June 1st, 2011
Guest post by Lee Jinks of McAllen, TX:
I recently evaluated a 21-foot Wonderpole from Polepixie that is particularly suited for Pole Aerial Photography (PAP). The thing that makes it suited for PAP over other Wonderpoles is that it’s black. Okay, that doesn’t mean you can’t do PAP with a Wonderpole of another color, but the black one just looks like a piece of cool photographic equipment.
It doesn’t happen often and I try to be mindful when photographing a home, but there are times when equipment is reflected in a window. A black pole should need little to no cloning where a white pole would definitely need post processing before delivering the final product. An efficient workflow is important. Having a black pole potentially means less time spent in post processing in addition to just looking more professional. And perception is reality to the client.
I’ve been developing PAP systems and techniques for many years, and have used a number of poles in varying heights, sizes and materials. So I thought I would share my thoughts about the Wonderpole and its use for handheld PAP.
I got the Wonderpole from John Hokkanen at Polepixe. Polepixe provides a number accessories for painter’s poles and more recently, the Wonderpole. John has thought of just about everything one would need to conduct PAP efficiently and safely without having to deign and manufacture your own rig. Before Polepixie, only geeks like John and I really did PAP. Polepixie has opened PAP up to the “normal” population.
The Wonderpole is heavier, beefier and more rigid than a painter’s pole of comparable height. I find it very controllable even with a 2 1/2 pound Nikon D5000 attached. The 21 foot version is 5 feet when collapsed. This makes it easy to transport and to extend either horizontally or vertically. There are also 30 and 40 foot versions of the Wonderpole.
Polepixie supplies a weight boot with every Wonderpole. The boot’s purpose is to hold an ankle weight at the bottom of the pole enhancing stability and safety of operation. With 10lbs at the bottom of the pole, one can easily tip the pole from horizontal to vertical. When you tip an extended pole from horizontal to vertical, control is assured throughout the entire range of motion. Extending a pole vertically does not provide that assurance.
When conducting PAP with taller poles, you want to keep the base in firm contact with the ground to give you the longest moment arm possible. If the base loses contact with the ground, that moment arm is suddenly shortened. Having weight at the bottom of the pole gives you added control and time to get the base back on the ground. Without the base weight things can get very scary in a hurry.
My only concern with the Wonderpole is that it comes supplied with a nylon cap over the bottom of the pole. When I mentioned to John that I thought the nylon end cap at the bottom of the pole seemed as though it might wear quickly, he sent me a prototype replacement. It’s a longer nylon cap with a spike bolted to it. Over the spike fits a heavy duty rubber cap. This is exactly what is needed. Essentially the pole now has a heavy rubber foot which can quickly and easily be converted to a metal spike to be used on soft sloping ground. John also supplied a high density foam disk which fits under the cap at the bottom of the pole. Its purpose is to act as a shock absorber when the upper sections are retracted vertically. As I said, John has thought of everything.
Summary: Short poles are easier and safer to control, but height is limited. Poles above 30 feet become increasingly riskier and more difficult to control. On top of that, cost goes up exponentially with height. I have often said, most of my best PAP shots are taken between 15 and 20 feet. This makes the 21 foot version of the Wonderpole one of the best choices for someone serious about getting elevated shots. It gets you to the most optimum height safely.
There are always risks when conducting PAP, but the base weight coupled with a maximum height of 21 feet mitigates that risk. The 21 foot Wonderpole with Polepixie accessories is the perfect combination of height, safety, controllability and price. Before conducting any type of PAP, I highly encourage you to read the safety page on the Polepixie site.