Need help now: monopod!

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Jan 27th, 2006, 12:49 PM
  #1
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Need help now: monopod!

To all of you photographers: Just added up how much I've spent on photo gear. I want to cry. Do I really need a monopod or will a bean bag suffice. You know what I want to hear; however, just give it to me straight. ;-)

thanks~~~
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Jan 27th, 2006, 12:54 PM
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Hi Sharon,

I plan to have both -- a monopod for use the vehicle (remember, open-sided vehicles have low doors and the seats are deliberately set high up so you can see...so unless you plan to sit on the floor a beanbag will be of limited use) and a beanbag for those occasional on the floor shots. You don't need to buy a beanbag -- take a couple of nice large Ziploc bags and fill one with beans or rice; tuck inside another to guard against spills. That way it doesn't take up room in your luggage or count against your weight allowance.

Cheers,
Julian
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Jan 27th, 2006, 12:58 PM
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But I don't want to buy one!.... Another question: when it comes to filling up these bean bags once in Africa: where does one actually get these beans or rice? I don't think I'll be at a supermarche! ;-)
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Jan 27th, 2006, 01:05 PM
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Hi Sharon,

You can usually get some beans or rice from the camp kitchen at nominal cost. If you're concerned, write to them in advance and they are usually happy to make sure there's something available. If you seal everything well, you can usually give it back afterwards if you don't like the idea of wasting food.

Cheers,
Julian
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Jan 27th, 2006, 01:08 PM
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Aha. There's a plan. The thing I'm trying to visualize now is the whole two camera thing. Do you have one around your neck and one in your lap or bag ready to go if you need to do a quick switch?

Thanks!
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Jan 27th, 2006, 01:31 PM
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Hello,

I'd put one on the monopod with a long telephoto lens, and have another in my lap for quick handheld shots. And QR head on the monopod.

Cheers,
Julian
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Jan 27th, 2006, 03:00 PM
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Sharon,

I took a monopod with me, but, in all honesty, I rarely used it. Perhaps my photos would have been better had I been more disciplined but I just found the monopod to be an incumberment.

I do think that with the proper shutter speed in sufficient lighting conditions you will be able to get by without a monopod. However, in low light conditions you will suffer as you will need to slow down your shutter speed in order to allow more light into the photo.

With the above being said, I will still be taking along my monopod for my Tanzanian safari next month. I want to give myself the very best opportunity for my best photos yet. However, I do not think it is the end of the world if you only take a self-made beanbag (ziplock bags or whatever).

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Jan 27th, 2006, 03:06 PM
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Hi Rocco,

How did you manage using that huge Sigma lens without some sort of support? I can't imagine holding that beast steady for any substantial length of time, much less for an entire game drive.

Cheers,
Julian
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Jan 27th, 2006, 03:09 PM
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I've never seen a need for a monopod and I use a zoom lens up to 400mm. I can handhold that lens, and there are plenty of places to rest the lens (window, door, bean bag). In fact, I don't ever recall anyone using a monopod except on gorilla treks, and in most of those cases, the monopod doubled as a walking stick.
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Jan 27th, 2006, 03:24 PM
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Julian,

I guess I am just really strong!

For the first couple days, I swear that I was in pain from holding the Canon 20d w/ Sigma 80-400mm lens. However, by the end of the trip, it may as well have been my 17-85mm lens.

I have been really bad, however, and I don't think I have used my 80-400mm lens since I returned from Southern Africa. Definitely, I must practice these next couple weeks.
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Jan 27th, 2006, 03:30 PM
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Hi Michael,

What sort of vehicles have you been shooting from? I could see placing the beanbag on the window or door in a minivan in East Africa, but the vehicles I've used in SA and Botswana have very low doors, and the only way you'd be able to use a beanbag is to sit on the floor and rest the beanbag on the door. I did get some nice shots this way, but I wouldn't want to spend my whole safari down there.

I've tried resting the camera or beanbag on the grab bars, on the back of my seat, and on the back of the seat in front of me, and I've found that getting good pictures can be challenging. If you are in the front row, you can get good shots in front of the vehicle, but manoeuvring a camera with a large lens can be difficult at times as other people's heads, etc get in the way. Personally, my back started to cramp up after awhile -- if you use the seat in front as a rest you have to lean forward, and if you use your own seat you have to twist around.

