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The McNally Tripod Rig

Jan 28

In Equipment at 6:42pm

McNally Tripod Rig

One of the big questions I get when I teach is about my tripod and computer platform rig.

It’s all off the shelf Gitzo/Manfrotto stuff, available from Bogen…

I use the Gitzo GT-5560SGT tripod, and mount the Manfrotto Accessory Arm 3153B to it, and then the Gitzo G065 Laptop Platform to that. Couple that up with a ball head such as the Manfrotto 468MG, and you be cooking. I keep the platform at eyeball height so I don’t have to stoop to see the computer. I’m tethered via Nikon Camera Control Pro 2 and a USB 2.0 cable with an extension. Everything is taped down, cause I’m excitable and accident prone. It works real well as a location rig.

Manfrotto 468MG hydrostatic ball head Closeup of the McNally Tripod Rig Gitzo G065 Laptop Platform

If the GT-5560SGT isn’t for you, go to and check out the Tripod Configurator to see what they recommend. I highly advocate purchasing a good tripod to support your camera. You’ve already spent a good chunk of change on the camera, better get a reliable set of sticks to go underneath it. Don’t pinch pennies on a tripod, because if it goes down, your camera goes down too.

Quick tip: On a high pressure shoot, go ahead and tether if you like, but always have a backup camera with a card standing by. If you shoot quickly, you will back up the computer with raw files all trying to scream through the USB connector at once, and my experience is the camera will lock up. At that point, you just put that camera down, let it digest for a bit, while you shoot Mr. or Mrs. Impatient Subject with your other camera, which is rocking and rolling right to the card, in my case a Lexar UDMA 8 gigger.

Mentioned in this post:
Gitzo GT-5560SGT
Manfrotto Accessory Arm 3153B
Gitzo G065 Laptop Platform
Manfrotto 468MG Hydrostatic Ball Head
Nikon Camera Control Pro 2
USB 2.0 Cable
USB 10′ Extension
Lexar UDMA 8 GB 300x CF Card

clement stevens says:

on February 1, 2008 at 11:38 pm

Thanks for sharing, it is always an advantage when you can get straight from the pro, I have always been a fan of your work.

Mike Clemons says:

on February 2, 2008 at 4:11 pm

Joe, first of all I loved your lighting course on line at Kelby training. Amazing stuff, a lot like following you around asking you questions while you were working and you now getting mad! Can we go another one on small flashes next?

Thanks for sharing the tripod setup secret. That was the first thing I asked Scott about.

I’m also very excited that you’ve started a blog.. welcome to the blogworld, we’ve been waiting patiently.

Mike Clemons says:

on February 3, 2008 at 7:49 pm

… not getting mad.

Mat says:

on February 4, 2008 at 10:14 am

Great one, that helps me a lot. Thank you :-)

By the way can somebody give me a alternative for the mentioned Nikon Camera Control Pro for Canon users? I am using the Eos Utility but it sucks.
So a third party product would be nice.

Thanks again… Mat

Don Risi says:

on February 4, 2008 at 11:27 am


Fabulous work.

I love the laptop support. I shoot tethered whenever I’m in the studio (not often enough), and although I have a second body available, it’s strictly a backup body. When the computer gets backed up with RAW files, I get the client/subject to come look at the files that are coming up on the screen. It gives everyone a chance to catch their breath and to think about changes/improvements we need to make as we continue shooting.

Love the blog. Can’t wait to read more.


Ade says:

on February 4, 2008 at 12:43 pm


As a NAPP member, Scott kelby blog reader, and amatuer photography enthusiast, I’m always looking to expand on my photography competencies.

I signed up for the annual subscription-based online training at, and want to tell you that I loved your light video courses.

Great stuff, really!!

I’m looking forward to you having a similar course with the SB-800 strobes, as that’s what I use (2 of them) at the moment with my D300.

Welcome to the blogosphere, and thanks for sharing your knowledge!

Nick says:

on February 4, 2008 at 7:38 pm

Ok…now thats cool.

Jeff Franzen says:

on February 5, 2008 at 11:01 pm

Love the new book. Great ideas.

The blog is nice addition also.

One minor suggestion: Could you make the images larger after the jump. Currently look like !:!. Would be great to see more detail if we click.

Keep up great ideas.

Oleg Kurapov says:

on February 7, 2008 at 1:13 am

The blog is great, YouTube channel too – thanks for delivering us with great content! Love your sense of humor :-)

I appreciate that you’ve shared the laptop/camera combo with us, I first saw it on Nikon’s “Speed of Light” DVD and it seemed like a great idea (although I also tend to get too excited at times which puts my MacBook Pro’s USB port at risk, huh). Can’t help noticing that in the desert shoot there your laptop was also being held with some kind of a clamp (ball head was different as well) – is it just some basic hardware store thingie or a brand-name gadget by Gitzo/Manfrotto etc.? And do you feel safe to clamp down on laptop casing – as I understand, Macs are rather tightly packed inside? Do you use it only on location or in the studio as well?

Alex Rodriguez says:

on February 7, 2008 at 5:09 pm

Thanks for sharing, I searched all over the place for that setup after I saw the Nikon flash video.

Thanks again!

Ed O'Keeffe says:

on February 7, 2008 at 9:04 pm

Thanks for the great advice, I saw the video featuring this setup on Kelby training and was wondering who made such a useful tripod head or if it might have been a custom piece of kit.

Looking forward to taking delivery of “the moment it clicks” book in the next few days, I ordered from Amazon on Tuesday. Never knew that you had a blog until I clicked through from the Nikonains blog. Time to get your RSS feed into my reader I think. Thanks for sharing in the tip Joe

df says:

on February 8, 2008 at 3:12 am

“By the way can somebody give me a alternative for the mentioned Nikon Camera Control Pro for Canon users? I am using the Eos Utility but it sucks.
So a third party product would be nice.”

