Monday, June 2, 2014
Day 72, Learning 72: An Adaptive Alternative for Light Stands and Tripods
I try to stay clear of gear talk. Really, there's too much stuff to buy-- cameras, lenses, flashes, strobes, modifiers, stands, filters, software, clamps, backdrops... by the time you own a full set your camera is quote, "out of date," and you have to start the buying cycle all over again: new camera, better lenses, improved flashes, sexier strobes... etc., etc., etc. And the bottom line is that all of that equipment makes only minor improvements to your photography, which depends on perception, concept, expertise, inspiration, interpersonal skills, and patience. But every now and then an unusual piece of equipment-- unheralded by trendy photography sites-- slithers quietly across my path and I have share it. Because it is greater than a piece of equipment: it is a learning; it facilitates an approach.
I am constantly struggling to travel light and trust my ability to adapt to my environment and circumstances. In some respects, lighting equipment (flashes, strobes, soft boxes, etc.) are a crutch. They reveal that you are not skilled enough to shape and manipulate the available light, so you have to generate your own light. After all, we walk through a gorgeously lit world on a daily basis without aide of a Nikon SB-800.
The crutch has its costs: not only do you need the flash/strobe, you need a modifier to soften the light. Travel-wise, the light stand is the biggest pain. But what if you had a stand that was only 5 inches tall, but could raise to any height? And what if it could fit into the craziest of spaces, like inside a car or telephone booth without getting under foot? Not only that, you could set it up and tear it down in 3 seconds? Wait there's more: I've used it as both a backdrop stand, and as a "tripod" for my camera. Impossible I hear you say; I'm living in a fantasy world. But I found one:
This little fellow is now a constant companion in my bag. Only 4.5 inches in diameter, it can support up to 40 pounds and can attached itself not only to glass, but to painted drywall, doors, metal, and other surfaces as long as they are relatively flat and non-porous. The weight load diminishes the farther it is from the suction cup, but the clamp also issues a warning before it loses suction: the red line on the suction pump that lets you know it's losing power well before the cup releases. On glass it can hang out for hours; on other surfaces the time may diminish to as short as 10 minutes before the red line appears. I wouldn't use this on exterior surfaces like stucco and concrete, but on glass and wood it works well when the surface is clean. At $40 it's about the same price as a mid-range light stand. As you can see from this picture, when I've added a small ball head in order to attach a flash.
And even my camera.
In addition to supporting flashes and cameras, I've also used it to support a light backdrop. That's right-- the work of two light stands. Simply attach your monopod (okay, you must have a $20 monopod lying around somewhere) and then clamp or thread your backdrop through the monopod. If you own a 6x9 fabric backdrop, it's simply awesome. Much easier and quicker to set up than a backdrop stand. I've also clamped a large reflector to it for a white/black background.
Some suction clamps come with a 1/4 inch or 3/8 inch bolt for attachment; others with a 1/4 female receptor. I chose the latter, and purchased a male to male bolt adaptor so I could attach my flash or camera. Which you choose is dependent on how you will primarily use it. There is a 6 inch version, and a 3 inch version. I do not recommend the smaller one because it cannot carry a sufficient weight; the latter is great for more security and bigger cameras.