microGAFFER

Archives for ‘Visual Departures’:

Using microGAFFER as a Force for Creativity, Concealment, and Kindness

The holidays are fast approaching, and all of us are looking for thoughtful, useful, and (ideally) surprising gifts for those special people in our lives. We at Visual Departures have been honored to see our own microGAFFER® show up several times on “stocking stuffer” lists in the years since it debuted. For photographers, theater technicians, and filmmakers, microGAFFER is almost life-changing (almost.) A 4-pack of microGAFFER weighs less than a standard roll of gaffer tape and fits in any pocket – always at the ready. When you think about it, it makes no sense that a roll of tape weighs more than your fancy new camera… right?

But that’s not the only reason microGAFFER is special. One of the key features of gaffer tape is that it can be removed without leaving sticky residue, and as a result, crafters of all stripes have found microGAFFER useful in their work. We were even fortunate enough to be noted by Michael Hsu in his “The Fixer” column in the Wall Street Journal.

One common craft you’ll see on Etsy or Pinterest — or at your local holiday marketplace — involves taking an otherwise ordinary object and jazzing it up with just the right materials and ornamentation to make it stand out from the crowd. It could be a bag, a notebook, a piece of jewelry, or even a cardboard box – but when the right customer sees it, they simply have to have it. Professional crafters spend a good portion of their time on the lookout for new materials to use (they, more than most, want to stand out from the crowd). Next to standbys like washi tape, the woven-cloth texture of microGAFFER allows another way to add variety to their creations. (And did you know about gaff tape prom dresses? It’s a thing with the kids these days.)

If you’re into home canning or pickling, use microGAFFER to label your Ball jars (don’t forget to write down the Date of Production, just in case something ends up spending a long time at the back of a shelf.) Speaking of which: if you mix up a batch of Alton Brown’s Internet-famous Aged Eggnog and pop it into some Ball jars this weekend, it’ll be absolutely sublime by the end of the year. Or the end of next year, if you have the willpower. (Good luck with that.)

But what if you’re not part of the crafting world? Here’s a tip if you’re planning to visit faraway family: Make your luggage stand out at the baggage claim by tightly wrapping some bright gaffer tape around the handles. Saves time and reduces anxiety just a bit during what’s usually a stressful moment – waiting at the baggage carousel. “Ah, here comes yet another black rollaboard… I wonder if this one’s mine…” Be sure to wrap the tape near the edges of the handles rather than at the apex in order to avoid natural wear and tear.

And should your holidays involve sightseeing in a touristy sort of place, consider “debadging” your fancy camera to make it less appealing to thieves in the sea of out-of-towners with fancy cameras… As the joke goes, “you don’t have to outrun the bear – only your hiking partner.” Anyway, the simplest way to “go ninja” is to place a small strip of microGAFFER across the manufacturer’s logo. For bonus points, layer several strips along various parts of the camera to look like it’s a beaten-up piece of junk. Above all, replace the billboard-style camera strap with something less obtrusive (and more comfortable besides.)

And if you’re so fortunate as to own lots of fancy gadgets, use a small square of gaff tape to do some judicious “blacking out” on those as well. So many electronics use those painfully bright blue LEDs these days! Is it really necessary to have your darkened living room resemble a spaceport on Star Trek? Most inexcusable are the marketing people who force the logo on your TV to light up! You guessed it – on goes a black strip of microGAFFER once again…

Whether you’re a crafter or photographer or neither, I hope this post has inspired you in some way to use microGAFFER in some unusual way. If you haven’t tried microGAFFER yet, here’s a special discount code just for our blog readers. Use the code “INSPIRED” when checking out at microgaffer.com – a little holiday gift from us to you.

And if you’re privileged enough to be reading this, please don’t forget to find a way to do charitable acts during the holidays (and ideally year-round). If you have children, see if they can get involved, too, so they grow up to know charity as a normal part of life rather than something we only remember to do when it gets cold outside. Whether you donate time or money to people in need, let’s seek to make the world a kinder, more understanding, more welcoming place for everyone… no matter who they are, where they come from, or what they believe. Keep in mind the sentiment John Watson urged in his Christmas message in The British Weekly over 100 years ago: “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

Keep Your Mirrorless and Superzoom Camera Stable with the New Steadybag SB-4

Long exposure of Grand Central Terminal, camera stabilized with

It seems that point-and-shoot cameras have become almost obsolete, now that mirrorless and compact zoom models have filled the gap between the iPhone and full-size DSLRs. We decided that a new Steadybag® was needed to give these new cameras the same kind of support and rock-steady imaging photographers have been getting for many years from our other Steadybags.

So here’s our SB-4, weighing just over a pound and measuring 9.5 x 5.5″. It fits in just about any case or shoulder bag. Whether you’re on a long trek or just shooting locally, image sharpness is one of the basics.

On a recent trip to New York City, I carried my Fuji X-E2 (never without it) along with the new Steadybag. Just as a quick test, I positioned the SB-4 on one of the marble railings overlooking the main concourse of Grand Central Station, set the camera on its lowest ISO and its smallest aperture, and here are the results. The exposure was around 4 seconds, and while the commuters were in motion (who in NYC ever stands still for that long), the rest of the image is tack-sharp.

Steadybag SB-4 for mirrorless cameras minimizes camera shake

Some of the new ‘super zoom” compacts have lenses with optical zooms up to 65x (35mm equivalent of 1200mm or more), and I defy anyone to hand-hold at that magnification and come back with a really sharp image.

At PhotoPlus later this week in New York, I’m going to see just how well our new Steadybag performs with a range of the newest cameras… look for photos here.

Birding Seems More Popular Than Ever

With the proliferation of DSLR cameras for both still and video imaging, and the instant gratification that comes with shooting digital, it’s easy to see why birding is a growing activity. I’m not big on statistics, but I’ve known for many years that the number of casual and serious birdwatchers in the U.S. alone is in the millions.

Last weekend, my wife and I had dinner with friends who had recently come back from a bird-watching trip to Cuba, arranged through The Connecticut Audubon Society. Of course their trip was not just about birds but also a chance to tour a country somewhat frozen in time. Also in the past few days, the Weekend edition of The Wall Street Journal  ran a great article about a number of field guides for birding.

Steadybag with spotting scope and birding field guide

Whether in the backyard or on another continent, a lot more people have the tools in hand in make great photos. Of course, it helps if you can afford a high-speed telephoto lens, but not everyone has a spare $4000+ (though it’s surprising how many do).

Since birders typically use long lenses — whether taking photos or just observing through a spotting scope — it’s important to have a good stabilization platform. We’ve been making our Steadybag® for a long time, and it’s used by thousands of photographers and professional video shooters. It really is a great tool for support both cameras and spotting scopes on any surface —  less bulky and a lot quicker to set up and put away than a tripod.

Click here to learn why Steadybag is better, and buy directly with PayPal.

One more quick tip: most new DSLRs have a lot less noise at higher ISOs than they used to. Don’t get fixated on using a low ISO setting if gaining a faster shutter speed (or the depth of field of one more f-stop) will produce a better image. Birds and other creatures (even your kids) have that terrible habit of not waiting around for everything to be “just right.”