Handy, dandy Bean Bags
for when you need a little friendly support
bags: There are times when the tripod is simply impractical,
and that's where this simple gadget comes into it's own.
I find them indispensable for steadying my telephotos
when shooting out the vehicle window. Drape the bag over
a car door/window, put it on a fence rail or fence post,
on top of a wall, the back of a chair, across a porch
railing- you name it - and it will likely conform to give
your lens a steady base to sit on. A search on the web
will find some to buy, but they can get pretty expensive.
You won't find them at the camera shop either. But if
you have access to a sewing machine (or someone who sews),
I have a better answer for you . . . . Make your
"Magic Bean Bag"
bean bags compared
My original medium bean bag - 8 lbs. and
Right: slightly larger Magic Bean Bag
- only 6 lbs. 3 oz.
first one I made was a small "double bean bag", shown
here from a do-it-yourself article
by Scott Fairbairn. His instructions were less
than helpful in explaining how the double bag design was
suppoed to be constructed, and it took a bit until I understood
how to do it. This small bean bag works fine for a 300mm
f/4 or smaller lens.
first small bean bag
I purchased my 500mm prime lens, I found the first bean
bag was too small for it, so I simply made a larger one
from Scott Fairbairn's pattern. This second "medium
size" bean bag is shown at left below with my
"Flying Saucer Ball Head".
I had an idea on how to improve on this double bean bag,
so I made another medium size bag which I call the Magic
Bean Bag. I used better fabric, and incorporated
some other improvements, including a zipper, and a design
to allow filling both sides of the double bean bag via
a single zippered opening. I also achieved a 25% reduction
in weight by utilizing some alternate filler material
along with the usual dried Pinto bean filler.
soon found though that I really needed something a bit
taller to use in the window of my truck, so I came up
with a totally new design called the "Butterfly
Bean Bag". The main feature of this design is
that pound for pound you get more bean bag. In other words,
a more efficient use of the bean filling makes it work
like a larger bean bag, but it weighs less, and weight
is something we photographers are always trying to minimize.
Flying Saucer Ball Head
Butterfly Bean Bags,
versions I and II
I came up with some improvements for the original, not
the least of which is a 6 pound decrease in weight.
This article with complete instructions on how to make
your own Butterfly Bean Bag version
II will walk you through it with over 60 instructional
Check out my easy to make Flying
Saucer Ball Head to use on your bean bag.