What is a Plamp…well sounds like a plumber’s tool for unblocking drains and it looks at first glance a black bendy snake with a bird skull-like head and a forked tail ….or is that just me and my over active imagination?As a photographer have you often needed another pair of hands?
Picture the scene…sorry no pun intended lol!
You are all prepared, you have your camera on a tripod with a macro lens on to photograph that gorgeous flower, but the wind is blowing a hooley knocking the plant backwards and forwards. Your trying to look through the lens, hold the flower steady at the same time as trying to hold that that annoying branch out the way without disturbing anything else. You really wish you had another pair of hands!!
WELL finally there is a way to stabilise those aggravating windblown subjects that is the bane of every macro photographers life!
The Plamp is an easily positionable arm which can be used to hold macro subjects and other useful objects. One end of the Plamp clamps to your tripod while the other grasps the object. The Plamp is a must for any macro enthusiast!
My Plamp has been my flexible friend for approximately 10 years, its permanently attached to my tripod and I never go out without it. Its one of my most used camera gadgets as you will see from my photos that its very well worn but still going strong.
So what does it do?
- Stabilise windblown subjects.
- Adjust the position or angle of your subject.
- Move background objects and obstructing foliage.
- Hold reflectors, graduated filters, and lens shades.
This 22 inch/ 56cm long piece of black plastic is one of those designs you’d wish you had thought of, its such a simple idea and the clamps are genius! It is made of LOC-LINE ball-and-socket segmented tubing. To position the arm, simply bend it to the desired position and let go and it will hold the subject still.
Its super light at only 140grams.
The Plamp has a really heavy duty workman’s clamp one end, like the kind found in a tool box.
The Plamp is designed to attach to your own tripod; but it is often handy to attach it to a second tripod so that you are free to move your tripod around without affecting the subject.
The large jaws swivel slightly and can be attached to anything that will fit in its spring loaded jaws.
This includes nearly every tripod on the market with a diameter between 0.9 and 1.4 inches (23-35mm), tree branches, furniture, stakes driven into the ground, vegetation, etc.
At the other end is the brilliantly designed clamp and this is what makes the Plamp…what it is.
The white plastic clamp with one large hole one side and then two smaller ones of a slightly different size, will fit most sized stems.
The jaws open by applying pressure to the larger hole side, this will open the jaws enough to gently slide in your subject; before letting go and the clamp will gently grip a flower stem. If you think its going to grip too hard; I usually wrap the stem in tissue or paper for extra protection.
Ive found with the choice of of hole size, one of them has fitted almost every flower Ive ever photographed without damage. This is a rose stem and they tend to be very soft and its completely undamaged.
The larger hole is genius as you simply slip it over a few delicate plant stems that couldn’t take pressure from the clamp gaps. You simply feed the stems through the hole like a giant needle eg; some lanky sweet peas or in my case these tall alium stems, so it holds them inplace, without crushing or breaking them.
Perfect for just slightly windy days or simply to keep something upright as mine here are too floppy at this stage to stand up straight.
Another great idea is that Wimberley have made the whole clamp swivel 360 degrees; so you can also angle your subject or make small adjustments to align it to where you want to focus.
In the field
Out in the countryside I always try to leave nature as undisturbed as possible. I will NEVER break branches off or even worse pull up the wild flowers for a photo; this to me is unacceptable. Its ok in your own garden of course that’s your choice.
The Plamp makes it easy just to hold distracting branches or other foliage out of shot undamaged.
Here is my cherry blossom with quite a few dead branches in the way, so the Plamp holds them back for me to photograph some blossom buds.
As you know the best flowers and insects are always hidden behind branches and stinging nettles don’t you…or is that just me. I swear they see me coming and dive behind the most awkward tree or bush to get through.
The swivel head allows you to angle your subject; for example here I didnt want the cluttered brick background behind my rose; so I gently angled and pulled it forwards using the Plamp, so I had more greenery instead for a nicer bokeh. I was then able to shoot from the side for a far better shot.
Another ways to use the Plamp is to move “the actual subject” to better light or background.
(As I mentioned before never pick wild flowers, leave the countryside as you found it).
For example I wanted some photos of the leaves on this Bracken frond unfurling against a darker background to show up better. So I was now able to simply move my tripod to another part of the garden.
This was one of my final shots which I couldn’t have got without my Plamp.
More shots of another flower that I wanted more light and better background for. It fitted securely in the clamp hole.
Even with the Plamp I struggled as it was blowing a hooley this day, but I still managed to get some nice shots by being able to move my tripod around and finding shelter against the wind.
An extra hand!
We are not all fortunate enough to have a willing victim…er…assistant with you to hold reflectors or extra flashes. So I also use my Plamp to hold a reflector to add that extra light on my subject. It can attach to your main tripod or you can clamp it to a spare tripod as your robotic assistant.
Or extend your imagination to hold a different coloured backgrounds behind a plant. It may not be possible to cut the flower and take it home to your studio; so all you need is some pre-cut coloured card to let your artistic imagination flow.TIP; try to use as short an arm as possible for a more secure hold.
Tips from Wimberley
If you need more reach or if you are using a 180mm or 200mm macro lens, you have 3 options.
- Attach the Plamp to an object other than your own tripod,
- Extend one of the legs towards your subject and than attach the Plamp further down the leg, thus closer to the subject,
- Extend the length of your Plamp with the 12″ Plamp extension; but in doing so the Plamp becomes a bit less rigid.
Shortening your Plamp
The segmented arm of your Plamp is approximately 19″ long. If you do not need all this length, you can shorten your Plamp. To shorten the arm, bend the arm sharply until it snaps in two (do not worry, you cant hurt the Plamp), remove a length and reconnect the pieces.
They are hard however to pull apart and get back together. So for me it would have to be the possibility of an outstanding shot to go through the effort to shorten it.
This Plamp really has been my flexible friend for so many years now especially with macro photography, as you know you only need a slight breeze at the wrong second to lose a shot or your bug to fly off.
The main clamp really is heavy duty it almost stops your blood circulation in my finger so its not going to ping-off or be too weak to grip. The plastic segments are fairly smooth and move easily into any position.
It perfectly adjusts your subjects angle or position without damage, so you can use a slow enough shutter speed to get that gorgeous bokeh.
There are not many products I say people NEED but every photographer will NEED one of these at some point especially if you are planning to go into Macro photography. Its light to carry, affordable and compact and easy to roll up to store in your camera bag, it looks like you have your pet snake curled up at the bottom of your bag lol.
I cannot be without mine and would have to replace it immediately if it broke, but this camera gadget is bomb proof…OK I haven’t had the opportunity to blow it up, but really I’ve thrown this around, trodden on it many times, sat on it, its rattled around in my bag, dragged around attached to my main tripod. Its scratched a little dented but still works like the day first I first got it.
Its amazing how many times Ive just clamped something to it, needing that extra hand; its truly a photographers flexible friend.
One day using this you will love it forever especially, when you see your own photographic results.
You can buy your Wimberley Plamp from many camera stores in the UK and US but you need to look around for the best deals.
This version has a slightly different head to mine as its over 10 years old
Here are just a few of my published images that I managed to get using my Plamp.