Having only one leg and thus being hopelessly inferior to the tripod in terms of minimizing camera shake, the monopod doesn’t get much love from professional photographers. However, some photographers such as Joe Edelman have learned to appreciate the monopod’s functionality.
“I think the monopod is potentially the most under-appreciated camera support for both still and video photography,” Edelman said.
In this “Thoughtful Photographer” episode, Edelman demonstrates a neat technique to improve one’s shooting perspective by extending one’s reach using a heavy duty monopod, a wide angle lens, and a camera’s self-timer function:
Edelman began his career as a newspaper photographer and, like many solo photographers, undoubtedly often found himself trying to capture a shot that required a higher perspective without a ladder or another way to gain height, save attempting a risky stunt or holding his camera above his head and shooting blindly.
Somewhere along the way, Edelman began using his monopod to gain that extra height, and now he’s broken the process down into five simple steps for the rest of us:
1. Extend the monopod to its full length.
If you’re looking for even more functionality, you can add a ball head to the top of the monopod for extra tilt without losing height or you can mount your camera on a heavy duty painter’s pole with a Pole Pixie adapter to reach 20+ feet. You can even add a CamRanger and use your iDevice as a remote viewfinder, but remember that the more gadgets you use, the heavier the load will become.
“A DSLR camera with a lens can get pretty heavy,” Edelman said. “Make sure you don’t use a cheap or lightweight monopod… [or] be sure to purchase a heavy duty pole. You don’t want that lightweight pole that will snap while your expensive DSLR is 20+ feet up in the air.”
2. Mount your camera with a wide angle lens.
If you’re practiced with the technique, you can use any type of lens, but Edelman likes to use wide angle lenses, such as the NIKKOR 14mm f/2.8D ED, because they are more forgiving than longer lenses in terms of composition and because they allow for optimal depth of field.
3. Take test shots to determine settings and focus.
Use a small aperture and focus approximately one-third of the distance into your scene.
“With the camera above your head, you’re not going to be able to do this with auto-focus,” Edelman said. “[This technique] requires that you focus in advance using either manual focus or using auto-focus and then locking the focus before you hoist the camera.”
4. Set the self-timer or use a wireless remote trigger.
Using the self-timer will allow you to use both hands to steady the monopod while it’s hoisted above your head, but using a wireless remote trigger will allow you to quickly capture multiple frames during each lift. Experiment with both and see which option works best for you.
5. Hoist the monopod above your head.
“The rookie mistake here is to think that you have to tilt the camera way forward because you have it elevated so high,” said Edelman. “If you’re using a wide angle lens, you only need to tilt the camera slightly forward.”
You may need to add a few push-ups and pull-ups to your workout regiment to be able to effectively perform this technique, but it sure beats carrying a ladder around with you on the street or breaking your arm or your gear pretending to be Spiderman.
Based in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Joe Edelman works as an advertising and editorial photographer for prestigious publications such as Maxim, Cosmopolitan, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times. During his three-decade career, Edelman has won numerous state and national awards and recognition as a superb model photographer.
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