I just returned from shooting in Mexico, and much of my time was spent aboard a boat. Since I knew I would be photographing wildlife like dolphins, whales and birds, I brought along my 500mm F4. This lens is incredibly sharp, and I love how the background blurs at F4 with wildlife photos. But all the wildlife I was going to be photographing would be moving quickly and unpredictably on both sides of the boat. Obviously a tripod wouldn’t work, and hand holding this lens only works for awhile until your arm feels like it is going to fall off. What to do…enter the monopod.
I’ll admit I don’t use a monopod very frequently. Generally I use my 500mm with a sturdy Really Right Stuff tripod and gimbal head. But shooting from a boat is one situation I use my monopod. A monopod takes the weight off my arms, is very portable for fast moving shots, and it gives you an amazing amount of stability. Combined with VR image stabilization, I produced a lot of tack sharp images shooting from the boat using a monopod.
Monopod technique is pretty straightforward. I attach my lens to a Really Right Stuff MH-01 monopod head mounted on the monopod. This head only tilts back and forth, no side to side movement, which is better than using a normal ball head. Extend the monopod to eye level, spread your feet apart to form a tripod between feet and monopod, and you are ready to go. I grab the handle on my monopod and camera to hold the setup. Monopods take some practice, but if you need fast portable stability for a long lens, monopods are the answer.