Large Group High Up From a Lift - How To?

lifeinfocuslifeinfocus Phils ImagingPosts: 1,461Registered Users Major grins
edited June 27, 2012 in Technique
I have been asked to take a photo of a large crowd - 100 plus - fairly high above using a construction type lift.

So I was thinking originally of using a prime lens and having the lift moved up and down to get the right shot. Then I was thinking, nah, use zoom. Also thinking, do I need a monopod or tripod to help steady me as I am raised high above the crowd. Not afraid of heights, just getting a fairly clear shot.

If anybody has any experience in this kind of photo, please advise.

Thanks, Phil
http://www.PhilsImaging.com
"You don't take a photograph, you make it." ~Ansel Adams
Phil

Comments

  • pathfinderpathfinder Drive By Digital Shooter western IndianaPosts: 14,427Super Moderators moderator
    edited June 7, 2012
    Never done it. Phil, but I would think a 24-70 style zoom might be easier, and faster than trying to accurately position the lift, unless you can position the lift in advance and know exactly the limits of where the subjects will stand.

    A support of some sort - tripod or monopod might be useful, but i suspect you can brace against the safety railings around the cockpit of the lift also. Maybe a bean bag type support strapped to one of the edges of the safety railing. Less locked down that a tripod,, but less to fiddle with as well.
    Pathfinder - www.pathfinder.smugmug.com

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  • lifeinfocuslifeinfocus Phils Imaging Posts: 1,461Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 7, 2012
    pathfinder wrote: »
    Never done it. Phil, but I would think a 24-70 style zoom might be easier, and faster than trying to accurately position the lift, unless you can position the lift in advance and know exactly the limits of where the subjects will stand.

    A support of some sort - tripod or monopod might be useful, but i suspect you can brace against the safety railings around the cockpit of the lift also. Maybe a bean bag type support strapped to one of the edges of the safety railing. Less locked down that a tripod,, but less to fiddle with as well.

    Excellent ideas. Thanks much.

    Phil
    http://www.PhilsImaging.com
    "You don't take a photograph, you make it." ~Ansel Adams
    Phil
  • pathfinderpathfinder Drive By Digital Shooter western IndianaPosts: 14,427Super Moderators moderator
    edited June 7, 2012
    What about lighting?
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    Moderator of the Technique Forum and Finishing School on Dgrin
  • lifeinfocuslifeinfocus Phils Imaging Posts: 1,461Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 7, 2012
    pathfinder wrote: »
    What about lighting?

    Outdoors in front of church facing west in early afternoon. So, I expect full sun - ouch!
    http://www.PhilsImaging.com
    "You don't take a photograph, you make it." ~Ansel Adams
    Phil
  • time2smiletime2smile Major grins Posts: 835Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 9, 2012
    Phil, super-clamp with a ball head mounted to it, and dont forget a safety line. Have you considered stitching the shot.
    Ted....
    It's not what you look at that matters: Its what you see!
    Nikon
    http://www.time2smile.smugmug.com
  • ian408ian408 More wag. Less Bark. Posts: 21,309Administrators moderator
    edited June 9, 2012
    These types of shots have been done for Annual Reports and the like. Typically, you will want to set the shot up before your subjects arrive. By set up, I mean make some decisions about sizing, marks on the pavement to define the area that will be included in the photo, shorter people in the front, exposure, etc..

    If someone on the ground can help get people in frame and help re-arrange (so taller people don't block the shorter ones and so everyone is well lit), that will be a huge help.

    I would shoot this handheld. Scissor lifts or cranes can shake quite a bit in even a light breeze. High shutter speed is your friend :D Speaking of height, you need to be sure of all the stuff you put in the lift-don't take more stuff than you need and by all means, do not overload the lift and use a trained operator.

    Good luck!
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  • lifeinfocuslifeinfocus Phils Imaging Posts: 1,461Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 9, 2012
    ian408 wrote: »
    These types of shots have been done for Annual Reports and the like. Typically, you will want to set the shot up before your subjects arrive. By set up, I mean make some decisions about sizing, marks on the pavement to define the area that will be included in the photo, shorter people in the front, exposure, etc..

