Wildlife Photography Equipment: Tripod Heads

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Duration:   3  mins

When you are out in the elements tracking wildlife, the right wildlife photography equipment is essential. Big lenses can weigh up to 10 pounds. Hand-holding the camera is difficult. That’s why a quality tripod is of fundamental importance. In this video, professional nature photographer Ian Plant shares his wildlife photography tips on various tripod types with emphasis on the tripod head. Ian points out, “It’s the tripod head that lets you point your camera wherever you’d like.”

Among the experts of wildlife photography equipment, the preferred tripod head is a gimbal head. Designed to easily pan around, and rotate up and down, the gimbal head is formulated to stabilize your camera. Ian Plant calls the gimbal “one of the key pieces you need in wildlife photography equipment.”

Another option is the ball head. Compared with clunky, conventional, three-way tripod heads, the ball head tripod is more compact, quicker in use, and easier to set up. It has a leveling base to maintain the axis and is designed to pan. Panoramic photos become simpler because you can pan a specific number of degrees while keeping the head’s tilt position locked.

The monopod is a third option in wildlife photography equipment. The monopod functions like a tripod but with a single leg. This allows for quicker setups when you are tracking wildlife. Although not as stable as a tripod, the monopod takes the weight off your arms and allows more versatile ways to compose your picture.

What if you are working from a car or a boat? Ian chooses the bean bag. You place the bean bag over the car door edge, and support your camera on the bag. This creates a solid anchor for quickly shooting wildlife in spontaneous situations.

Enjoy the simple photography tips and tricks in this video and start improving your wildlife photography skills today!

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4 Responses to “Wildlife Photography Equipment: Tripod Heads”

  1. Paul F. Ostrum

    Proper use of monopod is to use your legs with the monopod holding camera firmly making like a tripod. Also, any ideas for a kayak mount? I find a tripod too difficult in my kayak.

    • Customer Service

      Greetings Paul,

      I could see how that would be a problem, not a lot of extra room in a typical kayak cockpit. I did a quick web search and the only items that I came up with were units for a GoPro type body.

      I’ve done some shooting from kayaks and I typically relied on keeping the camera in a dry bag in my lap and when I was ready to shoot relying on fast shutters, lens stabilization, and bracing my body on the cockpit.

      That said if you have a DIY streak and if you owned your own kayak I could see testing a good, short legged, carbon fiber tripod (no rusting), with adjustable, flexible, leg placement, and using a nylon strap ratchet clamp that would pull down and secure the tripod to the kayak, you may be able to use the hook on the center shaft.

      You’d want to keep the ratchet part out of the water and you may have to mod your kayak to have a firm place for the legs to sit. You’d need to make sure you had a tripod head that handled moisture well and you may want to put a rain cover over the camera when not in use. As I said no guarantees this would work, and you should think about the consequences if the whole rig went overboard.

      Also this would not be an inexpensive solution, carbon fiber tripods are costly but on the other hand you’d have a great travel tripod.
      I’m familiar with Gitzo’s you can research other brands.

      Travel tripods: https://www.gitzo.com/us-en/tripods/traveler/
      Rain Cover: https://www.thinktankphoto.com/collections/camera-rain-covers
      Clamps: https://www.amazon.com/Neiko-51031A-Ratcheting-Tie-Down-PVC-Coated/dp/B000N82I2W/ref=sr_1_20?keywords=web+ratchet+clamps&qid=1570208452&s=hi&sr=1-20

      Optionally as you may know there are kayaks made for fishing that have open roomy cockpits and lots of rigging options, there are a number under $1000. Much more room to mount a short tripod and/or to use a monopod.

      Good luck…make sure to test it all thoroughly before you launch!

      Outdoor Photography Guide

    • Customer Service

      Dear Paul,

      Thank you for your patience. In regards to your question-

      The monopod in the video looks very similar to the unit I use and can very highly recommend. It’s made by
      Manfrotto and has gone through a few iterations, the current version is:
      Manfrotto MVMXPROA4US Aluminum XPRO Video Monopod+: https://bhpho.to/2om7uQy
      It is a very well made unit, the rubber grip is great, the release clamps on the leg are solid and easy to use. The best part is actually on the bottom of the leg which has
      three small spring loaded feet on a small adjustable ball mount. These feet add additional stability and if you are shooting video will help make your pans and tilts considerably
      more stable. I find it also great for event photography.
      This particular version comes without a tripod head. This lets you mount the head of your choice that fits any rapid release plates you may have. Side note,
      if you are looking for a great small quick release tripod head, that is not cheap, but will be the last small head you will ever purchase, take a look at the Really Right Stuff
      BH-30 COMPACT BALLHEAD BH-30: https://BIT.LY/2DS6JVT
      Happy Shooting!

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