Photographing a city as beautiful as Bath is a pure joy, particularly when conditions are great, those postcard sunny views, blue skies and golden architecture gleaming - the 'holiday snap' days. On those occasions I can comfortably walk around the city streets shooting handheld, swinging the camera over my shoulder between each frame. Though, for much of my work for clients and publishers I sometimes need to capture the city in a more dynamic way, something that is unique and often as a result of the after effects of weather or during low light levels, such as the blue hour - my favourite time to be out photographing.
When you want to keep shooting into the blue hour as lights illuminate the streets and the evening hues develop across the sky and architecture you'll likely need to keep your camera stable. You can bump up the ISO during low light and continue to shoot hand-held, but for commercial work that is often printed I need to retain the detail and quality in the image by keeping ISO settings to a minimum, so having a reliable tripod is a must.
Intuitive ergonomics - quick and easy to set up that classic shot
Recently I have had the pleasure of being welcomed onto the Vanguard Ambassador team and have had the opportunity to use one of their brand new tripods several months before the official launch: The Vanguard VEO 3GO 265HCB - a travel-friendly, portable carbon fibre update to their popular VEO range.
When pounding the streets of Bath (or beyond) I was keen to find a new tripod setup that would be both lightweight and portable/easy to pack. Often my work takes in numerous locations throughout the city and I need to setup and take-down the gear quickly to make use of the perfect ambient conditions before getting to the next spot before the available light fades on any given evening.
Vanguard Veo 3GO - happy in the city or at the coast
The versatile Vanguard VEO 3GO is an effortless set up, incredibly lightweight at just 1.42 kg (3.13 lbs) with lightning fast twist locks which only need a quarter turn to release, legs extending out in a flash and equally quick to fix in place. It is so easy in fact that when switching spots in a hurry should the conditions need it I manage to release two or three sections at a time with one twist of the palm.
The Royal Crescent during blue hour
The ergonomics are brilliant - tactile and intuitive to use and feels great in the hand. I am fairly new to the Vanguard range, but immediately see the appeal of their tripods simply for the most basic operations out in the field, which are often overlooked and fussy from other manufacturers. I didn't appreciate tripods that I have used in the past where I fumbled around for knobs and adjustments.
With the VEO 3GO I like the ability to adjust without having to pay much attention to hand placement, when I reach around whilst looking through the viewfinder the placement of each knob and ease of operation falls right into place, allowing me to compose a shot without having to break concentration or take my gaze away from the viewfinder or back of the screen. Each knob is instantly grippy, shrouded in rubberised sheaths and a extended section sits perfectly between thumb and forefinger - infinitely better than a simple round adjuster which can be tricky to turn in inclement weather - or when hands are frozen in winter!
This tripod really comes into it's own at low level shooting angles feeling solid and sturdy, perfect for getting those low angle viewpoints peering up onto the tall Georgian architecture that Bath is famous for. A large chunk of my imagery is formed from stitching panoramic images together to take in account for the sheer size of a building before me. For vertical scenes I'll take a series of overlapping photos which are later joined together and adjusted for convergence.
So, getting low to the ground and moving up the facade of a property incrementally is easily achieved with the VEO 3GO, particularly through the adjustment of the ball head and rotational knobs which help immensely in capturing an even overlapping collection of shots. I like to spread the tripod legs as wide as possible when shooting low angles, it helps with stability, but if space is crampt you can keep the legs shorter, particularly if using a lighter camera setup and the tripod performs just as well.
A quick flip of the leg locks and extending the legs even further lowers the whole system within nose touching distance of the ground for those extreme low angle knee-high to a grasshopper photos. The ball head setup is aided further with graduated measurements below the control knobs, ideal for composing accurate panoramics and to keep things straight and true there are two spirit levels - one for landscape, the other portrait orientation.
Even conventional landscape panoramas are a joy to shoot - taking in the entire scene from left to right (such as the vast sweep of Bath's Royal Crescent) is a pleasure to capture - the ARCA QS Compatible ball head fluidly glides through the entire process, smoothly moving onto the next frame with 360 degrees of range.
It is a travel tripod, so size and weight is the biggest consideration - one trade-off is that in order to benefit from such a compact portable design the tripod extends to a mid-range height at the extent of the legs, around 126 cm (49.6 in). To gain extra height extending the central column increases the overall height to 166.5 cm (65.6 in) perfectly places the tripod at eye level, although a tad more unstable with heavier equipment attached.
Mirrorless system setups would be the perfect partnership with this model, especially when extending the additional central column to achieve more height, but sacrificing some initial stability. I would love it being a touch higher at the level of the leg heights - maybe foregoing the first extension of the central section and splitting the difference between each of the legs.
