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Wimberley Sidekick_4769

As a landscape photographer I do not really have a need for a full gimbal style tripod head, however, on more than one occasion I do recall wishing for such functionality in a tripod head with some of the wildlife encounters I stumble upon while shooting landscape imagery. Enter the Wimberley Sidekick. The Sidekick is designed to convert any ball head into a gimbal-style tripod head in seconds and is available from Wimberley. The Sidekick is light weight at 1.3 lbs and can easily fit into a gear bag or the large pockets of cargo-style pants (as I do with my Sidekick). I find the Sidekick to be particularly useful when I am using my Nikon 200-500mm lens. It would also be highly useful for other folks that are using other super-zooms such as the Sigma 150-600mm lenses or the Tamron 150-600mm lens. Although super-zooms are designed to be relatively light weight they do still weigh in at 5-7 lbs (when handholding this gets heavy and can cause arm strain after awhile, especially if you suffer from tennis elbow), by adding a Sidekick to a ballhead the strain of supporting the gear is completely eliminated and you can effortlessly track and photograph you wildlife subjects.

Wimberley Sidekick attached to ballhead with Nikon 200-500mm lens mounted on a Nikon D800

Wimberley Sidekick attached to ballhead with Nikon 200-500mm lens mounted on a Nikon D800

When fitting a super-zoom set-up to the Wimberley Sidekick you will need to slide the lens’ tripod foot in the Sidekick’s quick release mechanism to find the optimum balance for the gear depending on what focal length you have the lens zoomed too. To effectively balance your rig you may need to purchase a long lens plate such as those available from Wimberley here. I am typically using the lens at it’s 500mm focal length for the wildlife subjects I am photographing, so balancing the set-up is usually required once and then I am good to go. To use this set-up you must flop the ballhead into the vertical position and then insert the Sidekick and lock the ballhead’s quick release mechanism. Position the lens and camera in the Sidekick’s quick release mechanism, balance the set-up and lock down the quick release mechanism. Once proper balance is set you can loosen the ballhead’s panning knob and the Sidekick’s five-lobed soft touch knob. You should now be able to freely and effortlessly move the gear around, in all directions, without fear of the lens flopping up or down because it is perfectly balance within the gimbal style set-up.

The convenience of this small, light weight accessory to convert my ballhead into a gimbal type tripod head is a huge advantage for me in the field. I never leave home or head down a trail without it. I can make the switch from photographing landscapes to wildlife in seconds, which can often translate into getting the shot or missing the shot.

Below are a few images that I have created over the last several months of using the Wimberley Sidekick with my Nikon 200-500mm lens:

Do click on each image to view the sharper, larger versions.

My dog Koko.  She is often my guinea pig for new photo gear when the need arises.

My dog Koko.
She is often my guinea pig for new photo gear when the need arises.

 

Common Loons at Tiny Marsh Elmvale, Ontario, Canada

Common Loons at Tiny Marsh
Elmvale, Ontario, Canada

 

Blue Jay Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, CAnada.

Blue Jay
Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada.

 

Gray Jay Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada

Gray Jay
Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada

 

Pine Marten Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada

Pine Marten
Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada

 

Female Northern Cardinal in Winter Thornton, Ontario, Canada

Female Northern Cardinal in Winter
Thornton, Ontario, Canada

 

Red Squirrel Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada

Red Squirrel
Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada

 

Common Loon Horseshoe Lake, Ontario, Canada

Common Loon
Horseshoe Lake, Ontario, Canada

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Spring Peeper Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens ISO 400, f22 @ 1/60 sec Nikon SB400 Speedlight on a Wimberley F-2 Macro Flash Bracket

Spring Peeper
Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens
ISO 400, f22 @ 1/60 sec
Nikon SB400 Speedlight on a Wimberley F-2 Macro Flash Bracket

 

About one and a half weeks ago the temperatures around my home warmed up enough to lure the first frogs out of hibernation and into the vernal ponds to chorus. As usual I grabbed my chest waders and jumped into the pond. The first frogs to emerge around my home are the Chorus Frogs, Spring Peeper, and Wood Frog. I had great success with each of these species, including an interesting encounter whereby two male Wood Frogs had mistaken a pair of Spring Peepers, in amplexus, as potential mates. I was also able to locate my first ever pair of Chorus Frogs in amplexus. A couple of nights ago the temperatures rose high enough to bring out the Northern Leopard Frogs (I was able to photograph an awesome grayish-brown phase specimen), which filled the night air with their guttural snore-like song. The American Toads have also emerged, but have yet to start singing. With the next several nights destined to be cooler than normal, with the risk of snow flurries, the ponds will go silent again until things warm up again. Here are a few of my newest images from my outings to the vernal ponds this season.

