I have been promising to get back to my blog for some time and to get round to reviewing some of the kit I use on a daily basis. Trouble is, life always gets in the way. But here I am, almost a year after my last post, finally getting the time to return to it!
So, first up is a bit of kit I wouldn’t be without. Considering what it is, it’s not cheap – but then I have tried to make alternatives out of things you can get in a DIY shop but they just don’t work as well as this thing. Eventually, I gave in, paid the money and I’m very glad I did.
So – what is it?
If you look in the photo above, you can see a couple of black tubes snaking around there and holding a reflector and a diffuser. The one on the left is a genuine Wimberley Plamp, and the on on the right is a cheaper product that can do similar things. The cheaper one was half the price but is nowhere near as versatile as the real McCoy. It’s pretty obvious from the picture above what they do: they clamp on to something at one end and hold something at the other. But first – a bit of background on why I feel I need one in my arsenal.
I am a flower photographer – which you perhaps already knew. I do photograph other things but my passion lies with flowers and trying to get to the root of the grace and romance of the flower. That’s something I cannot do if the sun is scorching down on the bloom and creating a very harsh light with deep, distracting shadows. If that’s the case, and I cannot move the flower to a shady area (and since this one is growing in the garden, I can’t) then I need to be able to diffuse that light and soften it. And once I have diffused the light, I may need to cast just a little back up to highlight the bloom – and that’s where the reflector comes in. So, given that I have a camera in one hand and that I very often use the other for manual focus I am running out of hands to hold diffusers and reflectors and this is where the plamp comes in. (A little note here to explain that whether using vintage lenses or my up-to-the-minute Sony 90mm Macro, I still prefer to be hands-on and take control of focus myself). Looking again at the photo above, you’ll see I have a diffuser above the bloom and a reflector below. The diffuser is being held in place by the Plamp and the reflector by the cheaper alternative. So – what is the difference between the real and the other? Well, the secret lies in the clamp. On the left is the bona-fide Plamp and on the right is the non-plamp clamp (really, I am trying to find a way of describing this one that doesn’t make it seem like the poor relation – when it is :-/)
The Plamp clamp has a lot going for it. It opens and closes using the thumbscrew you can just about see in the shade there. It is tensioned by a rubber band kind of affair and is firm but forgiving. The first ‘notch’ leaves a small hole when the jaw is tightened and gives a clue to the fact that these Plamps are also good for holding flowers steady. This hole can enclose a thin stem and give some stability on a windy day. The second area is filled in with sponge and so you can use it to clamp a cut flower very gently. I sometimes take a flower from a vase indoors and use the Plamp to position it outdoors for a better background and more natural light since I don’t use flash at all. The third notch in the jaw is for securely holding the rim of a diffuser or reflector and the whole jaw swivels, as well as the tube being flexible so you can position it in any way you choose to diffuse, reflect or angle a flower head.
By comparison the alternative model has a heck of a pair of jaws, and they bite!! The head is smaller than the plamp and has vicious, metal teeth. I wouldn’t fancy holding a plant stem in there because I fear it would be bitten clean through. I haven’t tried it, and nor will I because I don’t want any of my flowers to give me that look if I hurt one of their own!! It is simply not as refined or well engineered and the genuine article. I should point out here that the cheaper tool is not marketed as an alternative to the Plamp so it is what it is and my comparison is somewhat unfair – but is meant to show why the Plamp is worth the extra pennies. They are very similar in many way: they both have a clamp at each end and a bendy bit in the middle. However, the bendy bit on the non-plamp is much thinner and struggles to hold my reflector or diffuser exactly where I want them. I need a tool that works – and for that, I paid the money. We are talking in the region of £50 for the Plamp and then there are extensions, ground spikes and other bits and bobs you can add if you choose. I use either a tripod, an old light stand or a spike straight in the ground to clamp it to and I cannot praise it highly enough. I have had this little gem for about 6 months and would not be without it.
In the image above on the left above, I was able to separate the three blooms you can see by pulling the one on the left away from the others without having to cut the flower. I was then able to isolate that one bloom to make an image. You can see the Plamp snaking into the leaves there to hold the stem further down and then gently move it away from the other flowers as seen in the image on the right.
This is, without doubt, an incredibly handy piece of kit and although I put it off for a long while trying to find something cheaper, I now know I should have just bought it in the first place. It has been invaluable to me and I’d happily pay the price for a second one. In fact I might just do that. But don’t tell my partner because he will offer to make me something that ‘works just as well if not better’ out of an old pallet and some six inch nails!!!
So, there you have it. The Wimberley Plamp. In the UK, you can get it from Wex or from a couple of other outlets. The price is fairly consistent but always worth googling around to check. The Plamp is strong, does what it was made for and although it does seem expensive for something made largely of plastic, I have not found an alternative that is so well designed for what it does. Just a last note here to say that I am not sponsored in any way by the makers of distributors of the product so I am free to say whatever I like about them.
So, I will leave you with an image that wouldn’t have been possible without some gentle manipulation and the assistance of a Wimberley Plamp.