Using a monopod we can take a shot like this…
(notice the bottom of the building is cut off)
and turn it into this…
Or we can go from this…
to this… No ladder required.
The technique is very simple… Extend your monopod to its full length… Mount your camera with a wide-angle lens. In this example I am using a 14mm lens on a full frame Nikon D800… do a test shot or two to determine the proper exposure… set the self-timer… hoist the monopod above your head and wait for the shutter to fire.
Sounds pretty easy right? It is actually that simple.
But let’s be sure to point out a few important considerations that should be a part of your thought process when you use this technique.
Let’s start with lens selection. I recommend using a wide-angle lens for two reasons.
1. It is more forgiving with regard to composition because it takes in more area. If you use a longer lens or even a 50mm for that matter – you have to be much more exact in the way you aim the camera while it is on top of the monopod.
2. The reason I like to use a wide-angle lens is for the additional Depth of Field that it provides.
This brings to focusing. If you understand how to use Depth of Field properly… in addition to using a wide angle lens and a smaller aperture – which is highly recommended for this technique…you will want to focus approximately 1/3 of the way into your scene. With the camera above your head, you won’t be able to do this with AUTO focus so it requires that you focus in advance – using either Manual Focus or Auto Focus and then locking the focus before hoisting the camera.
The final and potentially most important consideration is how much do you tilt the camera to compose the shot. The rookie mistake here is to think that you have to tilt the camera way forward because you have elevated it so high. Well, it’s actually not that high – so if you are using a wide-angle lens – you only need to tilt the camera slightly forward.
This does take a little practice – but not much considering that you can take multiple shots at varying angles to be sure that you get what you need.
Please don’t be the photographer who is afraid to shoot multiple frames to get the shot right. Disks are cheap and you only buy them once so it’s not like your wasting film.
So there you have it – a quick and easy trick to get elevated shots using a Monopod and a wide-angle lens.
Now since this is The Thoughtful Photographer – let me also point out a few other options that you might want to experiment with.
You can use a wired or wireless cable release so that you can take multiple frames every time you lift the camera instead of waiting for the self timer and only getting one frame each lift.
I generally use a Nikon wired remote trigger. There are TONS of name brand name and off brand wired and wireless triggers available for most cameras today. Do a little research at B&H or Adorama and don’t forget Amazon or Ebay for some bargains.
You could add a ball head to the top of the Monopod to allow you to tilt the camera down even more – but still maintain the full height of the monopod raised above your body.
Please do remember that DSLR cameras with a lens can get pretty heavy. So you might want to be sure you are strong enough to support your camera above your head like this before you get out and really do it. And please don’t try this with a cheap lightweight monopod. I would hate to see it bend or snap when you have your camera on it.
If you are really crazy and want a LOT more height – you could go to Home Depot and purchase a heavy duty painters pole that will take you up to 23ft and then purchase a Pole Pixie Adapter so that you can mount your camera with a 1/4” or 3/8th inch thread on top of the painters pole. Just be sure to purchase a heavy-duty pole – you don’t want a lightweight pole that will snap while your expensive DSLR is 20 plus feet in the air.
Now for the real tech geek photographers – you know who you are…
You could add a gadget like a cam ranger to be able to use your phone or iPad as a remote viewfinder – which would also make it very difficult to hold the monopod… in other words – keep it simple stupid… the more gadgets you add to the mix – the less easy it is to use this technique.
So there you have it – a quick and easy trick to get additional height for your shot using a simple monopod.
Until next time… keep thinking, keep learning and keep shooting!
The Links List
Note: None of the companies linked to or mentioned in this article have paid for or provided any product or favor in exchange for being mentioned.
Search for remote shutter release or wireless remote shutter release at:
Home Depot (Painters Pole) – http://www.homedepot.com/s/painters%2520pole?NCNI-5