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Toad's Travels: Equipment Awards 2011
#1
2011 was a big year for me, travel-wise. Italy and Iceland. Yeah, baby!

Last year, I detailed the gear that I planned to travel with in my "What am I Taking?" thread. Well, those trips are well behind me, now, and the photos are in the tank. Time to salute those bits of kit that I felt went above and beyond my expectations during my 2011 Travels.



Best Supporting Equipment, Italy: The String Monopod

[Image: StringMonoPodST.jpg]

Italy in May. No way I was dragging a tripod around with me. Still, sometimes you just need just a stop or 2 of extra stability - say - inside a cathedral - a place where a tripod isn't welcome anyway. What's the answer? I took a GorrillaPod with me that I never used, and this little bit of home-made kit, that I used a lot.

I clobbered it together from stuff that was lying around the house - the only real extravagance being the BlackRapid tripod connector, and even that was less than $15. What a great piece of gear! It fits in a tiny space in a camera bag, or just slips in your pocket. No security guard in a cathedral ever bats an eye at it - it looks so "not" professional.

Does it work? Well, you have to breathe like a sniper when the shutter speed gets really slow, but 1/25 sec is no problem at all, and the unsharpened shot below at 1/6 sec clearly shows what is possible with a little practice.

[Image: SienaCathedralCeiling.jpg]
Leica M9 / Leica 28mm Elmarit-M ASPH, ISO 160, F2.8, 1/6 sec



Best Supporting Equipment, Iceland: The Garmin Oregon 450 GPS

[Image: Gamrmin450.jpg]

What? A GPS?? This is supposed to be a Photography forum isn't it?

Guilty as charged. I have been enthusiastically collecting GPS tracks for years when I hike. Call it my own benign version of "train spotting". When I decided to go to Iceland, I set myself a loftier goal - that I would chronicle the entire trip from start to finish. When I returned, I loaded the GPS tracks that I captured into Google Earth. The result was Toad's Iceland.

[Image: Iceland%202011MapST.jpg]

The tracks are detailed down to a few meters resolution, and help me to provide a level of accuracy and background detail for my pieces in Photo Stories and Journalism that wouldn't have been possible for me before. The Oregon 450 is a trim, waterproof unit (here shown on a lanyard made for me by my son) that was the perfect companion on my Iceland trek.



Grand Prize - Best Equipment 2011: Leica 50mm F/2 Summicon-M

[Image: LeicaSummicronM50.jpg]

My 50mm never fails me. Its by far the best lens that I have ever owned. It hate to take it off my camera, and I am always happy when it returns.

There are plenty of examples of its extraordinary "look" and resolving power throughout my Toad's Iceland and Toad's Italy threads, so I won't extend this thread by providing more examples. Needless to say, its a real pleasure to use, and produces amazing images. It's going to hold a key position in the hierarchy of my camera gear for a long time to come.
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#2
What, no plug for Kata? Big Grin Big Grin

Awesome work, Rob... I like the stringpod (ooo, can I trademark this?). Out of curiosity, where do you anchor it to?
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#3
shuttertalk Wrote:Awesome work, Rob... I like the stringpod (ooo, can I trademark this?). Out of curiosity, where do you anchor it to?
Thanks, Jules. I clip it to one of my belt loops.
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#4
That is a very neat stringpod.

A few years back one was suggested on another forum, and it consisted of a nut and bolt (3/8 unc) iirc and a piece of string with a loop which you stuck your foot through, at one end and fastened to the bolt at the other. The thread was whatever the standard camera tripod mount hole is. (might be 5/16.)
A few of the posters still use it.

Where can I get the instructions to make the fancy string thing.
Lumix LX5.
Canon 350 D.+ 18-55 Kit lens + Tamron 70-300 macro. + Canon 50mm f1.8 + Manfrotto tripod, in bag.
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#5
That map is a tour de force. I've another Italy trip later this year, so I'd better start saving bits of string Smile
All my stuff is here: www.doverow.com
(Just click on the TOP RIGHT buttons to take you to my Image Galleries or Music Rooms!)
My band TRASHVILLE, in which I'm lead guitarist: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6mU6qaNx08
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#6
Thanks Guys.

