The simplest, most obvious ideas can often have the most impact. Large format field work can often be a drag- tedious and repetitive setups that involve a lot of unzippering of cases, unpacking of gear, loosening and tightening of knobs and levers, attaching lenses, shades, etc. Once done, reverse the process and pack everything up. I’ve ignored exploring some potentially nice subject matter because I had just packed everything up and was just too damned peevish to unpack again so soon. It gets even worse when tired. I’ve never been especially bothered by the weight of the gear, but all the setup can bury observation in a mudslide of tedium. Some photographers sling the tripod and attached camera over the shoulder, but for me that’s really uncomfortable and I always worry that things will start falling off the camera without ever realizing it. Spending all this time of late wandering in the Elwha Valley basin I made a field modification to my pack that would let me sling the whole setup and attach it to the front of my pack at the shoulder strap. Now it only takes seconds to setup and breakdown from a shot. It’s also nice that all the delicate bits are up front, easy to protect and keep an eye on.
It’s just a simple carabiner and a 12″ side-release adjustable web strap, stuff I’ve always had on my pack. The carabiner hooks to the webbing on the pack that is part of the anchor for the adjustment harness of the shoulder strap. It’s not really designed as a lash point, but it’s so well reinforced with stitching that it can handle this no problem. The loose 12″ strap just wraps around the tripod legs and attaches to the carabiner. It’s easy to adjust the balance by sliding the strap for or aft along the tripod, which makes carrying the camera and tripod fairly hands-free. Of course, this may not be practical for an 8×10 or larger, but I’ve used it on a 5×7 and 5×12, which are the formats I use. This does put stress on the tripod plate connection, mine is attached with a dozen screws to the camera bed and can handle it. Also, my tripod has a simple velcro lash to keep the legs from splaying when carrying it horizontally.
I’ve carried it this this way for over 5 miles a few times now. My pack counter-balances this quite well so it’s very comfortable to carry- I could not stop smiling when I tried it out for the first time. Of course long distances are spelled with frequent shots, which is the whole point, so there are plenty of breaks. Any longer than a couple of miles between shots and it might get a little tiresome.