View Full Version : Cartop tent as platform for field work?

6-Mar-2008, 10:14
Has anyone used a cartop tent as a platform for outdoor work? I'm looking at a tent from cartopcamper.com (http://www.cartopcamper.com). It seems like a relatively stable platform. I like the height and that there are large windows with awnings on all sides. Anyone used one of these? Are they safe, convenient, weather tight, durable etc?


matthew blais
6-Mar-2008, 11:15
Looks like a PITA...

This to sleep in?
IF you want the best of both worlds:

or for an open bed truck:


Photo Dave
6-Mar-2008, 12:31
I've been looking at the AutoHome-
I like the hard case, full size mattress and easy set-up and take-down. But quite pricey!

6-Mar-2008, 12:51
I wouldn't. Get a stepladder. I made an 11ft tripod from schedule 40 aluminum pipe. I bit more versatile.
autohomeus.com, I'm looking at those too. I've only seen a few on the road and i wouldn't stand on that either.

Wayne Crider
6-Mar-2008, 18:09
Unless your interested in sleeping in it as well, you can work off a piece of diamond plate mounted to some strong racks. Call a sheet metal shop for prices based on your needed size. A folding ladder will get you up there..

Jim Ewins
6-Mar-2008, 22:23
If you wish to photograph from it, How soft are the vehicle's springs?

7-Mar-2008, 00:00
The BFT. at full extension.

Colin Graham
7-Mar-2008, 06:09
Holy crap Vinny. Big F* Tripod is about right! Now, if you could compose on the stilts the drywallers use, that would be quite something.

Jim Jones
7-Mar-2008, 07:57
I usually have a plywood platform on the top of the shell on my pickup. It's probably lighter than diamond plate. That's important, so high from the ground. I rolled one pickup with such a platform, which might not have happened with a lower center of gravity. It's easy to add a few custom features to a home-made platform like tie-downs and a safety ridge around the outside. The platform that Ansel Adams used on several vehicles may have been made from diamond plate, though. It gave him a 12 foot high lens position for photos like Mt. Williams, the Sierra Nevada, from Manzanar, California. To improve stability, custom cut sticks can be wedged between the frame and the ground. Darius Kinsey http://www.whatcommuseum.org/pages/archives/kinsey.htm used a tall tripod like Vinny's many years ago

Chauncey Walden
7-Mar-2008, 15:02
I think Vinny is on the right track. Ansel's cast iron Travelall was sprung like the truck that it was and was probably much more stable than any lightweight "car" based vehicle of today. Just sit in one while there is a wind blowing and watch how it moves. This movement would be magnified if you were up in the air above it. I have an old Hi-Boy tripod that goes up over 8 feet. I set it up NEXT to the truck and than I stand on the tailgate to use it.

Nathan Potter
7-Mar-2008, 15:54
Naw, bad idea with some exceptions. When I first started in LF I camped with my dad using a custom cartop tent on a platform not unlike the one you're considering. I saw a photo of AA SUV cartop rig and realized the advantage of height. When I tried to take images with my first Linhof the slightest movement by me or the breezes caused frustration for any kind of long exposures. I quickly gave it up. But with a very stabile vehicle or some kind of bracing to remove weight from the springs and tires this might be feasible. I don't quite understand how Ansel was able to be successful using the technique though. I think it would be a hassle.

Nate Potter

Mick Fagan
7-Mar-2008, 22:30
Over 20 years ago I built a square tubular steel roof rack on the front (cabin) section of our small campervan. The intention was twofold, one, to enable some bulky items, like chairs etcetera to be carried without cluttering up the small interior space, two, it would enable me to get just above the scrub which would enable some better landscape pictures.

Well it works a treat if the wind isn't blowing, breezes much above a zephyr will rock the vehicle ever so slightly. This does limit shutter speed somewhat, however I would suggest you do get your rooftop platform, the plus side outweighs the minus side by a fair margin.


17-Mar-2008, 00:14
How about this...


Not too high but could be useful nonetheless.

Ralph Barker
17-Mar-2008, 07:39
How about a Luksa high-extension tripod (two models: 30 foot and 40 foot) used in conjunction with a vehicle-mounted platform (or, a tree stand)? Add some guy wires to stabilize the head, and you're flyin' high. ;)


19-Mar-2008, 20:08
I had a chance to buy a truck with a lift like they use for telephone work for $2500. I didn't know where to park it but it seemed like a good idea. I have a Westfalia and I would like to know how to get on top for some elevated photographs. There must be something that would work; racks, grated platform, something.

Kirk Gittings
19-Mar-2008, 20:53
Gordon Hutchins solved this problem with an "orchard ladder" with a tripod head mounted on the top. It worked well even for 8x10. Here is a version of one:


19-Mar-2008, 22:55
I thought about that Kirk but it's hard to get to the controls of a 450mm while on the back of the ladder. Thanks for the link.

Kirk Gittings
19-Mar-2008, 23:08
Vinny, I have a somewhat similar tall tripod setup. I have been doing this little trick to solve the problem you mentioned for 30 years>>>

The panorama base of my tripod head has a dial with incremental marks on it and an arrow marker. After I focus and compose, I note the location of the arrow in relation to the dial marks, loosen that panorama lever, spin the camera around facing me, set the shutter speed, aperture, cock the shutter etc., spin the camera back around to the registration point, lock it down, insert the film holder and shoot. Did that make sense? Works like a charm for me. I use it often with architecture.

Frank Petronio
20-Mar-2008, 05:39
I think the bed of a pick up is nice for getting just a couple of feet, because you can splay the tripod feet into the corners and they're not so high as to unstable. I've climbed directly onto the roof of my Xterra several times to get a shot - nothing extra needed, just be careful and walk gingerly so you don't dent the roof or steady yourself on the roof rack -- it'll hold my 220# no problem. It seems like it works better with handheld shots so your elastic body becomes the vibration buffer.

Another trick with the tall tripods, like the various Gitzo 504s and 513s I've lugged around, is to set up at normal height, guess at the focus and movements, noting as precisely as possible where to aim everything, and then hoist things up high all cocked and loaded and fire one off using a long cable release. It's a what the hell sort of thing to do, but it usually works.