Being an outdoor/adventure/”hike all over the place” type of photographer, I love any gear that can do more than one job, without weighing a ton. When you have to backpack everything in, you learn to simplify and use as much multipurpose, lightweight gear as possible.
One trick I have learned is to turn my Oben travel tripod into a light stand for flashes or continuous lights. At just a few pounds, it’s light enough to hike with, and serves double duty as either a camera or flash support. This versatility means it gets a place in my pack, instead of staying home with more specialized gear that won’t make the hike.
Transforming Your Tripod
The Oben has a little secret not immediately obvious, it hides a reversible stud in its mounting base that allows you to switch from the standard ⅜”-16 thread commonly used for tripod heads to a ¼”-20 thread that works with other photo accessories, like flashes and small video lights.
- At the top, grab the mounting base (the wider flat part) with one hand, and the column with the other.
- While holding the column in place, twist the mounting base counter-clockwise.
- Be sure to hold the column right below the mounting base, or the column itself will unscrew, instead of the mounting base. (On the plus side, if this happens, you just discovered another tip, how to transform your Oben’s long center column to a short one.)
- The first time you take it off, everything may be pretty tight, and the column may spin in your hand without the top loosening. If this happens, you can use a flat rubber jar grip to hold on to the column so it doesn’t spin and your hands don’t slip.
- Once the base comes off, pull out the screw, flip it, and put the thing back together.
- Now attach your flash stand or other base to the screw*, and slide your flash on to it… Instant light stand! This works for hot shoe mountable LED lights too!
Flash Stands and Mounts*
Most flashes come with a small plastic base with a “cold shoe” you can attach your flash to for off-camera use. If it also has a ¼”-20 threaded socket in it, you’re in luck! Otherwise, you will need to get an adapter, base, or mini head to attach your flash to your tripod. There are various options available, here are three to consider in order of price and size:
- Impact True Grip Shoe Mount Adapter
- The smallest option, but is non-adjustable, offering no additional positioning
- Inexpensive, about $6
- Vello Multi-Function Ball Head with Removable Top & Bottom Shoe Mounts
- This provides more positioning options, at a larger size and weight
- Budget friendly at about $15
- Vello Multi-Function Ball Head with Removable Bottom Shoe Mount, w/Umbrella Mount
- Same positioning options as above, but it can hold an umbrella for portrait work, and can be mounted to either a camera hot shoe or a light stand
- As photo gear goes, still pretty affordable at about $20 bucks
Positioning your flashes is the same as if you were using a camera. Change your column and leg heights, or even reverse the column if you need to. Since the head on most flashes pivots and tilts, you will have flexibility in the angles you can aim your light, except for down. Flash heads generally are more limited in the angle they can point downwards. You can deal with this to a degree by making one leg of your tripod a little shorter, but be careful you don’t go too far and topple your tripod. If you will be doing a lot of downward angled lighting you can certainly add a dedicated flash mini ball head, like the ones above. But it is one more thing to carry, which equals more weight. Always a compromise to be made, pick what works for you!