IMO, the perfect tripod for your use would be the Gitzo GT3530LSV. It's only 4 lbs and is rated from 300mm to 500mm lenses, but can go higher. This LSV model has no center column to take away rigidity and is the extra tall model. If you are of shorter stature, the GT3530S is 8 inches shorter and $30 cheaper..
For your 500mm lens, I'd suggest either Wimberly Version 2 head or the Kirk King Cobra gimbal head..
You will probably also want a good ball head. I recommend the Markins M20 with Really Right Stuff lever clamp and plates..
All the above is top-notch and in my opinion, the best and lightest there is, especially considering you'll be carrying it..
Thanks so much for the advice!!! The Gitzo you mentioned seems to be a discontinued item according to B&H, but can still be found at some random shops. I have some real novice questions now...the King Cobra, does it need a ball head? I am trying to save weight. After all, I am just a delicate little flower (5'5")and will be schlepping this all over Katmai National Park, Alaska.Thanks again!M-..
Craig,Thanks so much for the advice!!! The Gitzo you mentioned seems to bea discontinued item according to B&H, but can still be found at somerandom shops. I have some real novice questions now...the KingCobra, does it need a ball head? I am trying to save weight. Afterall, I am just a delicate little flower (5'5")and will be schleppingthis all over Katmai National Park, Alaska.Thanks again!M-.
Wow, that sounds like a lot of fun. I wish I could go..
To answer your question, both the King Cobra and the Wimberly do not need a ball head. The Wimberly SideKick does. Personally, I think the Sidekick is a bit small for the 500 f4, so I didn't mention it..
The Gitzo GT3530S should work just fine as you don't need the taller model. Many buy the Mountaineer models, but I don't like a center column. It's interesting to see how many articles are written about how to remove the center column on Gitzo tripods and mount the head directly to the plate. After all, if you use the center column, you've just changed your steady tripod into a monopod on a tripod. The S models don't have a center column so you don't have to convert it. If later you want one, you can purchase one..
Also, you might want to read Thom Hogan's Tripod 101.
Craig- Fabulous! Thanks-great article. There is so much stuff out there, that sometimes it is hard to figure out where to research such things. Had a grizzly in the coop this morning and no camera.... shame on me! Funny that I am hiking into the wilds when they seem to frequent my back yard. Go figure. Again- Many Thanks..