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Camera Basics #21: Getting started with sports photography

We confidently say that this article is one of the best ever for sports photography. In the guide, we also try to cover the various equipment decisions and how to find the perfect settings.

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Monopods - for mobile use

Tripods are an indispensable tool for photography. They reduce the load on the photographer, which is not negligible especially when using larger lenses, and improve the quality of the photos enormously.

Here, a distinction can be made mainly between monopods and tripods. Monopods have the advantage of being lightweight and space-saving, as well as being quick to set up and take down.
The use of a tripod offers numerous advantages: The steadier camera posture allows longer exposure times to be used for brighter shots. On the other hand, for the same exposure time, the risk of camera shake is reduced, which benefits image sharpness. This has great significance for sports or wildlife photography, for example. They are used to support the large focal lengths / telephoto lenses and reduce weight, and they help ensure stability so that sharp images are no longer the result of shaky arm.

Monopod or tripod?

Photographers can hardly do without a tripod in some situations, because they reduce the load on the photographer, which is not negligible, especially when using large telephoto focal lengths. Pictures and videos taken with the help of a tripod are much less distorted and blurred, as a camera stands still on one spot thanks to the useful accessories. This also allows the exposure time to be set longer, as there is no more blur in the picture.

When it comes to tripods, you can mainly distinguish between the classic tripod and the monopod. The tripod has a secure stand on almost any surface, but it is also very bulky and heavy to transport, so that in most cases you have to put on an extra tripod bag.

A decisive disadvantage, however, is that you can only turn the camera on the tripod to the left and to the right and swivel it from bottom to top. So you are very limited in terms of the camera position and it can happen that you miss beautiful motifs due to the immobility of the camera. In nature or at a sporting event, these are all important aspects to consider. After all, motifs that you miss usually don't get in front of the lens again. So it's not the ideal accessory for snapshots.

A tripod is perfect for shots where the camera may not be moved for a long time, such as a sunset or time-lapse photography, for example.

What is a monopod

A monopod is very light and compact because it stands on only one foot, as the name suggests. Thus, a monopod is also easier to transport than the tripod. The accessories can be easily transported without necessarily needing an extra bag for it. In fact, most monopods can be quickly and easily stowed away in a very compact manner, which is why they also fit well in a backpack.

Strictly speaking, a monopod should not be called that, because the word tripod comes from the Latin word "stativus", which means "standing". However, it cannot stand on its own because, unlike a conventional tripod, it has only one base.

The advantage here is that the camera can not only be moved on a fixed spot, but can also be tilted horizontally and vertically. This helps enormously to photograph a spontaneously seen motif quickly, because you are incredibly flexible with such a tripod.

Known brands for monopods are e.g. Manfrotto, Benro, Cullman, Gitzo, Hama, Sirui or Vanguard

Who are monopods suitable for?

Monopods are best suited for people who find holding a camera too strenuous in the long run. After holding the camera for a long time, the hands get shaky, which causes the pictures to blur. If you still want to be able to react quickly in spite of the tripod, so as not to miss any situation, then a tripod is not recommended, but rather a monopod.
Monopods are most often used in the areas listed below:

  • Sports Photography
  • Wildlife photography
  • Macro photography of insects and birds
  • to implement light painting well
  • Panorama photography that is not on a horizontal plane
Especially in sports photography, very large and heavy lenses are often used, which can become uncomfortable to carry in the long run without a tripod. That's why people use monopods for this application, which make shooting on the sidelines an easy task. This would be difficult to do with a classic tripod, since the mobility and flexibility with such a tripod is very limited.

For animal photography, the monopod is ideal, since it can be easily transported and large focal lengths of 400 or 800 millimeters are also used here. Especially in this area, it is most important to show the animals as little of yourself as possible, so that you do not scare them and thus the subject shies away and out of the lens. The tripod is not an alternative, because it is simply much too bulky and unwieldy. You would not be able to catch every animal on a wildlife safari.

In which design are the monopods available?

Basically, they always consist of a single main leg. Among other things, they are available with a tip at the base, which ensures that the camera has a secure hold even in the mountains.
They are also available as a version with spider-like feet at the end. That is, it can stand on its own when the ground is flat, without the need to hold it when it is level.
They are also available in combination with a hiking stick. So you can easily convert a walking stick into a monopod. Includes the anti-shock suspension like the professional poles.

Choosing the right tripod

Always make sure that you choose a tripod where your camera will fit. This is because there are two different screw sizes. On the one hand ? inch and on the other hand 3/8 inch.
If your dream tripod is not available in your screw size, then there is the possibility to get a supplementary adapter, which ensures that the different sizes are still compatible with each other.
If you are interested in both, then it is possible to buy a tripod, which you can convert to a monopod. With many tripods it is the case that you can remove one leg so that you are not permanently tied to a tripod.

You can usefully supplement the tripod with additional accessories, such as tripod heads, which will enable you to make the best use of your monopod.

  • Ball Head: With this accessory, it is possible to pan the camera freely in all directions. The adapter is adjusted with a comfortable handle.
  • Three-way Panhead: It offers you the possibility to adjust the camera in three axes. This makes it possible to photograph subjects even on the ground without having to swing the tripod forward or backward.
  • Panorama head: This tripod head makes it possible to balance the tripod using a spirit level so that it stands straight on any slope. This makes it possible to take panoramic pictures perfectly, since the spirit level allows you to maintain the perfect level by always readjusting it.

The tripod dimension

The tripod dimension indicates the size of the monopod when folded. So you should make sure that the tripod will find its place in the end in your photo backpack without any problems.

The advantages & disadvantages of a monopod & tripods

Vorteile Einbeinstativ:

  • Perfect for photo and video shooting
  • The weight is low
  • Small pack size = easy transport
  • Incredibly maneuverable
  • allows quick repositioning

Vorteile Dreibeinstativ:

  • The subject can always be photographed from the same dimensions
  • it can be placed very flat on the ground
  • Pictures can be taken extremely close to the ground
  • It is not necessary to hold the camera/spotting scope
  • It has a secure stand in many areas

Nachteile Einbeinstativ:

  • It's difficult to frame the same as the previous photo
  • The camera can't be put down as easily (could get scratched)
  • The camera can fall out of your hand if the monopod slips away

Nachteile Dreibeinstativ:

  • can be transported in most cases only separately in a tripod bag
  • they are often heavy
  • they take a long time to set up
  • Not suitable for every area

Add a quick release plate to your tripods

A plate is a helpful accessory when it comes to reattaching a heavy camera to the tripod every time. In fact, with a plate, you save yourself the work every time, because you can easily and quickly screw on the plate, which is firmly attached to the camera, onto the tripod and remove it just as easily. The simple system of the plate allows them to quickly attach it to the tripod and also remove it again.