Recognize its importance
Many seasoned photographers, nature observers, and sky watchers won't hesitate to admit that 50% of their success rests on having an adequate tripod (or tripods in most cases) combined with an understanding of its uses. A tripod allows for longer periods of observation, greater stability and control, higher quality and composition, and freedom of movement. Whether it be a camera tripod, spotting scope tripod, binocular tripod, or monopod, tripod use and selection is as important to visual results as the optic lens itself.
Start from the beginning
From the beginning, serious thought and consideration must go into tripod use. Experts unanimously agree that by following a few basic guidelines, you can avoid making rookie blunders that are common to most beginners.
Learn your ABCs
A. Choose carefully and never skimp on your tripod. The expensive investment you've made in your camera or spotting scope will be wasted if it is not properly supported.
B. Unless you are limited to one location, one scope, or one lens, plan on purchasing more than one tripod. The requirements of a studio tripod are much different from those needed in mountainous terrain. Proper weight, versatility, and stability for each circumstance are all important considerations for tripod stand use.
C. Understand the following components of a tripod and how it functions.
Head - This is the uppermost part of the tripod. It allows your camera or spotting scope to move up and down as well as side to side. Whether the head is a ball type, or a pan-and-tilt type, the head must be able to lock smoothly into any position and should be equipped with a quick-release mechanism. The best tripods can be easily fitted with a variety of heads from several different manufacturers.
Legs - Steadiness is the purpose of using a tripod, and strong, sturdy legs are what serve that purpose. Tripod stands have telescoping legs consisting of two, three, or four extensions. They are usually constructed from aluminum alloys, wood, or ultra-strong, ultra-light composites such as carbon fiber. Round legs are generally preferred, and the greater the diameter, the stronger the legs.
Feet - Because the tripod feet need to remain fixed, it's important that the type of feet be determined by the type of surface the tripod will rest upon. Most feet are covered by rubber boots to prevent sliding, but some have metal spikes that can be pushed into loose dirt or sand.
Finally, learn to think of the carbon fiber tripod as an extension of the optic lens. Skillful use comes from frequent use, and it develops rapidly when this way of thinking becomes second nature. With practice, you'll capture dozens of beautiful moments made possible only by your tripod expertise.