Intro: Make Anything Into a Tripod, and a Few Ideas for Your Camera
This is a compilation of several camera projects that I have made and used. I'll show you how you can make anything into a support for your camera or camcorder using less than $2 worth of hardware. Next, I'll show you how to incorporate that idea into building your own monopod or SteadiCam, and finally an idea for getting some unique perspectives in your photos.
Step 1: How to Make Anything Into a Tripod or Camera Support
All you will need is a 1/4in-20 thumbscrew, a 1/4in-20 wingnut, a 1/4in fender washer (large-diameter washer), and anything you can drill a 1/4 inch hole into. See first picture.
First, drill the 1/4-inch hole into whatever you want to attach the camera to.
Second, thread the wingnut onto the thumbscrew so that its "wings" are on the same side as the thumbscrew, and add the washer to that (see second picture).
Third, insert the thumscrew and washer through the hole in the object that you are attaching the camera to. See third picture.
Next, screw the thumbscrew into the tripod hole of your camera. Don't tighten it down too much and strip the threads, it need not be very tight. See the fourth picture.
Finally, tighten the wingnut to remove the slack between the camera and the support, so that the camera is solidly attached to the support. See fifth and sixth pictures.
When you are done and have removed the camera from the support, you can store the parts by screwing the thumbscrew through the hole and securing it with the wingnut (see the seventh picture).
Step 2: Easy Cheap Monopod or SteadyCam
You might wonder which item I have chosen to attach my camera to today. Well, that support happens to be a Flag Pole Holder that I bought at a hardware store (see first picture). It is supposed to attach to the side of your house and accept a flag pole that has any diameter up to about 1-inch. It has an adjustment to clamp it to various flagpole sizes, and it can be adjusted to hold the flagpole at any angle from straight up to horizontal, using its own wingnut.
By drilling out one of the support holes to 1/4-inch (best to choose a hole located away from the angle-adjustment wingnut), I can mount the camera to the flat sideside of the holder and then mount the camera to any pole I choose. In this example, I made a broomstick into a monopod, and I can adjust the angle that the camera faces with the flagpole angle adjustment. Perfect for my live-action coverage of the local Quidditch tournament!
Another thing I can do (not shown) is duct-tape a 10-pound weight to the broomstick just above the bristles, and hold the stick about halfway between the weight and the camera. If I am making a video, and I am moving around, the weight stops the camera from wobbling, so the camera motion in the video is very smooth.
Step 3: High-angle Perspective Photos for Cheap
Now that you can attach your camera to any pole or rod, the next step is to find the most extreme pole you can use and see what kind of pictures you can take. The pole I chose to use is a 15.5-foot (4.7m) telescoping pole that is supposed to be used with a scrubber brush head to clean second-story windows and walls. It is available at any home supply center along with the brooms and mops. See picture 1. I got this idea from a website about kite cameras, and the author mentioned using a long pole as an alternative to the kite.
The flagpole camera mount attaches to the cleaning pole in the same way that it attached to my broom (see picture 2). I have to admit that this arrangement is a bit wobbly at full extension, so it works best in bright light to keep the exposure time down. If your camera has image stabilization, so much the better.
To use the tall pole, I have to estimate the angle of the camera at the full pole height and adjust the flagpole-holder to that angle, then set the camera for a 10-second shutter delay, then press the button and hoist up the camera. It takes about 10 seconds to straighten the pole, allow it to stop shaking, aim the camera, and then wait for the shot. It may take a few tries to get the angle of the flagpole holder right, but it's possible to take some very interesting shots this way. For one example, see picture 3.
You could use this to take pictures of scenery and get the camera above any power lines or intervening trees (don't use it too near power lines, of course). I suppose you could use it to take better pictures of cloud formations by hoisting the camera above the treeline, but holding up a high pole at a cloud is a good way to get struck by lightning, so only use this on clear days. One other use might be to stand on a bridge and hold the pole near horizontal over the side of the bridge, so you can get pictures of scenery that are free of the bridge structure or whatever. Might be useful for examining the underside of the bridge, too. Try waterproofing the camera and then stick it underwater from the pole, so you don't have to get wet to take pictures down deep.
I have to admit, I have had good luck shooting videos with my Manfrotto monopod with the universal-angle pivot head, but these days I don't have $150 to spend on such tools... who does?
Step 4: Telephoto Lens? Easy!
Just like many macro and fisheye projects, the easy way to add telephoto power to your camera is to just aim your camera through a telescope or pair of binoculars (see picture). It works best if your camera has at least 3x optical zoom, as zooming in to the binocular gets rid of the vignetting.
Cabella's sells (or sold) an adapter to attach cameras to scopes or binocs, but it costs like $50 and just holding the binocs as shown and sighting through the camera's rear screen is just as easy as using some adapter.
I hope that I've given you some ideas to increase your creativity that are easy and cheap. Cheers!