Lately I’ve been hand-holding the Beast a lot, so that I can lie down and photograph birds at eye level. This technique has been paying off well with the Sandhill Crane babies (more on that tomorrow!) To see what I’m talking about, look at the two images below. The first was taken while I was kneeling on the sand. Look at the cluttered water behind the bird – I wasn’t low enough. The second image was taken while I was lying on the sand, supporting the Beast with my left hand while clicking the shutter with my right hand. See how the background is a beautiful creamy blue? That’s why I wanted a groundpod.
What’s a groundpod? Well, it’s a tripod that’s made to go on the ground. Sure, you can splay your tripod legs and get the same effect, but that can be very awkward to move the tripod when you are belly-crawling in the sand at the beach. Not to mention that it’s annoying to get all that sand in your tripod! A groundpod is a low flat support that you can attach your gimbal head to. That way you can lie on the sand and rely on the gravitational magic of the gimbal head to keep your big heavy lens where you left it.
Now you can purchase a Groundpod online, but it’s fairly expensive. After reading a few do-it-yourself websites, I ventured to make my own. My neighbor thought I was absolutely crazy when I went next door to borrow a drill bit to put a hole in a frying pan! He ended up doing the drilling for me (thank you Peter!!) and I could honestly see the poor guy wondering if I’d totally lost my marbles. He’d have chuckled when he saw the reactions from my photography friends, though… “Cool! How’d you make that? I should do that!”
For those who have asked, here’s the link to the Digital Photography School article with details about how to make your very own groundpod. All you need is a frying pan, a 3/8″ bolt and nut, and a good drill (or a great neighbor!) I found that I also needed to add a block of wood, to raise my Wimberly gimbal head higher, because the bottom knob didn’t fit inside my 10″ frying pan. I found out the hard way that it’s best to get several sizes of bolts from the hardware store and then experiment with them until you find the right length for your pan, wood, and gimbal head combo. I’m not sure if I ended up using the 2.5″ or the 2.25″ bolt. When I had my bolt threaded through the frying pan and block of wood, it was easy to put on the gimbal head and then start taking pictures. I even found that I liked having the handle of the frying pan, as it makes it easier to shove the whole rig along the ground. It may look silly, but it works!