Editor's Note: Tom Whelan was the first place winner in our initial photo contest so
naturally we wanted him to strut his stuff by telling us how that macro slider courtesy of
Really Right Stuff helps him in the field.
The focusing slider is a simple device that solves an annoying problem in
macro photography. When you set up a macro photograph, most people handhold
the camera to find a good composition and then set up the tripod in that
spot. Too often, a frustrating period of adjustment follows. The camera is
too close to focus. The camera is too far from the subject and the simplified
composition you started with is filled with clutter - or the subject is too
small or too large in the frame.
So, you do what John Shaw calls "jockeying the tripod" - moving your tripod
closer or farther away. If you're lucky, your tripod isn't tangled in
branches, and you don't knock the dew off the flower you were a few inches
from. If your subject is an insect, moving the tripod may not be an option
at all unless you do it very carefully.
Enter the Really Right Stuff focusing slider (Model B31a). The focusing
slider lets you move your camera closer or farther without moving your
tripod. The slider is a six-inch long bar that fits in an Arca-Swiss type
ballhead clamp. Mount your camera and lens in the clamp on the bar, then mount the bar in
your ballhead. By loosening your ballhead clamp slightly, slide the bar and
your camera nearer or farther from the subject. Six inches of travel can
make a significant difference when you're close to the subject. For
instance, you could start out with the view on the right of a mushroom with the slider
out all the way.
By sliding in closer, you fill the frame with the subject and crop out
distractions such as the green shoot at the bottom and the out-of-focus
highlight at the top. The slider is an alternative to a more common macro tool,
a geared focusing rail. The idea with a geared focusing rail is the same: adjust the camera
position without moving the tripod. With a geared rack, you can move the
camera by turning a knob.
I found that the slider was very easy to move, and
moved in a controlled way with my ballhead clamp adjusted properly. It
didn't slip, and there are stops at either end of the slider that help keep
the slider in the ball head clamp. As the mushroom picture shows, it works
for vertical pictures as well as horizontals. With the slider, you move in
to the right image size and use the camera to focus. I suspect that people
who use a geared rail don't rely on the rail for focusing.
Editor's Comment: Let us know what you think! Please email the
to let us know your thoughts.
Tom Whelan is an avid naturalist and photographer of insects, birds, and
plant life. You'll find him in Massachusetts fields and meadows chasing and
photographing butterflies and birds, along with flowers. A digital
photography enthusiast, he uses a Canon D30 and EF lenses from 300mm to
24mm. Stop by his nature photography website at
Roadsides and Waste Places.