Monthly Archives: December 2016

Create a Car Monopod

Snow at the Horicon Marsh

Snow Made its Own Hill on this Colorado Blue Spruce

The Horicon Marsh area is getting another 9-11 inches of snow today.  The wind chills tomorrow will be 20-30 degrees below zero.  What a great weekend to work on an indoor photography project.

Car Monopod

Car Monopod

I use a monopod I created that fits in the drink holder of my car.  I use it when my car is a blind and I’m shooting from the driver’s side out the passenger side window.  This has improved the sharpness of my photos and it gives my arms relief.  Six pounds of camera and lens gets heavy when I am holding them out to the side for long periods of time.  The project is around $10 (minus the ball head) for materials and it is easy to assemble.


PVC pipe, 2 foot long piece of 2 inch diameter pipe

PVC end cap

Tread Wheels, 2 inch by ¾ inch with a 3/8 inch hole

Tread Wheels, 2.5 inch by ¾ inch with a 3/8 inch hole

Washers (3)

Bolt, 3/8 inch, 3.25 inches long, threaded

Weather stripping

Durable piece of cloth, mine is 9 inches by 12 inches

Rubber bands (2)

Ball head of your choice




Wrench, 9/16 inch

Car Monopod

Length of Car Monopod

I bought a 2 foot piece of 2 inch diameter PVC pipe from Menard’s then cut it to the length I needed.  Take into account the top cap with tripod head and the depth of your drink holder.  My final piece of pipe is 19 inches long. The length of yours may be different, based on your height. The total length of my car monopod with the ball head and end cap is about 24 inches. Put the end cap on.

Pieces for Top of Car Monopod

Components of Top of Car Monopod


Threaded Bold Screws into Base of Monopod

Threaded Bolt Screws into Base of Ball Head

Tread Wheels are available at Hobby Lobby.  The 2.5 inch wheels are a perfect base for my ball head which has a 2.3 inch diameter base.  The 2 inch wheels fit perfectly inside the PVC pipe.  I used 2 of the 2 inch wheels so the ball head piece would fit securely in the pipe.  I used 3 washers to take up the leftover space.  The bolt I used is a 3/8 inch bolt so it screws into the base of my ball head which has a 3/8”-16 tripod mount thread size.  You may need to adjust this if your tripod mount thread size is different. Conveniently, the tread wheels have pre-drilled 3/8 inch holes.  I put the 3 washers on the bolt, then 2 of the 2 inch wheels, then 1 of the 2.5 inch wheels, and screwed the end into the ball head base.

Car Monopod in Two Pieces

Car Monopod in Two Pieces

When I travel, I take the top piece off and lay the 2 pieces on the passenger seat. It is easy to pop the pipe into the drink holder and put on the top piece with the ball head and I am ready to shoot.

End Cap of Monopod

End Cap of Monopod

I tried putting some weather stripping over the end cap. Moving the pipe around in the drink holder caused the weather stripping to shift and it left a sticky residue in my drink holder.  I covered the weather stripping with a durable piece of fabric and it works well.  The weather stripping and fabric give a little cushion and helps the pipe to fit snuggly in the drink holder.

When the weather warms up, we are ready to shoot from the car.

If you have ideas about how to improve this project, please share them in the comments section.



Shooting Snow

Ring-necked Pheasant at the Horicon Marsh

Seven inches of snow fell in the Horicon Marsh area a few days ago and more is on the way.  The winter wonderland creates some great opportunities for photography.  Snow presents some challenges for proper exposure, especially if the sun is shining.  Often, photos of snow look gray and flat.

 Ring-necked Pheasant at the Horicon Marsh

This Ring-necked Pheasant was a pleasant surprise.  He meandered along the side of Palmatory Street in Horicon undisturbed by my car.  I drove alongside him and stopped occasionally to snap a few pictures.  He displayed no fear as he walked closer to inspect my car.  He did look both ways before crossing.  I’m not kidding.  Eventually, he walked in front of the car and I waited until he roamed back into the snowy brush.  I focused on his head when taking his picture.  I didn’t care if the snow was a bit overexposed in this case.  I was more concerned about the Pheasant being exposed properly.


Bridge at the Horicon Marsh

Bridge at Theiler Park, Mayville

I switched to manual mode when a correct exposure of the snow was important to the photo.  I set the ISO to 200 since less sensitivity to light is needed.  The aperture was set to give me the depth of field I wanted.  I experimented with having the whole bridge in focus and having the back of the bridge go out of focus.  Then I adjusted the shutter speed until the exposure level scale at the bottom of the viewfinder was in the center.  I took a shot and looked at the histogram.  I wanted the right-most color in the RGB graph to be just at the right edge of the graph.  If it wasn’t, I adjusted the shutter speed up or down.  For RAW images, we want the right-most color on the graph to touch the right edge of the graph without climbing up.  For JPEG images, we want the right-most color to be just short of the right edge of the graph.


Bridge at the Horicon Marsh

Using a Polarizing Filter

I added a polarizing filter and took a few more shots using the above technique.  I stood about 90 degrees to the sun and rotated the filter until I could see more texture in the snow.  It darkened the sky and cut the glare on the snow.

 Bridge at the Horicon Marsh

I would love to have spent more time playing with depth of field and composition, but it was only 10 degrees and breezy.  Fingerless gloves allowed me to work the controls on the camera.  A couple of hand warmers in my pockets kept my fingers warm.  I just discovered these biodegradable hand warmers from L. L. Bean.  Just open the package and they start to warm up.  After returning home, the warmers went in my slippers to warm up my toes.  They last up to 10 hours.

Awesome Hand Warmers

Before getting back in my warm car, I put my camera in a plastic bag.  Then I put it in my camera bag.  When I got home, I let the bag warm up before removing my camera.  Condensation stayed on the outside of the plastic bag and not in my camera.  I made myself a hot cup of tea while waiting for the camera to warm up.

It is early in the winter season and there will be plenty more opportunities to play in the snow.  If only it could be 70 degrees at the same time.


Note:  I do not receive any compensation from LL Bean.

A Different Song

Muskrat Houses at the Horicon Marsh

“Muskrat Suzie, Muskrat Sam

Do the jitterbug out in Muskrat Land”

 Do you remember these lyrics to a popular song?  Can you name the song, the artist(s) who made it famous, and the year it was popular?  If so, let us know your answers in the comments section.

Muskrats Suzie and Sam don’t have time to do the jitterbug at the Horicon Marsh.  They have been building their houses for the winter.  How many do you see in the photo?

The song lyrics go on to say that muskrats nibble on bacon and chew on cheese.  Actually, muskrats love to eat cattails.  They use cattails, along with mud, to build their houses, called “push-ups.” They probably got this name because it takes so much exercise to build the dome.  I’m just kidding.  There is an underwater entrance and they keep dry in the chamber above the water.  Canada Geese and Mallards may nest on top.

If the songwriter had visited the Horicon Marsh first, before writing the tune, we would be singing a totally different song.