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The Enola Gay is a tangible piece of history. I was in awe of this flying machine when I first saw it at the Udvar-Hazy National Air and Space Museum. It was on my bucket list for a photo. Here’s how I got the shot I wanted.

Planning to Shoot the Enola Gay Indoors

This is an awesome museum, but it wasn’t designed for photography. I had some shots from my previous visit, but I had to bump up the ISO quite a bit for the lighting conditions. Since I was planning a photography trip to the D.C. area, I thought this would be a good case to use HDR.

Then I discovered that you can’t take a tripod into this museum.  Sometimes it’s a bit confusing knowing where you can and cannot use a tripod in the D.C. area.  This is a Smithsonian establishment and it doesn’t allow tripods or monopods. On the other hand, the Smithsonian National Zoo proudly proclaims on its website that you’re welcome to bring your tripod (and many people there were making good use of them).

Knowing I couldn’t use it, and failing to get any special dispensation to use it in advance, I fell back on my Manfrotto Magic Arm.

Once again, a security guard scanning my bag looked askance at my arm and told me tripods were not allowed.  I explained that it wasn’t a tripod, he accepted, and all was good.

I started clamping down the arm and taking my exposure brackets on a stable platform (no high-speed winds here, like up on the Stratosphere). Good things never last for long, though. Another security guard approached me and informed me that tripods weren’t allowed.

The conversation repeated about how this was not a tripod.  He was quite nice to me, but a bit unsure if this was permitted or not.  The guard called his supervisor down, I showed him how it worked.

I think it could have gone either way, but everyone was friendly and so was I, and I believe that good attitude is what helped them decide the Magic Arm was OK. Wonderful!

Tripods Aren’t Your Only Option for Stability

I got to spend the next several hours shooting everything in sight with a stable platform.  Suffice it to say I’ll get a chance to play with a lot of material for some HDR images.  If you’d like to do the same thing in places that prohibit tripods, you need two pieces to make it work.

  1. Manfrotto Magic Arm
  2. Manfrotto Super Clamp

Stick these things in your bag if you’re going somewhere that doesn’t permit tripods. If I’m not 100% sure, then this combo goes in my bag. It’s another option to help you be prepared to get the shot of the Enola Gay you always wanted.

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