Essential Photo Gear
Dave sent us this awesome in-field shots of our Apex Bean Bag! Location: Madikwe Game Reserve. Photo by: Kevin Linforth
Essential Photo Gear
My friend Travis Peltz over at Essential Photo Gear recently ran an online contest with the prize being one of their new Apex Mini Beanbags.  I was thrilled when Travis contacted me to let me know I had won.

Travis and I have been Twitter friends for a few years now and he is familiar with the type of things I like to shoot and also has a general idea of what sort of gear I use.  I can’t begin to tell you how excited I was when he suggested that instead of getting the new Apex Mini, I might want to try out a prototype of their upcoming Apex Low Profile bag.  On top of all that, Travis told me that I was to have a one of a kind prototype, how cool is that?

I have used beanbags in my photography since I first started shooting.  They can be used as a very flexible means of support for your gear.  In my early days of shooting, beanbags were just that, the bean bag you remember as a toy when you were a kid.  Now days, the photographic beanbag has really grown up.  They are now designed to give you a very stable mount for your hear, while being one of the most practical tools in your photographic arsenal.

My first impression when unpacking the bag was that it is very well built.  Nice heavy material and very rugged stitching.  It has a mounting plate to attach your ball head, a Manfrotto 486 with a Kirk quick release plate in my case, which can be removed so you can use the bag as a “soft” support if desired.  The last thing that jumped out at me was the “rubber” material on the inner sides of the bag to keep it from slipping when you have it draped over your car door.

I have taken test shots with my Nikon D200 (w/battery grip) with both the 24-70 2.8 and the Sigma 50-500 Bigma attached.  In both cases the bag provided a very stable rest which allowed me to take shots that I would never be able to do handheld.  The attached image shows my D200 with the Sigma 24-70 sitting on the door of my 2011 Toyota Tacoma.  Trust me, if I didn’t have 100% confidence in that bag, I would have never left it there by itself.

This bag is going to “live” in my truck.  It will go with me everywhere I go and I know that it will become an essential tool this summer during monsoon season when we are out storm chasing.
Essential Photo Gear
It’s actually as much a customer service experience as it is a gear review. When I ordered my Apex Bean Bag from Essential Photo Gear I had visions of using it from my car with a Wimberley style head attached so I could shoot with my Nikon 600mm lens from my car.

When it arrived I promptly filled it up with sunflower seeds, mounted my Jobu BWG Pro head and ran out to the car to give it a try. In the video of the Apex Bean Bag they depict the Apex with a long telephoto lens being used from a truck. When I mounted the Apex on my Honda Accord which obviously has less window clearance then a truck (15 inches to be exact) I did not have the clearance from the top of the door frame to the top of the lens which meant this bag was not going to work for my intended use unless I bought a Jeep which for some reason I was unsuccessful selling to my wife. LOL

Now here’s my real reason for writing this blog. What I expected when I contacted the supplier with this issue is that they would advise me to send it back and they would refund my money. SURPRISE, SURPRISE what I got was this response from Travis Peltz, “Give me the measurements for your car’s window frame and I will design a bean bag that will work for you.” Seriously, in 2011 how often do you get that kinda of service. I can’t begin to tell you how impressed I was in dealing with Travis.

Sixteen email exchanges and two design iterations later and presto the Low Profile Apex Bean Bag was born. The Low profile version sits a full 4 inches lower then the original Bean Bag and works great from my Honda Accord so needless to say I am a happy camper. Long story short, if you own a car and need a great bean bag for use with a long telephoto lens and Wimberley style head then the Apex Low Profile should be high on your list.
Essential Photo Gear
Had I found the Mono-pad sooner, I may have not needed shoulder surgery. Having gone through that, and worked hard to recover, I use the Mono-pad at all times, and it makes a large difference. In addition to the Mono-pad that has helped greatly after my shoulder surgery for Motorsports Photography, I use the Pod-Pad for all my expedition and wildlife photography.
Essential Photo Gear
I am thrilled with the summer-weight Kwik Camo throw blind! I used it frequently during a recent two-week trip to Texas.The lightweight material is breathable, allowing the breeze to keep me cooler in the Texas heat, plus the fabric allows some visibility outward for better peripheral vision.

The opening for the flash brackets is very convenient...I've used it a lot. The small side openings that allow your hands outside the blind for adjustments are very convenient.

Best of all, the entire blind packs up into its pouch; it's very light and extremely portable. It's obvious this product has been designed carefully for the nature photographers with functionality and ease of set up in mind. It's a great addition to the gear I carry out into the field for wildlife photography!
Essential Photo Gear
... Just a note to say the Kwik Camo has allowed me to get some great bird shots recently... Thanks for a great product!