PHOTOGRAPHIC ‘MUCK-STICK’ SAFETY
by Ian Robertson, 2015

Introduction

A photographers ‘muck-stick’ (a 6 mm dia stainless steel or dural rod about 300 mm long) is an essential part of our photographic gear now, especially when shooting macro. 

It has multiple uses, such as a ‘monopod’ point steady to avoid reef damage, or as a means of rolling over small stones to see what lies beneath without getting too close to blue-ringed octopi or cone shells, or even just for digging into the sand as an anchor in a strong current. 

When not in use, it is generally carried on a wrist lanyard or stuffed up a wetsuit sleeve.  What has worried me for a while is that tricky act of entering or leaving the water while dangling something that, although not actually sharp, could easily penetrate the rib cage, stomach or a leg, in a fall, with unpleasant or even career-limiting consequences.

A Solution to the Problem

An obvious place to stow the ‘muck-stick’ is on the camera baseplate (Figure 1), where it is less likely to do harm.  But how can we make it both secure and easily accessed?  The answer is a pair of dedicated clips (Figures 1 and 2).  I made these about a year ago and they have been a resounding success.  I’ve made two more installations since, for dive buddies.  It just needs a little bit of discipline to stow the ‘muck-stick’ on the camera base-plate at the safety stop, as I close down the camera at the end of the dive.

Figure 1.  The installation

Manufacture

The two clips are made from a piece of PVC plastic sheet about 1.5 mm thick (Figure 3).  These are molded and bent with a heat-gun.  PVC is ideal, as it molds and bends very easily when hot, though other, similar plastics will do.  Practice with the heat-gun on a few bits of scrap first!  The clips, once molded and bent, are adjusted while hot so they hold the muck-stick firmly when cold.  The clips are then drilled and attached to the camera base plate with stainless steel bolts.  It is essential to use marine-grade stainless steel as seawater plays merry hell with anything else.

 
Figure 2. Detail of the Clip   Figure 3. Drawing of Clip and Baseplate

Materials and Tools

You get grey or white PVC from the plumbing or reticulation aisle in your hardware store, where it is used in pipe-fittings and pipes or it is easily scrounged, by the more adventurous, from a dumper bin on a building site.  The bolts come from your local yachting store.  Tools you need are a drill, a small hacksaw, a fine file and a heat-gun (a bit like a hair-dryer on steroids).  The photos and diagrams tell all.  Remember to remove and replace the ‘muck-stick’ by pulling it out along its length.

 

BACK TO DIVING HIGHLIGHTS