Tripods are the staple camera support for good reason. They are used for the majority of your shots and are simply useful for having your camera on standby. Many tripods outlive cameras, and that makes them all the more valuable. So for equipment that's meant to last for years, how much do you do to maintain your tripod?
There are some best practices for use, and these will vary depending on if you use your tripod indoors, out in the field, actually in fields or around moisture. If you're able to keep them stored in a cool dry place, a tripod stands a good chance of seeing more use than a can of corn. But really, you'll want to be able to pull a tripod out regularly, and if you can get it to a clean state before you put it away it'll be good to go for the next time out.
So while you're on the shoot, take care to reduce the dirt, dust and moisture that your tripod is exposed to. If such foreign matter meets your tripod, wipe off what you can and pay special attention to the locking mechanisms and joints before you collapse it. Much like you should wipe your feet before entering a home, tripods can get fussy and sticky with too much nature.
In the event that you need to disassemble your tripod, take care to keep your pieces clean and organized and be careful if you plan to clean and replace any lubricant. There is a danger that such slick substances will actually end up collecting dust and dirt. Consider a maintenence guide on Gitzo tripods by Greg Downing, much of it should translate to other carbon fiber camera supports. The type of cleaner you use for the legs will depend on the material that makes up your tripod, carbon fiber, aluminum, or wood, etc. but for the most part, very light application of a mild cleaner on a paper towel or cloth should be fine.
Now for some Do and Don'ts, proper use will extend the life of your tripod.
- Don't overcrank the locks on the pan, tilt, legs and other mechanisms.
- Don't abuse the feet, the bottom of the tripod legs are just as important to getting a stable shot as what's on top.
- Do remember to get the tripod plate off of the camera - we hate to see great camera supporters that become useless with one lost plate.
- Do use a bag - this should also help keep you from transporting a camera while it's on a tripod.
Lastly, a question for you, twist or flip lock? Here we have tripods with each and there is some debate. Which does your tripod have?