    If someone on the ground can help get people in frame and help re-arrange (so taller people don't block the shorter ones and so everyone is well lit), that will be a huge help.

    I would shoot this handheld. Scissor lifts or cranes can shake quite a bit in even a light breeze. High shutter speed is your friend :D Speaking of height, you need to be sure of all the stuff you put in the lift-don't take more stuff than you need and by all means, do not overload the lift and use a trained operator.

    Good luck!

    Thanks for your comments. I will have a person on the ground and bull horn. Marking the spot and testing in advance are good ideas.

    Phil
    http://www.PhilsImaging.com
    "You don't take a photograph, you make it." ~Ansel Adams
    Phil
  • lifeinfocuslifeinfocus Phils Imaging Posts: 1,461Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 9, 2012
    time2smile wrote: »
    Phil, super-clamp with a ball head mounted to it, and dont forget a safety line. Have you considered stitching the shot.

    I will take a number of shots so I can stitch if needed.

    Safety line, good thought too.
    http://www.PhilsImaging.com
    "You don't take a photograph, you make it." ~Ansel Adams
    Phil
  • lifeinfocuslifeinfocus Phils Imaging Posts: 1,461Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 11, 2012
    I am considering renting a D800 for this plus one lens a 24-70mm Nikon. Thoughts on the lens for the high above ground lots of people shot? Is that wide enough? I ask because I will be able to use it almost the whole week for vacation bible school.

    Thanks for your comments.
    Phil
    http://www.PhilsImaging.com
    "You don't take a photograph, you make it." ~Ansel Adams
    Phil
  • ian408ian408 More wag. Less Bark. Posts: 21,309Administrators moderator
    edited June 11, 2012
    Depends on how high up you are. Between that and a 70-200, you should be OK.
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  • lifeinfocuslifeinfocus Phils Imaging Posts: 1,461Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 11, 2012
    ian408 wrote: »
    Depends on how high up you are. Between that and a 70-200, you should be OK.

    Wow!. Thanks for the quick response. I have not seen the lift yet, checking that out soon. The lift is used for electrical work, so I expect it to be fairly tall.

    Phil
    http://www.PhilsImaging.com
    "You don't take a photograph, you make it." ~Ansel Adams
    Phil
  • ian408ian408 More wag. Less Bark. Posts: 21,309Administrators moderator
    edited June 11, 2012
    Those come in very short to very tall...and they come in very simple roll around versions to those you drive ;)
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  • lifeinfocuslifeinfocus Phils Imaging Posts: 1,461Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 11, 2012
    I forgot that I will be going from DX to FX - full frame so that gives me a little more coverage. Right?
    http://www.PhilsImaging.com
    "You don't take a photograph, you make it." ~Ansel Adams
    Phil
  • ian408ian408 More wag. Less Bark. Posts: 21,309Administrators moderator
    edited June 11, 2012
    yup
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  • lifeinfocuslifeinfocus Phils Imaging Posts: 1,461Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 13, 2012
    HDR a group? Now that I have applied to rent a D800 and since it has HDR capabilities, I am wondering if using it for a large group is worth considering? I realize it requires people to be still. Keep in mind this is a shot from a fair distance from the group.

    Phil
    http://www.PhilsImaging.com
    "You don't take a photograph, you make it." ~Ansel Adams
    Phil
  • ian408ian408 More wag. Less Bark. Posts: 21,309Administrators moderator
    edited June 13, 2012
    Sure. HDR is a valid technique to use. Just don't tone map the crap out of the image.

    If you're using flash or bright sun, there should be no real reason to do that.
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  • Art ScottArt Scott Have PASSPORT will TRAVEL WICHITA, KS USAPosts: 8,959Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 14, 2012
    I have been asked to take a photo of a large crowd - 100 plus - fairly high above using a construction type lift.

    So I was thinking originally of using a prime lens and having the lift moved up and down to get the right shot. Then I was thinking, nah, use zoom. Also thinking, do I need a monopod or tripod to help steady me as I am raised high above the crowd. Not afraid of heights, just getting a fairly clear shot.

