When I was at the big Photo Plus trade show in New York City in October, I was looking at all sorts of new gear for photographers. I saw many things there, including one item that completely captured my attention. Before blogging about it, I wanted to buy one and try it. I have done that and now I am ready to tell you about the biggest little gear discovery that I made at the Photo Plus trade show in New York City.
In my own photography (and in my teaching) I often start from the idea that the best way to make a photograph more interesting is to position the camera notably above or below ordinary eye level. Photos made from below eye level, particularly when the camera is on or near the ground, are often described as being made from a “dog’s” point of view. Similarly, photos from way above eye level are usually described as being made from a “giraffe’s” point of view. By placing the camera notably above or below the photographer’s given height, the resulting images almost always give the viewer a new and different perspective.
To get such unusual angles in the past, I used cameras with removable penta-prisms and angle finders that were mostly used in macro photography. I even borrowed hand held make-up mirrors in an effort to see what was on the live-view screen on the back of my earliest digital cameras.
Now, I go out of my way to use cameras that have screens that are live-view that see through the lens and that fold out, so I can make photos from the perspectives of dogs or giraffes. A recent article I wrote talks about how I work with the Olympus cameras and their folding/swiveling screen to enhance my photography. That can be seen at: http://www.pdnonline.com/pdn/cp/olympus/technology/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1004025130
When I demonstrate the folding screens that I have on my cameras, more than a few students claim to be considering switching to Olympus. While that is one strategy, there is NOW another, easier strategy for making photographs from unusual angles. It is called the Flipbac and it is an odd-on accessory that serves as an angle viewfinder and as a LCD screen protector for digital cameras. It costs a mere twenty dollars. Though it is not quite as good as the folding screens I am used to, it is so close that most photographers should have one.
Read more about it at: http://flipbac.com/ They even have a little demo of how to use it on the point-and-shoot camera that I use, a Panasonic. You can see that at: http://flipbac.com/LX3-LEICA-D-LUX-4.htm The device works on almost any digital camera with a 3 inch LCD display viewing screen (which is what is found on the vast majority of cameras out there.) It works on D-SLRs, as well as simple point–and-shoots, as well as most cameras in between. The list of cameras they know it works on is on the site (and continually growing.)
So, for just twenty dollars, you can now see what the camera sees while holding it notably higher or lower, resulting in easier ground level, waist level or overhead shooting. Needless to say this is also good for shooting from the hip. It is also very useful when doing long exposures, where you are resting the camera on a solid object in order to use a longer shutter speed. Again, another great thing is that the Flipbac also protects the viewing screen on your camera.
Yes, when you are looking down into the mirror, the image is backwards, but that is because the device uses a simple mirror, not a complex penta-prism like we have on our single lens reflex cameras. Also, to use it, you have to actually adhere the device to your viewing screen, but to me that is a small price to pay.
Also, the Flipbac is pretty good for self-portraits. If you flip the mirror all the way down as if you are using the camera horizontally, then flip it around on the other axis, the mirror ends up facing the photographer. If you line the plane of the mirror up to be parallel with the glass on the viewing screen, the mirror serves as a guide to what will be in the center of your image. It is NOT showing all of what is being seen by the camera, but it is showing you the center of what the camera sees.
I do not make any money if you buy a Flipbac. What I get is the satisfaction of knowing that every photographer who buys one now has another tool in their bag for making ever more interesting images. Twenty dollars to open up a whole new world of ways to make interesting photographs seems like a bargain to me.