You may notice in some of these images that my ISO was set at 400. This was my bad as my default setting is always ISO 100 for such imagery. This is a reminder to me to remember to double check my camera settings each time I head out to the ponds. The iTTL flash ensured correct flash exposure even though I forgot to reduce the ISO from 400 down to 100.

Chorus Frogs in Amplexus Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens ISO 400, f22 @ 1/60 sec  Nikon SB400 Speedlight on a Wimberely F-2 Macro Bracket

Chorus Frogs in Amplexus
Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens
ISO 400, f22 @ 1/60 sec
Nikon SB400 Speedlight on a Wimberely F-2 Macro Bracket

 

Wood Frog Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens ISO 100, f22 @ 1/60 sec Nikon SB400 Speedlight on a Wimberley F-2 Macro Bracket

Wood Frog
Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens
ISO 100, f22 @ 1/60 sec
Nikon SB400 Speedlight on a Wimberley F-2 Macro Bracket

 

Wood Frogs grasping onto Spring Peepers in Amplexus Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens ISO 400, f22 @ 1/60 sec Nikon SB400 Speedlight on a Wimberely F-2 Macro Bracket

Wood Frogs Grasping onto Spring Peepers in Amplexus
Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens
ISO 400, f22 @ 1/60 sec
Nikon SB400 Speedlight on a Wimberely F-2 Macro Bracket

 

Wood Frogs grasping onto Spring Peepers in Amplexus Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micor Lens ISO 400, f22 @ 1/60 sec. Nikon SB400 Speedlight on a Wimberely F-2 Macro Bracket

Wood Frogs Grasping onto Spring Peepers in Amplexus (the second Wood Frog and Spring Peeper are beneath the water in this capture)
Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens
ISO 400, f22 @ 1/60 sec.
Nikon SB400 Speedlight on a Wimberely F-2 Macro Bracket

 

Wood Frog Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens ISO 100, f22 @ 1/60 sec Nikon SB400 Speedlight on a Wimberley F-2 Macro Bracket

Wood Frog
Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens
ISO 100, f22 @ 1/60 sec
Nikon SB400 Speedlight on a Wimberley F-2 Macro Bracket

 

Northern Leopard Frog Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens ISO 100, f22 @ 1/60 sec Nikon SB400 Speedlight on a Wimberely F-2 Macro Bracket

Northern Leopard Frog
Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens
ISO 100, f22 @ 1/60 sec
Nikon SB400 Speedlight on a Wimberely F-2 Macro Bracket

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Wimberley Macro Flash Bracket – Single-Arm Set-up

For many years I have relied on a home-made flash bracket for photographing frogs and toads and butterflies. This bracket was constructed from aluminum strapping purchased at a local hardware store. The design was quite simple and the bracket was easily made. In fact, I simply followed John Shaw’s instructions on how to make such a bracket in “The Nature Photographer’s Complete Guide to Professional Field Techniques” that was first published in 1984. This home-made bracket has served me well over the years and certainly allowed me to capture many of my most cherished frog images, however, this bracket also had its share of issues. I often found it awkward to carry in the field as it would not store easily in my gear bag, the weight of the flash would cause the bracket to sway, and I disliked having to hold it during long hikes. Enter the Wimberley Macro Flash Bracket – Single-Arm Set-up, which is by far the best design and the most user friendly macro flash bracket on the market today. A couple of months ago Wimberley was kind enough to supply me with a Macro Flash Bracket – Single-Arm Set-up for my frog and toad photography this season. I have given this flash bracket a thorough workout and can honestly not find a single issue with it or its design. One of the things I like best about this bracket is that it will fold down to a small enough size that I can fit it into my back pocket or a jacket pocket for carrying convenience, I can position the flash in any direction I wish thanks to the multi-jointed design,  and once the locking knobs are tightened the bracket is rock solid.

