This week I thought I would share a couple of cheap and really useful pieces of gear. To please everyone, there are three options here: an off the shelf/industry standard solution, an inexpensive and easy DIY option, and a piece that you can either make or buy. First up is the Bogan Super Clamp.
An in depth post about this guy is available at the STROBIST site. These things are awesome! Basically, there are a ton of uses for 'em. They let you mount and join things together and are generally the best solution for makeshift light mounts. They can clamp to anything up to 2" wide, pipes, doors, whatever you can think of. The back side accepts a standard 5/8" stud, meaning that they are compatible with a wide range of the other pieces of grip gear like camera and hotshoe flash mounts. Chase Jarvis uses these things to put remote cameras on all sorts of things. I have used them to mount lights on boat towers, bikes, and even cars. The original super clamp is manufactured by Manfrotto but there are a bunch of other places that sell them under various brands, including this Impact clamp sold by B+H Photo and this Flashpoint one by Adorama. I have heard mixed reviews on the budget model clamps with some raving about them and some complaining of failure. My feeling is that the Manfrotto clamps are pretty cheap already and I would rather spend the extra few buck then drop and camera or light. All my clamps are marked Manfrotto and I have not had one fail yet (knock on wood).
Option 2: A-clamp
The alternative to the store bought clamp is this lighter-duty DIY version. Now, there is no way that this clamp will hold a dSLR with any sort of security, but it will hold a hotshoe flash to a railing with little trouble. I explained how to build one of your own in THIS post but you should be able to tell how it was made just by looking at it. I took an inexpensive A-clamp from HOME DEPOT and drilled a 3/8" hole in the handle to allow a MINI BALL HEAD to be attached. You could go as cheap or as pricy as you want with either of these parts, my clamps cost about $11 each with the parts shown and work pretty well.
Even if you don't build a few of these for your self you should definitely pick up a few of those green clamps to put in your bag, infinitely useful.
The last piece is an accessory for the other two. This is something that most people don't think about until disaster strikes. The safety wire is really a no brainer, and is so cheap that there is no reason not to use 'em. Basically a safety wire is a length of cable with a small carabiner on each end. I allow a essentially unbreakable connection between the flash or camera and the solid object that it is clamped to. This is important if the clamp slips or is bumped, especially if clamped up high were it may drop and injure someone. In some cases the location or production that you are working at may require them for safety/liability reason.
If you care to make your own I would use 1/16" or 1/8" wire rope and a carabiner that is rated at least 5X the max load that the cable with support. The cable and the connectors are cheap so don't skimp the the weight rating. I cut 30" lengths of cable and crimped loops on the ends for the carabiners, then I slipped a short length of shrink tubing over the ends of the cable to keep it from fraying.
So now we have a few alternative ways of mounting gear to fixed (or moving) objects, and a way to add a little security to the operation.
Next up? Who knows, I'll think about it and get back to you.