Backpacking with camera gear is an adventure in itself, never mind the part where you are adventuring in a foreign land. You have to make sure that you have the right gear and most importantly, the light gear for the job. With that in mind, I decided that I would bring my ultra-light Fuji X-T1 and two lenses; an 18-55mm and my prized 35mm F1.4 prime lens. When sussing out my gear weeks before, I realised that I missing something vital- a tripod. When weighing up the options of bringing one or not, I was leaning on the I-don’t-want-to-lug-this-thing-around side, having in mind that I wanted to travel fast, lean and light. That was until I picked up the SIRUI Aluminium T-005BX tripod kit. Robust, featherlight and extremely compact, it immediately found a home in my camera bag and backpack. To say the least, it was excited to be coming along.
Armed with my arsenal of gear, incredible girlfriend and her Fuji X-30 we planned our trip. We started in the North and fumbled our way towards the sunnier South. Fumble being the operative word a we booked accomodation as and when we needed and often found ourself chucked out of busses at 3AM in a town where our hopes of a good sleep disappeared in the cloud of smoke as the bus drove away. Vietnam allowed this easy-go-lucky attitude to come easily as motorcycles, busses and any mode of transport imaginable is available for you to navigate the jungle, beaches and highways of this incredible place.
We started by taking in the city hustle bustle of Hanoi and then swiftly jetted off to the incredible avatar-mountain-ish Ha Long Bay. We then made our way down to Dong Hoi to experience the Phongna caves, Hue to see the old imperial city, Mui Ne for the hammocks, naps and beaches, Ho-Chi-minh city to get a feel for the war and heart of the countries checkered history, and lastly to Can Tho where we took in some fresh air in river-side bamboo bungalows.
I’m not going to tell you that “Vietnam is every photographers dream” cliché, because its not for everyone. If you are willing to endeavour, explore, hike, tire, push the boundaries and have time for the small moments, you will find that it is one of the most rewarding destinations to capture. Over the trip I found myself in the middle of some interesting circumstances. From observing a cat stalking a just-out-of-reach caged bird on top of a vivid red tiled house, to capturing a quiet playful moment between a stray dog and its pup, to looking up in absolute awe at the vast and celestial Phong Na cave system, Vietnam has shared some intimate and often quirky moments with me.
Some of the tripods features became apparent later on in the trip. When we arrived in the South in Mui Ne we found sand, lots and lots of sand- which is a tripods nemesis. Having that sound and feeling of opening a tripod and having a single grain of sand wedged between the joints sends shivers up your spine. This where the tripod becomes extremely versatile. You can effortlessly disassemble it, clean it out and then put it back together with equal ease. As you can see below, the tripod really did get put to the test with it being tossed around and staked into the ground, all in the pursuit of a “rad product shot”- which I think we got.
Below I have done a little run up of what I liked and features that I wish the tripod had.
· Super compact
· Great quality
· Could be used as a weapon if a tourist spoils your shot
· Has an attached caribiner for easy clip-on transport
· You can rotate all leg locks at once for very quick assembly
· You can disassemble the tripod to clean.
Wished it had:
· A spirit level so that I know that I’m getting a straight shot
· A detachable leg that could turn into a monopod
· An upper neck to extend upwards for extra reach (I had to crouch to get a shot)
All in all, if you are looking for a tripod for adventurers or lightweight no-fuss travelling, this is the tripod for you. The size is perfect to add to your gear or to upgrade from that bazooka sized tripod that you may still have as a hand me down. It’s built to last and could be passed down for generations to come.
All images by Abe Louw unless stated otherwise. For more examples of Abe’s work, follow him on Instagram at @TheLouwDown. Also check out his twin brother @DiaryOfZach who took the images of Abe in this review.