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Author Topic: Antarctica boat trip - shooting from a boat with a monopod?  (Read 21968 times)

eyeguy99

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Antarctica boat trip - shooting from a boat with a monopod?
« on: August 25, 2013, 05:37:09 pm »

I am going to Antarctica this winter travelling on a 54 foot yacht and will be bringing along a canon 200.400 with built-in tele 1.4x. My plan is to do some shooting from the boat and wanted advice about what type of support to use for shooting birds, icebergs, etc.

Between the lens and the 5DMKIII body, the weight will be roughly 10 pounds to support and I'm a smallish frame so hand-holding for anything more than brief periods will probably be impractical. I'm debating using a bean-bag type setup or monopod. As I've never photographed from a boat before, I'm not sure what to expect trying to track moving subjects while on a moving platform.

Tentatively, I plan to bring a tripod for use on the mainland but am looking at getting the Gitzo GM5541 monopod and the Wimberley C-12 QR clamp as the lens will have an Arca-Swiss compatible QR foot installed. I didn't have any intention at this point to bring a gimbal type setup nor an articulating head to mount on the monopod.

How practical is it to use a monopod from a moving boat? Would an articulating head greatly assist following moving subjects or should a fixed QR clamp suffice?

Any advice appreciated.  And, I have no sailing experience!
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RFPhotography

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Re: Antarctica boat trip - shooting from a boat with a monopod?
« Reply #1 on: August 25, 2013, 06:30:45 pm »

Any support you use that touches a surface of the boat while the engines are running will translate vibrations through to the camera.  On a boat that small, the vibrations could be significant.  A bean bag would be the best option for isolating the camera from the engine vibrations.
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BJL

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Re: Antarctica boat trip - shooting from a boat with a monopod?
« Reply #2 on: August 25, 2013, 07:21:51 pm »

A weird thought about the engine vibration problem and isolating vibrations with a beanbag: when there is no place to put the beanbag down, has anyone tried camera-on-beanbag-on-monopod, or on some other portable support to hold the camera off the deck above handrail level?

My other random thought is to support the weight of the camera on the lightest monopod you can find most of the time, even while composing, and just lift it off the deck for a moment when taking a photo, relying on IS.
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michael

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Re: Antarctica boat trip - shooting from a boat with a monopod?
« Reply #3 on: August 25, 2013, 08:49:01 pm »

A bean bag on the gunnels is too close to the water. Your lens is likely to get soaked.

A monopod is out of the question for the reasons mentioned.

Hand holding with IS is the only way to do it. With a lens that heavy, keep it in your lap. and raise it when the shot appears likely. Become adept at composing with your eyes rather than though the VF, to keep arm strain to a minimum.

Michael
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BernardLanguillier

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Re: Antarctica boat trip - shooting from a boat with a monopod?
« Reply #4 on: August 25, 2013, 09:26:37 pm »

A weird thought about the engine vibration problem and isolating vibrations with a beanbag: when there is no place to put the beanbag down, has anyone tried camera-on-beanbag-on-monopod, or on some other portable support to hold the camera off the deck above handrail level?

How about camera on monopod (with snow foot) on beanbag on bubbles plastic sheet?

Cheers,
Bernard

jrsforums

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Re: Antarctica boat trip - shooting from a boat with a monopod?
« Reply #5 on: August 25, 2013, 10:51:29 pm »

I have not tried it, but Google "monopod harness"

John
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David Campbell

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Re: Antarctica boat trip - shooting from a boat with a monopod?
« Reply #6 on: August 25, 2013, 11:00:55 pm »

I agree with the vibration of the ship for monopod use.
I dont think a bean bag would work well with sea birds that are constantly looping over crests of waves behind the ship.

On my Antarctic and Artic voyages, I used a monopod that supported the weight of the camera/lens but transferred this weight to a belt loop pouch.
This allowed me to use my legs to absorb both ship engine vibration and the rocking motion in the swell.
I could also move around the ship quickly and saved my arms when using a 300/2.8 lens for a few hours.

The one i used was a Manfrotto 080 Monopod Belt Pouch. A quick search pulled up an Amazon store selling them for $17. Money well spent.

Hope this helps.

