Using A Monopod For Nature And Wildlife Photography – OP
I love my tripod, but when it’s not practical, there’s an alternative that can be used in a pinch and net you tack-sharp images
Text & Photography By Russ Burden
Updated November 16, 2020
Wait, a tripod has three legs, so how is it possible to have a single-legged version? It’s called a monopod! A monopod is a great tool. I don’t use mine often, but when I do, it’s a photo saver. When it’s essential to have a little extra bit of stability, I monopod it. It provides me a bit more wiggle room to safely shoot at a shutter speed that, if I were to handhold the camera, I’d have a soft image. I gain between two to three shutter speeds, which often is the difference between a keeper and a deleted file. If this was my only motivating factor to carry a monopod, it would be worth it. But what many photographers don’t take advantage of is a monopod’s other positive attributes.
Get Your Camera Higher
A monopod is a great way to gain elevation. If an exhibit at the zoo is very crowded, I simply raise the monopod and make the shot over the heads of the onlookers. Another reason to elevate it is there may be a distraction at eye level that can’t be avoided but would be out of the image if the camera position was higher. What about a bird’s nest that’s nine feet up in the tree? Raise the camera on the monopod and make the shot without stressing the birds. In order to release the shutter, though, you’ll need a remote trigger, self-timer or long cable release. Additionally, it will be difficult to create a precise composition, so you’ll need to shoot with a wide lens and crop later.
Monopod Stabilization Tricks
A monopod can be made more stable if you have a way to drive it into some soft earth or sand. Another way to add stability is to brace the bottom against the inside of your shoe or extend it in front of you so it’s on an angle. Another stabilization trick it to push it up against a solid surface such as a low stone wall or large rock. An additional shutter speed or two can be gained using this technique. Please keep in mind that when you use slow shutter speeds to photograph animals and the subjects move, the images will be soft.
Wildlife photography is synonymous with long lens photography. In locations where tripods are restricted, use a monopod rather than handholding your set up and experiencing fatigue. Inevitably, the point at which you’d need to relax the camera at your side will be the moment the animal does something special. With your rig on a monopod, you can be ready 100 percent of the time. Be sure to mount the monopod to the mounting plate on the lens, not the threaded part of the camera. It distributes the weight more evenly and, even more important, by loosening the collar, you can spin the setup to go from vertical to horizontal and back.
A Compact Stabilization Option
A monopod takes up very little space in a suitcase when compared to a tripod. If you go away on a trip where the photography isn’t serious but you still want to make great images, pack the monopod to provide a bit more assurance. Additionally, the monopod can be moved around more efficiently than a tripod. If speed is important, take the monopod path. A monopod can be used with or without an accessory head. I prefer to use it without as I always mount it directly to the lens and use the collar to go from vertical to horizontal. If you use the setup with a wide angle, then it behooves you to have a head to switch from vertical to horizontal.
To learn more about this subject, join me on one of my photo safaris to Tanzania. Please visit www.russburdenphotography.com to get more information.
Originally Published November 10, 2020