Casual photographer learning new hobby. I want to learn how to take such amazingly beautiful bird shots as I am seeing so many of you guys posting. Gary, I especially like your work...any tips you (or any other posters) could give me. I have a 7D and 100-400L and a cheap $30 tripod that broke. I need to get a good tripod and monopod ( and heads) for birds, flowers and maybe landscapes. Don't want cheap any more but since I'm not a pro, I don't need a Rolls Royce. I don't mind paying for good quality. What do you use or recommend? Also, I've only shot jpegs ( I know I must learn to use RAW) and some pp with Canon's DPP. What do you use and how do you do any pp? I have been reading this forum for several months and am learning a lot from all of you, so this isn't meant only for Gary. Thanks everyone for your time to give advice and show case your work.
Gitzo legs, Acra or RRS heads are great recommendations - but are in the realm of "Rolls Royce". Here's a nice, lightweight carbon fiber/basalt tripod capable of holding what you have and a little more for almost half the price.http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/795783-REG/Velbon_GEO_N530_GEO_N530_3_Section_Carbon.html
And here's a nice ballhead that won't strap ur wallethttp://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/848858-REG/FEISOL_CB_40D_CB_40D_Ballhead_With_QP_1444750.html
There are other similar ballheads out there in this price range. If you want something more, or the best, you're going into the over-$300 range for a ballhead.
As for your "hobby", the largest impact on your work is composition, followed by proper light/exposure/technique. Equipment is AFTER all these. My best recommendation is to peruse the web and your local bookstore for many great books out there which are invaluable. I've been at this photography thing for more than 35 years and I still pick up books every couple months or so - there's always something else to learn. Sometimes it just one small tidbit which makes the entire book worth the purchase!