There are times when even the best photographers get caught “with our pants down” or more specifically, unprepared when that great shot comes along. The prime example of this situation is probably stumbling on a golden opportunity for a low-light or long-exposure shot while you don't have your tripod. There are those times and places where the camera bag is easy enough to take with you, but the tripod isn't. Then again, sometimes we just get lazy. (Admit it, you've done it.)
So, when those times come around, why not be ready for them with something you can carry in your camera bag? There are a few “emergency” solutions that just might save you from kicking yourself all the way home. Here are some of my favorites.
This is – pardon the upcoming pun – hands down, the best tripod alternative I've found. It's lightweight, versatile and small enough to carry in your camera bag, extremely versatile and very, very stable. Unlike your tripod, it doesn't require a lot of setup, so it's actually faster. What's more, it's extremely affordable. Take a look at this article for more information on how Handlepod can be used.
2. A monopod with feet
When collapsed, a monopod with a tripod base can be carried in your pack or even just toted around by its wrist strap. It isn't quite as portable as Handlepod, but it will get the job done, and of course you can extend it for a taller support when you need it. Here's a good choice.
Here's an unusual one that uses you as a stabilizing device. It probably won't work for any really long exposures, but if you just want to make sure you're as steady as possible when hand-holding the camera, clip this to your belt loop and carry it along. When you need it, just screw the stud into your tripod mount socket, press the lock button and pull it tight. Find out more here.
4. A piece of string
For a cheaper take on the concept above, here's a little DIY gizmo you can carry anywhere, even in your pocket. You probably already have what you need to put this together. Like the one above, it's not a perfect solution, but it will help you steady down at lower ISO and shutter speeds, in the wind, etc. Watch the video below to see a one-and-a-half-minute tutorial on how to build one that's quick and easy to use.
5. A bean bag or two
One of the simplest and most versatile devices, especially when you're dealing with longer lenses, is a bean bag. You can prop just about anything on it and prop almost anything on it and it's easy to carry anywhere. Here's one that will even drop over your car window when you're really feeling lazy!
So, there's the list. Now you have no excuse for not being prepared. You're welcome. Get out there and shoot.