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Shooting Elevated Exterior Shots With The Gitzo Series 5 Giant Tripod

Published: 03/07/2013

Gitzo-Giant-TripodI heard from Cal Mitchener in Charlotte, NC  yesterday. First of all Cal reports that his years of hard work focusing on great customer service and quality work are paying off. He says his business is very successful, and he's doing 3 to 5 shoots a day (shoots all day and does post all night). He no longer promotes his business yet, gets a continuous stream of direct referrals. He's raised his prices this year and expects to raise them again at the end of the year.

One thing that Cal was particularly excited about his new Gitzo Series 5 and how easy it lets him shoot elevated exterior shots. Cal also uses the Gitzo Rapid Center Column to get his Nikon D4 w/14-24mm up to 14 feet.

In Cal's words:

I recently discovered a new Gitzo carbon tripod. It is called “giant” size because it goes from 3’ to 14’ in a fairly lightweight unit. I bought the extendable center column with it.

This thing is AMAZING! I can now easily do elevated (up to 14’) shots anywhere with the same equipment I always use. Granted the Gitzo sticks and center column are near $2K, but I am generating so much income from the equipment I don’t mind spending it.

I use a Manfrotto 405 geared head in combination. I have been charging extra for 24’ WonderPole shots, but used a extra long Gitzo for up to 8’ as standard equipment. I only charge for WonderPole currently. I can do elevated shots so effortlessly now, I do them whenever I need to at no extra charge. Things like this aren’t lost on my clients, who get concierge level service from me.

The center column is the beautiful part, as you set the sticks to height you can just see bubble level. The column then can extend another 4-5 ft. It does have a bit of flex in it when extended. I let it sit still for 30-45 sec to stabilize before remotely triggering the camera with a pair of Pocket Wizards. I use a D4 w/ Nikkor 14-24 UWZ lens that is very heavy. That may be a contributor to flex issue.

Bottom line, I love the tripod despite the extra weight. The ultimate versatility in tripods and you should see the clients see me unleash this beast!

This is certainly not the cheapest approach to doing elevated shots, but it sounds like it is a really easy, effective method. I'd feel much better about putting several thousand dollars of DSLR and glass on this rig than most poles I've seen. Thanks Cal for the description!

Larry Lohrman

20 comments on “Shooting Elevated Exterior Shots With The Gitzo Series 5 Giant Tripod”

  1. I've considered one of these giant tripods on a few different occasions, but I keep going back to the fact that with my current tripod fully extended and raised over my head I can get to 14' quite easily. This is often all the height that is needed to make a noticeable difference from a ground shot. Now twilight and low light shots, on the other hand, are next to impossible with this method. For those kind of shots I prefer a Little Giant Ladder fully extended with a tripod mounted on top. This set-up is really quite stable and has provided me with the means to successfully capture many elevated twilight shots. There are some shortcomings however, namely the bulk of the ladder and the footprint when fully extended. For these reasons, I do like the look of the giant tripod. So Cal, how stable is that center column when fully extended like in the image? Is it stable enough to make a twilight or night shot work?

  2. I've been using a Manfrotto 161 which gives you a 2.67m shooting height but I often wish I had a couple of extra feet to get above that annoying fence or obstacle home owners like to challenge me with, so the Gitzo Giant sounds like the perfect solution even if it's not at a perfect price.

    Iran - are you able to post a photograph of your ladder/tripod solution - I'd be really interested to see this alternative and, hopefully, other PFRE readers would be to.

  3. One alternative is the Agorfa Quickshot hand-held pole (and there are plenty of similar devices as well). Double the height at 9 metres (although I usually only raise it to about half that). Add a CamRanger and it costs a little less than the Gitzo tripod and centre column. The 20 metre vehicle-mounted systems probably cost 10 times as much and they're limited to where the vehicle can go (i.e. back yards and elevated blocks can be difficult). Then if you want to go higher, there are aerial alternatives. Can't do twilights though.

