Make Your Own Ground Pod
As you all know, the key point in making a good photograph is shooting at the subject's eye level. I live close to Fort De Soto Park and I used to shoot shorebirds using a tripod. Even though I can extend my tripod legs flat on the ground, it is hard to move the whole rig everytime I change the subject. Also, it was not practical to lug around an 8 pound tripod when there is not much use for it.
Later on, I started hand-holding the lens to shoot shorebirds at eye level. It was fine for horizontal shots. Trouble started when I wanted to do vertical shots. I use a D70s without a battery grip. Holding the lens with my left hand, right hand up in the air and laying flat in the sand was quite a show for others watching me taking pictures. Also, it was tough to hold the camera and lens combination for a long time laying flat on the ground.
I started looking online for a ground pod and ran into few models available at various photo stores. Most of them looked very simple and I decided to make it myself. It does not look like one you can buy from B & H for $150. But, it serves the purpose at minimal cost. If you already have a ballhead I would say your total expense is less than $10.
I experimented with 2 different base models and in 2 different positions. The first one is 1 1/2 inch deep 10 1/2 inch pan and the second one is a 1/2 inch deep 10 inch pan. Both are round aluminum nonstick pans and have their advantages and disadvantages. The base of the deep pan makes it easier to turn in the sand and provides less stability compared to flat pan. Due to more surface area in contact with the flat pan it takes more effort to turn the whole assembly mounted on the flat pan. For example, you can pan a Sanderling running in front of you with little effort using the deep pan but it was a little tough with the flat pan. I decided to go with the deep pan because of its flexibility to turn and it provided more than enough stability.
Another thing I considered when I was building this ground pod was the alignment of the pan on the ground. I tried putting it upside down and mounting the ballhead on the top. Again it was hard to turn it in the sand so I decided to mount the ballhead inside the pan.
List of items you need to make a ground pod:
Making a ground pod:
Test the ground pod several times before heading out. If you feel the height is a little too low you can adjust it by placing door stoppers on the bottom of your ballhead to increase the height. I remember someone saying the difference between a photographer and great photographer is the extra mile he walks. Ground pods are tools that help you in producing excellent images by shooting at the subject's eye level. If you can walk that extra mile with the ground pod and don't mind getting dirty in the filed, you can produce some great images with this device.
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Siddhardha Garige is a serious amateur photographer from Tampa, Florida. He freelances as a sports photographer but enjoys doing nature and bird photography. He has been published in local newspapers and magazines and won awards in local and state photo competitions. For more information please visit Luminepixels.com
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