We Tried It
The Wimberley Plamp
What's a Plamp you ask? That's a contraction for Plant Clamp from the folks who make the very specialized and useful gimbal mounted telephoto lens suspension systems. Since many people who use the long lens mounts are nature photographers, it was only natural to come up with a new device designed primarily for those working with tripods in the field. However, I can envision many other applications in general studio photography. An extremely flexible clamp is practically indispensable for placing small reflectors to obtain proper reflected highlights, or to suspend something in the set above the product you are photographing.
The Plamp is an articulated arm designed to hold macro subjects motionless when tight, accurate focus is extremely critical. Simply attach the larger spring clamp onto a leg of your tripod and the smaller green clamp grasps the object to hold it steady. The most apparent application would be to steady a flower blossom or plant that is bobbing in the wind when you want to make a detailed close-up shot of the object. Focus is critical for this type of macro work and since a slow shutter speed is often used, any movement of the subject could blur the resulting image.
You could also use the Plamp to slightly bend the flower for better lighting or a more suitable background than what is naturally occurring at the time of the exposure. Or you could make slight adjustments in the position of the subject within the narrow plane of sharp focus to achieve the out of focus background you seek. Additionally, for those purists who don't like to disturb nature by cutting off offending surroundings, you could use the Plamp to hold disturbing background items temporarily out of the way. Frequently a small foil or white card reflector is needed to provide a bit of fill light, and this too could be held and positioned properly by this device. It could also hold a graduated, or other filter, in front the camera lens if the correct holder is not available.
The larger clamp can be attached to anything that will fit into the spring-loaded jaw which opens slightly more than 1". Incidentally, the inner section of the jaw has serrated edges for a tight grip and flexible plastic lips to prevent scratches. It should fit practically any tripod as well as small tree branches, furniture, stakes in the ground, heavy vegetation, or a studio tabletop platform.
At the other end of the arm is a green plastic clamp that's operated by squeezing the middle part of the oval together to make the narrow end open. This reveals two sizes of small round openings suitable to clamp around the narrow stem of a flower. This clamp also swivels 360 degrees so you can literally position it anyway you like.
The 19" long articulated arm of the Plamp is made of LOC-LINE ball-and-socket segmented tubing that is stiff, yet very flexible. It was designed for use with a 90mm macro lens but is a few inches longer than what was needed so you can easily place it behind or around the small object in front of the macro lens working at about 1:1. If you don't need the extra length, you can easily shorten it. Simply bend the flexible arm sharply until is snaps in two--then remove the lengths you don't need--and reconnect the pieces. It does take some force to reconnect them, but this can be made easier by warming the socket end in hot water or on your car on a hot day. This causes the plastic socket to expand and makes it easier to pop the ball on the end of the other section into place.
Naturally, I obtained my sample in the middle of winter, when no outdoor nature subjects were available, but I was able to use the Plamp in my basement studio where it performed admirably. It is practically the elusive "sky hook" type of accessory that you always need when you have a complex group of small products or objects to photograph. I could clamp it onto my old tilt-top drafting table to precisely position a small reflector to get just the right highlight on some chrome, or hold masking cardboard over a product that needed some shading from the harsh studio lights.
The Plamp seems to be well made and should last a long time under most any outdoor or interior shooting situation. Since it is almost entirely made of plastic, weather should not adversely affect it. I can envision many situations where this flexible clamp would be a decided asset. When folded it takes up little room in a gadget bag so you can easily carry it along with you. One or more of these handy little accessories would be an asset for any nature close-up situation or studio use primarily when shooting tabletop views of small products.
The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price is $36.95 plus $2 shipping and handling for one unit. It can be supplied with the larger squeeze clamp on both ends if this configuration suits your needs better. Contact Wimberley, 974 Baker Ln., Winchester, VA 22603; (540) 665-2744; www.tripodhead.com.
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