Bean bags are light, small (when empty), cheap and very effective in supporting cameras and lenses. The most appealing light for photography is mostly early morning and late in the day. This means slower shutter speeds and a risk of camera shake with blurred photographs, making a camera support an essential accessory.
Bean bags are great whether photographing from hidesor Photographing from vehicles.You can simply fill a bank bag with sand or similar filling...
...or you can get ready-made bags that get shipped to you empty and then all you need do is fill them with rice, beans, husks or small plastic pellets.
One of our friends from Germany was staying at the Pilanesberg and he had an old bank bag, which he stuffed with his laundry as sand would have been too heavy. Whatever works for you! Some of the bean bags that are currently available are:
• Molar Bag
• Apex Beanbag
• BLUBB (Big Lens Ultimate Bean Bag)
• Skimmer Sack (sits somewhere between the Molar and Apex bags in terms of versatility).
• Kinesis safari bag...
We have heard the following concerns from some people and would like to provide answers to these four concerns:
1. “Window mounts or window-pods are better than bean bags especially when you want to leave the lens in position, aimed at a subject, for long periods as your arms may get tired of holding the rig.”
Our answer is, yes we agree, unless you use the Walt Anderson Panning Plate, which has a built in Arca Swiss clamp that allows you to just slip your lens right into the mount – no ball head required. You then just tighten the clamp, and you place it onto the Molar bag and you’re ready to shoot. The plate pans smoothly allowing you to track your subject without too much or too little resistance.
Another plus is the fact that you won’t have to loosen or tighten a ball-head, making it faster and easier to use. If you need to replace memory cards, attach a flash, etc., the width of the plate stabilizes the lens on the bag - you just need to make sure the lens is balanced correctly on the plate, not too far forward or back and don't knock it over with sudden movements!
2. “The bean bag works fine until you want to photograph a subject high up in the trees.”
Here we use the Right angle view-finder, a picture says a thousand words:
3. “There are limitations placed on camera movement by the bags as the focus ring catches on the bag while you can rotate a long lens much more quickly and accurately when mounted on a window-pod.”
Our answer: The Panning Plate allows easy access to all the controls on the barrel of your lens – there is absolutely no friction or interference from the bag.
4. "The bag worked best if the window was completely open and the bag rested on the sill of the door. However, this meant slouching and a resulting stiff back and neck."
We agree that the window should be all the way down, especially with the bigger lenses but the Panning Plate raises the lens to eye-level, depending on your height, the car model and how big the bag is.
You could also place a second beanbag on top of the Molar bag if you need more height. The Kinesis bag lies flat or can be doubled-over and the straps tightened to keep it in the higher, doubled-over position. If you place it on top of the molar bag it sits nicely as the Kinesis bag has a rubber base preventing slipping...
And then you could also choose from three different sizes in the Apex beanbags - there is a normal Apex beanbag, a Low-profile beanbag and a Mini beanbag.
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