the White Mountains of Southern California. Once again I am in a spot for a sunset photo,

as the sun set, the sweet spot for me moved to the right. I realized I did not have time to reset the camera, but the center column did allow me to push the camera over almost a foot very fast and save a moment anyway.

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Note the use of the steel points, extra $50, but includes 2 sets of rubber cover tips (lg & sm) and wrench tighten in to place, good solid size and solid fit.

!Shooting Star composite 7D Visitor Center23ABC_FB

As you can see the set up let me capture several shooting stars and is solid enough for a composite .
Later in the trip, set up for timelapse, I caught my best shooting star, so far.
I carried my dual rigs that night. I was with a Los Angeles Chapter Sierra Club Camera Committee outing. One rig did timelapse of the 2 trees lighted painted by the group, the other was with my new 6D on in my hand, wandering around.

Bristlecone Pine, light painting with Milky Way. Copyright Vanderhoof Photography 2016

Bristlecone Pine, light painting with Milky Way. Copyright Vanderhoof Photography 2016

The hike in goes up about a 1/2 mile of trail through rock scree. Once there, as it is a Famous tree, there were several groups were walking around. So I had to find an object in the dark people would avoid, while still giving me a nice composition for photographing the SCCC light painting the trees. In the dark I found a large stump just off the trail, seemed everyone coming and going missed, so I dove in and minutes later had the rig set up. Gitzo GT2531EX & Markins Q-10 ran for 3 or 4 hours, I changed cards and batteries on the rig, less to drop in the dark. Then with the 2nd GT2531EX & AcraTech GV-2 head on it, I wandered around loooking for fun shots to experiment with. I enjoy light painting, will do it by myself, so the group having fun with several others unmet before groups, I was enjoying their surprise and delights to make more than a couple special shots I wanted.

Gitzo GT2531EX specs. {put in links}
AcraTech VG-2 specs. {}
Markins Q-10 specs (red)

So while it may not be the lightest I could carry, but at 12,000ft in the Colorado mountains, my tripod was handy and able to handle the rocks of a scree field to shoot a close-up of a spider. Notice that again, I have the center column pushing out and to the side to deal with the objects/rocks and still have the camera in close.(shot 1g)
While I never did like any of the composititions, I did get a spider at 12,000ft shot for my collection.

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2016 tripod review 1g
As a carbon fiber tripod, 1st off, I am not easy on equipment, I lost the wrench clipped on the leg, and the Gitzo GT2531EX you see in the photos is at least 2 yrs old. I’ve killed a lens and damaged a few pieces of equipment to get shots over the years. And I’m an old man too.
For night photographers, cold is cold, the carbon fiber is not as bad as metal, and foam or cloth covers just pick up stickers, twigs, dirt easier.

The AcraTech VG-2 Gimbal head, I bought off Ebay for about $400, used. Very easy to use, knobs of size and placement easy to find in the dark. Locks in tight, so star trails, timelapse are a charm even after a backpacking hike in.

I currently own 2 of these Gitzo GT2531EX tripods, the AcraTech head on one and a Markins Q-10 Red on the other. The Markins is not gimbal, and a little heavier, but Rock Solid with a 95lb load rating! Nice timelapse head.
The photographer I was shooting with the past couple years in So. Ca. now has one of these tripods…

Since I am doing a lot of street photography of San Juan de los Lagos, Mexico, my current walking rig is my Domke vest, Camelbak Rogue hydration backpack and the tripod, camera in hand. Here is the Camelbak Rogue and tripod side by side. Small enough for a crowded street, I tend to stay out of shops, but if careful I can hit no one and break nothing all week.

2016 tripod review 1h

These shots show the Acratech head on and compact in both the upright and gimbal position.

2016 tripod review 1L

All photographs copyright Vanderhoof Photography


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