David

David Sutton

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Re: Antarctica boat trip - shooting from a boat with a monopod?
« Reply #7 on: August 25, 2013, 11:44:37 pm »

I think in general anything over 300mm is probably a waste of time. I found a 70 - 300mm got the most use and I only went to the long end of that a few times. The only time I tried a 400mm on board I had to quickly go below and change lenses as most birds were either right beside the ship or way out of reach.
I'd learn to hand hold. Remember to lift the camera with both hands to avoid an elbow injury. If you shoot right handed, try placing you left arm on your right shoulder and rest the camera/lens on your left elbow. With a bit of practice you can get quite a stable support.
If you use a tripod on land anywhere near a penguin colony you will have to thoroughly sterilise the feet and lower legs before getting back on board (IAATO protocols and the Antarctic Treaty System). Check if you may have to get off a zodiac with both hands free, which means your tripod will need to be on your backpack. And make sure there is nothing loose in the pack. If a bit of plastic like a lens cap or a storm jacket flies out you will be in serious shit.
Most folks carry too much stuff. If I make it back down there again I'd take two bodies, something in the 16 to 40mm range, a 24 to 105, and a 70-300. Possibly my 70-200 in case the 70-300 goes down. The 400 would stay at home.
And take several different types of seasick remedies. As I found out, some can have nasty side effects when taken for 3 days continuously.
Enjoy!
« Last Edit: August 26, 2013, 01:19:32 am by David Sutton »
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Petrus

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Re: Antarctica boat trip - shooting from a boat with a monopod?
« Reply #8 on: August 26, 2013, 12:47:12 am »

I have not been to Antarctica, yet, but after a fair share of shooting boats and birds from small boats I can tell that any kind of tripod or monopod or beanbag is out of the question. Also any body harness contraption where you can not move the camera 100 % freely.

Here is a sacrilegious suggestion: take a lighter lens. My understanding is that there is usually quite lot of light available, and anything longer than 300mm (mentioned in a previous post) is not really needed. Much of the weight of your splendid lens comes from length to 400mm and extender to 560mm.
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Rob C

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Re: Antarctica boat trip - shooting from a boat with a monopod?
« Reply #9 on: August 26, 2013, 06:22:01 am »

I've shot from a few boats; the only time a 'pod is worth squat is if you are tied up in a marina and have to do interiors.
For exterior shots, hand-hold it. Not only do boats of all sizes go up and down, pitch, yaw, they also swing all the time when moored giving you new backgrounds you may not like, so you have to think 'sports' and be quick.

From experience shooting off yachts up to just over 90', using a thousandth of a sec. is about as slow as I'd willingly risk with a 200mm on 35mm format cameras; having said that, some old yachtie snappers did wonderful stuff with a Rolleiflex TLR maxing out at a suspect 500th! Beken of Cowes, por ejemplo, used even larger formats, I believe...

Boats are beautiful, even the ugly ones.

If you'd like to see some great sea stuff, visit the site of Frenchman Philip Plisson for starters, and then look at some of the yachting magazines.

Rob C
« Last Edit: August 26, 2013, 06:25:33 am by Rob C »
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BJL

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Re: Antarctica boat trip - reducing lens weight
« Reply #10 on: August 26, 2013, 10:08:51 am »

Here is a sacrilegious suggestion: take a lighter lens. My understanding is that there is usually quite lot of light available, ...
While we are being sacrilegious, and noting the generally abundant light so that there is hopefully little need for very high ISO speeds, one way to reduce the weight of the kit is to use a camera with higher absolute resolution, meaning smaller pixels, which allows a given resolution on a small and distant subject to be achieved with a shorter focal length. Even if the format stays the same, a higher pixel count body allows more cropping, and so a shorter focal length, and that has the benefit of "looser framing": grabbing a wider scene than your desired composition, so that even if the subject (or boat!) moves unpredictably at the last moment, you still get the subject in-frame, just off to one side.

For a somewhat extreme example of pixel down-sizing, I find a use for up to 300mm in 4/3" format when photographing birds, so "600mm equivalent FOV", and achieving that with a 75-300mm or 100-300mm lens saves a lot of weight. (However, the mediocre C-AF performance of current MFT bodies makes them less than ideal for birds; something with PDAF is a better choice.) Maybe leave the 5DMkIII in the cabin sometimes, for use with less extreme telephoto needs and lighter lenses.
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PeterAit

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Re: Antarctica boat trip - shooting from a boat with a monopod?
« Reply #11 on: August 26, 2013, 10:13:56 am »

Might there be some sort of harness that you strap on to support the camera, sort of like what you see professional film guys using? Your shoulders, not arms, take the weight and your body provides some vibration isolation. Of course, of you go overboard, you will sink quickly!
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David Sutton

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Re: Antarctica boat trip - shooting from a boat with a monopod?
« Reply #12 on: August 26, 2013, 05:16:12 pm »

