Monday, January 14, 2008

Gorillapod - Best Christmas Gift Ever

Of my flood of Christmas gifts, the one I had to wait for the longest has in just a few days used its quirkiness - and spidery legs - to climb up near the top of my list of most valuable gifts.

Originally planned to complement a photography book my wife put in my stocking, the three-legged creature's journey to Christmas in Albany, Ga., was delayed by some faulty back-order shipping at LL Bean, but he was well worth the wait.

The gorillapod, a tripod with flexible, rubber-coated legs and joints that wrap around all kinds of surfaces, will allow me to get crystal-clear photos in locations where a normal tripod would have nowhere to stand. The gorillapod can cling to trees, columns, safety rails, arms (for action video) and just about any surface it can latch its little legs onto.

The innovative piece of gear is perfect for someone like me who wants to document outdoor activity without loads of bulky camera gear. Weighing only 1.6 ounces at six or seven inches long, I can slip the gorillapod into my camera bag and not feel like I have a monkey in my backpack.

Ironically, my little pod will probably used more for capturing dull, canned images of people in suits than vibrant, colorful scenery. My desire to learn photography mixes business with pleasure. As an international business reporter, I often find myself at venues where the light isn't perfect and stability is necessary for a timed shutter release that will give me crisp photos. I already feel out of place sometimes as I hobnob with the bigwigs. I can just imagine the looks I'll get when I wrap the gorillapod around a wine glass, an opulent centerpiece or the microphone on the podium at my next formal gala.

Although my gorillapod is made for handheld cameras, the splendid little creature has larger, more evolved cousins that come in various bright colors and can support heavy SLR cameras so that the pros can join in the fun. It can also be used as a base for a Web cam for those who don't have one built into the laptop. Manufactured by Joby, the pod's MSRP is $24.95, but you might find a cheaper version if you get lucky on Ebay. At L.L. Bean, the gorillapod starts at $22.

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