About Lense On!
Lense On! is a photography beanbag platform to stabilize a camera and lense in a safari truck situation or sports photography where there is extremely limited working space requiring a fast set up and take down.
This invention would have never been created without a need.
When my husband and I started going to Africa, we were ill prepared to take sharp, interesting photos. This was the time BD, Before Digital. It was difficult to deal with film, but we soon found it very difficult to balance the camera and lense without a tripod or monopod. There is not room in most safari trucks for a tripod, so we did invest in monopods. This in itself was a move in the right direction, but proved not to solve the real problem. With a camera and big lense screwed onto the monopod when the truck is in motion, the whole set up became unwieldy. Where do we put it? There was no choice but to hold onto everything on our laps. With the monopod extended sticking out of the truck, the situation was not ideal. Bigger cameras and lenses became more of a problem.
Photographers are familiar with regular beanbags, but that only works if there is something to put them on! Most safari trucks are open in a three-tier configuration with no sides. There are no doors to put a beanbag on unless you are in the very front seat! After one such safari trip, I set out to find something that filled my needs. I searched the Internet for the right product. I bought several kinds of bags, but they were not the right solution. I described to an Internet product person what I was looking for. He said there was not anything like it anywhere. I asked him if he had a piece of metal that he could put the two sizes of mounting threads into it. He had a piece of aluminum that was 1/4inch thick that he would put two thread holes. He charged me $50.00 for it. I received the heavy piece and tried to think how to attach a bag. At that time, a camera bag product that screwed into the bottom of a camera, The Pod, was being marketed. I bought one. I screwed it into one of the screw holes on the top and used the other hole to attach the monopod to the bottom. I field-tested the product, but the bag was not big enough and the aluminum plate was too heavy and too small. I knew I had to find a new base. I looked in my local telephone directories for a machine shop close to me. I eventually found a man who had a shop in his garage! He said that he could machine a piece of plastic that is used for kitchen cutting boards and punch in the two sizes of screw holes. I had him make four plastic pieces and four thin metal pieces, eight inches in diameter. I figured out how to attach a bag by sandwiching a bag in between the two base pieces. We made the inner bag insert thinner than the outside bottom piece. The two were held together with bolts and lock nuts. I experimented with bag designs and fabrics. I finally came up with four prototypes to take on our next safari. The bases were of white cutting board material with two metal screw mounting holes, screwed together through four bolt openings in the bases, with tan mushroom-shaped synthetic suede bags on top with a side zipper. They would be filled at camp with beans or rice.
The bags were ready for field-testing. On our trip to Botswana, we gave them a real working over. We found that the screw holes fatigued and pulled out of the plastic. We put the monopods in both holes as they sequentially failed, even though it was not supposed to work that way. The synthetic suede was soft and attractive, but not durable enough. The thorn trees ripped them apart. They were repaired with duct tape! But the bags worked perfectly to stabilize our cameras and lenses for sharp, well-composed photos. Ta Da! We were on the right track!
We knew this was a huge breakthrough for us. I contacted a friend of mine familiar with metals. He suggested that we make the bottoms in aluminum with stainless steel pem nuts for the mounting screw holes. A real tool and die place would do that for us at a price for prototypes! I went ahead with the idea. We even setup a press to stamp the name of the product on the bottom. Eventually another manufacturer anodized the pieces.
I went ahead to make new designs for the bags. I made dozens of patterns and sewed bags made of every kind of material. This took months to accomplish. I finally settled on one design for each size of base: 6” and 7 1/2” diameter bases. Through my alterations lady, I met a young man who had a manufacturing business of machine embroidery, screen-printing, laser cutting of material, and bag assembly. He also had a graphic designer working for him. Through his association, he was able to take my patterns and laser cut the pieces out in the colors and sizes I wanted. His graphic designer worked with me to make a new logo for my Lense On! product. I went back to my studio to perfect the bag. I had to make adjustments in the pattern to accommodate the inseam binding to fill out the top and bottom pieces. I found a wholesale manufacture that would supply my 1000 denier nylon for the bags. I worked with bulk zippers to find the right coil zipper and pull-tab. My manufacturer knew a woven bag tag manufacturer to put my new logo and website on. He also gave me the name of a zipper manufacturer and zipper pull-tabs.
My eyeballs started to spin to the back of my head. Being a woman fine artist, I was not prepared for the difficulties of manufacturing! By this time I contacted my trademark attorney to register the Lense On! name. I now have my registered name of Lense On! and logo. On July 1, 2009, I applied for a non-provisional patent of Lense On! I knew nothing about this process, but I have asked a lot of questions from many people.
When we were just two months away from our trip to Africa Safari 2009 in March, I wanted several prototypes to take with me to drop with certain camps for them to field-test. We decided that the anodized surfaces were very sensitive to being scratched. I found a man who did Amour Glaze Coat for automobiles to prevent scratches in the paint. It was guaranteed for five years and looked beautiful! He did several for me to test. It was just another piece to the puzzle.
To finish the product before the trip, I wanted to find suitable filler for the Lense On! My fabric cutter manufacturer suggested ground recycled rubber that goes into synthetic grass! Their office was right around the corner from his place. I went there to find the best correct filler I had ever seen! The ground rubber was clean as a whistle, the size of ground pepper, would clump together to hold a form, and lightweight. We soon found that the small rubber pieces would seep out from the zipper. I made a separate bag insert, that was filled and zipped closed. That worked perfectly.
During the trip, we were in many situations. The most difficult was photographing the Uganda Mountain Gorillas in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park on the border of Congo. The trek through the dense forest jungle was extremely difficult, even with porters pulling me and my equipment up the side of the mountain! When we reached the group of gorillas, we set up our cameras and monopods with Lense On! With cameras in one hand and Lense On! monopod in the other, this left us with no more hands to balance ourselves hanging off the side of the mountain! I turned the Lense On! monopod upside down and used it as a walking stick. It worked perfectly! We got some great sharp photos! The mud and dirt eventually dried and brushed off cleanly.
I would have stopped on this project years ago, but I saw how well it performed. The doors have, somehow, opened up for me. There are no products available anywhere that the camera and lense can be set up and taken down so rapidly without the possibility of snapping a monopod pin. My goal is to put a Lense On! in to the hands of everyone that goes to Africa on photo safari, sports photographers, and soccer parents getting that great photo of their child making the play!
Lense On! has no moving parts except for a zipper with minimal instructions:
Get your Lense On! and shoot!