Large format and the pontoon boat

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by PeterDendrinos, Aug 30, 2005.

  1. PeterDendrinos

    PeterDendrinos Member

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    I took a wonderful pontoon boat ride into some very secluded backwaters the other day. No way to access by car or foot. Water is too deep to stand in the water to shoot. So here is the question, what are the odds I can successfully capture LF images staged from a pontoon boat. Typical exposures would likely be 1/8 sec to several sec.

    Before you go into the obvious, I realize boats move, sway etc. Just wondering if it’s been done and or how. Any tips?

    This is truly an untapped area and I would love to capture it for others to enjoy.

    Pete
     
  2. Helen B

    Helen B Member

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    Pete,

    Is the water too deep to stand a big tripod, or some other type of camera stand, in? Do a little piling operation or make a small-scale jack-up rig? Depends on how serious you are. Add jacks, or equivalent, to the pontoon? You don't need to lift the pontoon out of the water like a full-on jack-up rig, just stabilise the pontoon to the bed. If you drop a punt or scaffold pole into the bed does it stick firmly? How easy would it be to lash or clamp two, three or four poles to the gunwhale or a cross-pole?

    Best,
    Helen
     
  3. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    Yep.. classic use of legs: groovy

    or, a gyro stailizer

    but when you resort to electric, you're halfway to digital....
     
  4. colrehogan

    colrehogan Member

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    How much is the water moving? I mean, it would seem that if the water is still, then you should be able to shoot just fine.
     
  5. PeterDendrinos

    PeterDendrinos Member

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    The water looked too deep for my tripods. I am guessing 6’. I would a 12’ tripod! Stabilizing the boat might be tough. I could place something like aluminum dock legs in the water. They can have a screw type device on the bottom that I could auger in. While that may stabilize side to side movement, id wouldn’t do much for up and down motion.

    I’ve never used a “gyro stabilizer” is that a real option? Would it create it’s own vibrations to contend with? Sounds pricy.

    The water seemed quite calm, but I wasn’t paying much attention to flow. My guess is it’s quite slow.

    I do quite a bit of shooting in rivers, most moving quite rapidly, never had a problem there, but I was only hip deep. This is a different kind of deal. The vistas I would want to capture would require that I am somewhat elevated. The pontoon height looked about right.

    What about a 12’ ladder sunk well in the river bed?

    Pete
     
  6. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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    I like low tech solutions :smile:

    Since you're working in "secluded backwaters" I'm assuming the only waves you'll worry about are those generated by yourself and what you're looking for is a stable platform. How about heavy weights (like buckets / bags of rocks) which get tossed off the boat from the the front and back of each pontoon. Then you would tie the ropes to the weights really snug so the pontoons get pulled, or settled into the water.

    While not rock solid, it would be easily moveable and steady enough if you don't bring a fidgety bull mastif with you.

    Murray
     
  7. magic823

    magic823 Member

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    You can use what Gordon Hutchings (of pmk fame) does. He has a "cherry picker" ladder (three legs) with a quick release head on top.
     
  8. Helen B

    Helen B Member

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    "Stabilizing the boat might be tough. I could place something like aluminum dock legs in the water. They can have a screw type device on the bottom that I could auger in. While that may stabilize side to side movement, id wouldn’t do much for up and down motion."

    I envisaged taking some of the pontoon's weight on the legs to stop the vertical motion. If the augers are well fixed in the bottom you could try doing it the other way and hold the boat down with them but I would have thought that using them as support was more likely to succeed.

    Though interesting, the problem I see with a gyro is framing and focussing an 8x10 - apart from the fact that they aren't rock solid enough for an exposure of a few seconds. You are likely to lose critical sharpness.

    Murray's idea could be the answer. However, you might be surprised how heavy a weight you would need to prevent motion of the boat. A gentle one-inch high wave could produce about 100 to 150 lbs of uplift on a 5' wide boat. Scrap steel would be slightly better value than rocks because most rock has a comparatively low density, so it 'loses' more of its weight when in water. 100 lbs of tension in a vertical cable would require at least 150 lbs of submerged rocks in comparison to 114 lbs of submerged steel.

    If the bottom is flat and firm enough, a channel-section ladder could be a suitable camera stand - but a three legged ladder would be better than four.

    Could you adapt your existing tripod with scaffold poles or pipe to make the legs longer?

