with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

The Ideal Photographic Vehicle Mobile Platform

There are many advantages to using a mobile blind. With the ideal vehicle you can get access to the areas you want, high enough to view over bushes and rails. You’ll have large windows to allow ease in getting your big lenses in and out, and maybe even a sunroof to work out of. Once you have everything you want in a vehicle, here are some tips for using your mobile photography platform.

The Mobile Photographic Platform

Use a bean bag to support the camera against the window edge. Photo by Lorelle VanFossenWildlife usually consider a vehicle harmless. They are used to it roaring by. Working from the road out the window can offer many opportunities that disappear as soon as you step outside. Using the window as a brace to rest your camera on, raising it to the right height, is simple. Put a bean bag over the glass and rest the lens on it. Electric windows work quickly and quietly to adjust the window precisely without bending over and struggling with a hand crank. Make sure you turn off the vehicle and let it quit moving before you begin to photograph.

Using a groofwin out the car window. Photo by Lorelle VanFossenGroofwin
One of the most versatile tools we’ve found for working from a vehicle is the Groofwin, by LL Rue Enterprises It is a unique structure for ground-roof-window support. It can support the heaviest of lenses and hooks over the car window and braces against the door. It will lay flat for photographing from the vehicle roof or from the ground.

Covering the window with a towel covers your motion in behind.Since the car acts as a blind, you can sometimes open the door slowly and crouch behind it, still using the window as a camera support, and still keep the door between you and the animal. For really Using the car door as a blind. Photo by Lorelle VanFossensensitive animals, we drape a towel or camouflage material over the open window and wrap it around the camera lens to cover our movements.

When photographing with someone else in the vehicle, ask them to limit their movement. The motion rocks the vehicle, making it harder to focus and obtain sharp images. Working from a vehicle can be uncomfortable, as you try to maneuver around the steering wheel and gear shift. It can be even more difficult trying to maneuver around a friend in the seat beside you. To avoid trying to shoot out the same window, one of the photographers can use the back seat.

Easy Access

Working the Roof
If you decide the roof makes a good platform, consider installing strong roof reinforcements or building a sturdy rack for the roof. Add railing for support for you and the camera. Remember not to use it while the vehicle is moving.

One of the advantages of working from a vehicle is the convenience of having everything within easy reach. Make sure you have easy access to the equipment you need. To avoid missing opportunities, we keep the camera on the seat beside USA, lens mounted, film loaded, power on, and ready to shoot. Be sure to secure it in case of sudden stops.

Is there space in the vehicle for your camera gear, keeping it ready to grasp and use? Traveling alone, the passenger seat is ideal. With captain’s chairs, a unit can fit between the seats for your gear. If you can easily reach the back seat, this may work. Putting your camera on the dashboard isn’t a good idea as the the heat through the window can be intense. If there is room between you and the steering wheel, you can also put the camera on your lap.

Our Mobile Platform

We’ve worked from many different vehicles, from four-wheel drive rugged monsters to sports cars. As we travel across North America we use our crew cab dually truck as our mobile platform. Brent uses the roof of our old sports car with the groofwin as a tripod. Photo by Lorelle VanFossenWe use the crew cab with bench seats so both of us can have an entire seat on which to move from side to side. One of the new vans with doors on both sides would work excellent for this. The truck bed and roof also serve as platforms, allowing a sweeping perspective. Unfortunately, a crew cab dually has a very long axle system and it isn’t very maneuverable. It takes a lot of room to do a U-turn. Its size requires a lot of advance planning on where we can take it and what constraints are up ahead on the road.

Think of all the ways you can rely upon your vehicle to become a platform to work from. Consider these when buying your next photo vehicle.



  • hyla
    Posted June 13, 2005 at 9:37 | Permalink

    i am looking for a roof rack for my van so that i can climb up there and shoot from it… any suggestions as to where i can find one?

  • Posted June 13, 2005 at 10:01 | Permalink

    Depends upon your van, and we don’t have any specifics on the type.

    You will need one that has very strong reinforcement that connects to the corners of the van, where the structure is sturdy and best able to take the support. It must have a very solid base, either resting on the roof of the van or above it with supporting ribs that cross under the “floor”. It should also have rails or a small “fence” that will stub your foot on if you get too close to the edge. It also helps to tie equipment to when you are traveling.

    Roof top supports are very unsteady and any motion at all adds vibration that is seen in the camera, especially with low light level situations. The stronger and more sturdy, the better. I would not recommend you get one that can be easily and quickly removed but go for something that is built into or attached to the frame of your vehicle.

    While not many hunters use the roof of their vehicle to stand on and hunt, some may have come up with some good supports that might work.

    Check Campmor and Cabelas to get started with camping and hunting gear. The ones that I have seen and used have been home made custom jobs.

    Good luck.

  • george
    Posted December 7, 2006 at 7:35 | Permalink

    I recently bought the ultimate motorized camera\camcorder mount,and it was under $100 on Ebay. The Meade ds-2000 series refracting telescope comes factory equiped with a 9-speed,pan and tilt motorized mount with a wired handheld remote control (meade #494 autostar handbox). I removed and replaced the telescope tube with an L-shaped bracket and mounted my mini dv camcorder on it (will also work great with camera and long telephoto lens).Designed with the astrophotographer in mimd,it works great for terrestrial viewers as well. PS: mini dv camcorder is panasonic model #pv-gs35 with 30x optical/1000x digital zoom plus wireless remote control.

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