Joe and Mary Ann McDonald's

Wildlife Photography

April 2002

Tip of the Month

The Ultimate Flash Bracket

We're always looking for ways to make our life easier. And we have just found one way one important part of our life, our field photography, has become easier is with the 'discovery' of the Wimberley flash bracket system. Officially called the 'Wimberley Shape-Shifter Modular Flash Brackets,' these flash brackets are the best system I've encountered for doing macro flash afield and for doing tele-flash work. That's quite a statement.

Let's look at the tele-flash system first. Officially called 'Combo 1: The Telephoto Combo,' the bracket consists of three separate modules. Module 1 consists of a quick release plate at one end and a short forked post at the other. The quick release plate attaches to any dove-tail quick release plate, like the Really Right Stuff plate I use for my Canon 400mm F2.8 lens, or for Mary's 300mm F2.8, or either of our 100-400s or 70-200s, all of which have quick release plates.

Module 2 resembles the Module 1 but it does not have a quick release bracket. Instead, the forked end of Module 1 is attached to the screw end of Module 2, fitting quite snugly in the beveled gap of the clothespin like opening of Module 1.

Module 3 clamps into the clothespin like gap of Module 2, and is locked in place by the tightening screw. Module 3 has the flash mount, to which a flash is obviously attached.

The finished look places the flash above the telephoto or macro or zoom lens regardless of the rotation of the lens. You can get an extension post, Module 6, that raises the flash higher over the lens. So, what's different with this system over others? Because Module 1 has a quick release clamp, the whole system can be quickly and easily removed from the quick release plate of whatever lens is in use. One of the problems with other flash arms is that they are attached to a quick release plate by screws, and it takes a bit of time, sometimes minutes, to either remove (a quick process) or reattach (potentially a slow process). With this system, by simply loosening the quick release clamp the entire flash system can be detached. If, instead, I'd rather keep Module 1 attached, I can loosen the screw holding Module 2 or Module 3.

Illustrated, Left, is the Tele-Combo, Combo 1, that will attach directly to your dove-tail quick release plate, allowing you to mount the entire assembly onto your quick-release head. The lens plate must be long enough so that there is room for Module 1, the quick release clamp, and the Quick Release clamp of your ball head, too. When a flash is not needed, simply loosen the clamp of Module 1 and slide off the entire assembly.

This is a tremendous plus for packing a telephoto with a flash bracket, because I can now slip my telephoto into a long lens case easily, by first removing the bracket. On safari, I envision having the entire Modular flash system built but laying in my gadget bag or on one of the vehicle's seats, and having my telephoto in my Kinesis or Lowepro long lens case (my choice depends upon the lens I'm using). Most of the time I do not need to use flash, but usually I have a flash arm attached to my telephoto so that if I need to use flash, I have my bracket already attached. However, this does cause a bit of a problem in slipping my lens in and out of the bag. It will be much easier to keep the bracket off, and to attach it only when needed.


The Wimberley Head Flash Bracket, illustrated below, allows you to add the flash bracket to the gimbal-style Wimberley Head. When a flash is not needed, simply loosen the quick release clamp and the entire assembly will slide off the Wimberley Head.



The Macro Combo consists of two units, Module 1, which has the quick release plate that attaches to your quick release plate (either on the lens or on the camera) and Module 4, which is a pair of double ball-and-socket arms that lock independently of each other and allow an incredible amount of flexibility. Previously I described Canon's Macro Twin Lite MT-24EX, which I love, and I was wondering if I could incorporate the Macro Combo with this system. The Macro Twin Lite attaches to my 180mm macro lens by the lens' filter thread, and doesn't need an arm. Granted, I could put one of the twin lites onto the Macro Combo for greater flexibility than the twin light's flash shoes provide, but I felt that might be overkill for much of my work.

Instead, I experimented with placing my Canon 550EX flash onto the Macro Combo, and placing the Combo's arm out far enough so that the Wireless TTL transmitter of the 24EX could trigger the Canon 550EX flash. To do so, of course, I had to mount the flash backward so that the flash's wireless sensor faced the 24EX, while the flash head was rotated at much as 180 degrees to face forward.

Why bother, you might ask. Well, the twin lights will be perfect for illuminating macro closeups, but as you may know, light fall off is especially pronounced with macro. Why? Inverse Square Law, which states that as you double the distance from a light source, you quarter the quantity of light. If my twin lites are 12 inches from my subject, and a background is 24 inches further back, the background would be 3 stops darker. The Math: 12" to the subject, another 12" is two stops, for a total of 24 inches. But the subject is 24 inches behind the subject, not 12, so we have to add another 12 inches and that's 1 more stop.

With the Macro Combo I can aim my 550EX flash on a distance background, control the flash ratio so that it is -1 or -1.7, and 'fill in' the background so that it does not go black. Of course, if I need more power than the 24EX can provide I'll just juse the 550EX flash with the Macro Combo.




You can screw your off-camera TTL cable directly onto the flash end of the Macro Combo bracket. However, if you try the system I just described, where you are doing wireless TTL, the off-camera cable won't work because the 24EX twin lights control console is attached to the camera's hotshoe. To attach the 550EX flash to the bracket, you'll need an accessory flash hotshoe mounter. I use a really nifty one that is produced by StroboFrame, that has a screw clamp that functions similarly to a quick release clamp to lock onto the flash shoe.


Illustrated, Left, is the Macro Combo (Module 1 and 4) used in conjunction with the Canon 24EX twin light. The combo is clamped onto the long lens plate of my lens, and the flash is rotated so that the red plastic face of the 550EX flash is facing the control console of the 24EX flash. The Flash head of the 550EX flash is rotated 180 degrees to face forward. In this combination, the twin lights illuminate the subject and the 550EX flash casts light onto the background. This keeps the background from going black -- so, flash photos of diurnal subjects like butterflies will now have an illuminated background -- not a black one!



You can also attach the Macro Combo to the Telephoto, using Modules 1,2,3, and 4 -- the pieces I just described. Wimberley's website, illustrates all of the above equipment and the link illustrates this setup.

If you have a Wimberley Head, or the SideKick, you can attach a flash system directly to the heads via different modules which are described in their website and also in their catalog.

Good equipment can give you the 'psych' to go out and take great pictures. If it's easy to use your gear -- like using a flash with your telephoto when on safari, or when you're shooting macro, or when you're using a twin lite system and a 550EX flash -- then your images comes easier and you make better shots. Nothing takes the fun out of shooting more than weight or effort -- and the Wimberley flash bracket system has, through brilliant design, put all the fun back in.

Do YOU have a Photo Tip or Natural History Tip you'd like to pass along? If you do, please send it to our email address (below), and under the subject field for the email type "Proposed Tip of the Month." Can't promise you that we'll use your tip but we may. If we do, I'll elaborate on the text, I'm sure, but I'll be crediting the submitter unless otherwise requested. Thanks!

Our Past Photo Tips of the Month:

  Aug./Sept.,1999  Nov./Dec.,1999   Dec./Jan.,2000
 Feb./March, 2000  April/May, 2000  June/July 2000
 July/August 2000  September 2000  Oct./Nov. 2000
 December 2000  January 2001  Feb//March 2001
 April/May 2001   June 2001   July-August 2001
 September-October 2001  November 2001   Dec 2001 Jan 2002
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