Joe and Mary Ann McDonald's

Wildlife Photography

October/November 2004

Question of the Month

What is the best car window mount?


Quite simply, it is the 'Molar,' a uniquely designed bag that, when empty, resembles an artist's rendition of a molar tooth. Filled the bag looks more like a Mastodon's molar than a human molar, but I think you can visual its shape.

The beauty of the molar bag is that the 'roots' hang over each side of a car window frame, resting securely on the sill. The entire bag is filled with beans or bird seed, including the top, which creates a very secure lens mount.


For years I've used L.L.Rue's groofwinpod on our trips to Africa, and I really liked the product. Still do, in fact, but there's certainly differences between using a groofwinpod and a Molar.

The molar bag transports easily, as it can be shipped empty. Our groofwinpods are metal, and heavy, and inconvenient to pack. The groofwinpod is lighter than the Molar when the Molar is filled, but that's not a concern for me when I'm afield.

The groofwinpod allows a tripod head to be screwed onto the pod so that a Wimberley head or a standard ballhead can be used for smooth panning. There are no mounting mechanisms for the Molar.

However, I never used a ballhead on my Africa trips, nor when I carried my groofwinpods afield in the US. It was simply more convenient to lay a beanbag atop the 'pod and to rest a lens on the bag. In fact, I felt it was sturdier and had less chance of vibrations since I was minimizing metal to metal contacts.

Metal 'pods can scratch the paint off a car door -- something my African drivers always complained about, but the nylon Molar won't mar a finish. The 'roots' of the molar securely anchor the bag -- on my test trial trip to the Serengeti the bag stayed in place on every game drive, never bouncing off as can happen with a 'pod.

The Molar provides an extremely stable lens platform, with a long enough and wide enough top to securely anchor a long lens. I maximize the stability of my system by using Wimberley's Module One's so that the lens cannot roll left or right. The Modules make a perfect lens foot that really 'seats' the lens.

While a ballhead or Wimberley tripod head certainly enhances the opportunity for smooth pans when mounted upon a 'pod, I don't use one when I'm shooting from a vehicle. Frankly, I just find it too inconvenient, and I've found that sliding a lens across a beanbag (sometimes by lightly lifting the camera end of the rig) has worked sufficiently well for me to not require the extra trouble. I shoot this way ALL the time without difficulty, so I don't think this is an issue.

Left: A closeup of two Module Ones, showing the correct placement of the modules so that a lens does not roll. On the ground, or on a rooftop, the Molar can be used in this position, with a lens nestled into the V of the roots, or laid across both roots in a perpendicular fashion.

The Molar can also be used on the top of a vehicle (sunhatch or safari open top), although filled, the bag is heavy so you'll be getting some exercise if you plan on moving the bag around. For my Africa trips I'll still be using my well-used nylon beanbags made by Kinesis and Vested Interest for the rooftop, but I'll be replacing the groofwinpods with my new Molar bags.

At home, I'll have a molar bag in my vehicle. I fill my bag with bird seed, which works just as well as beans, but gives me an instant bait should I need to spread some seed out to lure in birds or mammals. On a trip, if filling a beanbag with seed or rice or beans is a problem, one could use some rounded rocks (wrapped in a sock to prevent wear) to anchor the roots of the Molar, and then filling the remaining space with beans or rice or birdseed. Plastic beads would work as well, but personally I prefer to use something organic in case I get a spill -- swept out of my car, the organic fillers will be eaten by somebody.

There have been a few products that we liked well enough to offer to sell directly from our office, and this is certainly one of them. We're selling the Molar -- $39 plus S/H, and if you're interested, please contact our office by phone or email. It is the ultimate window mount.





Previous Questions of the Month




 Camera Techniques

 In the Field

How can you capture a sharp image and angel hair on a windy day?

 How would you meter these images?

 Why should you know Manual Mode? 

  The Sunny 16 rule -- is it worth knowing today?

  How do you shoot silhouettes?

 How would you meter these challenging images?

 Who should go Digital,
and when?

 What do we really think about digital photography?

 What do we think of the Canon D30 digital camera?

 How long will film be around?

 Is the Mark II the ultimate wildlife digital camera?
 How can you reduce contrast and the effect of wind for flower and macro photography?

 What is the best season to do a photo safari in East Africa?

 What is our initial Digital Workflow?

 What is our Digital Workflow in the Lab?

 Is Shooting in the RAW format worthwhile?

 Is an L-Shaped Camera Bracket worth the Money?
You bet it is!

 Using Zoom lenses with tele-converters and extension tubes -- can you use both together?

 What the heck is the Scheimpflug Law?

  Reciprocity Failure

 What is the Best Composition?

 Are Image Stabilization Lenses Worth the Money?

 Hyperfocal Distance

  How do you determine distances?

 Should you have a depth of field Preview button on your camera?

 Flash and Tele-flash Techniques

 What is the most versatile remote release camera firing system?

 What the heck is a Plamp?

 What is the best flash for closeup and
macro photography?

 How do you shoot high-speed action images?
 How did I photograph that flying wasp?

 What is the Fotronix's
Flash System?

 What Film Lab do we use, and why?

 Is Digital Manipulation - a benign alternative to interacting in the natural world?

What is the Big Lie?
Tfhe truth about Kenya's Tourism--it is SAFE!

 How can you attract insectivorous birds to your feeding stations and bait sites?

 How do you make things happen in wildlife photography?
 What is our Favorite bird-shooting location?  What are our Five Favorite Shooting Locales?  Which binoculars do we just love to use?

How Easy is Whale Photography?

 What is the best
Game Caller?

  How do we carry our film when traveling?
 Is NANPA for you?  What is NANPA and how will it benefit me?

 Is it time for a summer NANPA Summit?

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