Cruise Vacation Photography
'Pods (Tripods and Monopods)

In this section, I will review the photo equipment I typically take on board cruises, how I pack the equipment, and some photo examples. I rarely take all of the equipment on a given cruise, but rather tailor what equipment I take to where we are going.

Tripod or monopod - which is better? A cruise is perfect for a monopod. They are easier to carry, work almost as good as a tripod, and don't get into other people's way. Consequently, I never carry a (full size) tripod. A subclass of tripods however are also great for cruises, the so called Gorillapods, made by Joby. These are mini-tripods that can be shaped to irregular surfaces or bend around pipes, railings, or other objects for support.

Manufacturer: Benro
Model: MA-91M8/MP-91M8
Leg Material: Aluminum
Extended length: 64.2" (without head)
Collapsed Length: 20.5"
Weight: 1.6Lbs
Head type: Optional, with 1/4" and 3/8" stud
Maximum load: 39lbs
Features: Fold out stabilizer legs.
Manufactured: China
Street Price: $65


Heads: All but the cheapest monopods are usually packaged without a head, although some monopods are in kit form with a head. But regardless, you will want a head with a quick-release mechanism. One of the monopods I provided above, the Slik Lightey-Pod III comes with a screw-on ball head. After you go through the motions of attaching your camera to this monopod a few times, you'll quickly purchase a quick-disconnect head for it.

Manufacturer: Benro
Model: BR-168
Head type: Quick-disconnect Ball Head
Maximum load: 9lbs
Manufactured: China
Street Price: $35

Monopod heads.

You will want to match the head to your monopod. First, determine what mounting bolt size is required. Most are 3/8" dia, but less expensive ones may be 1/4" dia. You don't want to put a heavy-duty 5lb head on a monopod, or it will be too heavy. As mentioned above, obtain a quick-disconnect head so that you can rapidly attach and remove your camera. The predomanent styles are the Ball type, where the head can rotate at any angle, and the hinge type, where the head can only tilt at one angle. The one to get is purely a matter of personal preference.

Gorillapods: A special type of tripod is called a Gorillapod, which is a small, lightweight head - perfect for packing and taking on a cruise. Several sizes are available, from full sized DSLRs to the compact point & shoots. They are almost indespensible, especially for point & shoot cameras.

Manufacturer: Joby
Model: GP3/BH-1
Head type: Quick-disconnect Ball Head
Maximum load: 2~6lbs, depending on size.
Manufactured: China
Street Price: $20~$80, depending on size.


Use: As shown below, I attached my point & shoot on a Joby GP1 (small) Gorillapod and wrapped it around a pipe on the balcony outside of our stateroom. I then used this vantage point to createa self-portrait of my wife and I relaxing on our balcony. With this setup the possibilities are just about endless.

The larger GP-3 Gorillapod is sized for DSLR size cameras. I am not sure though how successful wrapping a DSLR on the pipe would have been. But for the price and small size of the pods, I usually carry both sizes in my camera bag.

Gorillapod attached to balcony - Freedom of the Seas.

Gorillapod attachment closeup.

Self-Portrait Monopods: Another unique monopod of sorts are the self-portrait arm extenders. These are technically monopods I suppose, but they are intended to get the camera a few feet away from you for a portrait. They work well for balcony photos, if you want to photograph you sitting in your balcony from a sea view. They are generally too light for a DSLR, but work well with Point & Shoot cameras. However, some Point & Shoots, noteably Nikon Coolpix cameras, have their tripod socket located on one end of the camera rather than the centerline. If the monopod isn't strong enough, the camera can rotate on the monopod's shaft. The one I have, Opteka's X-Arm is strong enough to hold the off-center tripod socket of my Nikon S570.

Manufacturer: Opteka
Model: X-Arm
Head type: Universal Ball Head
Maximum length: 27"
Minimum length: 8"
Street Price: $15~$20

Self-Portrait Monopods.

Other Solutions: The idea to remember is to keep the camera steady as well as secure. There are non-monopod ideas that might work here as well. As shown below, the Pedco clamp can be used to attach a SLR or lightweight camera to an automobile side window (the clamping jaws have soft pads), table top, or chair back. A version with larger jaws (2.5") is also available that can attach to a fence rail. And they are made in the USA.

Another product made by Pedco is the UltraPod II, which is perhaps the best of both worlds. It is a conventional tripod, but can strap itself to a railing or water pipe with the permanently attached velcro strap. Pedco also makes a lighter weight and smaller UltraPod I, but I would recommend the larger UltraPod II as it is suitable for a DSLR. The UltraPod I is too small for a DSLR.

Manufacturer: Pedco
Model: UltraClamp
Clamp Surfaces: Window, Desk
Head type: Universal Ball Head
Maximum Safe Load: 6lbs
Max Jaw opening: 1.5"
Street Price: $25


And finally, Tripods: Before this discussion is complete, I have to mention Tamrac's Zip-Shot. I actually own one of these, but it is not suitable for most DSLRs. Tamrac indicates it can support DSLRS up to 3 lbs... but there are few DSLRs that weigh under 3 lbs. A lightweight camera would do fine with this tripod.

Keep in mind that this tripod is not height adjustable, and you need a fixed area of clearance to deploy it. But within it's limitations, it is perhaps a good solution.

Manufacturer: Tamrac
Model: Zip-Shot
Maximum Load: 3lbs.
Working Height: 44"
Collapsed Height: 15"
Street Price: $50


Summary: We addressed some alternatives to lugging a heavy tripod on your cruise. Some of these ideas are not suitable for heavy SLR cameras, but there are sufficient alternatives regardless of the camera you use. Be sure to check with your cruise line so that a monopod you bring aboard will pass security and if they allow it on board.