By Betsy Finn, Cr.Photog., CPP
I recently had the chance to try out The Polester, created by Longshot Camera Systems. It’s a “camera-on-a-stick” device that allows you to photograph things from a drastically different angle than you could achieve with your own reach (unless, of course, you are Stretch Armstrong).
The rig consists of a camera mount, triggering device with a retractable string (like an extendable dog leash) that extends down to the base of the pole. As you extend the pole, the triggering string remains slightly taut. When I received my review unit, I got a crash course on assembly. In short, you want the vertical portion of the trigger to hug the camera body as closely as possible. The little arm at the top of the trigger is meant to hover over the shutter, and by pulling on the string lightly, you can focus before pulling harder to take the shot.
The camera mount portion of the setup attaches to a double-action locking telescoping pole, which is very nifty. The pole has a handle with a release button, and it allows you to swiftly and easily extend the pole to the height you need.
Components of the Polester assembly.
Here’s what it looks like when you have everything assembled. I have to say, the trigger mechanism is a very clever invention. ©Betsy Finn
While I could see some potential to use it at events (i.e., a wedding, sports tournament), I wasn’t exactly sure how applicable it would be for a portrait session. Obviously with a large venue, you could hoist up the camera to get a nice bird’s eye view of the area, as blogger Rob Sylvan did during Imaging USA 2010. But for a portrait session, the applications might be more limited.
I ended up using the Polester to capture an overhead view of my model (below). Yes, I scheduled a special session just to test this out, as I thought it might take some time to get the hang of framing my subject while more than an arm’s reach away from my camera.
In retrospect, I have to tell you that working with the Polester is easier said than done in some circumstances. When you have a five pound camera setup that you’re supporting at the end of a pole, there is quite a bit of sway; I had to use significantly faster shutter speed than normal to avoid blur. The amount of sway in the fully extended pole also affected my composition. So, it was a matter of trial and error to get the shot I wanted. On top of that, my arms got tired from repetitively extending the pole (to take a few shots) and retracting it (to see if I’d framed it right).
My conclusion? If you are an event photographer looking for a way to get “the shot” that requires being heads above everyone else, the Polester is a great tool to have. It would be great for evidence photographers, or press photojournalists. But for typical portrait work, it may not be worth lugging around. I might bring it along to a sports event or a wedding in the future in order to get a nice “scene” shots, but I am pretty sure I will not be bringing it on another portrait session.
Depending on the size of your camera, you may need either the point and shoot trigger device, or the larger DSLR trigger device. While both do a good job, it’s a lot easier, physically, to hold the point and shoot up for any length of time than it is to hold a DSLR up in the air at the end of a pole.
The Polester was originally invented to allow contractors and inspectors to easily photograph places that were hard (or dangerous) to get to. There are two version of the Polester, both of which retail for $199. For more information about the Polester, or to watch a demonstrational video, visit Longshot Camera Systems.