    If anybody has any experience in this kind of photo, please advise.

    Thanks, Phil

    Never shot off a lift, but I have shot off a roof to get shots like this for a company I used to work for...my prob with the lift is stability and motion....it doesn't take but a very small amount of air current to make a lift sway to and fro.....even on a roof top I would use a tripod and good zoom lens (70-200 and if possible a sloped yard..... I was lucky in that the factory i was working for had a flat room and a nice grade in their yard....you could easily see each persons whole face. yes they did need to look up a bit but no enuff to show neck extension or uncomfortableness .... I was about 20 feet off the ground on the roof, so just about 2 stories....this was a bit high, but it was all I had to use except for the man lifts and we had both single man and the longer 10 foot version but neither would accommodate a pod and the roof did.

    Good Luck
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  • lifeinfocuslifeinfocus Phils Imaging Posts: 1,461Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 14, 2012
    Art Scott wrote: »
    Never shot off a lift, but I have shot off a roof to get shots like this for a company I used to work for...my prob with the lift is stability and motion....it doesn't take but a very small amount of air current to make a lift sway to and fro.....even on a roof top I would use a tripod and good zoom lens (70-200 and if possible a sloped yard..... I was lucky in that the factory i was working for had a flat room and a nice grade in their yard....you could easily see each persons whole face. yes they did need to look up a bit but no enuff to show neck extension or uncomfortableness .... I was about 20 feet off the ground on the roof, so just about 2 stories....this was a bit high, but it was all I had to use except for the man lifts and we had both single man and the longer 10 foot version but neither would accommodate a pod and the roof did.

    Good Luck

    Thanks for your comments. The shot is 10 days from now and I am going to test the lift tomorrow. We'll check it out. As noted above - SS is our friend. I have rented a D800 and I have five days of using it before I try this stunt.

    Phil
    http://www.PhilsImaging.com
    "You don't take a photograph, you make it." ~Ansel Adams
    Phil
  • lifeinfocuslifeinfocus Phils Imaging Posts: 1,461Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 15, 2012
    Test shot
    Test shot from lift, although not in the same place where the actual shot will be taken. Tentatively looking up to 500 people in the shot, although I expect a few hundred.
    I need to remember about shadows when I take the shot next week. Wind was 5 mph today so it was not shaky, although my legs were - just kidding. I was 32 feet up. I had camera on tripod. When I take the actual shot I will have to tilt my tripod a little more forward so I can look over and down more - and may need to use some kind of straps to secure it. Hmm?

    Here is the test shot. I will be using a D800 and a 24-70 lens. Today's settings from a D90 - 18mm, f14, 1/100s, ISO 200. I will bump up ISO, shutter speed some and maybe aperture.

    20120615-Test-DSC0007-XL.jpg

    Shot of lift with a gentlemen from local electric company.

    20120615-Heath-DSC0019-XL.jpg
    http://www.PhilsImaging.com
    "You don't take a photograph, you make it." ~Ansel Adams
    Phil
  • ian408ian408 More wag. Less Bark. Posts: 21,309Administrators moderator
    edited June 15, 2012
    Strap two legs of the tripod to the rail of the lift with bungee cords if you really need to. But honestly; if you plan on using a higher shutter speed, hand hold would be fine.

    You also need to watch the ground shadows. To that, if you you have the lift positioned where it is right now, I might line everyone up with the first row starting at the end of the second row of spots (tailgate of the pickup). That should let you frame the image. Also keep in mind you have some mobility with the lift and can reposition as required. It would be good for you to think about how you want people positioned and at the beginning of your shoot, communicate your ideas to them. "If you look in front of you, you'll see a series of marks on the ground that create a box. If you're outside of the box, you won't be in the picture" and other useful instruction. That's a lot of people to corral so the more you do to plan out the shot and get it done quickly, the better.

    I also like the idea of not shooting the crowd head on but from a corner (of the box they're in). And a final shot suggestion. If people have hats, you could ask them to keep them in front of them while you get the shots you need. Then as a last shot or two, have them throw the hats in the air (or jump if there's room).