I use DSLR Remote Pro from Breeze Systems. Works like a charm:

Dennis Kielhorn says:

on February 10, 2008 at 1:23 pm

What happend to your “Magicball” seen in “Speed of light”? Why you’ve changed?

Dennis says:

on February 10, 2008 at 4:21 pm

Joe, I saw the video on Kelby and noticed that you had a second monitor, I have camera pro and was wondering how you got the single large display on the second monitor while on the laptop had nikon pro up.


Brad Moore says:

on February 11, 2008 at 1:19 pm


In the Mac OS, go to your System Preferences, then to the Displays panel. Make sure your external display is plugged into the computer and turned on, then click the Detect Displays button. The computer should detect the display and start using it. You can go into the Arrangement section and play around with mirroring (checkbox at the bottom) and mapping options.

In Windows, go to the Display Properties (I usually right-click on the Desktop and go to Properties), then to the Settings tab, and click the Advanced button. From there, I think it’s something under the Monitor tab maybe, but it’s been so long since I’ve dealt with dual monitors on a Windows machine I couldn’t say for sure. That’ll get you in the general area though.

On the Kelby video we have the monitors mirrored for illustrative purposes, but not here in the studio. Need the extra screen real estate for projects and the like. Hope this helps!


Charles says:

on February 13, 2008 at 10:14 am

I should be careful what I wish for! Ever since I first saw it, I was curious about this tethered set up. But a quick price check had me looking for alternatives; I was hoping that I might be able to get away with Gitzo’s 3540XLS (not that it’s cheap by any stretch of the imagination). I called the friendly folks at Bogen for their counsel. Unfortunately (for my wallet), they said that if you’re going to have a computer and monitor being supported, you really need the 5-series Giant — not so much because of weight, but torque. On the bright side, they told me, if I bought two I could put a bar between them and do chin-ups, no problem!

Mohammed says:

on February 14, 2008 at 7:55 pm

Sir, like Many people I have enjoyed looking at your work. I have one question. First of all thank you for mentioning what you used in the Nikon Speed of Light. I would also like to know what stands you used for the speed lights and also I noticed that the speed lights were attached to the stand via clamps. Which clamp was it? Last but not the least, the large diffusing surface you used? Could you let me know the details on these items as well.

By the way just ordered your book. Have been waiting for it to come out since a long time. Finally am going to get my hands on it, soon.

Charles says:

on February 14, 2008 at 10:08 pm

Mohammed, those stands are Avenger A225SCB C-Stands (century stands) with Grip arms/clamp (part D520B & D200B). The clamps are Bogen/Manfrotto 175F “Justin” clamps. The diffusion panels are Lastolite Skylites. All of these products are distributed by Bogen in the US. You’ll see all of this in the book when it arrives. Enjoy!

Mark Westman says:

on March 6, 2008 at 6:22 pm

He’s got a BOOK? I loved the DVD Speed of light..

I wasted my TIME and MONEY looking to build a system…and almost bought a bunch of pocket wizards….because I’ve heard that the SB800 set up was not totally reliable. I’ve only got 2 SB800’s…been playing with both, and not ONE problem (via D200 camera). So I’m very, VERY stoked!

Glad to join this blog and looking forward to more!!! YOU ROCK!

Jim Cutler says:

on April 1, 2008 at 12:32 pm

Joe, Looks like the crossbar part of your Tripod rig is no longer made by Manfrotto. What a bummer cause I really want one. (The Manfrotto accessory arm 3153B). All sites previously selling them say “No longer available from manufacturer” and no replacement is offered on the Manfrotto or Bogen websites. Rats! :(

R. Scott says:

on April 7, 2008 at 2:16 pm

The replacement crossbar support is called Manfrotto MN 131DDB. Retails for around £60-75 in the UK.

Fabiano says:

on April 22, 2008 at 10:02 pm

that gitzo laptop platform is relly beaten up, isnt it? it looks twisted or something. this combo is working too hard, Joe. Give it a break…send it to me.

Jason says:

on December 6, 2008 at 1:05 pm

Hi Joe, I suppose this would be the best to ask this question initially before finding another method.

I spent a better half of a morning researching shooting tethered with my Nikon D300 with a USB cable after reading your setup.

With the two links that you provided, the cables are not 2.0 rated, only 1.1 speeds. Are those the two cables you use? If so, is it that much slower than 2.0?

Belkin F3U139-10 Pro Series USB 4-Pin Mini-B Cable (10-Feet)
Belkin F3U134-10 USB Extension Cable (10-Feet)

Also, I’ve read about the general rule of thumb for USB extension “no more than 15 feet” – With the 20 feet of USB cable you have recommended been problematic?



Ernest says:

on April 23, 2009 at 2:58 am

Capturing this is the essence of what it’s all supposed to be about – well done!

Jack Sheppard says:

on June 15, 2010 at 7:57 pm

Here is little more advanced variation I found on the setup.

vincent penoso says:

on October 15, 2010 at 2:55 pm

I was wondering if there were any coupons for the 131ddb or the gitzo g065 to be had?

Please fire them my way or post here!!!

Andrew says:

on March 27, 2012 at 6:18 pm

I have a slik 330 tripod. Is there anyway i can get this set up with the tripod i have?

Tyler Tulk says:

on January 1, 2013 at 6:18 pm

Hi, i think that i saw you visited my weblog so i came to “return the favor”.I am trying to find things to improve my site!I suppose its ok to use some of your ideas!!

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