I bought a monopod for my upcoming Botswana safari, and I think it will help a lot with shots were a longer exposure is necessary. I get very nice results handheld, but the results when using the monopod are pin-sharp.

If you have a QR (quick-release) head (and know how to use it) it's fast and easy to remove the camera from the monopod, so you can have the best of both worlds. If you have two cameras, you don't even need to do that. Rocco, you may want to look into this -- it might make it easier to use the monopod on your Tanzania trip.

Cheers,
Julian
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Jan 27th, 2006, 05:16 PM
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Nice discussion, everyone. I think I'l just wait a bit and maybe in April or early May I'll have saved a bit of $$ and will feel OK about it. Thanks!
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Jan 27th, 2006, 06:00 PM
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HI, SHARON

I did not use any kind of support on my safari earlier this month in South Luangwa -- if you have image stabilization, and are properly holding your camera and release the shutter, you should be able to have enough stability for most images by day.

Night photos are a different story. Exposures can be as long as a full second, and animals are usually moving, so I suggest using the blur to express movement as part of your story. That's what I did .

(Barry at Luangwa River Lodge was kind enough to loan a tripod to me for night drives. They lashed it to the seats for me with a bungee cord. I found it impossible to use - the animal was always in a place that the tripod-bound camera simply could not reach. After a few abortive attempts, I took it off the tripod, and simply braced the camera on the seat hand railings closest to the animal and took it from there. You saw the result on my web site.)

If you want to shoot with a monopod or beanbag, try it and see how it works. With digital imaging you will know instantly. Good luck, Sharon.
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Jan 27th, 2006, 06:04 PM
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Sorry, I have an age-related memory problem. Can you remind us where you are going?

Generally speaking, I disagree with the others. I think a monopod is well worth it, at least in southern Africa, where the is no place to rest your camera. But don't ask us what is best, you can figure out what is best for you by taking some test shots under different conditions with and without a monopod (borrow one to test, or take your camera to a photo shop). If you see better photos with monopod, take it. If you don't, you can go without.
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Jan 27th, 2006, 06:24 PM
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regarding the bean bag: you can just use the gravel from the camp pathway, but as you know, I never knew what the heck the thing was for anyway, but at least I didn't buy beans!
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Jan 27th, 2006, 07:09 PM
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Any kind of camera support is good. But I never use it. Excuse me for the obvious, but camera support is helpful for stopping camera movement but does nothing for when the subject is moving. I'd say 95% of my shots would be a bit awkward if using a monopod or bean bag. I use the highest shutter speed and image stabilization helps. If the shot requires a really slow shutter then I just try a couple and hope. Camera support would have made the shot. From years of shooting 35mm and shooting rifles I think I'm pretty good at holding the camera study. (But admittidly not as good as a mono/tripod). I even hold my breath when when squizzing the shutter (or trigger).
Regards - Tom
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Jan 27th, 2006, 08:28 PM
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Thanks folks! ddgattina - I'm heading to Zambia. I may try to borrow one to see how comfortable I am with it. All good thoughts though, and Dennis - that still makes me giggle!!!
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Jan 28th, 2006, 02:56 AM
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Theoretically, I think a monopod makes sense for all the reasons Julian stated.

In reality I haven't ever used one, even when we've taken one, as I have found it easier to hold the camera in my hands and move about unhindered by a monopod.

If I can't achieve a high enough speed to avoid motion blur (and feel it won't enhance that particular image - I agree with Phil that it can often be used to very good effect) I simply increase my ISO setting and that usually does the trick. Of course, that does introduce more luminance and colour noise both.

Taking one does make a lot of sense but sometimes what we find most comfortable and click with isn't what's most sensible!!
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Jan 28th, 2006, 04:42 AM
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I concur with the above. No need for a monopod, but if you do bring one a trick I learned is to swing the monopod backwards and use it as a rest on your shoulder. This works very well.
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Jan 28th, 2006, 05:16 AM
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Hmmmm. Interesting idea. I think I'll hit the photo store today and see how they look/feel for myself. If I know me, I'd probably raher be unhindered. I mean, don't you rest your camera on your lap or in the backpack when you're just looking and not shooting? If I am in a persistent state of hold a camera to my head, I am missing the point of going to Africa, to a degree!
Also want to explain the title to this thread: the reason I was in a hurry yesterday was because there was a monopd for sale on the Fred Miranda forum! No worries, if I want one, I'll be able to find one reasonably. Thanks again all and have a great weekend!
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