View Full Version : A really TALL tripod

Howard Slavitt
25-Dec-1999, 14:04
I've been thinking about getting a really tall tripod for times when I'm in my car and want a couple extra feet of extension to get a different/better perspective. I got the idea from reading how Ansel Adams had an elevating bed on his truck. I've also thought about having a friend make me a plywood platform to put on the rails of my SUV, but after mulling it over, think that a very tall tripod would give me more flexibility, although perhaps not quite as much height. In looking through the B & H catalogue, the best tripods for this purpose would appear to be either the Bogen 3058 (max. extension 103") or the Giztos G508 or G509. (Max. extensions about 110") I supposed I'd need a step ladder to go with the tripod. Have any of you ever used a tall tripod for this purpose or built some sort of platform for your car/truck? Any thoughts about which option will give me more flexibility? Thanks. Ho

25-Dec-1999, 19:00
Bogen makes some REALLY TALL tripods, extension over 10 feet (no that's not a typo) they were on display at photoexpo, call and ask them.

Doug Paramore
25-Dec-1999, 22:33
Howard: Since you say you will need a stepladder anyway, why not mount a tripod head on the stepladder? This is not an original idea...they were once sold commercially and still may be. You may need to add a little extra width to the very top step to move the camera forward a little so you don't have to lean backwards. All you would need to do is drill a hole in the top step or extension and screw a short bolt into the bottom of the tripod head. I don't recommend this setup for mountain sides ,but it ought to work well on reasonably level ground or pavement. Happy Holidays, Doug

26-Dec-1999, 01:51
I love this forum there are some excellent ideas. Now how do I carry a 7 foot ladder on my Honda Goldwing? I will have to take the car more which means I probably will have to take the 35mm, 6x6 and of course the 5x4. Amazing how a ladder can change your photographic veiwpoint.

Julio Fernandez
26-Dec-1999, 23:48
Howard's idea is one that I am sure many of us share an interest in. The Gitzo 509 does offer height. I have such a beast but I carry it no farther than a few steps away from the car or truck. The tripod and a long geared column weigh more than 20 pounds! There are lighter tripods, but since the taller they are the more unstable they are likely to be, a lighter tripod may not be such a good idea in windy conditions. If you carry this one Gitzo tripod there is little left of you to carry a back-pack full of camera gear even a short distance, unless you do photography in the spare time and work full time with the World Wrestling federation. In other words, these gorilla tripods are studio or near-the-car tripods, nothing else. If you have an SUV with rear door flap, the open flap provides a stand about 30 inches above the ground, that gives you some lift, but is quite cumbersome because of restricted mobility. I have done that on occasion. I have used a ladder with a built in platform, about 30 inches above ground. This is far better, safer and more confortable than a step type. Some people have devised tall ladders with built-in head mounts, but those contraptions require a truck all to themselves. Ansel Adams' idea is for some things better; the platform on his truck placed him at least 7 feet or so above ground. RSVs with a ladder to a sunroof top standing some 9 feet above ground should be ideal: should you have to wait for the right conditions, you can do it sitting on a lawn chair with your gear handy. Waiting for extended periods while on a ladder is no great fun. Hope this helps.

Tony Brent
27-Dec-1999, 03:58
Just remember to bring the cooler with your favorite beverage and patio table with sunshade umbrella up the ladder with you. Might as well be comfortable.

I have clambered all over the roof of my old Land Rover, which I fitted with a sheet of 3/4 marine plywood ala Ansel. He had a pretty thorough outline of how he fitted his old International in one of his Basic series books, Camera and Lens I think.

There used to be a short tripod mount for the cine tripods that was called a high hat or top hat. It stood about a foot or so tall, and took the head from a Ries or Pro Jr. It had three stubby legs with mounting holes in them for fastening to anything you could clamp to or drill through. They might take some searching, but might offer a solution, or a starting place for designing your own.

15-Jun-2001, 07:11
I need tripods that mount on car windows I am from Australia

Robert A. Zeichner
15-Jun-2001, 08:36
I regularly carry a 3-step ladder with me on trips where I'm driving. I use a Gitzo 1300 series carbon fiber tripod with a center column and find this ladder will allow me to fully extend the tripod and stand comfortably behind it. The size of this is such that I can carry it along for a mile or two without any trouble. I will often use a rock or piece of fallen tree to level the thing if the ground is lumpy. The little ladder also serves as a decent seat for when I'm waiting for clouds to move into position, etc. One tool I've found indespensible for using this set up is a machinest's inspection mirror. When you're up on the ladder and aren't free to walk around the camera to check lens settings etc., this little mirror will save you a lot of grief. I hope some of this is of help.

David A. Goldfarb
15-Jun-2001, 10:59
If you can dig up Clyde Butcher's website, he has this huge fiberglass tripod--something like 14 feet--maybe adapted from a surveyor's tripod, that he uses with a tall freestanding ladder, with 8x10" and larger format cameras.

