Tripod Alternatives for Photographers
Monopods may be one of the best inventions to come along for outdoor photographers. These stick-like supports do a super job, and they can be packed and carried with ease. Monopods are light in weight, don't take up much room, and can provide a very steady platform for your camera. Don't waste your money on cheap models. Buy a good quality monopod and enjoy it.
Monopods are great for photographers who are covering sporting events, capturing photos of wildlife, or focusing in on a final sunset. A one-legged support can't give you the rock-hard steady platform that a tripod can, but it will provide more than enough support for most types of shots. The big advantage to a monopod is that it is so easy to carry with you that it will be there when you need it, and a heavy tripod may not be.
You can improve many aspects of your location photography by acquiring, or making, support sacks for your camera lens. These devices are available commercially, but they are also easy to make. What is a support sack? It is basically a bag that is filled with some type of moldable material that will conform to the shape of your camera lens. The filling could be styrofoam beads, buckshot, sand, kitty litter, foam rubber, or even pine needles. Since bags that are light in weight are more enjoyable to carry, I would stay away from sand and buckshot as a filler material.
Pillow Pod Camera Support System
The concept behind support sacks is simple. You place the sack on a solid object, like a rock or the edge of your vehicle, and then nestle the lens of your camera into the sack. Once the lens has settled into the material, you have a very sturdy support for your camera and lens. For a sack to work, you need something stable to place it on, and you are limited by the availability of such places. Another drawback to a sack is that you cannot adjust its height.
Every type of camera support has its own strong points. Sacks are great for photographers who are shooting from their vehicles or who want a low camera angle to capture something close to the ground or floor. This type of support won't do you a lot of good at the zoo or while taking wedding pictures, but there are many times when a support sack is just the right tool for a steady picture.
You can use a variety of clamp devices to secure your camera to all sorts of stable objects. A simple C-clamp that is equipped to thread into the tripod socket of your camera body is great for occasions when you are taking pictures from your vehicle. Install the clamp on a window and mount your camera. Raise or lower the window to change the height of your camera. You can tilt and pan this type of support for more versatility. It's amazing how much help such a simple and inexpensive item like this can be.
Pedco UltraClamp Assembly
C-clamps can be attached to tree branches, railings, windows, and all sorts of other items. However, they are limited in their size, and this can be a problem. For example, you would not be able to get a C-clamp secured on the trunk of many trees. But never fear, tree clamps are available. These clamps circle a tree and provide a very sturdy support for your camera.
When you start to shop of photography accessories, you may be amazed at how many there are. If there is something that you want to do with your camera, you can feel pretty sure that someone is selling something that will allow you to do it.
Tiny tripods may not seem like much of a support system, but even they have their place in good photography. I have a little tripod that has retractable legs. The entire unit has a diameter similar to that of a D-cell flashlight battery. Total length is probably about six inches, when the legs are contained. This itsy bitsy tripod works well for table-top setups and low-to-the-ground shots, but it does require me to hold it. The tripod is not sturdy enough to support a camera and lens safely on its own.
Sima ST-10T Mini Tripod
I have found another very good use for my table-top tripod. It can be used as something of a chest-pod. By extending the legs and pressing them into my chest, the little tripod makes an excellent support. The ball-and-socket swivels to put my viewfinder at eye level while the tripod extends outward from my chest. This creates a surprisingly stable shooting platform.
Gun-type grips are another support option for your camera. The device I'm referring to is similar in design to the stock of a rifle or shotgun. Your camera is mounted on the device and is fired by a shutter-release that is incorporated into the system. By pulling the shoulder stock in tight to your body and supporting the extended end with one hand, it's possible to get very steady shots.
If you get caught afield without a commercial camera support, you may have to improvise. Brace your camera or lens against the trunk of a tree to stabilize it. Settle your lens between the forks of a tree or tree branch to hold it still. Use a fence to support the base of your camera. Fences, rails and posts are frequent supports for zoo photographers. If you're doing your photography indoors, a door frame will work as a make-shift support. The back of a chair can be used to steady your lens. If you take the time to look around, you are almost certain to find something that will add some stability to your camera. The few moments spent looking for such a support can mean the difference between a great picture and a blurry one.
The suggestion to hold your camera on a make-shift support like a tree, post or door frame is a good one. A new product,HandlePod, improves on that technique with a camera mount on a handle backed by four rubber feet that you can hold against any solid object. A camera body won’t solidly connect to a firm support, but HandlePod will. It provides tripod-like stability just with light hand pressure. Check it out at http://www.handlepod.com.