Photography and Art

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Neat Gizmo

One of the nice things about photography is the opportunity to learn about new things. For example, I'm always pleased and surprised to read about a Photoshop technique that I've never used before. Given my knowledge of Photoshop, this happens quite often!

Finding a neat gizmo doesn't happen quite as often, but it is a treat when it does. Yesterday, I received an e-mail from Natalie Briot, partner of Alain Briot who is running a photo workshop that I'll be attending in the near future. Natalie sent out the final itinerary for the workshop along with lots of helpful hints about clothing and food for the trip. She also sent links to a whack of reading materials just in case insomnia struck me at some point before my trip. And, here's where the gizmo comes in, Natalie highly recommended that we purchase a device called a right-angle viewfinder.

A right-angle viewfinder turns out to be one of those very useful things that has you scratching your head wondering why you'd never heard of it before. If you've ever taken photographs with your camera on a tripod wishing you could actually read the information on the LCD on the top of the camera, then this gadget is for you. If you've ever tried to take a photo of a small wildflower by lying on damp grass so you can peer into the viewfinder, then this is what you've been waiting for. Here's a snap of the device:

As you can see, it is a sort of periscope for your camera's viewfinder. You slip your camera's stock viewfinder off (who knew this slipped off!) and attach the right angle viewfinder and, hey presto, all sorts of things become possible. You can position your camera slightly lower on your tripod so that the top LCD becomes visible. You can take pictures of small things without having to get your clothes all dirty and you can take pictures of the sky without permanent injury to your neck.

There are several of these things on the market. If you are flush with cash, most of the major camera companies make them. However, if you are rather impecunious (especially given the state of the economy), there is a good alternative that is less expensive and fits all sorts of cameras. The manufacturer is a small company called Hoodman. In Canada, the Hoodman unit is about half the cost of the Canon gizmo and seems to be comparable in quality. I went to Vistek to buy mine and the sales guy unwrapped the Hoodman and the Canon and we poked around with both of them. The Hoodman was slightly smaller, but didn't look or feel too plasticky.

I'll try it out in the field on my trip to California in a couple of weeks and report back.

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