Everything You Wanted To Know About Getting Your Camera High (Aerial Photography)
Getting your camera up in the air is not a trivial thing. Not trivial, yet lots of fun. The photographs captured via this unique vantage point are rare and provide a unique view on otherwise regular landscape. A quick look at Vincent Laforet aerial photography or Charles 'Cris' Benton Gallery easily demonstrates the potential in such images.
But How do you get the camera so high? I think this is the main issue with Aerial Photography. Let's explore some inexpensive ways (and some very expensive ways) to get that done.
The Cheapest - Roller Aerial Monopod
By far, the easiest, cheapest and fastest way to get an elevated vantage point is using a long pole.
The best poles for this are paint roller poles as they are both light and extend well. The tricky part is the placement of a metal stud or a small ball head at the end of the pole. It is that stud that provides a way to attach a camera.
If all you want is a small taste of Aerial photography than this is the place to start.
The Lofty - Kite Aerial Photography (KAP)
Next in line as far as complexity an d budget goes is strapping a camera to a kite. Yes, you heard right, a kite.
If strapping a key to a kite lets you capture lighting, strapping a camera to a kite lets you capture images from a very high vantage point. How high? Depending on how long your string is :)
You can either tie your camera to the string or use a balancing rig called Picavet. The picavet makes sure your camera is always pointing downwards. Or if you dare, there are radio controlled rigs for full maneuverability.
A great primer for KAP can be found here.
The Bizarre - Strapping Cameras To Balloons
Another loosely controlled way of getting your camera up, up and above is tying it to balloons. Have you seen UP!? That is the basic premise of that method.
It is not funny nor trivial. Using the right equipment (i.e. weather balloon) and correct thermal protections you can even have your camera leave earth. (As in the video below). It may seems like a high end production, but according to the guide it only take a tech minded pair of hands and about $150.
(Or you can just get your iPhone hooked with a few big balloons and watch it float away).
The Super High - Getting A Camera On An RC Plane
Moving up in the order of altitude, you can rig your camera to an RC plane.
Good news #1 is that this method is less expensive that what you would think. The most basic Easystar starters kit only costs about $170, and can be bought at most hobby stores.
Good News #2 is that any small cheap camera can fit inside that plane. Digging inside it and placing a small camera like one of the smaller Nikon Coolpix is not that hard either.
And God News #3 is that it takes very little know how to mount a servo that will allow you to "press the shutter button" from the ground.
If this is what you are after, start your journey here.
The Control Freak - Helicopter Aerial Photography
Rigging a camera to a radio controlled helicopter is the holy grail of aerial photography.
Radio controlled Helicopters can be controlled quite pressingly both for video and stills.
It does take an impressive amount of helicopter flying know how and "air time" to control a helicopter with the additional camera weight, especially if it is mounted with an expensive HD DSLR like a Canon 7D. Any crash (which happen more often that what I would have thought) is a breath taking experience as your gear can get busted.
Yet, it can be done, just like Eric Austin did with his Heli. (Video Below).
If you dare following that path, you can start here.
Sharing Your Own Work
If you love getting high (or just getting your camera high), help us spread the word. Mail this page to a friend, like it on Facebook, make a tweet or tumble us. (Links above)
As with any DIYP project, we would love to see your work on our Flickr Group. Make sure to mention the setup and link to one of the tutorials above or to this link in the captions. Or just share your work in the comments.