    Good luck!
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  • lifeinfocuslifeinfocus Phils Imaging Posts: 1,461Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 15, 2012
    ian408 wrote: »
    Strap two legs of the tripod to the rail of the lift with bungee cords if you really need to. But honestly; if you plan on using a higher shutter speed, hand hold would be fine.

    You also need to watch the ground shadows. To that, if you you have the lift positioned where it is right now, I might line everyone up with the first row starting at the end of the second row of spots (tailgate of the pickup). That should let you frame the image. Also keep in mind you have some mobility with the lift and can reposition as required. It would be good for you to think about how you want people positioned and at the beginning of your shoot, communicate your ideas to them. "If you look in front of you, you'll see a series of marks on the ground that create a box. If you're outside of the box, you won't be in the picture" and other useful instruction. That's a lot of people to corral so the more you do to plan out the shot and get it done quickly, the better.

    I also like the idea of not shooting the crowd head on but from a corner (of the box they're in). And a final shot suggestion. If people have hats, you could ask them to keep them in front of them while you get the shots you need. Then as a last shot or two, have them throw the hats in the air (or jump if there's room).

    Good luck!

    Thanks so much, again.

    Yep, I got the shadow part.

    We will be in an entirely different location - part of the reason for the shot is to capture the new school building - construction company has a vested interest.

    Love the idea to throw hats.

    Also, I will take more test shots an hour or so before the shot and check the results.

    I may hold the camera - all depends on how I feel up in the air then, will secure tripod just to make sure.

    I will need to bring a cover for the LCD screen due to glare - really experienced that today.

    I have one more question that is pretty basic but still don't know. It regards depth of field.
    When taking a photo with a fair amount of depth - front to back.

    Do I use:
    Single-point AF: and if so - is the single point 1/3 rd of the way of into the image (in the foreground), in the middle or 1/3 to the rear?

    Dynamic-area AF: - 9 - 21 or 51 point? Seems like 51 point would be a good choice for the stationary shot?

    3D-tracking: - for moving subjects - I suppose would be good for hat throwing?

    And last - do you have a sample image of shooting from the corner. That intrigues me.

    Thanks, Phil
    http://www.PhilsImaging.com
    "You don't take a photograph, you make it." ~Ansel Adams
    Phil
  • ian408ian408 More wag. Less Bark. Posts: 21,309Administrators moderator
    edited June 15, 2012
    I don't have a handy sample but you can get an idea by googling "large group photo" or something.

    If you're planning on including a building in the shot, you should probably rethink the height and distance of the group in order to fit everything in the frame that you need to. Meaning shoot from 20' up instead of 30'-something like that.

    Use a depth of field calculator to determine DOF. You'll need lens information. But if you were gonna use the same lens in your test photo, everything that's about 12' in front of your focus point to infinity to the rear will be in focus.

    Don't rely on the LCD for confirming your results. Too inaccurate.
    Thanks so much, again.

    Yep, I got the shadow part.

    We will be in an entirely different location - part of the reason for the shot is to capture the new school building - construction company has a vested interest.

    Love the idea to throw hats.

    Also, I will take more test shots an hour or so before the shot and check the results.

    I may hold the camera - all depends on how I feel up in the air then, will secure tripod just to make sure.

    I will need to bring a cover for the LCD screen due to glare - really experienced that today.

    I have one more question that is pretty basic but still don't know. It regards depth of field.
    When taking a photo with a fair amount of depth - front to back.

    Do I use:
    Single-point AF: and if so - is the single point 1/3 rd of the way of into the image (in the foreground), in the middle or 1/3 to the rear?

    Dynamic-area AF: - 9 - 21 or 51 point? Seems like 51 point would be a good choice for the stationary shot?

    3D-tracking: - for moving subjects - I suppose would be good for hat throwing?

    And last - do you have a sample image of shooting from the corner. That intrigues me.

