I know what you mean. If in really rough terrain where I need a hand free to help me, my harness is the best for me since it carries the camera in the middle of my chest and has an extra strap that goes around the lens (when you have a long lens) to keep it all steady. Then I can walk/climb without steadying it with my left hand and still use my walking stick in my right hand. I think it’s a Cotton harness. But there are lots of brands and I just happened to pick that one. It was fairly expensive but totally worth it because my camera is so heavy that it’s really the only way I can carry it for longer distances through rough terrain.
i found that using the monopod actually was really nice for shooting video and also for photos in certain challenging conditions – very long zoom, low light, very narrow depth of field, and potentially for taking photos photos in hard-to-reach locations (where the monopod could basically be used like a boom pole, with the camera being remotely operated via phone app or by recording video and then extracting photos from the video). it’s not without the cost of extra weight, occupying a hand, and and slower response, but i think the results are good enough that it’s worth taking the monopod out more often.
normally, i carry my camera on a strap that goes diagonally across my chest. this allows the camera to hang against my right hip when not in use, which is relatively stable even while walking. also, i know that the camera will never fall, although it still is highly moveable even with a backpack on (the camera strap won’t get stuck under the backpack strap if positioned correctly).
when i added the monopod, i ended up carrying it in my left hand and then carrying the camera in my right hand, with the camera strap slung on my right shoulder. if i needed to react quickly, i found it easy enough to pinch the monopod under my left armpit and then shoot more or less as i normally would. when i had more time, it only took a few seconds to set the monopod and then clamp the camera to the monopod via the release plate.
since i have a ball mount on my monopod (which allows for some tilting, panning, and rotating), i found that using the camera with the monopod could be very close to a handheld shooting experience, except that the monopod was taking much of the weight of the camera and otherwise holding it steady at a fixed height. (without the ball mount, i think it would have been more frustrating to shoot using the monopod.)
when faced with a choice of whether or not to use the monopod, i actually found myself using it more often than not. one exception was when i kneeled / squatted down to shoot some ducks more at their level. the first time, i did it with the monopod, and i found myself wanting occasionally to be able to lift the shot or lower it, which was harder to do attached to the monopod. so the second time i encountered some ducks, i just squatted (which is a very stable position to shoot from for me), held the monopod between my legs and body (sort of horizontally across my lap, i guess), and then shot entirely handheld.
i had a shot ruined when the nutria that i was shooting from a standing position moved towards me, and i couldn’t just lower the shot by squatting down a bit.
on the other hand, there were a few shots that i normally wouldn’t have attempted handheld that i was able to do with the monopod. for example, i was able to shoot some video of a vulture flying around the sky at sunset without much trouble, though i did have to use the tilt screen rather than the viewfinder to frame the shot.
i didn’t try using the monopod much as a walking stick. i think my monopod could definitely be used as one occasionally, but there are a few issues with mine that make it less ideal for a lot of this kind of use. first, the rubber foot doesn’t seem to be replaceable. so a better monopod for hiking would probably have feet that screw in. this would allow the feet to be refreshed or switched to, say, a metal spike or a small tripod foot for different use cases. the second general thing is that there’s no grip where you need it, and the loop is in the wrong spot. the grip could be solved with some textured tape, i think. maybe the loop position could be solved with tape, too.
other than that, i think it’s actually a really good tool, and i’ll use it more often in the future. i think an ideal monopod for hiking would start with a form more like a telescoping trekking pole (with a proper grip, loop, and changeable feet), but add an extension post mounted on top of the grip (to raise the top of the stick closer to your face), and then a ball mount with quick release plate on top of the extension post. (i did a quick search and didn’t find anything like that, but if it doesn’t already exist, i think you could buy the different components separately and then assemble them together.)
I do that sometimes with my 200-600 IF lens and it works just fine for many situations, as long as it’s not one that requires a lot of technical physical activity.
Those are some interesting and insightful results! I’d note that this is just a single day so a longer-term conclusion/evaluation might vary (update?), but it sounds quite promising. Glad to see you tried something new and that it turned out well.
