monopod snowshoe is easily made by fastening a crutch
tip to the top of a plastic colander with a short carriage
bolt. Cut the lip of the colander away with a hot knife,
coping saw, or Dremel tool, then sand the edge to remove
plastic shavings. Use a brass wing nut to keep the hardware
from rusting together. Friction of the monopod tip against
the inside of the rubber crutch tip keeps the column from
Photos © 1999, Tom Fuller, All Rights Reserved
Contrary to popular belief,
mediocre quality is not the only cause of unsharp pictures. Inaccurate
focusing, sloppy depth of field control, and poor film flatness all
contribute, but the most destructive is camera movement during exposure.
While a sturdy tripod immediately solves this problem, it creates others
by seriously limiting the photographer's mobility and spontaneity,
and at many public events, barring him from taking pictures at all.
A good compromise is the monopod, merely one leg of a tripod topped
with an adjustable ball head. It affords a good amount of camera stability,
even at relatively slow shutter speeds, and lets the user nonchalantly
compress the four or five leg sections and carry the rig in swagger
stick fashion past museum security. The addition of a quick-release
plate speeds up the trick even more by allowing the camera to be removed
with the flick of a lever.
colander base keeps the monopod from sinking while the crutch
tip lets the column flex as needed for proper lean angle
on uneven surfaces. This shoe also works well in marshy
earth and loose sand. Carry a spare crutch tip, drilled
with a 1/4" hole, for field replacement.
To use a monopod properly,
extend it until the camera is just below eye level, securely tighten all
sections, place the rubber tip against the floor about 18" in front
of you, and angle the column slightly inward. Adjust the head for desired
composition, spread your feet about 18" apart, and bend slightly
at the waist. Gently lean into the column for a rigid, three-point stance,
place one hand on the camera and the other around the top section, relax,
and smoothly release the shutter.
However, when long lenses are used, or when the camera is turned for a
vertical composition, the tip often twists on its surface and lets the
camera pivot in a panoramic arc. When the monopod is used on snow, sand,
or mud, this action is compounded by an irritating tendency for the column
to sink. Additional downward pressure does little to counteract the twisting
motion and can make matters worse by introducing muscle-induced vibration
and/or cause the column to collapse. An easy solution is this month's
inexpensive do-it-yourself project--a pair of ground-gripping, anti-twist
collapsible "Bigfoot" multipurpose shoe eliminates
twisting with heavy cameras and spreads the weight of the
monopod over a large area for better stability on all surfaces.
The rubber leg bumpers can be replaced with sharpened bolts
for use on ice.
First try increasing the surface
area of the monopod tip by sliding a soft rubber (not plastic) crutch
tip over it. Bring the monopod to a drugstore and find a tight-fitting
tip with a large, flared bottom surface. This may be all that is needed
to stop twisting with smaller cameras. To keep the monopod from "skating"
on hard earth, make an accessory spike by boring a hole through another
crutch tip and fastening a short 1/4x20 carriage bolt through it with
a brass wing nut on the outside. File or grind the bolt end to a dull
The accompanying illustrations will guide you through the assembly of
my multipurpose "snowshoe" and "Big-foot" accessories.
Each costs only a few dollars and can be built in a couple of hours by
anyone with basic workshop skills and ordinary hand tools. While carrying
and using any camera support puts a damper on capricious hand holding,
I think the increase in image quality is well worth the small inconvenience.