    Thanks, Phil
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  • lifeinfocuslifeinfocus Phils Imaging Posts: 1,461Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 26, 2012
    Results of "The Shot"
    Well, I planned and planned some more. The weather forecast was 50% chance of thunderstorms and one hour before it looked like it was going to rain. But Michigan weather changes rapidly and in this case too good - too much shadow. One hour before the cloud cover would have been perfect.

    I had backup plans for a shot in the church and shot in the parish hall with a checklist.

    I used Cambridge in Colors depth of field guide to determine where to set my focal point. Tough to do because the weather was changing so rapidly and the wind was blowing a little.

    I was 20 feet up on cherry picker.
    Strapped tripod to the side of the cherry picker and went for a ride.
    Set camera to shutter priority 1/320th of second (windy), f/16, 26mm.
    Used 10 second timer, closed the viewfinder as suggested in D800 user manual. Used Nikon 24-70mm.

    Cropped photo for 8x10 (planned in advance so many people could purchase) and 16x20. I gave it lots of space to be able to crop later.


    Things I would different.
    1. Wear a hat and put on sun screen even if forecast was not good.
    2. Bring something to cover LCD screen so I could chimp image.
    3. Set the back line first and then bring in the chairs. Chairs were set first and outline the area where I wanted people to stand.
    4. Be more patient and use the ground crew a little bit more than I did. I had a little too much post editing to remove stray people and stuff.

    Phil - thanks for all your comments in helping plan this shot.


    20120624-Saint-Brigid-Group-X2.jpg
    http://www.PhilsImaging.com
    "You don't take a photograph, you make it." ~Ansel Adams
    Phil
  • ian408ian408 More wag. Less Bark. Posts: 21,309Administrators moderator
    edited June 26, 2012
    Looks good!
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  • lifeinfocuslifeinfocus Phils Imaging Posts: 1,461Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 27, 2012
    ian408 wrote: »
    Looks good!

    Thank you much. I was wondering what your reaction was going to be.

    Phil

    Below is how the tripod was setup. I strapped two legs of the tripod to the lift with a bungee cord and collapsed the third leg. Worked well.

    20120624-Tripod-X2.jpg
    http://www.PhilsImaging.com
    "You don't take a photograph, you make it." ~Ansel Adams
    Phil
  • pathfinderpathfinder Drive By Digital Shooter western IndianaPosts: 14,427Super Moderators moderator
    edited June 27, 2012
    We'll done, and I appreciate the follow up description of technique used and the final image. Some shadows on the faces, but the only way this could have been avoided is if the cloud cover had remained for the shoot. Or a really big soft box in the sky.

    When I was in Africa, I bungie corded a tripod to a grab rail in the LandRover, in lieu of a RRS clamp set up, as well. I used the rubber covered flexible metal wire ties and they worked quite nicely.
    Pathfinder - www.pathfinder.smugmug.com

    Moderator of the Technique Forum and Finishing School on Dgrin
  • lifeinfocuslifeinfocus Phils Imaging Posts: 1,461Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 27, 2012
    pathfinder wrote: »
    We'll done, and I appreciate the follow up description of technique used and the final image. Some shadows on the faces, but the only way this could have been avoided is if the cloud cover had remained for the shoot. Or a really big soft box in the sky.

    When I was in Africa, I bungie corded a tripod to a grab rail in the LandRover, in lieu of a RRS clamp set up, as well. I used the rubber covered flexible metal wire ties and they worked quite nicely.

    Thanks. I did a little editing to lighten some shadows of a few faces, but couldn't do much more.

    The most difficult part of the shot was location of the people. The front row with chairs is for older people - some are in the 90s - so needed to establish that and not move.

    I did some calculations as to how much sq. footage would be needed for the estimated number of people to be in the shot. Then we laid out the area - keeping in mind that I wanted a 4/5 ratio print instead of a wide landscape print to keep the print price down.

    Another consideration was to keep the new school building in view.

    Bottom line - the technical and artistic considerations were only part of the task.
    http://www.PhilsImaging.com
    "You don't take a photograph, you make it." ~Ansel Adams
    Phil
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