Miller Sharpshooters

SOLO survives Surf Safari


Scott Needham
photo by


Scott Needham likes to take calculated risks. He has been shooting stills, video and film professionally for around 10 years, in most cases, capturing the thrill of extreme sports or the exotica of remote idylls. “There’s nothing like jumping out of a helicopter onto a snow-covered volcano in Chile, or swimming in the powerful waves of Tahitiwith a camera in a water housing tethered to my wrist.”

Don't be fooled. Most of the time, Scottkeeps it dry, shooting on land with a tripod. He has used a range of Miller and other maker’s tripods for years, until recently using a European carbon/fluid combo. “It’s a great set up for travel, as I can use it for stills/video and film, where I can swap heads using the same legs.”               

Things change. Scott has now discovered the SOLO DV 20 carbon tripod and fluid head, and his first assignment for Miller’s ultra light 75mm package was South Africa where he captured WCT Surfing Event: The Billabong Pro at Jeffreys Bay, South Africa, before going bush to shoot the Big Five.

“The SOLO DV was fantastic in a beach environment. After 10 days straight of salt haze and residual beach atmosphere, no clogging, grit or stiffness appeared in any of the components. I thought sand might be a problem but the tripod worked fine, whether on the spikes or screw down rubber foot pads.”

Scott continues, “The neoprene padding on the upper tube gripped really well when setting up and breaking down the legs. It was also easy on my shoulders, as the SOLO was light enough to carry ‘fireman-style’ when I was trudging long distances over soft sand.”

Scott added that the lock/unlock icon stickers were a great idea in speeding up set up, while the DS20’s beautiful fluid action complemented the incredible rigidity of the SOLO tripod – irrespective of the height. He also couldn’t help noticing all the other videographers checking out his kit, impressed at the quality of finish and amazed at the range of payloads he put on it.

“Most of the tripods on the (surfing circuit) are Miller 20 Series or (French) carbon legs, carrying payloads from 600mm telephoto lenses to Betacam SP camcorders. Although heavier drag would be preferable for Betacam SP, it’s the convenience weight factor that makes the SOLO 20 versatile enough to handle these kinds of payloads – I even put an Arri SR2 with 150-600mm super 16mm rig on it – it was a little over spec at 20kg, but it still did the job.

As free as the wind blows….

Heading from waves to wilderbeast, Scott then took his SOLO and talents to Shamwari Game Reserve, the award-winning home of  "Born Free" - the movie. “This game reserve is awesome. It has the big five including giraffe, black and white Rhino, Cheetah and lion.”

While on Safari, Scotthad to keep to the vehicle, and even then he was constrained since the animals, who are used to the shape of the vehicle, would be alarmed if someone stuck their head out the top. Scott explains, “Getting out of the vehicle to set up a shot was out of the question, so you had to stay inside and keep a low profile.”

“So I set up between the seats for a steady shot at close range with the Betacam. This was never intended however given the compact Size of the SOLO it was the difference between getting a lockdown pan/tilt shot over a "shaky cam" handheld.”

“Keeping a low profile in low-lying scrub was easy by spreading legs to the lowest fixture when using long lenses. I would lie down so as not to disturb white rhino feeding. I got some amazing images.”

SOLO – weight for the money shot

While the reduced size of SOLO let Scott get the shot, the tripod’s ultra light weight really featured in the money shot. “As a constant traveller, I feel the pressure of travel getting harder with fuller planes, tighter schedules and, heavier charges for excess luggage. Leaving SydneyI got hit $1314 for 24kg excess due to a 'weight restricted flight'. So, more than ever, carbon fibre is really worth its weight in.....carbon.”

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