Hack 5 Steady Shots from the Comfort of Your Car

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Not everyone is John Muir, roaming the wilds with just a walking stick and a broad-rimmed hat. Some folks would rather shoot without leaving the comfort of their automobile.

Sometimes, you're not allowed out of your car, such as when you're visiting certain wild game preserves or protected wildlife areas. Other times, you can use your vehicle as a duck blind of sorts. Animals seem less concerned about people when they are safely strapped inside an automobile. And then there are those days when you just don't feel like taking a hike.

Regardless of the situation, you want sharp images from your day's outing. And the best way to keep things nice and crisp is to steady the camera during exposure. But in a car, that's easier said than done. It's not like you can set up your tripod on the front seat.

But what you can do is use the car itself as a stabilizer. Roll down the window about 2/3 of the way and attach a Bogen Car Window Pod (catalog #3292) with a Junior Tripod Style Head (catalog #3407). You can find out more about these at http://www.bogenimaging.com. The combination sells for about US$85, and they are well made and extremely sturdy.

If $85 is a little more serious than you care to get for your front-seat shooting, take a look at Pedco's UltraClamp (US$29.95) with UltraMount (US$10.95), shown in Figure 1-5. If you really need to go on the cheap, try the Pillow Pod Beanbag, available for about US$6 from Porter's Camera Store (http://www.porterscamerastore.com). Photo beanbags are great accessories to keep in the trunk because you can use them in so many situations. The bag conforms to the surface on which its placed, providing a steady support for your camera while protecting it from the surface itself. You can plop it over the edge of a car window, on a tree limb, or even on the ledge of a balcony, and it will help you take sharper shots.

Figure 1-5. The UltraClamp from Pedco

Here's one word of advice: be sure to keep the camera strap around your neck when you place your expensive investment on the edge of anything. One false move and both camera and beanbag might go tumbling to their doom. You'll get over the loss of the beanbag pretty quickly. Recovering from a shattered camera might take a little longer.