Should I use a tripod, a monopod, or just shoot handheld?
This is a question every serious bird photographer will eventually wrestle with, and many end up trying all three. The first several years I shot handheld, thinking it gave me superior mobility, and for that reason alone I just couldn’t understand why some would use a tripod. I also reasoned I had steadier hands than many. LOL. Just ramp up the shutter speed and you will get adequate shots, was my thinking. Clearer thinking eventually prevailed, and I realized I could never compete with those using a tripod especially when considering composition and ratio of keeper to “throw-away” shots. It’s not that it’s about competing with anyone else, but if you want to produce the best work you possibly can produce, you have to evolve. I tried a monopod briefly, but I found it rather cumbersome to use. The monopod was easy to travel on foot with and it did provide increased stability of camera compared to a handheld scenario, but the sacrifice in mobility compared to handheld made it even inferior to handheld for general use. My current set-up is the lightweight Really Right Stuff tripod, fitted with a Wimberely head. When my rig is set up this gear allows easy and stable shooting in almost any direction except straight up or straight down. It has not proven difficult to carry around, and it has greatly increased my keeper to “throw-away” ratio. I get sharper shots at greater distances. I even prefer flight shots with this set-up unless the bird is rather close. In those closer flight photography shoots, a handheld prime lens in the 300-400 mm range is a good choice, and even a lesser mm prime is good for extremely close flight shooting. I hope this blog post has helped you if you are currently working through these issues.