Sand Springs, Osage County, Oklahoma, USA
March 29, 2009
Many times with very small critters my 100mm lens is maxed out on the small end. When this happens when using a monopod all that's left to do is rock the monopod back and forth until the focus locks on. And, if you're using a tripod this can be all but impossible, or at the very least, very difficult.
So, I came up with this contraption. I call it the "SideWinder". Basically I bought a cheap tripod (cheap because I knew I would be taking it apart), a formed metal bracket, a couple of bolts and nuts, and a little imagination.
Now I have a "horizontal tripod". It will mount to any tripod because you utilize the tripod clip that comes with your tripod. It just screws into the bottom of the metal clip I made. With this configuration I can use a tripod for stability but still get to the little critters by cranking it in or out until the focus locks. It can also be used on a short tripod and the camera turned vertical to go over the top of an ant bed or any critter on the ground. You can even shoot pictures around a corner with it by turning the camera sideways.
The biggest challenge for the SideWinder was to get everything solid enough to withstand the torque that is applied at the mounting bracket, especially when it's extended way out. The further out you extend it the greater the force will be at the mount, which sort of becomes a fulcrum. I tried several different ways of attaching the SideWinder to the tripod but all failed due to the loads applied at the attachment because of the weight of the camera. Finally I happened on to the idea of forming a metal bracket and bolting it to the leg attachment points of the disassembled horizontal tripod. Now it is very stable and secure. However, because of the weight of the camera and the forces applied, the SideWinder wanted to pull itself out of the main tripod. To counteract this I used a bungee cord attached to one leg of the main tripod and hooked the loose end to the opposite end of the SideWinder. A counterweight would work just as well but I like the stability of the bungee cord. Not only that but the SideWinder can be tilted up or down at any angle so you want to be able to have flexibility when doing this and the bungee cord gives you that flexibility. I wrapped it around the main tripod leg several times then stretched the loose end up to hook into the SideWinder. Bingo! Now I have a tripod that will adjust both vertically and horizontally. Pretty cool!
I don't know if such contraptions exist by camera or tripod manufacturers. I haven't seen any. I know there are focusing rails and such but I needed something light weight, portable, and that would attach to any tripod I might use it on. The SideWinder fits all of these requirements. I hope to be able to find a flowering bush or tree and be able to get as close as necessary to whatever critters there might be just by cranking the camera in and out without scaring the critters. Or get some better pics of ant hills. Or be able to crank the SideWinder as close as I want to flies, wasps, or bees, without scaring them away.
I haven't used it yet in photographing any critters but this spring and summer I plan to put it through it's paces.
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