I'm turning 40 in April. Woo-hoo. To run away from the stark reality of that fact, I mean, to celebrate this momentous millstone, er, milestone, I am taking a trip to Vegas, with a primary aim of photography - the Las Vegas hotels and shows, Red Rock Canyon and the Valley of Fire, Hoover Dam, and, of course, the Grand Canyon. I've decided to use my state tax refund to buy a few new doodads for my camera outfit, so I can properly document my encounters with these beautiful places - a new tele lens, and a new tripod and head combo. I chose a Canon EF-S 55-250 IS lens - it only took about 30 seconds of playing with it in my local camera shop to finalize that decision - but I'm thinking that I need to retire my 10-year old, $30 WalMart Vivitar VPT-360 tripod in favor of something lighter, sturdier, and easier to carry and setup. I'd also like to get a ball head, one of the pistol-grip styles so much in vogue on TMIP. But I'm on a tight budget, and only want to spend about $150 for both tripod and head. My main criteria for the tripod are 1) Light enough to carry for several hours at a time without giving me a hernia, 2) closed size 27" or less, and 3) sturdy enough for a Canon Digital Rebel 300D and the new Canon 55-250 IS lens I'll be buying. Silver color is preferred (so it doesn't give me third-degree burns in the desert sun). My criteria for the ball head are 1) smooth and solid, and 2) strong enough for an SLR with a large lens on it. Pistol grip is preferred, and quick-release for the camera is preferred. At the very least, it should have some sort of wheel or grip to turn the camera attachment screw - my current tripod uses a slotted screw that can't be turned by hand, so I have to carry some sort of screwdriver with the tripod (I use a large metal washer). Height of the tripod and ball head together should bring the camera's viewfinder up close to 70" so I don't have to bend down too far to look through it; I'm 6'-4" tall, so my normal standing eye level is about 72". I realize that $150 is pretty tight for both a tripod and a ball head, but I'm on a tight budget and need to keep things on the cheap. I'm not averse to buying used equipment, so long as it's from either a reputable dealer or someone I know.