Joe and Mary Ann McDonald's

Wildlife Photography

October/November 2004

Tip of the Month

The L-Bracket, the Ultimate bumper

Recently I ordered a camera plate for Mary's new 1D Mark II digital camera. Although I meant to order the small plate, I didn't, and instead had a new L bracket from Really Right Stuff. Two of our cameras already had L-brackets, and, since weight is a concern for Mary, I switched my camera plate to her Mark II and I mounted the new L-bracket on my Mark II, giving me an L-bracket for both of my digital cameras. That was a bit of redundancy for me since I use the L-bracket for shooting with short lenses, and my Mark II is dedicated to macro work and super telephoto work where the lenses I use all have tripod collars. Still, I suspected it would be convenient to have for the rare occasion when I needed to use a small lens.

In a previous tip, Save Your Equipment from Crashing!, I discussed the importance of double-checking your system when you pick up your gear. Well ... in Yellowstone, as I hurriedly mounted my 600mm onto my Wimberley tripod head, I did not do what I preach. Instead, as I locked down the quick-release plate, I closed the clamp on an empty space -- the lens plate was canted and outside of the clamp. Fortunately, I didn't pick up the rig and throw it over my shoulder to carry the tripod, as the jay I intended to photograph was only a short distance away and it was more convenient to keep the legs out and to carry the system by the legs in an upright position. Of course, I no sooner lifted the rig when I felt the jolt as the lens and camera slipped off, and for the next two or three seconds I bobbled the lens, trying to get a grasp on it while encumbered with a tripod between my arms. I didn't succeed, and the lens flipped forward toward the paved parking lot. In desperation, as it neared the ground I stuck out my leg to break the fall and change the momentum, in effect kicking it forward. Mary said the camera hit the ground first, then BOUNCED forward, and the front of the 600mm hit the ground.

In less than 2 weeks I would be in Africa, and that thought zipped through my head as I saw my camera flip free of the lens, which now lay quietly on the pavement. How will I get this stuff repaired in time? How stupid!

Checking my gear, I discovered that the camera separated from the lens at the converter. I had mounted a brand new 1.4X II onto the system, and it was the front mounting mechanism that snapped free. The converter was still attached to the camera, but the front mount was shattered and attached to the lens. In my feverish state I couldn't tell if I was looking at the guts of the big lens or the converter, or if the converter mount could be released, but within a few seconds I freed the mount and, to my absolute amazement, found that the lens was not broken. I'll tell you, looking into a 600mm and expected to see a cracked lens is not a pleasant experience!

Next, I checked my camera, and snapped the shutter. It fired. I removed the ruined converter and mounted the camera on the lens. It worked -- everything worked! I had really dodged a bullet.

Remarkably, however, there wasn't a scratch on the camera body. Not a one. Instead, that L-bracket I purchased by mistake from Really Right Stuff had caught the metal pavement both times, scuffing the metal finish with deep gashes that probably would have cracked the camera body. Of course, the bracket was still perfectly usable, only it is more treasured now.

So, two tips here. One, read Save Your Equipment from Crashing! so you don't do the same stupid thing I did. And Two, get an L-bracket. Not only is it a great tool for shooting verticals without changing your perspective (the reason for its design), but you can see that it can act as a great bumper for the clumsy. Best money I spent in a long time!




Our Past Photo Tips of the Month:


  DIGITAL- Digital Birding

 DIGITAL -Shoot for the Future

DIGITAL-Shoot for the Future, Part II

 DIGITAL Photographing scenes with extreme exposure values

 NPN- Nature Photography Network - a digital forum for nature photography

 Digital Pro Image Management Software

 Watch Your Backgrounds
The potential of composites or shooting in RAW format

 A Great Website for Information - the Singapore Nature Photography Society

 Save Your Equipment from Crashing!

 Ask Questions
Before You Go

 Seize the Moment!

Geared Focusing Rail for Macro Work 

 Protecting your long lens from SAND, the pleasures of beach photography

 How do we protect our gear from dust, and carry our gear when on safari

 The Ultimate Flash Bracket
Padding Your Wimberley
Tripod Head

  Specular highlights and the flashing frog
 Using TTL flash with Hummingbirds  Testing your Flash's Aim
Maximum Depth of Field and Hyperfocal Distance - they're not the same thing!  If you see it, it's too late -- a lesson in anticipation  How do you shoot the Moon?
  Low level tripod work  A great depth of field guide  Wimberley 400 and 600mm IS plate

 Sigma's 120-300mm F2.8 APO HSM zoom lens

 Using The Wimberley Gimbal head with a camera body

 Sigma's 120-300 f2.8 APO
zoom telephoto lens

 Custom Function 4-1 for Nikon and Canon shooters

 Sighting in a very, very long lens
 The Nature Photography Network - a super website for images and information
  Take a Workshop First   Luck, what is it?  Don't take in baby wild animals

  Airline Carry-On Luggage -Let your concerns be heard!

 Disconnect -- travel precautions

Photograph America Newsletter
 Wildlife Portraiture

 Obey the Rules
The Ti Chi Stalk
Photographing Critically Endangered Sites Bushnell Night Vision Optics  Adobe Photoshop 7 for $300

 The Sibley Bird Guides

 Removing Cactus Spines

 Drying out boots with newspaper

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