Using DSLR's are fine and the tripod takes the weight of my full frame Canon 6D well when a wide or mid-range lens is attached but the extra weight is noticeable when using attached zoom lenses. There is need to wait for the setup to be still on shorter lenses - I would previously could use a 2 second timer to allow for shake, but now use 10 seconds or aid of a cable release to allow for any movement to subside when using telephoto lenses - perhaps a practice I should have already been using anyway!
But like I mentioned before, weight and portability is perfect here and as cameras progress into lighter setups couple with articulating fold out screens any future setups and systems partnered with the VEO 3GO will become the best combination and the team at Vanguard have clearly taken this into consideration. I must say there's none of this concern with my Sony mirrorless attached, even with the central column fully extended - steady as a rock.
The beauty of the VEO 3GO - Is that it's perfect for moving from location to location in a town or city and the rubber feet are ample to provide stability and grip on slippery paving, cobbled streets and slopes - achievable by releasing leg clasps to create a wider splay and rigidity perfect for any irregular slopes or uneven surfaces.
Rarely do I use the spiked feet that come with the tripod for any city work (except in parkland settings) but if you're out and about shooting landscapes where the ground is soft or unstable then these small but vital additions really help to stabilise your setup even more. I think it would be fantastic if the spiked feet could already form part of the legs and are hidden beneath removable rubber feet that remain attached (flipped up?), rather than having to unscrew each one individually - it reminds me of putting air in my car tyres and undoing each dust cap, where sometimes end up dropping or losing one.
For assignments capturing multiple locations in a city to form part of a story portfolio or editorial work this tripod has now become my favourite 'go to' purely for it's lightness, ease of setup and compact nature. I can sling this into my pack quickly and pull it out just as swift if I need to swap out my location for another, usually when a tour bus of visitors pulls into my viewpoint - which happens many more times than I can count! Sometimes I don't even shoot if the conditions aren't right but still have the tripod attached to the camera bag and it's never a burden just happily piggy-backing me around the city.
Folding down to just 41 cm (16 in) the tripod slips into camera bags easily. I actually keep the tripod at its' lowest height (ball head upright) and slide one of the legs through my Lowepro backpack. It's a slightly older setup, which admittedly needs updating - the side pocket is designed differently to accommodate 'opened' systems. To make it more comfortable to carry I did have to remove the central column weight hook as it had a tendency to rattle around next to my ear when carrying - easily screwed back into place whilst out in the field.
For fine art photography and client requests for a dedicated single location shoot, typically with a fixed camera position I still opt for a larger, high extending aluminium tripod. Though, always miss the relative lightness of the Vanguard in these situations! I think a mid-range version would be my next consideration - just to bridge the gap between the two setups I currently own.
Away from the city streets I've hiked across coastal dunes and across mountain peaks with the VEO 3GO attached to a backpack and have found it a pure joy to use out in the wild. Perhaps more so than in the familiar surroundings of a city, as the light and weather conditions can dictate where and when you are able to photograph successfully and having the ability to quickly get into position or recompose with the tripod has been a saving factor on many occasions recently. It has become the first item from my kit that now permanently takes pride and place in my bag for landscape photo sessions.
In addition to the main features which have aided my work above the tripod also comes with a range of other interesting features that expand further the versatility of this great setup. Firstly, a monopod leg is is quick to remove from the main body, allowing for a lightweight solution and extra stability on those trekking trips when a full setup is not desired.
Secondly, the team at Vanguard have introduced a nifty little remote control that operates bluetooth enabled devices, such as a smartphone, perfect for vlogging or selfies.
I've saved the full specifications for last for those who wish to read more about the details for the Vanguard VEO 3GO 265HCB:
Folds down to just 41cm/16.1 inches
Extends to 166.5cm/65.6 inches, with max. load capacity of 10kg/22lbs
Monopod leg that extends to 170cm/66.9 inches that is fast and easy to deploy
Arca Swiss compatible BH-120 Ball Head with independent pan-lock
Reversible centre column, or use the Low Angle Adaptor, for low angle/macro photographs
Three easy set leg angles (21°, 50° and 80°) for maximum stability on any terrain
Rapid set and easy to clean twist locks
Includes rubber and spiked feet allow for easy set up on different types of terrain
Retractable hook to add weight for extra stability
Reversible thread to allow heads with 1/4” or 3/8” thread to be attached with ease
Includes tripod bag
Perfect for getting the most from your smartphone:
Smartphone connector for any smartphone up to 87mm/3.4 inches wide
Bluetooth remote shutter trigger allowing the monopod leg to be used as a selfie stick
Further details and purchasing options are available HERE - including Vanguard's other rages of excellent camera accessories and bags.