Pole photography for archaeology – Part 2: Field Testing

In the first post, I wrote about how I got into Pole Aerial Photography, along with the requirements and constraints I was working under. In this post, I’m going to introduce my pole photography setup and how it worked in the field.


My polecam setup is made with a Canon G11, supported by a Hastings telescopic hotstick that can extend to 30′. The camera is triggered by a wireless remote while aiming is done through a wireless video camera and monitor.

For taking photographs at an elevation, I tested out the polecam this hole on a cliff wall which stood about 20′ high:

With the polecam extended to the corresponding height, I could get a shot and see the contents of the hole:

The same shot, with flash:

For elevated photography, the polecam is a great replacement for a scaffolding – up to a point. It enabled me to a get a camera up to most of the places that the scaffold didn’t cover and take photographs at close-range. The places I couldn’t reach even with the pole were at heights of greater than 30′, but at least with the polecam I could close up the parallax gap that much further. However, because the pole sways proportionately to the height of the pole, I found it necessary to take photographs as a relatively fast speed – 1/125 of a second, which, because the wall was well lit, was not much of an issue. But in places with less light I might need to use the flash or rely on other forms of artificial lighting. The swaying pole also makes macro photography impossible.

For low-altitude aerial photography, I tested the polecam on a surface littered with boulders. At ground level, the space looked like this:

By tilting the camera downwards at an angle and extending the pole to about 12′ off the ground, I could get a good overhead shot of the same space:

I think it would be a good way to get overhead shots of excavated pits or small spaces, but I haven’t tried anything on a larger scale yet. It should be said that the G11’s shortest focal length of 24mm still feels a little too narrow for me. I might try experimenting with a wide-angle or fisheye lens later.

What do you think? Does the polecam work? Any suggestions to make it work better? If you’re interested about assembling a polecam on your own, you can read about the parts I used in Part 3 of the series.

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

4 thoughts on “Pole photography for archaeology – Part 2: Field Testing”

  1. Did it wobble? And I hope you didn’t damage the camera against the rock! The photo of the hole looks good considering the height above the floor. Pity there was no bird in the hole to smile at the camera!!!

  2. I think it definitely works, no doubt about that! Canon usually has all kinds of filters available to expand or narrow the mm, also for non-DSLR’s. (Ok, some quality loss, but better than upgrading the camera? ;))

    A solution for the ‘wobly’ pole, would to make it more heavy, and put a more solid support for it (often the pole is attached to a car).

    One of my favourites here in the UK is Aerial Cam, you really ought to check out their portfolio under ‘archaeology various’.

    http://www.theimagefile.com/web/aerial-cam/portfolio.html

    Cheers,
    Ann

  3. Oh yes, it wobbles a fair bit, which is why I’m restricted to shooting at fast speeds and perhaps using the flash. The wobbling is to be expected, since the pole is lightweight. I expect if a stronger material was used (like say, aluminum) it might wobble less, but the setup would weigh a lot more.

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