Photography For Real Estate

Tips and techniques for real estate photography

Telescopic Mast – Another Way to get a High View

Posted by larrylohrman on August 4, 2006

A few days ago I heard from another Australian reader Adam Maurer in Brisbane. Adam uses a custom built telescoping pneumatic mast to get a high point of view for real estate shots. He attaches the mast to a trailer hitch and is able to hoist his remote controlled camera 40 feet in the air. Take a look at Adam’s website to see his mast and camera setup. Adam describes his mast as follows:

“It’s a 12m (40 foot) QT12 “Clark Mast”. Clark is based in the UK, and virtually invented the pneumatic mast.

To purchase a brand new QT12 here in Australia is just under AUD$7,000… but I picked mine up second hand off a fellow amateur radio operator for $800. It’s 10 years old, but works a treat, especially after I gave it a basic overhaul & clean (taking less than 1 hour).

It slots into a standard “Hayman Reece” type towbar hitch receiver.
I have an ARB 12V air compressor that lifts it up (with 2.5kg camera
payload) in about 65 seconds.”

This is taking Marc Lacoste’s idea of holding your camera on your tripod over your head to the next level!

Adam does standard interior photography and panoramic photography as well as specialized 40 foot aerial shots.

4 Responses to “Telescopic Mast – Another Way to get a High View”

  1. I’ve had a few enquiries recently about my mast system, asking where can I get one and how does it work.

    I should point out that I designed and built this syetm myself as there were no commercially available solutions that I could find. It was a one-off prototype, and I’m not really in a postion to be able to supply them. Sorry šŸ˜¦

    Anyway, to help give you some ideas for your own system, I present some more general information below. The following skills will be required, (or know somebody who can do them for you); electronics design, microprocessor design & coding, assembly using R/C model servos and parts, and general metalwork like cutting, drills and ARC welding.

    I have a Clark 12m Clark QT12/HP mast.
    The only reason I have this model is because it was available at the time (2nd hand) and it was dirt cheap, considering the rip-off prices for new in Australia.

    12m is high enough for most shoots, and quite often you do not need to go full height to frame a nice shot.

    The HP signifies it comes with the hand pump. I found that the mast was rocking backwards and forwards too mjuch when pumping up the mast. A bit disconcerting with $$$$ worth of equipment mounted up there, so I used my existing ARB 12V air compressor. This is a typical compressor for 4WD applications. The flow rate and pressure were a very close match to the Clark requirements, and the mast is up in about 65-75 seconds (that includes me locking off each section, as it goes up).

    If overhead power lines are present, it would be handy to have a 20m mast and to shoot over the power lines from the other side of the road. This is about the only time you need to go higher than 12m for normal residential photography, unless you are shooting multi-story commercial properties.

    My vehicle is a 1995 Toyota 4Runner 4WD… (getting a bit old now!!!)
    It is perfect because the electric window at the rear goes up and down, so I don’t have to drop the tailgate to get access to my camera gear in the back.
    I cannot drop the tailgate anyway, because the mast slots into the towbar mount!
    The angle of the mast can be tilted forward and back in increments, by removing the locking pin and adjusting where it goes.

    The mast always 90Ā° to the angle of the vehicle.
    To adjust the lateral angle (side to side angle) I chock the vehicle wheels with timber. I carry several 25mm high (1″) and 50mm high (2″)length of timber, about 30cm long (1 foot), and drive up over the timber. KISS principle. (Keep It Simple Stupid.)
    It was too difficult to design/build a 3D adjustable mount that would be robust enough to allow the mast to travel down the road with.

    The best solution is too have a mast on a roof trolley rack, so it is stowed away horizontal whilst driving, however these trolley are very expensive.
    Like a lot of cars these days, my 4Runner has internal gutters and does not allow for a full-length roof rack system anyway.

    If you can afford it, the best system would be a 20m mast mounted on a roof trolley rack system.

    Because the QT12 has a specified headload of only 2.5kg, I spent a long time looking for a camera head that had the following specifications:
    12VDC operation (to allow mobile operation)
    Lightweight (

  2. Hmmmm… this entry form is not accepting text beyond a certain point. I’ll try again…

    Although there are many 24VAC heads to purchase, few 12VDC were available,
    and they were very expensive (AUD$2000-$4000).
    So, I designed and built my own.
    At first I was going to use a cabled system to remote control the camera
    using the USB interface, a laptop and software.
    The more I thought about it, the more I disliked the idea of dangling cables
    getting caught up and in the way, so I started on a wireless system using
    standard model R/C components from the hobby shops.

    My camera is an 8MP Nikon Coolpix 8400 (now discontinued).
    I purchased the vertical battery grip so I could easily interface the camera
    to the outside world with my custom built electronic interface.
    (This means I didn’t have to hack into the back of the camera, to connect
    wires to the shutter and zoom buttons, which would have been almost
    impossible anyway)
    I designed the interface myself and it uses a microcontroller (I wrote the
    software) to measures the R/C pulse width.
    If a pulse is narrower than neutral (joystick moved one way) then it
    triggers a relay which is wired across the zoom in button.
    If the pulse is wider than neutral (joystick moved opposite way) then it
    triggers a different relay which is wired across the zoom out button.
    Same for Shutter and exposure lock. My interface lives inside the battery
    grip, as I removed the battery tray from grip.

    My R/C system is a standard hobby R/C. It is a HiTec Eclipse 7 (7
    I use one joystick to control Pan/Tilt using standard R/C servos mounted in
    a plastic box.

    The other joystick is used for zoom in/out and shutter/exposure lock.

    The complete Pan/Tilt head with camera weighs 2.9kg (including batteries –
    there are 8 x AA rechargeable NiMh).
    My head moves the CP8400 with 0.75 wide-angle adapter OK, but it is not
    adequate to move a heavier SLR type camera.
    The pan/tilt head was purpose built to take my CP8400, and is not universal.

    If I build another pan/tilt head I will build a bigger unit that will accept
    a dSLR, but that won’t be for another 12 months or more.
    That will also mean I will have to buy a mast with a bigger headload rating
    than what I have now.
    …That then means I will have to buy another vehicle that will take a roof
    trolley system.

    Hope this answers some of your questions and has given you some ideas.

  3. I love reading this entry and it’s really great to read every details of this blog.

  4. HI TIANHEMAST is also a solution for elevation your mission .

    Tianhemast have over 20 years in mast field and can make very good masts compare to clark and fireco .

    They also doing Aerial Photography Masts.

    for photography there is a problem is that if once the first section is smaller than 40mm than it’s not stable for camera to shoot a image , because of the wind, and small first section tube diameter ,, a little wind could cause the mast shake and the image will be blow ,, the camera requires a very stable condition so that it can take good pictures ,, TianheMast have the solution for you..

    Below is their official website

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