Gimbal / Monopod Use
With Long Lenses
By Michael Reichmann
Long lenses are many things, including heavy, expensive, and hard to hand-hold. A tripod and full gimbal head is likely the way to go, as I've written about here before. But, sometimes a tripod isn't the right tool for a particular situation, and one of those is when shooting from the deck of a ship.
Funny thing is, I used both full and side-mount gimbal heads in the past, and also monopods, but never the two together. What got me thinking was that in about a week from when this ie being written in mid-January, 2015, I will be going to Antarctica to help Kevin and a fantastic group of instructors conduct two back-back week-long workshops.
These will be my fifth and sixth Antarctic cruises and consequently I know that I will want to spend a lot of time on the deck of the ship, as I have in the past, shooting the wildlife and passing landscape. On these upcoming trips I'll be using the new Tamron 150-600mm on the also new Sony A7II. Coupled by a Sony LE-A4 adaptor this Sony A mount compatible lens will work fully on the EF mount camera and because the A7II has sensor-based image stabilization, this will be a great combo. Of course anyone with a Nikon or Canon mount camera can similarly use this Tamron lens, and these versions come with in-lens stabilization.
Below is a six minute long video which shows you how a side-mount gimbal head such as the Tomahawk from Promedia can be used on a monopod, in this case a Manfrotto 685B, to provide weightless and almost effortless use, hour after hour, with a heavy long lens.
One note... ships vibrate. Using any type of mount that couples directly to the deck, whether a rail clamp, a tripod or monopod with a metal foot, is a bad idea. Tripods are overkill, and also just get in the way of others when working on-deck. But a monopod takes no extra room, and if it has a rubber foot, much of the ship's vibration is mitigated. I also will often put the monopod on my boot to add an extra level of insulation between the deck and the camera and lens.
Items Mentioned in This Article are Available from B&H