How to turn your BALL HEAD into a GIMBAL for wildlife photography


It’s Friday again, and this
time it’s actually Easter. And today, I want to
tell you about how I use the different
kind of tripod heads and why I use them. Most of the time, I’m using the
gimbal style or the ball head. And in just a few
seconds, I’m going to get up there and demonstrate
with my lenses how I use them. And also, I want to share with
you how I most often actually only bring the ball head,
just to save weight and space in my photo bag, and turn
that into a gimbal style even for the big lenses. So yeah, let’s get started. [MUSIC PLAYING] So when I’m using the
big 600 millimeter, the advantage of putting
it on a gimbal head is that it’s weightless. Like because it’s balanced here,
with one finger I can control the whole lens, and the place
I leave it, it’ll just stay. That is the big
advantage, especially because when you’re
following birds you don’t have the
weight of the lens. You can just have
a smooth movement while you are shooting. So that is very, very helpful. And again, especially when
you are doing vertical and suddenly you want to change,
you can just go vertical. And you can basically
take the camera around, and when you’re shooting
here you can go vertical. And yeah, it’s
absolutely fantastic. So this head is my favorite when
I work with the big telephoto lenses. So why don’t I use
that all the time? It is because this head is
just terrible for, let’s say, macro because, first of all– let’s take the big
thing off here– if you do mount your
camera on this plate, you can go this way, but
you can’t go that way. And if you put the camera like
this, you can go this way, but you can’t really flip here. And there’s no point in it. It’s just in the way. So this one is only good for
the big telephoto lenses. So then the problem is if I have
to bring both this and this, it’s just very heavy,
and it fills up a lot in the photo bag. So I like actually to
bring the ball head. But the problem
with the ball head– let’s just try with
this lens just for the– just to keep it simple. So the problem about
shooting with a ball head is that when you’re
photographing like so, it’s absolutely fine. I usually rest my hand here,
and I do the zoom and the focus. And that is just as
good as that one. The only thing I
have to remember is every time I don’t use– like, I don’t hold the
camera, if I’m waiting, I have to lock it,
but that is fine. Or I can put the friction
screw, and then it’ll hold itself as long as it
doesn’t come down to here. So, so far, so good. The problem comes when I want
to go and have the ability to go vertical when I need to. That means that when I
want– if I’m not centered and I want to go vertical,
then suddenly, like, suddenly everything
becomes extremely wobbly, and I can’t really
control anything. When I have it here and
I try to balance here, it will fall down for me. So I have absolutely no control. But what I do then is if I
have a ball head with such a little hole in the side– I have even two here– I let the lens come down
like this and leave it here. And I make sure that
it’s balanced right here. That means now I
can actually shoot– if I loosen the lens, I can
actually shoot the same way as with a gimbal. And I can even go vertical
and shoot the same. I have 100% control this way,
just as I had with the gimbal. The only problem with
this is that it’s not as smooth as a real gimbal. This is a Wimberley head,
and it’s very smooth. This one is a little more. And because you get all the
way down here with the shorter limbs, your hands will come
in conflict with the legs. But that is also the reason why
I have such a huge ball head. It’s over-dimensioned to
what I use it for normal, but just because I also
use it with the 600. Let’s try to put the 600
on just to demonstrate how well it actually works. Let’s see, this go here. There we go. And let’s try– so. And the first thing I
do is I try to make– I try to balance it. So I see. Yeah, that’s fine. Put it down. You see, because
it’s so huge, it’ll easily handle at 600
millimeter as well. And now it’s– like, that is the
reason why I most often bring my 600 millimeter and only the
ball head and leave the gimbal at home. If I’m going to a blind,
if I’m going mainly to shoot with this guy,
wild-life photography, I like to bring the gimbal
because it’s not that heavy. Another option is
to actually get a Sidekick for this ball head. That means if you get this
portion of the gimbal head and then you add that
to the ball head, and then you actually have
something that comes extremely close to a real gimbal. Some of you might wonder
why I have this weird thing underneath. And that is actually because
I also use it for filming, and if my tripod is
not completely leveled, I find it much quicker
to adjust this one. See? Find the center, and then
I tighten it up here, because that’s much faster. And this one, this
technique doesn’t work if the ball head
is not in a good center, because then you might
not be able to get it all the way down here. So yeah, I find
that really smart. Yeah, so that’s how I do it. That was all for today. I really hope you
could use the tip. And if you haven’t already
tried to use your ball head as a gimbal, you should
definitely go out and try it. It’s so handy. Sometimes when you’re out
there and photographing and you just don’t
have your gimbal head or you don’t own one, and
then the birds start flying, and you’re like, hmm, I
just can’t do this handheld. I can’t do it with
a big telephoto lens on the ball head. Then just let it come down on
the side and find the balance, and then you’re
really good to go. So yeah, I just wish you
all the best luck with it. And if you like this video,
please leave me a comment. And if you haven’t
already subscribed, please consider to do it. And then see you next time. [MUSIC PLAYING]