I happen to have a telescoping trekking pole (technically two) on me, with a screw on top. Maybe I might be able to mess around with it and put such a contraption on top as a patchwork monopod, when
I have the mind to tinker. The pole also has a wrist loop that I never seemed to use so I suppose that’s handy too.
I honestly didn’t expect this to get so many responses! Looks like this is one of an iNatter’s universal struggles The variety of solutions was great too—the amount of ways one can carry stuff around is surprising!
Looks like there’s something here for anyone, regardless of technical skill or budget. Now to choose one…
Yes, and when you have that bird in the frame and follow its flight, you just let go of the stick! It won’t drop any further than to the ground anyway. :-)
A lot of interesting and innovative ideas on this subject. So much seems to center on one’s personal observation habits and targets, locales, and camera/lens handling.
I am working on a few ideas of my own that may or may not involve a stick or pole. But like many others, I think that I would find juggling a stick an extra burden both physically and mentally, in many photo shooting situations.
I have a decent monopod, equipped with a nice ball joint camera mount with a quick set/release lock, but in practice I found that rather limiting. Most of the time it’s because of the terrain – too rocky and root-filled to adjust quickly enough to framing a shot.
I have also found that since I’ve moved mainly from a DSLR with lenses to a little Olympus Tg camera, for more micro/macro shots, I just keep the camera in a jacket or pant/shorts pocket and enjoy the liberating feeling of such a negligible gear load (I carry a small knapsack on my back too, usually).
Do I miss great bird, moth/butterfly or other zoomable shots? Undoubtedly. But it’s a deal I’m willing to make, for now, as I’m working on developing my 1-10mm specimen size observation skills. And since the Tg works fine for most plant work, it’s all I really need at the moment.
But, I’ve also just acquired an old bridge camera with a 50x zoom that’s small and very light. And I’ve used it successfully for stuff like butterflies, birds, dragonflies. I’m not thrilled about it clanging around my neck but I find that when I do want to use it, that’s the best solution for speedy access. I will look into a chest clip though. When you set up for a zoom, the stability and adjustability is such a big factor. Monopods might be great at the side of a sports playing event, but it’s another story when surrounded by bush, trees, rocks and uneven ground.
One thing I’m looking at is an old trick of using a rope or chain as a pseudo ‘dipod’.
A simple 1/4" thread eyehook into the camera tripod hole. Then get some strong cord, or light (plastic?) chain with small carabiners on each end and clip those to the ‘eye’ you’ve got in the camera bottom.
The technique is to step on the loop section that hits the ground and spread your feet while holding the camera with two hands. Unlike a monopod, you actually pull UP to gain tension and stability. The camera height can be somewhat adjusted with your feet, but not a lot. I’m working on a solution to that.
As to a stick, one of the things that I’ve been playing with is a high rez borescope – a small camera (1/2 inch wide cylinder, two inches long) that attaches to my phone via a stiff cable. I figure with the right ‘stick’ I could fashion a mount as a kind of ‘reverse selfie stick’ to poke into a good macro shot (about an inch and a half, with its lens). I would need something that I could fix a cellphone mount to, and that would not be too heavy to minimize shaking. Hmm. The cabling is a problem too because it’s quite stiff and not easily bent.
I’ve been looking at the carbon-fibre collapsible fishing rods, and monopods. Light, strong, and easy to pack. Haven’t figured it all out yet, though (obviously).
I’m hoping that somewhere, there’s an industrial designer who will come up with a monopod design that with a simple twist or click, will convert into a tetrahedron tripod shape. With carbon struts, maybe even into an instant little seat for doing macro work!
I make sure I have a convenient pocket - usually on my pants for the phone. The stick can be held via loop or put down for photos. Not a perfect solution - Since I don’t carry my phone in my hand most of the time, no doubt I’ve missed some observation opportunities. If I had my phone ready for instant picture taking the whole time I was out, my battery would never last.