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    Good reasons to place a carabiner in your photo kit

    The post Great reasons to place a carabiner in your Photo Kit first appeared at Digital Photography School. It is written by Rick Ohnsman.

    The carabiner is a device most commonly associated with mountain climbing, but now it finds application in so many other things. In this article we will explore a few ways in which you as a photographer can make good use of a carabiner.

    Interestingly, the carabiner was not originally invented for climbers. The history of the device is interesting with an inventor with the nickname "Rambo". It is not a story that I will describe in detail here, but it is worth reading. The carabiner is essentially a loop with an easy-to-open "gate". This allows you to quickly click on objects and then close them with a spring. Some carabiners also have a locking mechanism that prevents the door from being opened unintentionally.

    Great Reasons-to-put-a-carabiner-in-your-Photo-Kit

    Cheap carabiners are great for many of the applications that we will discuss here. Note, however, that they are clearly marked "NOT FOR CLIMBING."

    Not for climbing

    Carabiner hooks come in various sizes and designs. Those specially made for climbers are carefully designed, tested, rated for strength and marked with their bearing capacity. At the other end of the spectrum are the lightweight versions that are often sold for just a few dollars in hardware stores and the like. These are often marked "Not for climbing" because they are not built with the same care or performance options as the climb-specific types.

    Image: the huge nearly 8-inch carabiner on the left may have some good photo applications such as car ...

    The huge nearly 8-inch carabiner on the left may have some good photo applications such as carrying multiple items or hanging an extension cord, but it's not for climbing. The other three to be carabiner with climbing capacity. The person on the far right is a lock type.

    For the purposes described in this article, we may cover use by photographers. The lighter, non-climbing versions can work well for those applications.

    As a disclaimer, I know very little about climbing. I am not a climber and would certainly not begin to suggest that you take anything in this article as an instruction on how to use carabiners for climbing. If that is your intention, look for an expert – someone you trust with your life.

    In the climbing world that is really the goal that a carabiner can serve.

    Security and convenience

    Carabiners serve two main goals for climbers:

    Safety – Carabiners are used as a fast attachment to click into climbing ropes. These ropes act as safety devices, so if the climber falls, the rope and the carabiner will stop the climber and protect them from disaster.

    Ease – On the side of a mountain, it's just you. Fumble and drop something, and it's gone. Unable to carry a heavy load, you need a strong, lightweight device that offers both safety and easy access to your equipment (sometimes with just one hand). That is precisely the task for which the carabiner is well suited.

    We will discuss safety and handy use of carabiners by photographers.


    When fragile things fall on hard surfaces, bad things happen. That is why climbers use ropes and carabiners – as safety equipment. If you've ever dropped a camera, lens, or other valuable photo equipment, you've learned this lesson the hard way. So what if we could come up with a few tricks using carabiners to give your photographic equipment some security so that you are not punished by the law of gravity?

    Image: a simple do-it-yourself camera-to-tripod safety belt as described here. The top knot is a clove, ...

    A simple do-it-yourself camera-to-tripod safety chain as described here. The top knot is a clove, the bottom a cat's paw knot.

    Camera-to-tripod tether

    I do a lot of landscape photography and like to mount my camera on my tripod with an L-bracket that is compatible with Swiss-Arca. The bracket clicks into the lever lock mount on the top of my tripod. I prefer the lever clamp over knobs. It is faster to work, easier to see if it is locked and, unlike a rotary knob, does not require a periodic check. After taking a few photos when I went to a new location, I placed the tripod over my shoulder and walked to the new location with the camera and lens still at the end of the tripod.

    Now I know that I am not the only one doing this – I remember being Art Wolfe ' s ' Travels to the Edge ' have watched where he would routinely carry his camera. I like to be cool as art – silhouetted against the sun with my tripod and camera over my shoulder. I never saw his camera fall off the tripod and I have never dropped mine … yet.

    I'm afraid one day I will walk, carry the camera in this way, and suddenly the tripod will become lighter and I will hear a crash behind me. I know my blood would be cold. A clamp failure or unplanned release can be a disaster and certainly make an adult man cry. Instead of making that happen, I came up with this idea.

    Grab two carabiners and tie each to opposite ends of a short length of rope. Paracord works well for this, because it is light and strong. This is not overworked. You want to choose carabiners and cord with a load strength of maybe 50 pounds or more to be on the safe side, but not so large that it is cumbersome. What is important is to tie the cord to the carabiner hooks with the correct knot. If the rope comes loose from the carabiner when the need arises … yes, that would be bad.

    Go online and find a good video that shows you how to tie a rope to a carabiner. I love the catnip knot for this purpose. The clove hitch is also good.