  4. Iran - I prefer to use this tripod to a WonderPole, or standard extended tripod held overhead because it is stable enough to get a 7 shot bracket. The center column has a bit of flex in it, but it stops moving after a few seconds.

    I have considered getting a Little Giant ladder to better access camera when it is up high on the Gitzo. A regular step ladder doesn't work well on a hill. Is the LG usable on a fairly steep slope, Iran?

  5. I use a Werner extendable ladder which is a Little Giant knock-off. It is available at Lowe's and is solidly constructed. Main problem is carrying it around as it is heavy. It will stand solidly on a fairly steep slope and is a great base for a tripod to shoot multiple shots. My dream would be a fiberglass version that would have a mount for my Gitzo center column.

  6. Bill I have the same thing. Bought a painter pole with 3 sections at Home Depot for $24 and used JB weld to stick a 1/4" bolt to the top then put the plastic sheath back over that with more PL premium glue. It's so strong it easily supports my 5D3 with flash and extends safely to 20 feet including my height. The pole alone is 15 feet fully extended. Total cost with ball head was $50 which is great considering it only gets used about 3 times a month. It's obviously no good for twilights but if that's a must a ladder is the best solution because there are many exposures to be had and taking down and putting up over and over would not be fun.

  7. Jim - I owned a Manfrotto Super Stand, but sold it due to it's bulk, weight & awkwardness to transport & set up. The Gitzo setup is carbon fiber (lightweight & strong), & is easy to carry, use & transport. It is the tripod I carry everywhere, everyday.
    I also own a CamRanger & D4 has Wi-Fi module, but I rarely use them. Shoot a little wide & crop lol...

  8. Tremendous!! I'm just starting out (baby steps) and love all of the wonderful info which everyone has been so kind to share.

  9. Hey Cal,
    I don't understand that photo. The step ladder looks as if it won't get you anywhere near the the camera as shown. Do you set camera up lower and than raise it up and fire remotely?

  10. I'm with Jim. I use the manfrotto...

    I would LOVE something that collapses down to fit in the trunk of my 330i, though.

    Cal, Is this 14' WITH center pole extension or without?

  11. DJT -You are correct, the tripod isn't fully extended in this image because I didn't have a taller stepladder with me at the time. It takes a 6' or an 8' stepladder to access the head with center column retracted. after composing shot, I then extend up the center column & fire away via PocketWizards.

  12. Mike - the fact that the Manfrotto Super Stand would not fit in the trunk of my car is one of the main reasons I sold it. Too cumbersome to transport... It also isn't stable; lots of wobble unless it is guyed...

  13. Cal - the LG ladder is indeed capable of being used on a slope. In fact, I used it to paint a two story hallway by setting it up on the stairs. And when I say 'setting it up on the stairs', the feet of the ladder were actually on the stair treads, not propped against the wall or something.

    I have never tried a 7 shot bracket with the tripod fully extended over my head but I always shoot a three shot bracket when I do these kind of shots. All you have to do is bump up the ISO and use a lens with decent IS and let PS 'Align Layers' do the rest. At shutter speeds around 1/250 I never get motion blur and the brackets snap so fast the align very easily. Obviously this approach isnt applicable to every situation you need the height but since Ive started doing this I can count on one hand the number of times I pulled out my LG ladder or my 35' PAP rig...

  14. Iran - I never considered shooting small brackets & aligning layers in PS (or Enfuse I hope!), I have been doing single RAW file exposure fusion with multiple copies of file in different exposures. Your way sounds much better & I can't wait to try it!
    Thanks for input on LG, I need to get one!

  15. I'm glad I found this page. I am searching for a good solution for shooting at 14-20 feet. Of course, I'd like to spend 200, but not 500. It's nice that you cover a range of options. I'm still looking though. Storage is an issue for me, so the system needs to be compact. Ladders are a no-go for me. Cheers.

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