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What Monopod
by J. Ramon Palacios
& Andrik Palacios

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On Monopod Technique

If tripods need all the help you can give them to render absolute sharpness in your images, imagine a monopod with a single leg.

Let's go down the list of typical recommendations.

Note that the camera's viewfinder is at eye level.

I only mention this relative position between feet and monopod because I've seen it and its often very wrong - unless that is the normal position of your feet when firmly standing.

Any position that is forced away from how you normally stand at ease will result in instability; first physically and later mentally - when you see your blurred pictures.

   

Normally, feet are open at an angle of 8 to 12°, even when standing at attention. If you also open your legs at ease, even better.

Now the balls of your feet and the monopod form a perfect isosceles (two equal sides) triangle. Your legs and the monopod are turned into a tripod. the left hand is exerting some pressure down to prevent slipping. Don't push or pull sideways.

Is this the perfect position? If it works for you, that's it. But there are possible tilt movements and position options to accommodate them.

Some right-handed shooters may find this relative position of legs and monopod more comfortable and stable; however, notice you will need to set the camera at a taller height so none of your legs need to bend. This is when the additional monopod height comes in handy.

The camera is tilted back to allow for an angle greater than 90° between the monopod and the lens axis.

 

This is the same as above, but for left-handed shooters. Again, what is wrong is the camera height, forcing me to bend the left leg this time.

The use of a ball head permits a side adjustment, not just tilt.

I have added this time another important ingredient for successful shooting from a monopod: as in handholding, tuck your elbows into your chest. This prevents side movement.

 

 

In the positions below -shown first for right-handed photographers and then for left-handed ones- the tripod rests on your upper thigh for additional support.

To be more effective, the leg with the monopod behind the heel needs to bend a little.

I have never found this to be stable, but it could work for you. You can only use this one if you use a ball head.

     

I could add some other contortions, but let me show you the one I find works best for me.

Whenever there is enough room, move the monopod forward. Lean and press down on the top of the lens barrel with your left hand; tuck in your right hand, which is only concerned with gently pressing down the trigger, not holding the camera. Stand where you feel you have achieved a perfectly balanced position.

     

If you have to tilt downwards, leave the monopod where it is, take one small step back and you are ready to again tuck in your arms and shoot.

Breath in, exhale half way, hold and gently press the shutter button down. Don't jerk it.

     

Likewise for shooting upwards.

One step forward, without moving the monopod from its position, getting as close as possible to it to allow for elbows tucking to prevent side movement.

This photo was made one second before I tucked my elbows in, but considering the accumulated experience of the photographer who graciously helped me to make this illustration pictures I think he did alright.

     
Meet the photographer -»
The photographer

Summary

No matter what you may anticipate in terms of tilt angles, always set your monopod's height to have the camera's viewfinder at eye level. One usually don't have the time in action photography to alter the monopod height, whether you are sitting or standing.
Practice all possible relative positions of legs and monopod tip. First of all for comfort. Shoot some images for comparison. Stay with the one position yielding the best results. I'll bet it will be the most comfortable position for you.
Make certain you have planted well your own legs and they won't slip, then plant your monopod, if spiked the better.
 Remember to always tuck your elbow(s) in.
Place the palm of your hand on top of the barrel of a long lens and lean on it, pressing down (but not so hard that you are shaking) with the hand above, where the tripod collar is attached.
Add an eyecup to the camera viewfinder and press it hard against your skull, creating an additional point of contact for added stability.
 For vertical ("portrait") compositions with a lens without rotating tripod collar, get an L-bracket.
If you have a modern auto body, shoot in CH motor advance mode a rapid sequence of several images. One image in the series will always be better than the rest.
If you can rest your back on a tree (after checking there are no ants in there) by all means lean on it.
When shooting at a stadium or theater, if you can shoot sitting down, do.
If when sitting down you can lean your back against a back rest, do. Keep your shoulders straight and again, tuck your elbows in.
Use the proven sniper technique to shoot. Breath in, reath out; breath in, exhale half way, hold and gently squeeze the shutter trigger button. Also, breathing in and exhaling slowly will calm you down, regardless of how exhilarating is the occasion, the scene and/or your subject.
If you have a VR lens, this is the time to use it to further eliminate blur. Just remember to give it a second to kick in.

Like everything, it just needs some repeated good practice.

  See a small gallery of monopod shots...»
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