Dick’s Rant

Some years ago, the pistol grip  was a popular thing. You saw them on a lot of things; umbrellas, stick shifts, and .44 Army Colts amongst other things. They also appeared on photographic ball heads. The idea was that the pistol grip would make it easier to point a camera and lens on the ball head for action shots. You saw advertisements for these grips with long birding  or sports lenses. We sold several varieties - I remember them from Italian and Japanese makers. They may still be made. There is a new head in the Stirling Street  shop that is along these lines - but with a very important improvement. It is all to do with ergonomics. The Vanguard Alta GH-100 hs a lot of the same features as the older rivals; adjustable grip angle, centralised weight over the tripod, quick release plate, etc. But it scores a new point with an improved ergonomic feature - the release mechanism no longer involves opening your hand to open the lock. You can keep a very firm grip on the whole structure while releasing...

And not with your leg. Choose a photo accessory, a candy cane, and a mandarin. ( Note: This post is late. But Christmas 2022 is a long way away and you can make use of the 3-Legged Thing accessories all year long. Go pick one up and just smuggle it into the house. ) In this case, you can combine the three with a candy cane-shaped photo accessory in a bright orange colour. The 3 Legged Thing Ellie - the universal L-mount for cameras. Universal because it has an adjustable length - there are two steel bars within the casting that allow you to slide it open  - and then lock it solid  - to match the base-plate length of your camera. This is far better than rigid plates that are cast differently for each model of camera - when you switch or upgrade the Ellie just goes right along with you to your new camera. Those rails are Arca-Swiss size, both horizontal and vertical. You'll note the rubber grip pads on this example - it's the Ellie Short. There is a wider version...

You get best wishes for the holidays from the column writer. He is currently looking at the clock and trying to figure out when to turn the oven on for the roast dinner. On the hottest day of the year. The dinner will be basted with a mixture of trepidation, perspiration, and garlic. Tomorrow is Boxing Day and if it was all on before, it will all be on again. The adventurous will go surfing and shopping - the rest of us will cocoon up in the coldest room of the house and either watch Bond movies, read holiday gift books, or build model airplanes. There will be leftovers. I pray for hungry visitors upon which I can unload them....

And its stuffing. A final guide to Christmas surprises. Many things are Christmas surprises. People buy garments on-line that they would be ashamed to put on their washing line. People buy tiny puppies without looking at the size of their feet and are surprised six months later at what runs through the house knocking over furniture. Family dinners can resemble something from either Dickens or Machiavelli. You just never know. If you would make your holiday giving into happy surprises look for odd things that are helpful. Here are three to consider: a. Lume Cubes. Mount these on your mirrorless camera, vlogging camera, or smartphone for a quick and easy solution to lighting. I have one on a stalk that sits to the side of my X -T2 when I record video - it's not the main light for anything but it is a great catchlight for eyes and a good way to pump enough light out for the autofocus mechanism to work. You can get filters, diffusers, and other accessories and the battery life is stupendous - I can do a whole dance show...

And when better than at Christmas time. If we need a family picture with all of us in it - and not missing the photographer yet again - we need a helping hand. Or three helping legs, as it happens. The Christmas dinner table can support more than the turkey and salad - it can hold up a table tripod. If you have a good big tripod that you use for studio shots, wildflowers, or landscape shots by all means take it to the family gathering and set your camera up on it. Activate the 10-second self timer and run round to your place at the edge of the family group for the photo. No matter how bad you look, it will be a precious memory. That's if it is in focus and no-one moves. If it is a technical failure big-time, you have a problem. Not only is it a memory lost, but you lost it...

You can keep your turkey and mistletoe. You can keep your carollers and eggnog. I only recognise it as Christmas when the Steadepods come out on the shelf. The Steadepod camera support has been a staple item for Camera Electronics as long as I have been working with the firm. It may be far older than this - for all we know there may be pictures of Keith Richards using one to photograph dinosaurs. It is a sales item that returns every year like swallows or Canada geese - and unlike those birds, Steadepods are safe to look up at as they fly over. The idea may have occurred to the inventor from some military harness, or perhaps from a retractable tape measure. However it came about, it is a very clever solution to the problem of steady shooting or filming for the travelling photographer. And you needn't travel very far - this is the sort of camera accessory that can be used in the tightest of places. I said it was a support, but that's not strictly true - you don't set...

Let's face it - Christmas time is when people loose their heads a lot. Some do it by overspending or drinking too much or footling about at holiday parties. Some do it by surfing onto the rocks.  And some do it when taking photos. We've all bought a camera before - and in most cases it has come with a camera strap of some sort. The dear old Kodaks had woven cotton string loops and the even dearer old Leicas had very carefully-dressed leather ones. The SLR's had faux-leather bands and the DSLR's had faux-cotton tape ones. But they all had one thing in common: Eventually they sawed your neck in half and your head fell off. How many times have you came back from a photo safari just to sit there in the hospital waiting room with your head in your lap and the other patients giving you weird looks...