Banner Left Side Complete List and Schedule Digital Photography Schedule Domestic Tours and Workshop Schedule Worldwide Safaris and Tours Flash Photography Instruction Personal Instruction in Photography or Photoshop Stock Photography and Sales Seminars, Assemblies, Fund Raisers frequently asked questions








Question of the Month
September 2009

Is there a correct position to use
the Wimberley action head?

Should the upright be on the Left or Right side?

On our most recent trip, to coastal Katmai National Park in Alaska to photograph Brown Bears, I confirmed an observation I'd made several times in the past. The Wimberley Head Version II, a gimbal-style head that is the standard in the industry for long lens work, has a vertical upright on to which the lens platform is mounted. Most photographers -- in fact, virtually everyone we've seen -- position the vertical upright on their left side, the side opposite to where the camera shutter button is located.

tom w wimberleyMary wrong

With the pont on the LEFT, Tom's hand must extend over or under the vertical post if he wants to steady the lens with his left hand. Mary has her arm extended around the post so that she can reach around the vertical post -- an uncomfortable position.

Mary and I always have the vertical arm on our Right side. Here's why.

I suspect most photographers mount their lenses so that the vertical post, and thus the locking knob for panning and tilting, are accessible via their left hand. When I asked several photographers why they mounted their lenses in that way they responded, basically, I don't know. I guess because I'm right-handed.

Yet if you're like most shooters, you often use your LEFT hand to steady or brace your lens, extending your arm and laying your hand over the vertical post, or slipping your hand below the post, to hold the lens. To do so, the vertical post is in the way and requires a bit of contortion.

Wimberleys are designed with the idea that the locking knobs are generally not locked or tightened. They may be set so that there is some degree of drag or stiffness, but the beauty of the Wimberley is that a lens will balance itself on the gimbal swing mount without the locking knobs being tightened. Ballheads, as you may know, must be locked tight when you're not supporting a lens to prevent flop, and, if you forget and you are using a big lens, you may experience the mouse-trap effect when a big lens flops and pins a finger, thumb, or the very sensitive web of skin between the thumb and finger. I speak from experience here, and more than once I was almost literally trapped when a 600mm flopped, caught my webbing, and was in such a position that my free hand couldn't move the lens. That hurt, and required a bit of painful contorting on my part to get the lens weight off my hand so that I could free myself. That doesn't happen with a Wimberley.

Mary rightMary right 2
With the vertical post on her right, the lens is completely
accessible to Mary's left hand regardless of whether she
wants to support or guide the lens with her hand on top
of the lens or under the lens barrel. If she needs to lock the
head for any reason, she can do so with her right hand. It's unlikely
that she would be trying to shoot at that moment, while locking
down the head, regardless of the position of the post, so there
is no disadvantage to having the vertical post positioned on the
right side of the lens!

If the locking knobs of a Wimberley are rarely used, and I lock my head only when I'm about to sling the tripod and lens over my shoulder for transport, then there really isn't a need to have the locking knob available to your left hand.

By having the vertical post and locking knobs on the RIGHT side, the vertical post is completely out of the way and you have complete access for bracing a lens with your left hand. Your right hand is operating your camera -- shutter button and focusing button (if you use that back button like we do), and your left hand braces the lens.

When I showed several of our photographers our technique and they tried it the light bulb went on! They immediately saw the benefit of mounting the lens in this way and, unless they forget and go back to an old habit, they'll be shooting more comfortably and securely in the future!

Questions of the Month

How, Who, and Why? The story behind our new web site.

Archived Questions of the Month
Most of my original Questions of the Month for the last several
years are available through this link. The 'look' is from my
original web site, although if I ever have enough time I might
redo these pages to match the new web site But that's not
a high priority.