So often, photos that inspire you are ones taken from new angles, or from angles that you can’t normally get to, or think to get to. Monopods are great tools in this regard…you can extend a monopod up over your head for more of an aerial perspective, or even turn it upside down to get an angle that might be otherwise pretty awkward or uncomfortable to get into just to get a unique shot. I love my monopod!
While the good money will always add features and functions that don’t exist on lower end models, I do think that even the most basic of monopods can be useful – to the degree that even going with a Wal-mart brand or generic named vendor can be a sound investment. If you are talking about just getting to a place you can’t get to on your own (or even with a tripod), the difference between aluminum and carbon fiber on a monopod doesn’t have as much impact here in my opinion.
Now if you are going for the stability factor, yes, a sturdier monopod would likely yield better results, but how much better do you expect from a single-legged support mechanism? Seriously – even with your own two feet, you can get pretty steady with your shots if you use a good holding technique, tucking your arms in, leaning on a wall or tree, and going between breaths (or shooting between heartbeats as my former Drill Sergeant said in the Army.) How is one foot going to get you more stability than two feet? On it’s own, not much, so I don’t sweat much over the vendor here…
Check out these aerial and low angle shots I got with just a Wal-mart tripod and some creative thinking:
This shot was taken with my monopod and the camera braced against a streetlight. EXIF Data: ISO 800 22mm f/22 4 second exposure
I shot this waterfall with the camera upsidedown and me holding the foot of my monopod while the camera was as close as I felt comfortable putting it close to the base of the waterfall. EXIF Data: ISO 100 21mm f/11 2.5 second exposure
This serene harbor was shot with the monopod, and the camera braced up against a tack shop. EXIF data: ISO 100 18mm f/11 5 second exposure
The Denver Art Museum, shot near midnight. The camera again, was upside down (I rotated it in post), and I held the foot of the monopod to get this low view. EXIF Data: ISO 100 33mm f/8 8 second exposure (it’s a tad blurry when you zoom in…)
This was done when I was shooting with my good friend Tim Tonge as we scouted routes for a photo walk. I liked this one so much it made it’s way into my eBook as a photo tip. Again, camera against the ground, upside down, me holding the foot. EXIF Data: ISO 800 10mm f/8 1/125th Exposure (note the exposure time here – I could have hand held this, but not at as low an angle as this was..the monopod made the shot!)
Here, the monopod was collapsed all the way down to one extension so the camera was just above my beer. The monopod itself was braced against the table, and I nudged the beer and coaster in until I got this composition. EXIF Data: ISO 800 20mm f/2.8 1/30th of a second exposure time
Have you tried a monopod? The results may surprise you!