Pole Aerial Photography - PAP

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flickr: Pole Aerial Photography

John photographing Muckraw  (Dec 2008)

The continuous shooting technique, which we use with our kites, is also useful if you want to take pictures using the camera on a conventional monopod (or long telescopic or sectional pole). Alternatively, you can take a single shot on a shutter-delay setting (as below). The camera was held well above the heads of the crowd.

Conventional monopod held above the crowd, 10 sec. shutter delay

Since taking the above photo, we have bought some 8m sectional, fibreglass carp fishing poles (18 - Seasonal from Aldi, often discounted to ~6) and attached the top of a mini tripod. Avoid the similar, but weaker, flag poles. 

The short screw which held the tripod head to the tripod legs was replaced with a longer one, the screw head sawn off, and the rest glued into the pole which was shortened, so that the internal diameter of the pole matched that of the screw thread. The end of the pole was reinforced with two wooden beads and nuts to prevent splitting. As with the kite rig, the camera has a backup attachment to the pole using the hand cord.

Fuji F100fd camera mounted on a carp fishing pole

Note that the cable tie had to be split to accommodate the zoom ring which is easily displaced

 Our original infra-red enabled Optio E35 (we now use a converted Fuji F30) is shown below:


Kirkton Church, Bathgate

Fuji F30fd, 36mm equivalent lens, using 'continuous shooting' and 'sports' modes, mounted on a carp fishing pole as above

We use the pole telescopically and extend it before attaching the camera, ensuring that all the sections are firmly in place. Checking the pole for damage before use (especially looking for cracks at the ends of the tubes) is important.  As with kite aerial photography, a high shutter speed is selected or, if not available, the 'sports' mode is used.  We usually choose an ISO setting of 200 or 400. With high ISO settings, you are always trading off the ability to take photos at a high speed with image quality (camera shake versus noise).  A camera that can take relatively low noise images at ISO400 is recommended and optical image stabilisation (not to be confused with cameras that simply choose a high ISO) is an added bonus. We set exposure compensation to either minus 1/3 or 2/3 of a stop.  For general use, it is inadvisable to work with cameras weighing more than ~200g with this simple carp pole. For heavier cameras, especially SLRs, it is best to use a pole like the aluminium one shown below.

Many cameras set the exposure and focus at the initial press of the button, so have the camera pointing at something the same brightness and distance as the subject that you want to photograph.  We normally pre-set our visible spectrum cameras to infinity for aerial shots.

The camera is removed before collapsing the pole (A cascading vertical collapse of the pole, with a camera on top, can damage the camera, the mount assembly and also your finger ends!). The tube ends can be sharp, so gloves are advisable when collapsing the pole.

The waterproof 145g Pentax Optio W60 (with time-lapse mode) is now our preferred camera for both kite and pole aerial photography in the visible part of the spectrum

McDonald's roofers at work in Armadale

Fuji F100fd, 28mm equivalent lens, using 'continuous shooting' and 'sports' modes


Update 2009

Last year, we converted fourteen 8m Aldi carp poles for use telescopically (ie by extension through the narrow end of the outer tube). The most recent Aldi poles do not extend fully when used telescopically and we have had to make them up for use as sectional poles.  This means that all sections have to be removed from the wide end of the outer tube and then individually pushed together. This is the recommended way that the pole should be used for carp fishing.  It is a little slower to put together than if used telescopically, but it does have the advantage that it will not collapse when used vertically. The poles can be more susceptible to splitting when used in this way, but it should not be a problem if the tubes are handled with care.

Update 2011

This year the Aldi poles are only 7m in length.  We have not bought any of these and cannot comment on their suitability.

Update December 2012

A low-cost video technique using a light, HD 808#16D, wide-angle keyring camera taped to a pole (video clip)



 Falkirk Young Archaeologists' Club   (October 2009)


Armadale Gala Day   (June 2009)


Biggar Archaeology Group dig at Howburn Farm 2009


KCOS at the Family Fun Day, Howden Park (Livingston)  (June 2009)


Ultra-violet pole aerial photograph (June 2009)

Here the base of the pole was uncapped and mounted on a ground stake for consistency of movement


Members of the Young Archaeologists' Club (Bath & Bristol Branch) with their pole (April 2009)


See also Inverness and Ross & Cromarty Young Archaeologists' Clubs

and Edinburgh YAC.

Caledonian Canal, Inverness  (June 2009)

Strachur and District Local History Society Open Day (5th September 2009)

Cumbernauld Old Parish Church (October 2009)
An overhead PAP image (blue channel) looking into a stone built monk's cell (2) hidden

deep in the woods of Torphichen.

Note the slight curve on the left, possibly forming a second cell or adjacent room.

Jim Knowles


Update Feb 2010

We have now bought a sturdy telescopic 10m aluminium mast and fitted the top and inner tube of a cheap Asda tripod. Eight metre masts are also available.

March 2010

For portability and ease of use, our original 8m carp pole remains our preferred choice for routine work but the above mast will be used with heavier cameras and for thermal imaging. (J&R)

We also have a Grandslam carbon c Formula 11m Pole (1) (2).

Beecraigs prehistoric site (June 2010)
Dalvorar East  Near IR pole aerial photo.   (August 2010)



Historic Scotland Free Entry Weekend to Cairnpapple Hil   25th- 26th September 2010

 Pole aerial photo taken by Max (age 7) on 25th September 2010.



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