Besides cameras and lenses, a solid tripod is one of the most important investments for a nature photographer. High quality nature photography is rarely achieved when hand holding your camera. A tripod is essential for low light photography during the morning, evening and twilight, for shooting wildlife, for macro photography and for experimenting with impressionistic or abstract photography. It not only steadies your shooting equipment for maximum image quality, it also will help you discover the world of photography. You are more likely to step back, think and compose the photograph. You will ask yourself: do I have a straight horizon, do I have sufficient depth of field or shall I open up the aperture setting to minimize depth of field, are there distracting elements in the foreground or background of my composition, do I even have a composition?
I personally prefer a ball-and-socket head with quick release for easy and fast adjustments. My camera tripod has no center column and the legs spread independently for setup on uneven terrain. The tripod collapses to almost ground level allowing me to explore ground level objects and photograph from different angles and perspectives. It is not too heavy for the longer photo excursions and trips I often pursue in the national and state parks of New England.