100 Replies to “How to turn your BALL HEAD into a GIMBAL for wildlife photography”

  1. Thank you very much Morten! Great tip. I was considering getting a gimbal, but I need a new ball head too. Keep the tips coming. I'm loving your Friday tips!

  2. Pure genius idea! I have just got out of bed to try this method and it works an absolute treat and I will certainly take this out into the field. Plus you’ve earned a new follower.

  3. Thanks Morten! I was wondering about an alternative tripod head before investing the money. I would rather buy something I know I'll travel with and use the most. Thanks again!

  4. Why doesn't this man have 1,000,000 subscribers? Photographing red deer, musk oxen, mountain hares and mostly by himself too! Absolutely brilliant.

  5. Awesome trick! I think you change my life! 😀 No money for a gimbal and now it will be so much easier to photogrpah! Thank you! 🙂

  6. That's pure genious!!!
    Do you think that the Manfrotto 190 XPro3 with BHQ2 ball head can handle a D800 + Nikkor 200-500 in the way you said to make it like a gimbal head?

  7. Great stuff! I just went through all of your videos and they are all great! I'm looking forward to more! Cheers!

  8. As someone who has disparate styles of shooting, utilizing a ball head as an easy gimbal is awesome! It'll save me some money as I can focus on an excellent tripod to with an excellent ball head!!

  9. what ball head you use? After this video i go to buy once :-b
    I love this video and i get i you a SUB but please give my a name of once good ball head…. Thanks

  10. Just subscribed. What a great piece of advice! Started photographing birds last year and I will certainly be trying that tip out.

  11. Thank you for this useful tip. I never thought you could use a ballhead like that. So what do you think about using a fluid head instead of a gimbal in the field?

  12. Hi Morten. Question. What tripod in this video is your 600mm mounted on with the Wimberley? I don't see it on your website/ gear list…Thanks, and thanks for this video! love your stuff

  13. Nice helpful video. Have you tried a Wimberley Side-kick with your RRS Ballhead – it should be fine with your 200-500mm zoom….?

  14. I found a fox den in my backyard this weekend. I rented the Nikon 200-500 to get some shots and this tip was a big help. Thanks!

  15. Was thinking of buying as Gimbal but will now try this method on my ball head with a Nikon 200-500 lens, thanks for the demo Morten

  16. I must admit, after 2:52 you lost me because I was more concerned with the fact that you took the camera off the lens and didn't put a cap on the lens. You just put the camera on the ball head. LOL It was distracting because I was wondering how much that lens cost and you left it unprotected.

  17. Thanks for Your useful advice. For me, it‘s better to combine the Markins Ballhead Adapter BV-24 with my Markins Ballhead Q20i. With that You have a vertical movement with the BV-24 and a horizontal Movement with the Ballhead. It‘s like a gimbal, but very lightweight and flexible. I can unmount the BV-24 in 15 seconds and i can go on with my sturdy Ballhead.

    Your Videos are so peaceful, I reallly enjoy them!

  18. You should try the Really Right Stuff lever style clamps as Quick Release Plates. Much faster and easier. Safer too

  19. Hi Morten, I'm a new subscriber. You provide fantastic explanations in you're videos and they are easy to understand and put into practice. I have one question. How are you rotating your camera from vertical to horizontal without the lens rotating as well? For example you do it 4.28 seconds in to you're video. Is there a Nikon or Canon specific adaptor that allows you to do that! It seems like a great functionality to have. Thanks! Ash

  20. Many thanks for the wonderful tip! I am an amateur wildlife photographer and this was immensely useful. it would also be wonderful if you can demonstrate how to get the right DOF to photograph fast moving animals or birds. Shall look forward to more of your videos. Happy Clicking!

  21. Thank you for the very informative video. You've helped me make the decision to go with a ball head.

  22. Thank you Morton for a very informative video. I recently bought a Tamron 150-600 and have been researching ball heads and gimbals. I think I'll buy a better ball head! Now to decide which one.