    Great Reasons-to-put-a-carabiner-in-your-Photo-Kit

    If you walk with your camera on the tripod over your shoulder, as in the insert, your camera would be saved if the clamp is released as in the large shot IF it is tied. Otherwise … =: -O

    The length of the cord should not be much longer than the distance from your tripod head to the camera. Usually 6-8 ″ (15-20 cm) will be approximately right. Purchase a split ring, the type that is often used for key chains, and attach it to the ridge on the side of the camera that is made for a normal camera strap.

    Now clip a carabiner through the ring and the other just below the holder on your ball head. (See the picture). Most ball heads are suitable for this. If yours does not, you must find another place on the tripod to clamp the lower carabiner. Now go up the path with the confidence that if the clamp releases your camera, the chain will make it.

    Yes, it can get in the way from time to time or prevent your head from completely freeing while shooting, but if you do, loosen the carabiner hooks while you work. The peace of mind that I get when I walk the path with my camera on my tripod over my shoulder is certainly worth a small inconvenience.

    Other uses for a safety tire

    A similar do-it-yourself device, two carabiner hooks connected by a length cord, can find other applications in your photo work as a safety belt. The size and weight of the device to be protected determine the strength of your carabiner hooks and the connecting cord, rope or cable. People in lighting or theater work are probably familiar with such safety bands. Falling a heavy light on the talent below would be bad, really bad.

    Even if your photography does not involve talent under lighting or other equipment, it is also bad to drop expensive photo equipment from a support and drop it on the ground. Consider ways to create safety bands for some of your other equipment with some creative do-it-yourself.

    Image: a sling-style camera strap attached to the bottom tripod hole of a camera with ...

    A sling-style camera strap attached to the bottom tripod hole of a camera with a clip shaped like a carabiner.

    Camera straps

    I get it, nobody likes a strap around their neck, and most camera straps are difficult. But just like wearing your seat belt in the car, you may have to consider the risk versus the inconvenience. I wish I had a dollar for every time I saw photographers – even professionals – holding their camera and taking a photo with the strap dangling down rather than around their neck. I see them shoot through the window of the tour bus, over the side of the boat, over a cliff edge or at the zoo with crocodiles underneath.

    I also wish I had wasted all the money when cameras & lenses that could have saved with a belt instead were made awkward, dropped and destroyed. I use an Op / Tech strap (Black Rapid is a similarly known designer of a strap). It's more comfortable, holds the camera on my hip instead of on my chest, and is still ready for quick action.

    My work camera uses a different connection method. It uses a mounting in the tripod screw hole and a snap clip that looks a lot like a carabiner. For that I adjusted my OEM belt and used a similar snapshot from a hardware store.

    I think there are people who "climb freely" without safety devices, people who ride without their seat belts and, yes, people who don't like camera straps. I leave it up to you to decide.

    Me? Camera straps, carabiners and safety belts are my friends.

    Photographing near the edge

    During a trip to Canyonlands National Park in Utah we had a photo companion in our group with less acrophobia than me. (We have given him the nickname ' Spiderman '). While shooting the gorge at Deadhorse State Park, he was uncomfortably close to the edge. I tried not to look and focused on my photography. Then I looked around … and he was gone! His tripod and camera were still there, but he wasn't.


    I feared the worst and carefully peeked over the edge …

    Looking … looking …

    A few minutes later he stepped behind a few bushes with a big grin.

    For our next trip I am considering rigging him with a safety belt.

    Image: That next step is a doozy! My photo companion "Spiderman" on a trip to Deadhorse Stat ...

    That next step is a doozy! My photo companion "Spiderman" on a trip to Deadhorse State Park in Utah.

    I tell that story to suggest this, using a carabiner and a length of rope so that you get those ' edgy shots ' make it safe. The recordings where you extend your camera and tripod over the edge, out of the window, over the side of the boat, cliff, above the crocodile pit (Crikey!). All those places where you will not get your equipment back if you mess or release your clamp. At least not in one piece. There is also a potential danger for those considering below.

    I suggest attaching your camera / tripod to a cable. A good device if you hold a lot of your camera in your hand with a wrist strap. There are different commercial designs, or you can make a belt with a velcro strap around your wrist and a carabiner to attach to a ring on your camera. Fumble the camera and the safety chain on your wrist saves it.

    While working near steep edges, it may also be a good idea to have a cord to yourself. However, if you decide to do this, you will enter the realm of ' climbing & # 39 ;. Like I said, don't look at me or this article for advice about it Which subjects.

    When attaching your equipment, attach the other end of the rope to something secure, maybe not yourself. You also don't want a falling camera and tripod to drag you over the edge. Do you already have that Spiderman?

    Image: the hook on the bottom of a tripod column is often not big enough to accommodate ...