What I like most of all about this flash bracket is the multi-jointed design that literally allows you to position the flash in any position desired to obtain optimal light on the subject. I find it particularly useful for capturing Gray’s Treefrogs chorusing from tree branches over-hanging the breeding pools or hiding under small over-hangs at the pond’s edge.. I can simply position the flash around any branches or up under the over-hang that may be in the way to get the flash where I need it to be for the image, with my home-made bracket and many other commercially available brackets this is not possible, and if your bracket should by chance bump the branch that the frog is sitting on you have just lost your shot. In the above image you will see the Wimberley Macro Flash Bracket – Single-Arm Set-up as I use it with the M-8 Perpendicular Plate attached. The M-8 Perpendicular Plate will allow you to position the flash bracket a little further out and make the bracket more user friendly than it already is and it will allow you to add a second Single-Arm Set-up for a dual macro flash system if you prefer to use two flashes for your macro work. Check out the pdf instructions for the Macro Flash Bracket here. If you are looking for a high quality macro flash bracket that is solid, offers superior functionality, user friendly, and folds easily for storage and carrying in the field I highly recommend that you take a close look at the Wimberley Macro Flash Bracket – Single-Arm Set-up…I think you will be glad that you did.

In the image below you will see how I use the system when it is attached to the camera. I have used an old Nikon D70 for illustration purposes. Do note that I will often change the position of the flash as each situation may require something a little different. The flash that I most often use is the Nikon SB400, although I will sometimes use a much heavier Nikon SB600. Even with the larger heavier flash attached this bracket is rock solid.

My typical set-up for photographing frogs & toads

And the next image is the home-made bracket that I used for a number of years, but will most likely never use again. The Wimberley Macro Flash Bracket – Single-Arm Set-up will now be my go to bracket for all of my macro flash photo needs. It is quite simply the best bracket to use for my macro photography needs.

Home-made Flash Bracket

Below you will see a few recent Gray Treefrog images that I photographed during the Canada’s Victoria Day weekend while I was up in the Parry Sound region of Ontario. The Wimberley Macro Flash Bracket – Single-Arm Set-up made shooting these images very easy, as I was able to position the flash around some small branches to illuminate the frog as it inflated it’s vocal sac while chorusing above the pond, and for the last image I was able to get the flash to light up the area under a small over-hang where this male was calling.

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Wimberley P-5 Universal Camera Body Plate

Most serious nature photographers know the benefits of having a quick release system for attaching their cameras and lenses to their tripods swiftly, to react to the fleeting moments that may occur. The Arca-Swiss style of plates and clamps is often the system chosen. If you are not using the Arca-Swiss style, I highly recommend you consider making the switch. In my e-book ‘A Photographer’s Guide to the Ontario Landscape’, the first-ever comprehensive guide to photographing Ontario, I briefly discuss the Arca-Swiss style quick release system as being standard gear for most serious nature photographers. Aside from being a guide to the Ontario landscape the e-book is full of tips to help you capture the best possible landscape images, wherever you live. For many years, I have faithfully used an ‘L’ bracket on my camera. ‘L’ brackets allow photographers to fasten their camera bodies onto their tripod heads in both vertical and horizontal orientations to minimize the need to recompose when photographing a scene in either of the two orientations. They are quite useful and beneficial, however, that also comes with a price. They are more expensive and much heavier than a camera body plate.

For the last two months or so I have been using a Wimberley P-5 Universal Camera Body Plate on my camera instead of the ‘L’ bracket and I can honestly say that I love it. It is light weight, at only 40.8 grams, while my ‘L’ bracket is a heavy weight at 139 grams. The P-5 plate is also one third the cost of what I paid for my ‘L’ bracket. The Wimberley P-5 plate comes with dual safety stops and is designed in such a way that it will prevent the camera body and plate from twisting. In the above photo you will see that there is thin layer of dense rubber to grip the base of the camera body, and the plate itself has been machined so that frictional force is applied on the outer portions of the plate when the plate is fastened to the camera body. This simple design prevents any twisting. Custom pates from other manufacturers do not use the textured rubber, but rather a beveled edge that prevents any twisting, however, this beveled edge is machined to fit each specific model of camera for which you have purchased the plate for. What will you do with these custom plates when you upgrade your camera bodies. With the Wimberley P-5, you simply remove it from your old camera body and fasten it to your new camera body and you are ready to go at no further expense. Click here and then on the video link for more information about safety stops and to find out more about the Wimberley P-5 Universal Camera Body Plate and click here for Wimberley’s PDF product instructions on the P-5 Universal Camera Body Plate.

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