Long lenses are many things, including heavy, expensive, and hard to hand-hold. A tripod and full gimbal head is likely the way to go, as I’ve written about here before. But, sometimes a tripod isn’t the right tool for a particular situation, and one of those is when shooting from the deck of a ship.
Funny thing is, I used both full and side-mount gimbal heads in the past, and also monopods, but never the two together. What got me thinking was that in about a week from when this ie being written in mid-January, 2015, I will be going to Antarctica to help Kevin and a fantastic group of instructors conduct two back-back week-long workshops.
These will be my fifth and sixth Antarctic cruises and consequently I know that I will want to spend a lot of time on the deck of the ship, as I have in the past, shooting the wildlife and passing landscape. On these upcoming trips I’ll be using the new Tamron 150-600mm on the also new Sony A7II. Coupled by a Sony LE-A4 adaptorthis Sony A mount compatible lens will work fully on the EF mount camera and because the A7II has sensor-based image stabilization, this will be a great combo. Of course anyone with a Nikon or Canon mount camera can similarly use this Tamron lens, and these versions come with in-lens stabilization.
Below is a six minute long video which shows you how a side-mount gimbal head such as the Tomahawk from Promedia can be used on a monopod, in this case a Manfrotto 685B, to provide weightless and almost effortless use, hour after hour, with a heavy long lens.
One note… ships vibrate. Using any type of mount that couples directly to the deck, whether a rail clamp, a tripod or monopod with a metal foot, is a bad idea. Tripods are overkill, and also just get in the way of others when working on-deck. But a monopod takes no extra room, and if it has a rubber foot, much of the ship’s vibration is mitigated. I also will often put the monopod on my boot to add an extra level of insulation between the deck and the camera and lens.
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