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Motivation is a photography blog that discusses the creative aspects of photography. The posts will include thoughts about images and their interpretation, photographers and their work, technique, workflow, my ongoing projects, and perhaps even the occasional off topic rant.

The Wimberly Plamp Makes A Strong Comeback!

Way, way back in 2007 I wrote a blog post which talked about how far superior FM Photography's McClamp The Stick was for macro-photography in the field, compared to the Wimberly Plamp. Well, it has been eight years, but Wimberly has now introduced a brand new Plamp II and Plamp Stake that is, in my opinion, far superior to the McClamp.

But before I go on, a few disclaimers are in order:

  1. The folks at Wimberly contacted me recently, referencing my blog post from 2007 (see, your mother was right, things do stay on the internet forever), and told me that they believed they have developed a much better version of the Plamp and offered to send me one to evaluate free of charge. Those who know me understand that this only means I would likely be harder on the product than if I purchased it myself.
  2. I have now 'played with' the Plamp II and Plamp Stake quite a bit, but have not actually used it for photographing wildflowers in the field, as that season is over for the year in this neck of the woods. However, when you hold the device you realize that you don't actually have to use it in the field to recognize the marked improvements that have been made.

On with the review!

Back in 2007, the main problem with using the Plamp was that one end of it had to be clamped to a tripod foot and the other end to the 'subject'. Well, those of you who are macro-photographers understand the futility of such an arrangement.  You might want to adjust framing and move the tripod a bit.  But the flower, which is held by one end of the Plamp, moves each time you adjust the position of your tripod. Can you spell f-r-u-s-t-r-a-t-i-o-n! McClamp The Stick solved this problem by attaching one end of the clamping device to a plastic pointed stick that could be pushed into the ground, thus detaching the entire device from the tripod.  Brilliant!

There were a few downsides though.  The plastic stick was a bit flimsy. In addition, it was obviously pointed at the tip so that it could be inserted into the ground.  You didn't necessarily want to be walking in the field with this sharpish object in hand.....but this was dealt with by supplying a cloth bag to transport it in.

Enter the Plamp II.  There have been dramatic improvements here, but the most important is the development of the Plamp Stake.  Basically, the stake consists of a nice sized screwdriver and a plastic 'pipe' that slides over the screwdriver handle, extending it upwards for a foot. This plastic pipe fits firmly and rigidly onto the screwdriver, making a stable platform on which to clamp one end of Plamp II. The business end of the screwdriver is then pushed into the ground. Essentially, you now have a McClamp, but with a far more rugged, durable, and rigid support that is more easily able to penetrate hard ground. Additionally, the Plamp is not permanently attached to the stake as in the McClamp arrangement.  If you need more height on the stake for what you are photographing, you can purchase an extension piece (or the instructions also, in a very nice move, tell you what size PVC pipe you can pick up at Home Depot or Lowes to make your own)

© Wimberly, Crop From Corporate Image, Used With Permission

© Wimberly, Crop From Corporate Image, Used With Permission

Oh, and Wimberly has even dealt with the issue of walking around with a sharp object (which is definitely not a good idea for klutzes like me). The screwdriver is flipped around and inserted into the hollow portion of the stake point first, where it is firmly held in place.  Now you have a short rod with wide rounded ends that won't  break the skin the next time you trip over that rock you didn't see.

© Wimberly, Crop From Corporate Image, Used With Permission

© Wimberly, Crop From Corporate Image, Used With Permission

What's that you say? What if over time the fit for storage becomes looser.  Well, they have a great solution for that as well..  The side of the screwdriver head has a nice wide screw set into the handle.  If the fit of the screwdriver into the PVC pipe loosens just give the screw a counterclockwise turn to extend it a bit and now the fit is tighter.  Adjust to taste.  It's a lot easier to understand when you see it instead of having it described to you.  

The Plamp portion of the Plamp II has been fully redesigned as well. It is thicker and more robust than it had been.  Plus the 'business end' grip, which I had complained in 2007 was too rough on the plants, has also undergone a significant makeover.  Now it is a 'kindler, gentler' Plamp grip that also has a firm tip for holding reflectors and other paraphernalia, if need be. 

© Wimberly, Corporate Image, Used With Permission

© Wimberly, Corporate Image, Used With Permission

But what would a review be without suggesting some improvements?  It looks to me like Wimberly has pretty much perfected the whole Plamp device.  But I can come up with two suggestions.

  1. The clamp that holds the flower has an ability to be fine-tuned in terms of how tightly it grips. But that ability comes, at least in part, from using what amounts to a very heavy duty rubber band (as seen in the image above) to hold the clamp closed while loosening the grip with a set screw. The company states that this band is made of a very durable material. Nonetheless it is hard to believe (though I have no proof) that with repeated exposure to the elements that it won't ultimately rot or fray.  One can purchase a whole replacement clamp for $14, but it seems to me that the ability to purchase extra pressure bands at a much lower price than that (and probably include one or two extras in the kit) should be offered. In my opinion this is one of the 'softer' parts of the design in terms of durability and appearance.
  2. I think that what would really pull the whole kit together nicely is a small lightweight cloth carrying bag that could hold the Plamp II, the stake, and a piece of extension tubing. And make the bag able to easily attach to a belt loop or backpack.  That way it could be carried into the field and be out of the way when you don't need it and easily available when you do.

These two minor points aside, I am very impressed indeed with the new Plamp II and Plamp Stake and it will become my 'go to' flower stabilizer come spring!  McClamp has had a good run for eight years, but it's simply time he makes way for the new and improved kid on the block!

by Howard G

© Howard Grill