NT: it is quite simple to make a somewhat fancier string monopod.

I ordered rhe D-Ring that attaches to the camera from BlackRapid. Either one of these 2 would work nicely:

http://www.blackrapid.com/product/hardware/fastenr3/
http://www.blackrapid.com/product/hardware/fr-t1/

I bought the clamp at a hardware store for under $5 and the colorful string is from an old kite that I had. The knots are 2 - half hitches which I think look quite "finished".

The only tricky thing is getting the string exactly the right length. I tied the clamp to one end, attached it to my belt loop, and then played around with the length until it was perfect for me. Make sure to test it in both portrait and landscape orientations. The difference (other than looks) between my string monopod and many others is that I clamp it onto my belt loop rather than holding the string end down with my foot. I think that is an improvement in convenience, compactness, and discretion without sacrificing much in the way of stability.
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#7
Zig Wrote:That map is a tour de force. I've another Italy trip later this year, so I'd better start saving bits of string Smile
Yeah - I think I will be returning to Italy as well in the autumn (likely October). Maybe we will get lucky and link up this time.
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#8
Love this thread – from the title and all the way through.

If I can make one suggestion, it would be to add one of these to the string pod:

[Image: i-3T6nhq4-M.jpg]

They're sold as cable organizers under the name "Bobino", but if that's not available (or if the $3-$5 pushes the materials cost too high) I'm sure a substitute could be found. At the expense of greater bulk and complexity, it can be used to store the string without tangling, and also to adjust its length. I just tried the small size (in red) with some narrow and slippery household string, and it holds securely under tension with as little as one wrap around its core, so length adjustments can be quite fine. I'm thinking that this could let it be adjusted for foot-standing or belt-clipping distances fairly easily.

The GPS intrigues me. I have an old Garmin, which manages about two hours of life under 3x AA batteries, and changing them would wipe its data. Not all that useful. I can't see carrying another dedicated electronic device with me for my next trip, but I'm learning how it works in my Canon S100 as well as trying out a program for my phone. (Time to pack extra batteries…)
matthewpiers.com • @matthewpiers | robertsonphoto.blogspot.com | @thewsreviews • thewsreviews.com
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#9
The Bobino looks interesting, and I can see it being useful to make fine adjustments on the length of the string in situations where you are aiming way up in the air or in some other odd direction. I originally tried a similar cable organizer on the string monopod, but it tended to pop free from the reel when the string was under tension (which is how you need to use it).

Currently, I wrap the string around the clamp and then clip the D-Ring to the clamp, so the whole package is kept tidy and secure - and about 3" long by 1" across. Fits in a jeans pocket without a bulge.
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#10
Sorry Toad, I was meaning the string thing holding the GPS (The lanyard made by your son?)

It's OK. I found a tutorial on the net. (lanyard making) Big Grin
Lumix LX5.
Canon 350 D.+ 18-55 Kit lens + Tamron 70-300 macro. + Canon 50mm f1.8 + Manfrotto tripod, in bag.
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#11
It must be one of the vagaries of a photography forum that the string gets a massive heads-up, review and analysis...what's that funny little camera-like thing beginning with "L", Rob...? Big Grin
Ha, ...actually Rob, I'll be swanning around the Amalfi Coast for the final 2 weeks of September: might be able to track your spoor from your last visit...!
All my stuff is here: www.doverow.com
(Just click on the TOP RIGHT buttons to take you to my Image Galleries or Music Rooms!)
My band TRASHVILLE, in which I'm lead guitarist: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6mU6qaNx08
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#12
NT73 Wrote:Sorry Toad, I was meaning the string thing holding the GPS (The lanyard made by your son?) Big Grin
D'oh - of course. Can't hep you there - but I am sure that it is something he learned to do online. Besides being beautiful, the the lanyard is a survival tool in that if a person gets lost in the woods, it can be unravelled to give you about 25 feet of usable rope.
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#13
Zig Wrote:It must be one of the vagaries of a photography forum that the string gets a massive heads-up, review and analysis...what's that funny little camera-like thing beginning with "L", Rob...?
No surprise there. Everybody knows how I feel about the 50, and regulars would not have bet against it for Grand Prize (if they had known this thread was coming).
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