The Incredible, Edible Bean Bag Tripod

If you're a shutterbug on a budget, the bean bag tripod is a camera support you can make in just minutes.

| May/June 1985

The lowly bean bag hasn't a leg to stand on, but that doesn't keep it from being a superb photographic "tripod." It's sturdier, lighter, simpler to use, and more versatile than most three-legged support systems, and if you make it yourself, it costs next to nothing.

Professional photographers have long known that one of the reasons their photos are consistently superior to the snapshots taken by amateurs is the pros' use of solid camera-mounting systems; too many novice shutterbugs are willing to risk the clarity of their images to shaky hands and wobbly knees.

But by simply filling a home-sewn cloth sack with dried grain, even the lowest-budgeted photographer can "support" his or her camera habit in style. A bean bag can be poked, pounded, and fluffed to form a comfortable rest for just about any camera-and-lens combination you can come up with, and will anchor that equipment to odd shapes and inclines seemingly steep enough to defy gravity.

I was introduced to the bean bag tripod several years ago by a professional photographer friend. He called it a bean pod, and he'd been using it for years to capture roadside wildlife on film.

Over the past few years I've fabricated and used several varieties of bean pods (which can be filled with dried corn, beans or peas, rice, small pebbles, or even those dumb plastic foam "peanuts" used as packing insulation), and I've found them useful for far more than mobile wildlife photography:

By placing a bean bag on the ground, you can get an ant's-eye view of wildflowers, mice, mushrooms, insects, and other terrain-hugging forms of life. This down-to-earth perspective adds an interesting new dimension to any slide show or photo album — and dollars to your income if you're a pro.

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