Many of you have been asking me, so I thought of writing this review of the Shoulderpod: Bush Hawk 320D.
I have been photographing handheld from the back of an elephant for a long time. I faced many situations where the tiger was sleeping in shade and the light was low resulting in a low shutter speed. With a moving elephant, the challenge increases. At times I have told the mahout to restrain the elephant from moving resulting in the mahout beating up the poor elephant. The elephant becomes restless due to the weight on its back and also because despite the huge size of an elephant, the tiger’s presence is unnerving. Proper handholding techniques can help you a lot. However, there are situations when a support inform of shoulder pod is a must. I have tried many local made contraptions. I have perfected a technique using monopod with ball head and can get sharp images on a swaying boat or elephant. However, I finally decided to search for a suitable shoulder pod which will not break down at vital moment. About 5 years back, I finally found the Bush Hawk when I saw Frans Lanting’s comment and got it from US.
This is nicely designed shoulder pod and it appears as if one is holding a rifle. In the place of a trigger is a button which is connected to the camera by a remote. So you just need to gently press the trigger to actuate the shutter button. The eye piece is adjusted so that it rests on your eye, like our normal photographing position. One can easily hold this in the right hand with the “butt” of the bush hawk placed on your shoulder, the way you would do while firing. (If any one of you fired with a gun/airgun then you would be able to visualize better).
I have successfully used my shorter lenses like the 300mm f4 with a 1.4x TC attached, 70-200 f2.8 with EF 2xII TC attached etc.
I have also tried my heavy EF400mm f2.8 L IS USM lens with 2XII Tc attached with my 1D series body. With this attachment, it actually becomes difficult to hold for a long time due to the long length. Anyway, this lens is not to be handheld, though I have successfully have got many sharp images handholding it. Once in Nagarhole, when langurs were giving alarm calls due to a leopard, one langur looked at me and started giving alarm calls. The leopard kind of got spooked due to it.
The other challenge I found was while trekking, it became difficult to carry the bush hawk holding it ahead like a gun. Unless one is a soldier and has been trained to move ahead in the bush with the gun ready to fire, for us mere photographers it was a challenge. I don’t want my lens to get scratched by any vegetation.
In insurgent infested areas and in sensitive places, it is better not to be carrying this. Else, you are inviting trouble from the security forces.
Of late this doesn’t get used much, as I have too many equipment to carry and I am more involved in filming than in photography. However, this is also good for handheld filming. You can hold it in one hand and do the focusing with the other hand. My EF 70-200 f2.8 L IS USM with a converter works well for filming with this bush hawk shoulder pod as well.
Overall, the BushHawk 320D is is a good design.