Every photographer knows how vital it is to have a tripod amongst your gear bag, but many people who are just getting into the hobby or profession often are scared away by highly priced tripods. While the price-tag attached to premium tripods are quite daunting, I have learned a thing a two through my past purchases that have become mistakes. For years, I purchased inexpensive and seemingly sufficient tripods and ball heads until I recently broke yet another basic Manfrotto. As I took to the internet and consulted the advice of many others, I looked back on the have dozen or so mediocre tripods I'd bought and realized I'd essentially wasted thousands on tripods that could never withstand over a year of heavy use, nor were they very stable. I still saw a great deal of camera shake in all of my night shots and this had to change if I wanted to up my game professionally. My basic cost analysis told me to swallow my pride and learn from my mistakes and fork out the funds for a truly reliable and more stable tripod that could actually support the weight of the gear it would be bearing. I also took the opportunity to go a little overkill on the tripod and ball head's weight bearing ability in the case I'd rent or buy a super telephoto. This has proven to be a wise decision. A golden rule of thumb is to buy a tripod and ball-head that support AT LEAST TWICE THE WEIGHT of your gear.
So, what do I use for my supports? Well I have two setups that I use regularly. A monopod and a tripod. Now these setups are a little overkill for most, but are very necessary when loading on massive setups like my gripped DSLR including my 500mm F4.0L II which I use for sports and wildlife shooting. These are also very long rigs that allow for higher shooting heights with guaranteed support—especially when shooting low light or astrophotography.
Induro GIT304L capable of holding 55LB
Really Right Stuff BH-55 capable of holding 50LB
(wildlife rig) Wimberley II or Wimberley Sidekick gimbal
Induro GIM505XL capable of holding 66LB
Induro basic swivel head