Photo Tip: the McClamp

(Similar version published in Popular Photography, November, 2006.)





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Nature photographers are often in need of a third arm to immobilize subjects such as flowers waving in the breeze, or to retract unwanted plants from view. A fourth arm is useful for holding accessories such as reflectors or shade cards. (Shooters born with only two arms often make do with their teeth and duct tape.) Luckily, "extra arms" are available in the form of flexible tubes with a gripping clamp on one end. My favorite is the McClamp ( it has a long reach and a soft gripping clamp that's gentle on foliage. To hold the tube and its gripper in place, the McClamp offers a choice of either a ground stake for outdoor use or a clamp to attach the device to a tripod or any other handy anchor.

Here are pictures of the two types of anchor in use:


The Stick.


The Clamp.

The McClamp costs $45. I like to have two or three on hand when shooting.

An older product called the Wimberly Plamp is similar to the McClamp, but it has a shorter reach and its gripping jaw is made of hard plastic that is bound to damage delicate plants. It's a handy device, to be sure, but I find the McClamp to be superior and only a little more expensive.

While the McClamp is especially useful for outdoor photography, many other shooters, especially still-life photographers, will also find it quite helpful. Here are some things you can do with the McClamp:

· Hold on. A McClamp can hold small reflectors, diffusers, fill cards, and gobos to improve indoor or outdoor lighting. For an accessory too heavy for the McClamp to support by itself, rest it on a surface and brace it in place with the McClamp.

· Hold still. Shooting a flower outdoors can be a pain if it sways in the wind. A McClamp on the stem just out of the frame holds the subject steady during long exposures.

· Hold away. When shooting outdoors there may be branches or leaves in the way of your subject. A McClamp will pull them harmlessly out of the way.

Apart from photography, a McClamp can even hold a recipe while you're cooking in the kitchen!


Here are pictures illustrating how I used a McClamp in making a macro image of a blue iris by the side of my house:

The McClamp, indicated by the yellow arrows, is holding the iris stationary and away from the house. I also used a clothespin to wedge away an iris stalk that kept creeping into the frame.


The resulting image.


California Room

Southwest Room

Midwest Room

East Coast Room

My Latest Trip

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