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Thread: Best vehicle for rooftop shooting?

  1. #1
    mandoman7's Avatar
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    Best vehicle for rooftop shooting?

    I'm looking to get a new vehicle in the coming year, and have decided that I really want the capability of getting higher up, Ansel style, for landscape shots. I've done some searches and seen commentary on vehicles for photography, but am curious about those who are getting on top of a stock vehicle, without a platform.

    I saw a post by Frank P. about using his Xterra this way, and have been reviewing their characteristics. That appears to be a good choice in my initial research. My hope is to find a way of getting this capability without giving up good mileage. Many of the better mileage suv's appear to have very light body frames. Does anyone have any other suggestions for a stock vehicle that has good roof strength and gets 20 mpg?
    John Youngblood
    www.jyoungblood.com

  2. #2

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    Re: Best vehicle for rooftop shooting?

    The Xterra was a good vehicle for me, got 235K without issues, killed three deer with it too (the truck won...).

  3. #3

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    Re: Best vehicle for rooftop shooting?

    An armored truck comes to mine, other than that street sweeper or garbage truck conversion would work. You could have an RV, darkroom, and spiral stairs to a huge platform. Surplus would be the way to go.

  4. #4

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    Re: Best vehicle for rooftop shooting?

    I've never done it with mine but you can take the moonroof out of Honda Elements. Not sure there would be enough room in that space with 8x10 but it would be doable with 4x5.

  5. #5

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    Re: Best vehicle for rooftop shooting?

    Dear John,

    I like to set the tripod up in a pickup truck's flatbed, because I find that this elevation change is sufficient enough for me, above grade level. That said, and you seem to be serious about this going forward, I would search for a wide stance pickup that is at least a one-half ton with proper heavy rear suspension, and I would also investigate side stabilizers that extend outward from the bottom of the truck, to possibly isolate the truck from the suspension system, as the support poles contact the ground. These are fabulous devices that prevent the truck from rocking in a strong wind. A narrow bodied SUV has a natural center of gravity that is too high, and with you standing on a roof platform, you will surely introduce a rocking motion and, or a resonance that will be difficult to eliminate.

    Just my two pennies from experience...

    jim k

  6. #6

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    Re: Best vehicle for rooftop shooting?

    A pickup with a tonneau cover is a good option. I have an F150 with a Diamondback HD cover. You can stand on it, sleep on it, etc. Very durable.

    http://www.diamondbackcovers.com/tru...r/HD_Cover.asp


  7. #7
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Re: Best vehicle for rooftop shooting?

    Why go for half measures...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ViTq4h6JHS8

  8. #8
    Camera Antipodea Richard Mahoney's Avatar
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    Re: Best vehicle for rooftop shooting?

    Quote Originally Posted by jim kitchen View Post
    Dear John,

    I like to set the tripod up in a pickup truck's flatbed, because I find that this elevation change is sufficient enough for me, above grade level. That said, and you seem to be serious about this going forward, I would search for a wide stance pickup that is at least a one-half ton with proper heavy rear suspension, and I would also investigate side stabilizers that extend outward from the bottom of the truck, to possibly isolate the truck from the suspension system, as the support poles contact the ground. These are fabulous devices that prevent the truck from rocking in a strong wind. A narrow bodied SUV has a natural center of gravity that is too high, and with you standing on a roof platform, you will surely introduce a rocking motion and, or a resonance that will be difficult to eliminate.

    Just my two pennies from experience...

    jim k
    Pleased you brought up suspension. The rigidity of the suspension and chassis is a significant issue and I haven't seen it raised before. It wasn't until I was shooting from the flatdeck of a Toyota Hilux that I realised how important it is to avoid cheap under designed trucks. The beast had hardly had a hard life but the suspension was so sloppy that I almost felt the need to hold my breath to quieten it down. I'm used to my ex-military Series II Land Rovers. They were built in the '60's and are strong, stable and rigid. Apparently build quality went down from the Series III's in the '70's on. Anyway, in this part of the world at least, an old one can still be bought for relatively little. No one who cares for their comfort wants one. 50-55 on the open road is about it too. And you won't be getting much better than 15-20 mpg, if you're careful. Still, unless you get a rag top you can walk all over them and they'll stay put. Here's a shot of the long one. It's been said that every 5 year old should be able to draw one




    Best,

    Richard
    Richard Mahoney
    M: +64-21-064-0216 T: +64-3-312-1699 E: contact@indica-et-buddhica.com

  9. #9

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    Re: Best vehicle for rooftop shooting?

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Mahoney View Post
    Pleased you brought up suspension. The rigidity of the suspension and chassis is a significant issue and I haven't seen it raised before. It wasn't until I was shooting from the flatdeck of a Toyota Hilux that I realised how important it is to avoid cheap under designed trucks. The beast had hardly had a hard life but the suspension was so sloppy that I almost felt the need to hold my breath to quieten it down. I'm used to my ex-military Series II Land Rovers. They were built in the '60's and are strong, stable and rigid. Apparently build quality went down from the Series III's in the '70's on. Anyway, in this part of the world at least, an old one can still be bought for relatively little. No one who cares for their comfort wants one. 50-55 on the open road is about it too. And you won't be getting much better than 15-20 mpg, if you're careful. Still, unless you get a rag top you can walk all over them and they'll stay put. Here's a shot of the long one. It's been said that every 5 year old should be able to draw one

    Best,

    Richard
    I thought you would chime in on this one Richard, and I agree. Happy Christmas.

  10. #10

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    Re: Best vehicle for rooftop shooting?

    I have a Pontiac Vibe (also known as a Toyota Matrix, but the vibe has a roof rack standard). I built a platform out of 1x2's and some 1/4" ply, it fits nicely in the trunk and is pretty easy to throw up. The door has a heavy bolt that the lock normally locks onto that I use as a step up to get on top. 44MPG highway doing 65 on cruise too.

    Here's a friend ontop


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