    Best,
    Helen
     
  9. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    What about a Clyde Butcher-type stepladder? No use to me as the fjord here is 300m deep, but an intriguing idea for shallower waters :smile:
     
  10. esanford

    esanford Member

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    I don't have a solution, but I have a similar problem... I live on the Yeopim Creek here in coastal North Carolina and the wetlands are breath taking. I have a sport fishing boat and I am trying to figure how to do the same thing. I am a
    tri-x user and as such, I have gotten some credible 35mm handheld shots at a 60th of second, but that puts me in the F8-F11 in early evening or late morning. I have thought about putting out 2 anchors (bow & stern) on a really still morning or evening and then set my Bogen 3030 on deck with either my Hassy or my 4X5. I am interested in other ideas. Standing int he water here is possible but a little risky inasmuch as we have cotton Mouth water moccassins... They have tendency to be unfriendly when their territories are invaded. :smile:
     
  11. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Back in the really old days when film was slow and cameras heavy, they used a trick which is somewhat similar to what you see on my avatar: The heavier the camera, the less it shakes (up to a limit). There was one ship's photographer who added several pounds of lead to his camera to make it heavier for hand-held shooting...
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 1, 2005
  12. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I like the Clyde Butcher solution. I think he has a 12 foot fiberglass surveyor's tripod and a tall ladder that he can use in the swamps.
     
  13. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    A good impoverished film student trick that I've seen for handheld shooting with a lightweight camera is to use a monopod (not resting on the ground) with a 5 pound barbell weight on the bottom.
     
  14. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    I used to bolt a chunk of brass to the base of my Leica when I shot theatre. Worked as described.

    Helen: I was kidding about the gyro stabilizer.
    Peter: I was kidding about the gyro stablizer.

    There is always a place where it pays to change film size. When the water's too deep to sink legs, then 120 gives you almost two stop of shutter speed, which gives you 1/4 the motion blur.

    On the other hand, with judicious development, in particular reduced agitation, you can always push TMY 2 stops ! No real grain increase, while keeping a long straight line !
     
  15. resummerfield

    resummerfield Subscriber

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    I'll second David's idea of the monopod. Just sink an appropriately long 2x4 into the water till it touches bottom, and place the camera on it handheld.
     
  16. herb

    herb Member

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    One of my best shots of all time was taken out of a moving motor boat with a speed graphic. It is not razor sharp, but people like it better than any of my others, it sells before anything. I can't remember the film, probably super XX or Royal pan, and a pretty fast shutter speed.

    And- it was hand held. I took it in the 50's
     
  17. Charles Webb

    Charles Webb Member

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    For what it is worth, I once had to shoot interior construction damage photo's in a water filled railroad tunnel. The water was eight feet or so deep, I placed my Davis and Sanford tripod legs into 10 foot sections of electrical conduit. I Paddled a rubber one man raft to the spot, then set up my rig. The regular head worked normally but only supported a B&J 5x7 camera. The tunnel was standard guage, so the make shift tripod legs worked by standing on a nearly flat grade under the water. The conduit was about an inch and three quarters I.D. as I remember and good old 100 mph tape held the two together. I used a simular rig with a ladder at one time to do some telephoto images for the Denver Bronco's. Used 35mm for this however.
     
  18. dancqu

    dancqu Member

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    Are you problems transverse or longitudinal or both? Dan
     
  19. PeterDendrinos

    PeterDendrinos Member

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    What about oblique? :D :D :D

    I would expect movement issues to affect all plains. A couple of the above suggestions have me thinking. Ladders and or very tall tripods. Now I’m stuck with where to find such a critter and or exactly what am I looking for. I can see where a tall ladder with a mount on top could come in hand in other places as well. Might have to customize a ladder for a river bed so it does not sink however.

    Pete
     
  20. glbeas

    glbeas Member

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    What I read of Clyde Butcher, he would set the tripod up on the site he wanted to shoot, weighted down, and leave it for several days so it would settle to a stable point. Must have been a bear pulling it back out of the muck after shooting.
     
  21. PeterDendrinos

    PeterDendrinos Member

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    I could see coming back to find the ladder missing! Perhaps larger pads placed on the bottom of the ladder would help a bit.

    Interesting, the concept is beginning to form in my weak gray matter.

    Pete
     
  22. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    This is one of the reasons I keep my old Crown and Speed, if somethaing very bad happens I can live with having to replace it, I can shoot with TriX pushed to 800 in Acufine at 1/100th with a decent f/stop hand held or on a monopod. I don't shoot color in 4X5, is a 400 speed color film available in 4X5?
     
  23. Dave Wooten

    Dave Wooten Subscriber

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    I visited Clyde's studio a few summers back....the one in the Everglades on Tamiami trail......I saw a good sized alligator in the swamp water on his property! The water there isnt that deep I think Clyde just doesnt like to be up to his azo in Alligators....