Pole aerial photography gear


Here, except for poles and video receiver, are the components in my pole aerial photography kit. You can see my poles at www.flickr.com/photos/kap_cris/3681959928. The video on the ground is received by a Polaris LCD with integral 2.4 GHz receiver that dates back to KAP experiments 5 years ago. I have also started a Flickr set with PAP gear images: www.flickr.com/photos/kap_cris/sets/72157624591116314/wit…

Contents of field pack for pole photography

Read on for an explanation of these bit and pieces.

(1) Lens cap for aftermarket lens hood

(2) Camera bracket made from scrap wood and 1/16" x 1" aluminum flat. I have attached a small ball head for camera position adjustment.

(3) 2.4 GHz video transmitter made from an inexpensive X10 XCam2. This adaptation follows instructions provided by Brooks Leffler – see "Repackaging the X10 transmitter" and "Peter’s Perfect Power Provider" at www.brooxes.com/newsite/Downloads/DOWNLOADS.html

(4) Small cable to connect the camera’s micro USB A/V connector to the video transmitter. I started with the stock Panasonic AV cable. removed the heavy ferrite core, reduced the leads to video only and reduced the length – all to save weight and space.

(5) small bag with spares (see www.flickr.com/photos/kap_cris/4833202384/in/photostream/).

(6) Panasonic LX3 with aftermarket lens hood to offer some protection for the otherwise exposed front element of lens.

(7) Wireless doorbell receiver modified to trigger the GentLED AutoFINGER. (see www.gentles.ltd.uk/gentled/options.htm#IRauto). To modify the doorbell receiver I followed the lucid and helpful path charted by John at hackersbench.com (see hackersbench.com/Projects/ding-dong/main.html).

(8) Wireless doorbell transmitter.

(9) Panasonic DMW-LW46 0.75x wide angle adapter/ I have been pleased with this adapter and use it quite often (see www.flickr.com/photos/kap_cris/3165610026/).

(10) Lens cleaning cloth

(11) Homemade intervalometer (see www.flickr.com/photos/kap_cris/3154193529/).

(12) 2200 mAh 11.1 V LiPo batteries for use with video receiver / display

(13) 730mAh 4.8v NiMH 4 cell AAA battery packs to power video transmitter

The components above fit into an 30-year old Lowe fanny pack for use in the field:

Field kit for pole photography

When the pole is in use the video receiver / monitor, stored in a small wood box under the camera and bracket, stays in the shadows of the fanny pack for easier viewing. Here is a view of the cradle mounted on the pole tip:

Camera cradle for pole photography

For contents of (5) Spares bag see:

Contents of spares bag (5)

And finally, here is a shot of my gear in use (sans video) compliments of Joy Phoenix. The photographs shows my son Charlie (BarleyBenton on Flickr) and myself as we photographed the Italian Street Art Festival in San Rafael, California. Charlie’s rig in this photo does have a wired video feed to a monitor in his shoulder bag (see www.flickr.com/photos/kap_cris/4285628342/

Poles aloft in San Rafael

Over on Flickr, Dave Mitchell commented on my PAP gear ost:

My own experiences with a 11m carp pole have led me to make the CofG of the PAP ‘head’ as near as possible to the centre of the pole to make it easy to manage, particularly when tilted. Although I recently added a cable that lets me view what the camera sees and trigger the shutter rather than use a simple intervalometer (photos to appear here soon), so far I’ve only used it in tests – in ‘real life’ the added benefits seem outweighed by the extra work setting up, the wind resistance of the cable, the quality of the video in bright sunlight (even with a hood) etc.

Here is my response:

Hi Dave – you raise a couple of interesting questions.

Regarding pole camera bracket geometry – I developed my bracket when I first scored a carp pole from Simon Harbord in 2006. It was a quick workbench "sketch" because I was eager to get a camera attached. However, it has served well and I have not felt the need to revisit its basic layout. Over time I have attached a better "mini" ball head and added (by accretion) my remote trigger made from a hacked wireless doorbell. When I first put it together I decided to distribute the camera load to three points on the carp pole. I also decided to place the camera attachment point about four inches away from the pole itself so that I could stage shots looking straight down the pole or with the pole in view without the pole itself being too dominant in the scene. It is my sense that this does not cause handling difficulties.

DNA sculpture at LHS Father and son

Shots with the pole in view

Regarding the video downlink – I have eschewed video downlinks in my KAP work for a variety of reasons not the least of which is that I enjoy imagining what the camera sees. Beyond this the complexity of video, the fact that my hands were already busy with kite and transmitter, the requirement for yet more battery systems, and the difficulty of seeing video monitors outdoors kept me away from KAP video despite a few attempts over the years.

Still. I confess to being gadget prone and video always seems like a fun idea. I watched my son Charlie (BarleyBenton on Flickr) use his wired video while taking pole shots a few weeks back at the Italian Street Arts Festival in San Rafael and this inspired my to give video a try with the pole. So, I am really just playing around with it at the moment. As an aside, I was rather pleased that I was able to complete the video addition project with parts already available in my workshop – largely a retasking of parts from earlier KAP video and Hawkeye flying wing projects.

I have completed two sessions using the pole with video feedback – one at the Berkeley Skate Park and another at Sather Gate. I must say it has been easy to work with the gear. The transmitter module adds 128 grams to the cradle atop the pole (70 g for transmitter and 50 g for dedicated battery). This is less than the 172 g of my wide angle lens. I have yet to use video and the wide angle lens together. The video transmitter just slips into two holes I drilled in the cradle’s wooden bracket and holds there by friction. On the ground, the video monitor is tucked into the bottom of a box lined with dark fabric and contained in my fanny pack. I can refer to it without use of my hands. I find the visibility of the (not particularly good) monitor quite serviceable in bright daylight. It is not something I would watch for entertainment (too dim) but it does convey the information I need to frame the shot. I seem to be getting 80-90 minutes of monitor use from the relatively small LiPo battery in the fanny pack.

Field kit for pole photography

Monitor (and other gear) shown in fanny pack. The top view shows the camera and bracket in their storage locations. The monitor is there, lurking below a small block of foam padding. In the bottom view the camera, bracket, and padding have been removed to reveal the monitor. This is the working configuration when the camera is aloft. The box is deep enough to provide useful shading for the monitor’s screen.

In the end I think I will use the video on some occasions and not on others. When I need the feedback it rigs quickly and provides useful results. But there are certainly times when I don’t really need the feedback such as turning the pole on a vertical axis to capture a panorama sequence. When I was shooting the skateboarders at the Skate Park, the video was not particularly useful for framing their frenetic passage but it was valuable in presenting the momentary replay of the image just captured – that let me tune my anticipatory timing to catch the guys in midair.

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