Reaching High; Getting A Bird’s Eye View With Some Unusual Gear

When Canadian engineer Joseph Cacic designed and built a tripod in the late 1990s that would accommodate bird’s eye aerial images, Boston photographer Frank Siteman was among his first customers. For Siteman it was the perfect solution for the environmental photographs that he favors. Weighing 75 lbs and easy to roll, the tripod can be placed in a garden without disturbing any of the floras or inside the atrium of a building, enabling the photographer to take pictures with a unique view. A single cable carries all the signals, the video, the shutter release, and the pan/tilt control while allowing the photographer to hold the cable with one hand and contain it so it does not tangle with the other. The cable and pulley system slides on self-lubricating plastic rings so there is no metal-to-metal contact. When the user stops extension or contraction at any section of the tripod, it locks automatically.

Bridge of Flowers
This bridge connects two sides of the river. It is pedestrian and plant friendly and highlights the main tourist attraction of Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts.
All Photos © 2008, Frank Siteman, All Rights Reserved

“I try to make images that are not commonly seen and require a bit of imagination,” Siteman says. “It is to think like a hummingbird, to look at a wetland or garden from that perspective. The 45-foot LUKSA tripod has seven circular, nested airline-quality tubes which, when assembled, go up to the same height that a truck boom arm would take me. With a PocketWizard receiver on my camera hooked up to a cable release I am able to just press a button and the camera takes the picture. A video signal comes down the coaxial cable and relays the image to a television set. This enables me to look at the picture and determine whether I need to move to the left or right or to tilt up or down. There is a joystick on my controller much like one on a video game. By pressing a button on the PocketWizard I can trigger an exposure. I keep looking at the pictures until I get exactly what I want.

“I can then use Photoshop CS3 and using the perspective control in the cropping, can straighten all vertical lines as if the picture were done with a view camera. I then have an architecturally rendered image of my subject, one that is far superior to others that have been created with a wide angle lens looking down.”

Patriots Re-Enactment
Taken in Lexington Massachusetts. Portraying the excitement and confusion of a smoke-filled battlefield. The tripod enabled Frank Siteman to show both sides and to provide an overview of the battle.

In describing his recent images, Siteman says, “Getting an overview of something can help one to gain a better understanding of just about anything. For instance, looking at the image of a condominium complex under construction, one immediately gets a sense of the organization
of the units. Ground-level images tend to show individual elements rather than the entire project.”