Camera On A Stick And Other State Fair Food!

I truly believe that if you show people photos that are the same view as they could see themselves, it is worse than boring them, they will not even notice the image. Although the eye is more sensitive than any camera, we have great tools at our disposal to show off something new. I always look for places that I can remote mount a camera to either gain access or present a new angle; similarly I have frequently used an underwater housing to facilitate a low angle, but both of these typically requires credentials and special permission for access.

One of the simplest things you can do is to have a camera on a stick!

Almost every sports photographer and especially those who use big glass has a mono-pod. If you don’t have one, it is not a very big investment – get one.

My Camera On A Stick set up consists of:

  • Canon 1D Mark III;
  • Manfrotto mono-pod;
  • Canon wired remote release;
  • Kirk quick release mounts on the base of the camera and on the mono-pod; and
  • Sometimes a Super-Clamp for a counter balance.

In addition, my favorite lens to use with this set up is my Canon 15mm f2.8.

This allows me to get my camera about 3 feet over my head and with a slight downward angle, I can get a bit of a birds eye view!

Here are two shots I think you will enjoy.  The first is the start of the 2010 Ironman World Championship, which as luck would have it, turned out to be the single most published shot of the race.  The second shot is from the 2011 HyVee 5150 Championship.

Although the initial thought of camera-on-a-stick is to make yourself taller, it can also get you down to a level that you cannot physically access. Such is this image from the 2010 Lifetime Fitness Chicago Triathlon, where the swim is in Lake Michigan and the competitors have to go down about 5 feet of stairs to enter the water. In this case, I sat on the ‘sea-wall’ and lowered the camera as far as I could.

Extending your reach whether up, down or side ways can give you some really interesting images. For the next image, I held the camera straight out over the swimmers.

Although I said the my 15mm fisheye is my favorite lens for this, for the next shot, I used my 16 to 35mm.  Also, when holding the camera out over the water, it is really helpful to use at least one, perhaps two super-clamps at the base of the mono-pod to serve as a counter balance.

Here is Ironman Athlete and former ITU Long Distance World Champion Tim O’Donnell at the Flatirons Athletic Club in Boulder.

I often shoot from the back of a moto and it is always a challenge to get something that is a bit different.

I love using a moto to shoot, not only can I shoot from it, more importantly it can quickly get me to access points on the course where I want to set up to shoot. When paired with a great driver, and I have been lucky to have many, we work as a team to get the job done. Having said that there is nothing more boring (at least to me) to seeing every shot of every athlete look exactly the same! Using the camera-on-a-stick, I can lower the camera to nearly ground level (look out for that orange cone) to get a low-angle shot. I can also reach out and get the camera slightly above the athlete.

I first tried this at the 2010 Boulder Ironman 70.3. In advance of the race, I mentioned to pro athlete Andy Potts that I was going to try this. After winning the race, Andy later said “Paul, I may not have looked like it at the time, but every time you stuck out that stick, it made me laugh inside.’ When I use the camera-on-a-stick from the back of a moto, I also typically put at least 1 super-clamp on the bottom of the mono-pod as a counter balance.

Here is a shot of Andy from that race, followed by one of Mighty Magali Tisseyre from the Oceanside 70.3.

Finally here is a shot of me with my stick in hand, shot by my favorite partner in crime – Jon Phillips.

As with anything else it takes Practice, Practice, Practice!