I have recently started using a Gimbal type tripod head. I was previoulsy using a trigger head which I liked, but occasionally would pinch my fingers or the springs would ‘click’ making my subjects suddenly become alert – which would either startle them or lead them to snap out of normal behaviour, which is what I want to capture. The gimbal head is a specialized tripod head for telephoto lenses. Its design allows you to rotate your lens around its center of gravity and thus easily manipulate very large lenses. It is really useful when shooting birds or animals on the move as the connections can be kept fairly loose allowing the photographer to move the kit quite freely. I have found that a good long lens technique is needed to prevent camera shake or movement at the point of capture, but the ease of use is phenomenal.
The Gimbal head utilises the arca-swiss quick release plate system, which is a very sturdy securing mechanism for attaching an expensive lens to the tripod head. When I bought my first arca – swiss plate I chose the model that was suggested for my camera/lens combo. However, I failed to take into account the weight of the battery grip and found that I could only achieve a balance with half of the plate secured. This worked well for me for a while, but after a few outings I realised that I use other equipment, namely a hot-shoe flash, on my rig that would also throw the whole thing off balance. I replaced my original plate with an 8″ plate – this allowed me lots of extra room for the other equipment.
While experimenting with my new tripod head I also re-read Arthur Morris’ excellent book ‘The Art of Bird Photography’, which suggests that using a hot-shoe flash to provide some degree of ‘fill lighting’ would enhance the detail captured by the bird photographer. I soon realised that if I orientated my camera from landscape to portrait the flash was catching on the tripod. One way around this was to attach a Jobu sidemounted flash arm – this allows me to orientate the camera in either position whilst maintaining the flash position above the rig.
I don’t have any photography stores close to me, so I have had to find reputable online stores for this eqiuipment. I have found several that I have been happy with:
I have also used Arthur Morris‘ store and have been very satisfied.