There are only a handful of reasons why anybody these days would erect a 30′ pole into the sky. It could be that they suffer from nephophobia and they’re merely protecting themselves from perceived danger, or more realistically, they might just be partaking in a process called pole aerial photography or PAP. PAP is the process of using a long, telescopic pole to elevate your camera for the purpose of shooting down on your subject. Listing photos benefit from this angle as it makes for a better view of the yard, surrounding area, and home structure. They also tend to be eye catching as it is a view most of us are not used to seeing on a regular basis. For real estate agents, pole aerial photographs can make your listings stand out in busy, monotonous marketplaces, generating more interest from prospective buyers. As the number of agents who offer this type of service is relatively small, PAP is also a great way to further stand out from the competition.
There are a number of solutions available for those looking to offer PAP as part of their real estate marketing efforts, but nothing that has really monopolized the industry as of yet. In addition, many of the solutions out there are exorbitantly expensive and intricately complicated. However, if money is of no concern to you, than by all means have a browse of some of the current providers of this technology:
HiVue – Aerial Photography Telescopic Mast Base Kit - £3995.00 ($5917.43 US)
Photo Towers – Telescoping Masts and Tall Tripods – Starting at £1580.00 ($2340.31 US)
If you’re more of a do-it-yourselfer and/or budget-conscious, there are a few ways that you can assemble your own pole aerial photographic system that’s much easier on the pocketbook. I’ve devised a couple of options here as guides, but with a little bit of research and some old-fashioned ingenuity you will likely be able to improve upon my concepts by a fair degree.
OPTION A: EASY ($420 + Camera)
The “easy” system is for those who tend to avoid high-tech gizmos whenever possible, who like to do a little manual labor, and who don’t mind learning by trial and error.
1) Camera with intervalometer or time-lapse function
2) Telescopic Pole – $390.00 (approx. 30’ length)
3) Flash bracket – $22.95
4) Long thumbscrew (or wing nut), washers, and soft rubber washers
Drill a hole through the flash bracket handle and through the top end of the telescopic pole. Attach the bracket to the pole using a long thumbscrew, or wing nut so that it can be loosened to adjust the tilted angle. Consider using a couple of washers and a rubber buffer to ensure the bracket attaches more firmly to the pole. Thread the camera onto the flash bracket securely.
Set your camera to the widest angle (i.e. 18mm is roughly 70-80 ° wide), and adjust the tilt accordingly (based on lens type, height of the pole, distance from the object, and size of the object). A little trial and error may be in order for those who wish to avoid the math. Activate the interval shooting mode – the camera will keep taking pictures in succession so feel free to modify your positioning every couple of shots. Elevate the pole to the desired height, and make regular adjustments so you get your framing just right.
- The heavier the camera, the more the pole will sway. Wind will also have an effect on the results.
- You may feel more at ease with a camera that does not cost a lot of money, just in case the pole falls over.
- Only raise the pole to the height you feel comfortable supporting.
- A painter’s pole will also work, but may be difficult to find over 16’ in length.
- You can try and use your camera’s proprietary, wireless remote to activate the shutter if one exists, but most wireless remotes are limited to 16’ so it may not work.
OPTION B: COMPLICATED ($1105.87 + Camera/Lens)
The “complicated” system is for the more advanced photographer who loves gadgets and gizmos. All of my equipment recommends can serve dual purposes, so consider these things as a flexible part of your gear collection. For instance, the motorized tripod head can also be used for video productions; the Pocket Wizards can also be used for off-camera lighting, etc. The package is more expensive, but it gives you way more control.
2) Wide Angle Lens (18mm or wider)
3) Pocket Wizard Set – $184.94
4) Manfrotto Giant Camera Stand – $650.00
5) Portable Monitor – $165.00
6) Motorized Tripod Head (Wireless) - $79.95
The Manfrotto Giant Tripod can be elevated to 24’ and is secured by three reinforced base legs. Use Pocket Wizards to set of your camera’s shutter via remote; Pocket Wizards use radio transmissions that range up to 1600’ so you won’t need to worry about them not working. The motorized tripod is also wireless but with a range of only 30’ – it should still work fine with the tripod suggested as the range surpasses the 24’ height. A length of RCA video cable will connect you to your camera, and with “live preview” you will be able to keep a close eye on your framing with the portable monitor.
Simply attach the camera to the motorized tripod head, and the tripod head to the tripod. Attach your Pocket Wizard receiver to the camera’s hotshoe, and connect it. Plug in the RCA cable to the video output, while attaching the other end to the monitor’s input. Elevate your camera manually, and use the tripod head remote to adjust your framing. When you have it framed just right, use the Pocket Wizard transmitter to set off the shutter.
- If you already own a portable DVD player, you can use it instead of the monitor.
- You cannot control an SLR camera’s zoom from a distance so you will need to adjust it first (Wider is usually better).
- Set up on sturdy ground and avoid bad weather.
So if you’re the type that likes a challenge and loves photography, give PAP a try. Lee Jinks over at Activerain has been tinkering with this technology for a while; you can have a look at some of his innovations here. And again, take my concepts as mere suggestions and feel free to modify in accordance with your needs. I should also mention that Point2 takes no financial or legal responsibility for equipment failures, damages, and/or injuries caused while using the recommended equipment; in other words, “PAP” at your own risk. Take care and have fun!