Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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The northern hemisphere is spending a lot of time in the dark these days, so I'm interested taking long exposures, 8-30 seconds or so, in urban environments. The goal would be to use existing objects (mail and newspaper boxes, retaining walls, benches, bollards, etc) and either a Joby Gorillapod or a dedicated beanbag (such as those found on thepod.ca) to stabilize the camera for streetscapes. The camera would be mostly level and held in landscape orientation, but absolutely precise framing isn't critical. Full-sized tripods simply aren't an option for a number of non-photographic reasons.

In my specific case I have both beanbags and gorillapods suitable for cameras ranging in size from compacts to medium format, so having sufficient support isn't a limiting factor. While I recognize that the "go out and try it" method has real merit, time constraints and winter temperatures make blind experimentation somewhat unappealing. I'm also very interested to hear if there's another support method that I should be considering but haven't thought of.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

It seems that you already have both beanbag and gorillapod.

If you can't bring both, I would prefer the gorillapod over the beanbag for the following reasons:

Height

The gorillapod is higher while the beanbag can only be placed on the ground. When there is a higher surface, the gorillapod can still be placed on it, so it is almost always higher than the beanbag. Height is important especially when the foreground is not interesting.

Dirt

Beanbag gets dirty fast if you put them on the ground and is harder to clean. For gorillapod you can put it on muddy surface and just wipe its feet clean very easily.

Vertically mount

Gorillapod allows you to mount your camera on vertical objects such as lamp post, as long as it has enough grip and your camera is not too heavy. You cannot do that with beanbag. Also, when mounting on a rail, gorillapod is more secure because the legs warp around, while the beanbag needs a delicate balance and can be easily knocked over.

Speed

When it comes to speed however the beanbag wins. You put it down and you are set. You don't even have to unmount it, just keep it on the camera, pick the whole thing up and you are good to go. Gorillapod require much longer setup time. However this is the only down side I can think of so far.

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Most soft objects I used have some sort of 'creep' that will ruin the shot for exposure of 1 to 30 seconds. I guess the beanbag SPECIALLY designed for photography should not have this issue, but I think chances are gorillapod will offer a much steadier stance. –  Gapton Dec 20 '13 at 5:54

I have not had very good luck with gorillapods, great to hold a flash or two, but not for my cameras. This is likely due to the fact that I tend to shoot with heavier cameras and glass (and I am picky about my tripods). I have had good luck with "bean bags" (I actually use rice), packed relatively tight and heavy on a steady more or less flat surface you can get a good (use a trigger) 30 second exposure.

Of course I prefer a real tripod :-)

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