I hear that that 200-400mm is a lovely lens, but I had a look at my catalogue and checked this with another Canon user: our best iceberg shots tended to be with the 16-35, and the best penguin photos with the 24-105. True, a couple of my favourite penguin images were close to 300mm, but only because I was standing in deep snow and was too tired to move closer, so a big heavy lens would have done me no good.
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NancyP

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Re: Antarctica boat trip - shooting from a boat with a monopod?
« Reply #13 on: August 26, 2013, 07:54:32 pm »

Cotton Carrier has a vest attachment that provides eye level support, but I would think that this would be noxious over time with a significantly heavy lens. It might be OK with a 100-400 or a 70-300. You could also consider over-the-shoulder rigs like those used in video.
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Marlyn

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Re: Antarctica boat trip - shooting from a boat with a monopod?
« Reply #14 on: September 03, 2013, 03:52:58 am »

Just finished a trip in Svalbard by ship, including up to the pack ice (82" 34' North !), I'd expect similar conditions as Antarctica.

Monopod - I brought one, and used it a little, but basically it was useless on the boat due to being cumbersome, and hard to maneuver quickly during 'action'.
 I also tried it once on a Zodiac but you can't keep up with the boat movement sufficiently.

Tripod - Used on deck with 800mm lens a few times, worked fine,  However it was generally when ship engines were off and we were sitting in the ice, or drifting.
Mainly used on-shore for wildlife.

Both are useless when boat is moving / rolling or doing anything annoying.   And forget it on a Zodiac. 


Hand holding and higher ISO is the best way to go.  Just Sling the lens when not in use, and get good at bringing it up fast to shoot at the right zoom.
I shot most of the trip at ISO 1600 and sometimes 3200, no problems.  (Canon 1dX).

For ship or Zodiac Carry I recommend a Rapid strap.  (especially the Double carry strap). 
I am unfit, but fairly tall (6'3")  and found slinging a 1dx with 200-400, and 1dx with 70-200 or 24-105  on a double strap worked extremely well both on the ship, and on Zodiac cruises.

You can wear them easily under a lifejacket,  just need to remember to put it on first, and make the straps longer.

Tripods really only got used ashore.

Bean-Bags on ships rail worked well for 800mm Lens, although due to constantly changing target position, generally ended up hand-holding that also. 

Many people with long lenses started by trying tripod onboard, and most ended up hand-holding for the rest of the trip.

Regards

Mark.
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eyeguy99

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Re: Antarctica boat trip - shooting from a boat with a monopod?
« Reply #15 on: September 03, 2013, 07:32:02 am »

Thanks to everyone for responding.....I have a better idea now of what to expect on this trip.
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Ellis Vener

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Re: Antarctica boat trip - shooting from a boat with a monopod?
« Reply #16 on: September 03, 2013, 09:19:50 pm »

I almost forgot  the Kenyon Ken-Lab Gyros: http://www.ken-lab.com/

The last time I used one on a boat was the statue of Liberty Rededication  /Operation Sail weekend back in 1986 , shooting with a Nikon F2 and F3HP with lenses from 15mm up  to the 400mm f/3.5 Nikkor. I was on a reasonably large boat through: the Sandy Hook Pilots mother ship that led the Parade of Tall Ships into New York Harbor.
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DanielStone

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Re: Antarctica boat trip - shooting from a boat with a monopod?
« Reply #17 on: September 04, 2013, 09:03:47 pm »

what about one of the "gunstock" type units, like the Bush Hawk:

http://bushhawk.com/bushhawk/bushhawk-shoulder-mounts/professional-kit

might add a bit of stability? and no monopod to get in the way. Just point and "shoot" :D


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arlon

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Re: Antarctica boat trip - shooting from a boat with a monopod?
« Reply #18 on: September 11, 2013, 10:08:13 am »

I have used my monopod while hiking with a 600mm lens and it was NOT useless. My monopod never came into contact with the ground either. I use a simple fanny pack that happens to have a cup holder on the side. I simply adjust the monopod to fit the cup holder. It makes it way easier to walk around with and plenty stable for my kind of shooting..




Makes it a lot easier to carry around a heavy lens too..

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David Sutton

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Re: Antarctica boat trip - shooting from a boat with a monopod?
« Reply #19 on: September 11, 2013, 06:14:28 pm »

I have used my monopod while hiking with a 600mm lens and it was NOT useless.

They no doubt work well when hiking. No one is arguing that.
But they are simply out of the question in a zodiac with 10 other passengers,
and totally and utterly useless on a moving ship in a crowd of other photographers.  
And a liability on land in knee-deep snow when you need to move quickly from standing up to lying flat to catch the best angle.
« Last Edit: September 11, 2013, 06:18:04 pm by David Sutton »
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