animals, bird, gear, nature, photography, review, technic, travel, wildlife, world

A special head for wildlife photographer

In the past I wrote about tripods. A tripod always has a head to mount your camera on. There are many discussions, what kind of head is the best: ball-head, one-way tilt head, two-way tilt head, and three-way tilt head.

Some tripods came with a certain head attached to the middle-column which is not replaceable while other come with replaceable heads or even without a head, where you have to buy one on your own choice.

The head of my old tripod wasn’t replaceable while my new one came with a replaceable ball head. My monopod came with a replaceable 1-way tilt head.

For wildlife photography these heads are not really helpful. The tilt heads are not fast enough to follow the animals and the ball head can’t be fixed fast enough to be a stable ground. Therefore I have a gimbal. I simply dismount the head from either my tripod or my monopod and attach the gimbal instead. Because of the design, the gimbal is quite stable but I can move it around very fast, if needed.

When sitting in a hide where I have enough room to set-up a tripod, I mount the gimbal on top instead of the ball head. When I want to move around in the field or wait in a tiny hide, the gimbal will be mounted on the of the monopod. Both work very well.

My gimbal is made of aluminum and weighs about 1 kg. It’s 19.5 * 7.5 * 21 cm ( 7.7 * 3.0 * 8.3in). It has the correct screw thread (3/8 “) to attach it directly on most of the tripods and monopod with detachable heads. The plate to mount the camera follows the arca-swiss standard.  So, if you already have such a plate, it will fit here too, if not, never mind, the gimbal brings one. There are also some long tele lenses around where the lens mount flange is also fitting in an arca-swiss mount without a separate plate. According to the manufacturer’s specifications, the gimbal should be able to carry gear up to 18 kg (39.7lbs).

The heaviest lens I used a couple of times weighed about 5 kg. When adding my camera there was about 6,2 kg attached to the gimbal, resulting in about 7.3 kg to carry for my tripod. 

To mount such heavy gear to the gimbal needs some fine adjustment to distribute the weight equally. That’s why the lens mount flange is below the lens and the flange is that long. Even when the screw on the top left side is loosened the camera and lens have to be in balance. Now, you tighten the screw a little bit, that you can still move the camera easily up and down but it does not have to swing back automatically. The same for the horizontal turning.


I own this gimbal for about 3 years and I’m very happy with it. Compared to the standard heads, this is really a game-changer, also for the monopod. In my other post, you can read about me first struggling a bit when using the monopod. The gimbal helped me out a lot.

 

When I got the gimbal, it was quite hard to move the swing, but after a short time, the oil inside became softer and the swing was easier to swing up and down.

Take care!

 

 

gear, nature, photography, technic, travel, wildlife, world

What’s a monopod?

Copyright: Steffi Le.

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.

Take care!