A Simple Monopod Head

Text and images copyright Thomas L Webster, 2005. All rights reserved.


I am an active macrophotographer who is always on the go chasing active subjects. Very seldom do I have the time or the opportunity to set up a tripod. The vast majority of my photographs employ the use of electronic flash. I use a Kirk Enterprises Macro Flash Bracket to attach the electronic flash to my camera. With the flash hanging off the end of the flash arm this setup can be a bit ungainly to maneuver without adding a bit of shaking on my part. To help me steady my camera and flash combination I carry a monopod.

Admittedly, a monopod is not as steady as a tripod but it is certainly more portable. I can quickly adjust the length of the monopod to whatever height I need to photograph my subject and the monopod then bears the weight of the camera/flash combo. This allows me to concentrate on the composition and allows for a much steadier hold than handholding the camera unaided. I can also focus more efficiently, especially at high magnifications, because the monopod helps steady up my own body sway that could cause me to constantly bring a subject in and out of focus.

One of the challenges to using a monopod is deciding what type of head to mount on it. Various heads have been designed for monopods that include tilts and swivels. One company even sells its monopods with a pan-tilt head. Many photographers mount a small ball head on the monopod. Is a tripod-like head really necessary? No. Although more steady than handholding alone, a monopod is structurally unsound and a rock-solid head mounted on the monopod is not really necessary. Besides, one of the reasons to purchase a monopod is for the mobility it offers, so why mount a head on the monopod that requires the photographer to have to fiddle with knobs to lock and unlock the head?

What I have come up with is a simple fork you can make for a few dollars. The fork is attached to the monopod and the camera lens is then cradled in the fork. The camera can be turned to any angle needed for the composition without having to fiddle with locking knobs and the camera can be taken off the monopod instantly. A simple fork, also, supports the camera as efficiently as any tripod-like head.
Materials and tools...The monopod fork is simplicity itself. You will only need hand tools, an electric drill, a wrench, and a 1/4" x 20 drill and tap set. The fork is made from a metal 2.5", 90° angle bracket you can purchase at any hardware store. I bought a package of 3 angle brackets for US$2.59 from Home Depot. For padding I used narrow foam weather stripping with an adhesive backing, US$2.57 from Home Depot. Finally, you will need some black electricians tape to tape over the foam padding. That's all.  

Construction...Begin by using the drill bit from the 1/4" x 20 drill and tap set to drill a hole through the elbow of the angle bracket. Be sure to drill this hole square to the elbow. Next, using the tap from the 1/4" x 20 drill and tap set, tap threads in the hole you just drilled. Use the wrench to turn the tap slowly and back the tap out of the hole occasionally to allow the metal chips to fall out of the threads. After the hole is tapped simply wind the foam insulation around the bracket and wind the black electrical tape over the foam insulation to hold the foam in place. The fork is now screwed onto the head mounting screw on the end of the monopod. That's all! Simplicity, itself! Your newly created fork should look like the image at right.

To use the monopod fork, simply adjust the height of the monopod and cradle the barrel of the camera lens in the "V" of the fork. That's it! To change from a horizontal to a vertical composition only requires the whole camera be turned. For best results, it is suggested that you cradle the barrel of the camera as close as possible to the camera body. Now, go "out there" and make images!
All text and images copyright Thomas L Webster 2005.
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