Make Yao Ming Jealous: DIY Aerial Photography


At 7’6″, Yao Ming is one of the tallest Olympians, one of the most revered basketball players across the world, and we’re willing to bet, were there an Olympic competition for aerial photography, he’d score heads above the rest.

Puns aside, getting a camera up into the air is no small (or short) feat. We’re not all tall like Yao Ming, and we don’t always have access to a kite or a plane… Plus, tripods and professional monopods are expensive and weigh about a gajillion pounds.

So, we made our own Photojojo Sky-Cam, just for you and just in time for your own photography Olympics.

Transform your group shots, crowd shots, your super-secret, Bond-ian spy shots into “how’d-you-do-that,” Andreas Gursky-like works of high art.

The Photojojo DIY Sky-Cam

Why It’s Cool

It’s taller than Yao Ming! Perfect for shaking up your group shots, taking photos of yourself without asking a stranger, and for spying on your neighbors (or the birds’ nest), the sky-cam costs less than a concert ticket and allows you to take pictures of the stage and crowd without climbing a fence or your friend’s shoulders. It’s relatively inconspicuous (all the cool kids carry poles around town), inexpensive, and it’ll get your camera up into the canopy in no time.

What You’ll Need

monopodingred_thumb.jpgThe extension pole is usually sold for use with paint rollers. Otherwise, you’ll find the rest online or at your local, friendly photography supply and hardware stores.

  • Camera (smaller is better)
  • Telescoping extension pole, 4′ to 8′, plastic top
  • 1/4″-20 hangar bolt
  • Drill
  • Pliers
  • Light and small tripod ball head (here are a few, from 12-35 bucks)

You might need:

  • Tripod socket converter (3/8″ to 1/4″) (This should come with the ball head you purchased, and you only need it if the socket on your ball head is 3/8″.)

Step 1: The Hangar Bolt

hangarbolt_thumb.jpgThe hangar bolt has two ends–one sharp for drilling into wood or plastic, and another, dull end with a tighter thread for metal. Drill the sharp end of the hangar bolt straight down into the plastic top of your extension pole–no need for a pilot hole, just be careful as you only get one shot.

Step 2: Setting the Bolt

wrench_thumb.jpgUse your pliers on the hangar bolt’s flat middle to wind the hangar bolt further into the plastic. Leave 1/2″ to 3/4″ sticking out of the top, careful not to damage the threads (put down the pliers and use your fingers, if you must).

Step 3: Socket Conversion

socket_thumb.jpgIf your ball head has a 3/8″ socket, screw on the tripod socket converter to make it 1/4″. (Of course, you can use a 3/8″ hangar bolt and avoid this step altogether, but the 3/8″ bolt is usually too long and too heavy, unwieldy for such a small project as this.)

Step 4: The Ball Head

ballhead_thumb.jpgWind the ball head onto the hangar bolt.

Step 5: The Camera

skycamera_thumb.jpgWind your camera onto the ball head bolt. Tight, tight, tight. You don’t want that sucker falling off at 8 feet.

Step 6: The Extension

extension_thumb.jpgSet your camera’s timer, extend the pole to any height you desire, ham it up, wait for the snap! Though keeping the bottom of the pole on the ground makes for steadier pics, we lifted the sky-cam above our heads for some 16-foot (the height of a 2nd storey), super-tall snaps.

On-Demand Height in Your Backpack, a Variation

woodmono_thumb.jpgAre you shy? Do you dislike giant metal poles? We found something at the hardware store just for you. Shur-Line makes a “3-Piece Extension Pole,” which is a set of three wooden dowels that screw into each other for varying heights and easy storage. Use in place of the aluminum/plastic extension pole and stash in your backpack. Impress your friends with your sudden growth spurt.

Photojojo’s Sky-Cam in Action!

I’ve Taken Enough of Myself, Now What?

  • Take it to Burning Man for the exquisite desert landscapes and art installations.
  • Twirl the pole around in traffic for some awesome, 360 headlight streaks.
  • Need an author photo? Portrait for your school I.D.? Why not take it from above? Plus, granny won’t look quite as small when you take your family group shot from up on high.
  • Video your local bmx-ers and skaters in action from the sky.
  • It’s not just for up in the sky–peek around corners, below the deck, under the car, over the roof. If you’ve got a waterproof case, your point-and-shoot becomes its own SCUBA machine.
  • The tigers at the zoo might seem like a good idea, but we’re thinking not.