    Often the hook on the bottom of a tripod column is just not big enough to hold a camera bag handle. A carabiner makes it work. Use this setup if you want extra weight and stability for your tripod or to keep your camera bag away from the dirty or wet ground.

    Convenience – what, where and when you need it

    Having what you need, where you need it, when you need it, and being available for quick access and returning to the storage location is essential for a mountain climber hanging on the side of a cliff. It is also useful for a photographer who is operating the camera. Or has no time to search through a backpack looking for something while the light is volatile. Carabiner to the rescue! Easy access to equipment at your fingertips is a feature of this little miracle.

    Great Reasons-to-put-a-carabiner-in-your-Photo-Kit

    Zip-tie and gaff tape a carabiner on a tripod leg and you have a "third" hook. Keep a filter or other accessory bag handy while you work.

    Creative photographers will use a lot for a carabiner, both in the field and in the studio. Others who put all kinds of other goodies and gadgets on the market have also incorporated carabiners in their equipment designs to make them more useful.

    Let's take a look at some pictures that show both some DIY applications and product designs that exploit the wonders of a carabiner.

    Great Reasons-to-put-a-carabiner-in-your-Photo-Kit

    Many products contain carabiners in their design. Here are just a few possible interests for photographers. Urban Gear knife, TempaBright light / thermometer, Coghlan ' s waterproof capsule holder, Coghlan ' s large carabiner handle, small carabiner keychains, Nite Ize S-biner, Nite Ize DoohicKey, LuxPro focusable flashlight, LifeLine weatherproof first aid kit and not forget the zip ties.

    Combine this with a carabiner

    You have seen some great uses for carabiner hooks for a photographer and hopefully I introduced you to something that you can use. But I would refrain from proposing other devices to throw in your package to further increase the versatility of carabiners.

    Great Reasons-to-put-a-carabiner-in-your-Photo-Kit

    My LowePro ProTactic 450AW backpack has MOLLE webbing on the outside, which means there are many places to cut carabiners and goodies.


    Originally developed as the suspension lines used on parachutes, this strong and lightweight nylon cord is a great accessory to have in your backpack. It is available in many thicknesses and strengths, a rainbow of colors, is easy to cut when you need a shorter length and you can close the ends with a match. It is great stuff and a perfect partner for a carabiner.

    Image: Do you need to tighten a loose line? Clamp a carabiner, turn the carabiner until the line is tight ...

    Do you have to tighten a loose line? Clamp a carabiner hook, rotate the carabiner hook until the line is tight and clamp the carabiner back on the now secured line.

    Binder clips

    Yes, the type used in the office. They come in different sizes, so you can adjust the size to suit your needs. A perfect photographic application depends on a background. Place a pair of tie clips along the top edge of the background, clip carabiners through the loops of each clip and you can hang the background on a paracord line or rod.

    Great Reasons-to-put-a-carabiner-in-your-Photo-Kit

    Hang a background with some carabiners that are used such as curtain hooks on a line or bar. Binderclips work well for this, but these ProGrip TarpSharks were too cute not to buy a pair.

    Zip ties – (also known as cable ties)

    Zippers are very light, strong and can be pulled very tightly and locked there. These are miracle devices. If you cannot attach your carabiner directly to an object, try attaching a cable tie to it, and before you tighten it, also a carabiner. The above example of attaching a water bottle to a carabiner is a good one. You think of dozens of other applications. Zip ties can also save the day when straps or other things in your photo kit break and you need an emergency solution.

    Gaffer tape

    People in the film and theatrical professions know and love things like this and no photographer should be without a small role in their pack. Do not confuse this with duct tape, it will only make a sticky, hard-to-remove mess of your equipment. Buy real gaff tape and go crazy in the many ways you can use it.

    Image: in the studio, an easy way to prevent two connected extension cords from being disconnected.

    In the studio, an easy way to prevent two connected extension cords from being disconnected.

    Great Reasons-to-put-a-carabiner-in-your-Photo-Kit

    Not a lock, but at least a way to use a carabiner on the zips of your backpack to discourage a potential thief from a quick grasp of your equipment.

    The do-it-yourself photographer

    If you haven't figured it out yet, I'm a real do-it-yourselfer! If I can come up with a cheaper, better, innovative way to do something, including my photography work, I am completely engaged in it.

    Carabiners certainly fall in the list of useful parts in the ' goodies ' bag that I keep in my photo backpack. I hope you have picked up a useful tip here. If there is anything that I have missed that you want to share with the global photography community here on DPS, then include it and perhaps a photo in the comment below.

    Now continue and take pictures!

    Great Reasons-to-put-a-carabiner-in-your-Photo-Kit

    The post Great reasons to place a carabiner in your Photo Kit first appeared at Digital Photography School. It is written by Rick Ohnsman.

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