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I’ve written previously about the importance of getting down to eye level when photographing wildlife. When eye-level means ground level, it can be awkward to support your camera whilst also supporting yourself and trying to keep your gear clean.
Most tripods allow you to get quite low by opening the legs out as wide as possible, many actually opening out fully so that the tripod sits flush to the ground. Whilst this is very functional, it can be pretty awkward to handle, especially if trying to pan with your subject or if you have to move to follow your subject around.
One option to overcome this is what is known as a ground pod. It is a plate/tray with upturned edges, that you attach your camera to, or for more flexibility, screw your tripod head to. It supports your camera just a few inches from the ground, thus offering some protection from water splashes or sand/mud, whilst allowing easy movement in all directions.
The commercially available options are pretty expensive (approx £80/$100 US) so I decided to try and make my own. I in no way claim to be the first person to do this, but thought I would share how it is done to illustrate how easy it is to make your own low-level camera support.
You will need:
The construction of the ground pod is very simple:
And that is it! Simple.
You will want to ensure that the pan actually supports your camera and lens without toppling over before putting it to use. If you chose a wide enough pan, this should not be a problem.
When out on a beach or in a field you will find that using a ground pod for support makes getting down low a lot easier whilst having some confidence that your camera gear will remain free from sand, mud and water. The pan is a good deal lighter than most tripods too, meaning you can carry less weight when out on your next wildlife shoot.
If you already own a suitable tripod head, this project shouldn’t cost much more than the price of a cheap frying pan and is a great way of supporting your camera at ground level for those powerful and intimate wildlife portraits.
(Thanks to Rob Cain for taking the picture of my gear on the completed ground pod, above)