  23. I just bought a longer lens and was thinking I had to buy a gimbal head, but this will be a great way to start. Thanks so much for the tip!

  24. Thanks Morten for the tip. I’ve been doing this lately on a monopod, and it works a treat! Also, just got to say that I love your videos. Your passion for photography is infectious. I’d stopped taking photos for the last year or so after a wrist injury, but now I have the bug again and I can think of nothing else. I’m back out now thanks to your tip and the monopod 👍👍👍

  25. I just got back from Africa and used a Tamron 150-600 g for the first time. In the Safari jeeps I realized that I needed some support. Lucky for me I brought a mono pod. As you described , it was a life saver. My photography was on the ball head-was uncontrollable until by accident I discovered putting my ball head on its side in the ball heads groove. It was to me a life saver. A poor mans gimble head.

  26. I love your down to earth, no-nonsense approach. Thank you for being such an interesting and helpful person. I have learned so much already from you. Thank you again.

  27. Hi Morten, Stumbled across you the other day when watching Adam on 'First Man Photography' Great camera presence and story to tell. Wonderful.

  28. Thanks for this. I like the idea. After an hour or two of shooting with a 500 It gets tough, so the gimbal on ball head sounds good.

  29. I use the same RRS BH-55 ball head.
    I was planning on buying the Wimberley but now I have to try this technique and see if I can save myself $600 or $700.
    Thank you sir for the great tip!

  30. Bro how rich are you those lenses, and every cameras or camera accessory’s probably cost every over 10,000 dollars bro

  31. I'd like to know what type of tripod your ball head is mounted to here, but I have a large, heavy Manfrotto tripod with that same setup (makes leveling very easy) with my fluid/pan-head. Beautiful work on all your videos and you seem very humble and genuine. I like that, and believe or not, I'm and American.

  32. I know there is no right or wrong way using a gimbal but can you explain why using it that way that the gimbal arm is on the right side? Sometimes with some lenses it's necessary because it would be difficult to zoom or to focus when the gimbal arm is just right there.
    but with your lens that is not the case you could handle it with ease. i am asking because i use the gimbal being on the left side, having the possibilities to control the movement with the left hand when filming or losing and tighten the knobs with the left hand. i think it could be difficult photographing and handle the gimbal with the right hand the same time? of course there is no need to fix the gimbal all the time but i.e. when changing the body or trying to find the right friction it is. maybe it is the way starting and becoming familiar handling a gimbal? 
    overall a very fine video and good explanations.

  33. Mr. Hilmer, love your videos, but a heads up, a knock off tripod head company is using a clip from your video to hawk their knock off gimbal heads. It makes it look like you are promoting them. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDs35FQkHYM

  34. I Love your videos…. i wanna ask a question…..what do you think about Manfrotto Action tripod for Wildlife Photography ?

  35. You should look at Wimberley Sidekick. Doesn’t take up much room. I think Induro makes similar item. Also, what leveling base was that ? Thanks for your videos.

  36. Thank you for the great tip, I've just bought a 200-500 lens. I was looking at ball heads and they cost a lot! I have a ball head, this solution will suit me for now.

  37. Is there a specific type or brand of ball head you'd recommend or is it more how it will be used and the need. I haven't shot pictures of "wildlife" but, a few snapshots here and there. I live in the midwest USA and I'm not exactly sure where to go to do this unless I take to the field with a hunter (being very quite is hard for me when I get so excited) even though our purpose would be different. However, thank you for the video. Your inspiration would cause anyone to venture to a different side of the lens approach. Again you're awesome!!

  38. No me chima! I have a Dolica "Pro" 60 tripod since 2012 (LOL) I recently discovered your channel. You're a genuine person, a true humble heart. I´ll wish that I could make my living just from taking photos, like you do. If you want to see birds for wildlife photography, come to Costa Rica. Greetings.

  39. Hi, these People stole your Video and post on their Channel as their own. They also did it to me too, I reported them to YouTube and they took it down. Here is your Link to your Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7huT4sg6gZo

  40. It's extremely dangerous to use a large lens like a 600mm F4 hanging off the side of the tripod like you are here. Especially if you don't have a very big and expensive tripod like an $1400 RRS tripod. The whole thing could easily crash to the ground because there is way too much weight hanging off the side of the tripod and if you have $10k worth of glass then you should own a proper tripod and gimbal head anyways!

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