A little something that I forgot to mention last week about tripods and ball-heads. The more you rely on your stabilization system and the older you get, many people tend to lean into the set up. Traditional long lens technique has the photographer leaning into the camera and draping one arm across the top of the lens to hold everything in place and dampen any vibration. Note that this is not the only technique, some people are more comfortable cradling the lens from below and sort of holding the back of the camera to create a fulcrum effect that makes for fast panning. In either case it is important to be comfortable and fluid. I have noticed that a gimbal style head can become bulky and awkward at times when trying to maneuver the rig. Just something to know.
I also hear about those cool looking c covers for the tripod legs. We can argue about it all day long but in my experience I don’t see any real value in using camouflage clad gear but these leg covers do serve a purpose in two areas, insulation and comfort. If you happen to have an aluminum tripod they will solve the concern about the legs getting cold in winter and the insulation in the covers provide padding when carrying the tripod over your shoulder. Leg covers will set you back about $50 but if you don’t want to shell out the money for the camo you can easily make one of your own for just a few dollars with pipe insulation from the local home improvement store and some “athletic” style tape. If you are very lucky you may even be able to find your own camouflage tape.
Part of the premise of camouflaging gear is to make the subject feel less threatened. Beyond any benefit camo may lend it is very important to maneuver your tripod in a non-threatening manner. Collapsing the legs to move a few feet in the brush is a huge pain in the rear and is time-consuming but picking up a tripod with long extended legs can easily be perceived as an aggressive move so here is what I do. First, as always be slow and as quiet as possible, always facing the subject draw the tripod legs together and swing the ground end of the legs behind you cradling the camera/lens close to your body. Holding the tripod loose enough to allow the brush to guide the path of the legs as pushing brush around and breaking twigs and branches will make sounds that disturb the bird.
Sorry for not picking back up on the shutter speed series this week but this went a little long. We get back to it next week.