19-Jan-2004, 14:47
I started with an old telescope tripod (wood legs, hard to fold up for transport) that's about 4' high. It allows easy pan control at that 4' level. I created a 3' mast for it with a tripod head mounted at the top. I lock the head's pan, and control the tilt using a parallelogram link to a control handle just above the 4' level. So I stand on the ground, but can pan and tilt anything mounted at the top (7'6") level.

I put a video camera up there to shoot over crowds when video taping middle-school concerts that my sister directs. I've got a Sony control handle, so with a cable connected to the camera I can zoom, record, and pause from the 4' level handle. I put jacks near the top and bottom of the post to feed (inside the post) CTRL-L, A/V, and headphone signals from the camera at the top without a nightmare of cables hanging down. Then I made short cables (1 foot) to connect from the camera to the post. While my camera has a 3.5" LCD viewfinder I can angle to see from the ground, I prefer to keep it closed (off) to preserve battery life. Instead, I've mounted a 6" LCD (PLVHR60 $129 from millionbuy.com) panel on a platform at the 4' level to monitor the video-out from the camera. The monitor was intended to be run off a car's 12v DC supply, but I found a Radio Shack 12vDC power supply to run it. When I'm not going to be near a wall outlet, I can plug it into my car's battery, or run it from a portable 12v DC motorcycle battery I bring along.

The tripod base took some re-engineering to make it fold up quickly. But the whole rig is now very sturdy and has eliminated the problem of late-arriving parents walking in front of the camera. And I can now easily watch the monitor through the bottom of my bi-focals, while keeping an eye on the stage straight ahead. The only thing to remember it to be sure and set all the camera's settings before parking it atop the mast. I can barely reach it (I'm 6'1"). The mast will unscrew from the tripod. The tripod folds up easily. And I carry it all in a padded box I mounted to a two-wheeled dolly.

I have mounted my digital camera atop this post for some large family reunion photos. Most digital cameras have a video-out like mine does, so what the camera "sees" can be monitored. But you'll need one with a remote control for zoom and shutter to be practical. I simply stood on a step ladder to frame the shot, and used the camera's time delay shutter to give me time to get down and into the picture.

For higher shots I like the idea of getting one of those 4 or 5-section folding aluminum stepladders and mounting a tripod head on something that could clamp to the ladder. The ladder would fold to about 4' length, and I can slide that into my hatchback.

I've been contemplating building a jib (crane?) to mount on my same telescope tripod. But I really don't need one, so that idea has been parked for now.

Ralph Barker
20-Jan-2004, 00:26
Not particularly useful with large format, but this one from Luksa Instruments (http://www.luksa.com/) is really tall . . .


They also have remote video units for control.

Clayton Tume
20-Jan-2004, 13:38
Here's my 15 foot tripod set up, of course you need a big ladder to get up there too!

I built it from a heavy duty surveyors tripod, stripped out all the metal parts and added new wood. It carries a camera and accessories weighing over 25 pounds and does it easily.

Giant tripods used to be common many years ago and occasionally you see the antique versions turn up on ebay.


20-Jan-2004, 16:26
It's really interesting to see the creativity, and how many ways a problem can be solved. I teach product design, and find the best solutions come from the ones that really understand what the problem to be solved was. Secondly, the simplest (in complexity, portability, and lowest in cost) are usually the best too.

So to understand the problem better, tell us exactly how much higher than a normal tripod allows do you need to go? My 3' tripod mast solves my need to see over people's heads, but doesn't really change the perspective of the stage I'm video taping. The 15' tripod would certainly change one's view, but clearly requires a ladder to use. If all you needed was 30" to 3', you could also do what I did once...

I had to shoot a high school play from the middle of the audience seats. My normal tripod couldn't straddle the seats, so I took a folding table. It straddled the seats, and gave me a platform to both stand on and base my tripod off of. Be sure you're table is strong enough. I tested mine carefully and actually stiffened the top before I was willing to stand on it for two hours. But the table was portable (slid into the back of my hatchback) and light enough to carry easily.

If I had to design something from scratch to serve as a portable platform to raise me and the tripod up onto, it might look more like scafolding you see at construction sites. The whole thing would break down into pipes and corners, and would use trangulation to create a stiff platform. Ideally, though, I'd want a platform that I could set up on while at close to ground level, and then would raise me up under power to my desired height. Cherry picker, anyone?


20-Jan-2004, 19:59
...And while reading my Popolar Mechanics magazine tonight I came across an add for a very inexpensive way to get your camera up to 7' or sometimes more...

Halogen worklight stands. In fact, I had one stored in my basement, and got it out. It has three tubular legs that fold out from the base, and a three section shaft that telescopes up to 7'. The bracket that hold the halogen light comes off to reveal a 1/4" stud, which most of my other tripod heads easily mount directly to. Now it's a bit teetery, and would not make a good platform for a panning and tilting video camera. But for any still camera you want up to 7' high it looks like the cheapest portable tall tripod I've yet seen mentioned. In fact, the whole rig with two 500w halogen lights was selling for $39.95.

Look in your local hardware stores.