I thought I would make a post to talk about a shooting technique that I’ve been using for over a year now that I would highly recommend. It makes a world of difference when out in the field and I won’t go back!
Use a monopod
If you’re like me and you have a big, long and heavy super-telephoto lens, you will know that shooting handheld can be exhausting, not to mention a recipe blurry images. In the UK, our weather is typically overcast and the light levels are generally on the low side. Handholding a super-telephoto lens setup requires strong arms and upper body strength, and a fast shutter speed to avoid camera shake, but this has a direct knock-on effect to the amount of available light that you have to work with—that is, not a lot!
I would really encourage you to consider using a monopod setup with a lightweight side mount gimbal head, such as the Wimberley MH-100, or the ProMediaGear Tomahawk GT2. Both of these setups allow you to carry your camera and lens setup attached to the monopod head over your shoulder! This way of shooting is super easy and has many benefits, including:
- The main advantage is that you can significantly lower your shutter speed without compromising sharpness. In fact, I would argue from experience that my photographs taken on a monopod at 1/500th of a second are sharper than handheld images taken at 1/1600th of a second or faster.
- The domino-benefit of being able to lower your shutter speed is that you can lower your ISO, which also results in greater detail in your images.
- The last benefit that I will mention is the obvious reduction of stress on your body. When I used to shoot primarily handheld, when I was lucky enough to get a co-operative bird in front of me, my arms grew tired before the bird did! After that happened a couple of times, I decided I did not want to let it happen again.
When looking to buy a monopod or side mount gimbal, make sure the monopod is strong and inflexible because you don’t want it bending easily as this will reduce your stability, increase the chance of motion blur, and make you less confident when trusting that your expensive lens and camera setup will be supported adequately. I have used different equipment throughout my time doing wildlife photography, but now I use a Gitzo monopod and the ProMediaGear Tomahawk GT2 side mount gimbal. For more advice I would highly recommend Scott Keys’ YouTube Channel, Wildlife Inspired. He has a bunch of really unbiased reviews on tripods, monopods and gimbal heads.