6.28.2015

A new way of working after all these years. Getting monopodial.

Self portrait with a Rokinon 85mm lens on an EM5.2.

I've been writing a lot lately about using the Berlebach monopod in my work at events. I never took monopods seriously before even though I've dabbled with a baker's half dozen of them over the years. One of the first presents my then girlfriend and now wife of thirty years gave me, early on, was a Leitz Tiltall monopod. Black, lightweight, sleek and good. I still have it now 35 years later.  But it was the Berleback 112 with the little wooden tilting head at the top that finally made me realize the value of this support system. And I happy to have finally solidified the connection.

I used the Berlebach monopod at the Freescale Semiconductor FTF show last week to stabilize my 24-120mm lens as I made images of displays and demo areas in their Tech Lab, shooting with a Nikon D610 in raw mode. I hold the monopod near the top with my left hand and I pull it in close to my body so the connection with my stomach creates a non-moving point of contact. This goes a long way to stabilizing the motion from side to side. Pulling the assemblage tight to my body also gives me something to pull into which stabilizes my left hand. I hold the grip of the camera in my right hand and try to make the shutter tripping as smooth and easy as possible. Finally, I press the camera against my suborbital ridge to establish another solid point of contact. With a bit of practice I am able to get a convincingly sharp, wide angle shot at around 1/8th of a second, and do so reliably.

A major benefit of using the monopod instead of always being handheld is that the monopod does the work of defying gravity which alleviates a large portion of the physical stress caused by holding onto a three to six pound package for hours at a time. Being able to let the monopod fight gravity instead of my arms means that I'll have less shake due to exhaustion than I would normally
have.

Finally, the flatter profile of the wooden monopod helps one fight the effects of monopod rotation which adds another layer of stability.

This is all good and well for Berlebach monopod users but I do have advice for people using traditional, metal, cylindrical monopods. First off I would buy a Manfrotto tilting head for the unit. This  relatively small head with a quick release tilts only up and down and doesn't have any side to side play (which you definitely don't need!!!). it allows you to tilt the head and still keep the monopod in an upright configuration to take full advantage of the above mentioned contact points. With the metal monopod and tilt head I would practice holding the camera with both hands instead of putting one hand on the monopod which might cause unwanted rotation.  Pulling into your body with both hands and also planting the camera firmly against your forehead should give you the temporary immobility you need for sharper photographs.

The final aspect of monopods that I learned only last week has to do with a trade off. A monopod with many sections will fit better in luggage. But the luggage fit is a false economy when it comes to ergonomics and usability. Working with a monopod that has only two leg sections (total) is much quicker and easier because you can reach down with one hand, release the leg friction lock, adjust the height of the unit and then lock again, all with the one control. A multiplicity of sections requires you to adjust several locking levers to get to an optimal height and not all of them are reachable while standing with the monopod in its upright configuration in your hands. Fewer sections might suck if you are trying to shove the monopod into a carry-on suitcase but for the hours and hours that you'll probably spend with the unit in use the secret sauce is definitely in the one knob style.

After my experiences in the last two weeks and on a number of assignments I am ready for some down time. In fact, I have NO jobs booked for the upcoming week. I fully intend to walk around town with Nikon D810 and the Sigma 50mm Art lens more or less permanently mounted on the top of the Berlebach monopod taking really, really exquisitely sharp and beautiful images in all kinds of light. Mostly with the lens nearly wide open and the camera at its lowest ISO settings. Should be a fun exercise and a nice break from the rigors of ...... photography. 

8 comments:

Hugh said...

You generally have to be our age to use the "stomach stabilisation system" properly ;)

Kirk Tuck said...

Hugh, 59. But one needn't be fat to use "tummy stabilization; just lean into it.......

Anonymous said...

I’m using a monopod since years and under various circumstances but with one big difference: walking around with a monopod and a camera fixed on it would drive me crazy. So I’ve mounted a Manfrotto tilt head (234 RC) on it with a quick release plate. When I am done, off goes the camera. It has saved me several times from major accidents.

Anonymous said...

Kirk--

I'm following with interest your adventures with the Berlebach monopod. One question: Back in the June 13 post you said that you "like monopods when used in conjunction with the image stabilized cameras." Would you confirm that you would use the monopod with image stabilization in, say, an OM-D E-M5 turned ON? And if ON, in all planes? I ask because with a TRIpod we are told to turn the IS OFF.

Walt Foreman
namerof@uky.edu

Christer Almqvist said...

In the "Math Conference" Kirk wrote:

"I used a D610 body and the new (to me) Nikon 24-120mm f4 G lens. The combination of the monopod and the VR in the lens was perfect.".

Anonymous said...

Christer--

Thanks! Yes, I eventually got there (I read Kirk's posts in the order they came up on my screen). So the Math entry partially answers my question, but since the Nikon VR is in the lens and the Olympus IS in the body, I'm still not sure whether Olympus IS should be turned on in all directions, and I thought maybe Kirk, since he also uses Olympus E-M5s, had experimented with the various settings.

Walt Foreman

Kirk Tuck said...

Hi Wally! Thanks for posting. I checked with my Olympus source and monopods work well with the IBIS. The only recommendation is to turn off the IS for tripod work.

Anonymous said...

Kirk--

Many thanks for the information! At 71 I've gotten a bit shaky and a monopod may be just the thing I need to supplement the IS.

Walt Foreman