On my wildlife trips, I often use a monopod. A monopod looks like one of the legs of a tripod, but with a head for the camera on top. I can change the length, so that I can use it when kneeling as well as when I’m standing or sitting. Although, I’m quite tall, the monopod brings the viewfinder of my camera on my eye-level. In my eyes that’s a must!
Wildlife photography means hiding and waiting for the animals to come up, but also moving slowly through the landscape to find some. Some animals are very shy, so you have to disguise to avoid disturbing them. Others are a bit more tolerant when humans approach slowly and carefully. Nevertheless, you have to use lenses with a long focal length. Unfortunately, these lenses not only cross the long distance between you and the animal. Because of their size they are heavy and catching the wind quite easily. The long focal length results in a small view angel. So, the slightest camera movement might decide between a lucky shot and a fail shot.
A tripod might help, but comes unhandy in the terrain. A monopod is in this field a way better solution. You’re still able to move. Only one leg is to justify instead of three. The monopod carries the wight of your gear and eases the handling of your gear to get a good shot. Balancing the horizon is possible by moving your body instead of re-justifying the tripod legs.
While you have to switch off the Image Stabiliser / Vibration Reduction mechanisms when putting your camera on top of a tripod, you have to keep that mechanisms active when working with a monopod.
On my first trip with a monopod several years ago, I felt a bit hindered. I had to learn how to work with a monopod and get used to its support. Nowadays, I don’t want to miss it anymore. But, I usually don’t attach the camera (the lens mount flange when using long telephoto lenses) anymore. Instead, I lay the lens simply on the head without fastening the screw to be a bit quicker and more flexible. When in a hide, I’m using the screw more often, because I don’t move that much and the area in front of me is quite limited because of the hide. A tripod would be fine in a hide, but because of the limited space in a hide you don’t have enough room for setting it up. So, a monopod is also for a hide a suitable solution.
Although, I could remove one leg of one of my tripods to use it as a monopod, I still have my monopod. First, the monopod is made from aluminium instead of carbon fibre and thus it is very solid. I also use my monopod as a walking-stick to stabilise me when in uneven terrain or for checking a creek before crossing it. Second, when using the tripod leg, it’s about 10 cm too small for me. So, usage is quite uncomfortable. But, for a plan “B” it’s good to know, I could switch (i.e. when I could only take one with me).
Many thanks to Steffi for the image. It’s taken in January, when we were on Helgoland.