Using a Step Ladder to Change Your Point of View
A couple of months ago I was photographing hot air balloons at the Festival of Balloons in Tigard, Oregon. I was walking across the wide, grassy field when I ran into fellow photographer, Daniel Payne. Daniel introduced me to his young son, who was atop a short ladder taking photos of the balloons as they gently lifted into the sky.
When I mentioned that the step ladder offered a great way for his son to get above the adults around him, Daniel said that he himself often carries a ladder along on photo shoots. Later on, this conversation got me to thinking about how I could use a ladder for an upcoming shoot of my own.
I really enjoy photographing bicycle racing at Alpenrose Velodrome, in southwest Portland, Oregon. With the bright colors, the speed, and the hardbodies — opportunities for interesting photography are countless. Every summer the velodrome hosts one of the best paying track racing events in the country, the Alpenrose Challenge. Top level competitors come from across the country.
There are lots of great vantage points to shoot from at the velodrome, but because of a safety fence many of them aren’t easily accessible. In the past I had contemplated bringing a ladder along, but it just seemed to be a bit over the top to haul a 6′ stepladder around. Now, after seeing Daniel’s step ladder, I realized a ladder was doable.
I visited a local Fred Meyer (variety) store to see what the options were for short ladders. They offered two choices, both from the same manufacturer (Cosco). One cost $19 and the other was $32. The primary difference between them was their weights. The more expensive ladder weighed in at only six pounds: just twice the weight of my Canon 100 - 400mm lens. I purchased one and attached an old padded, tripod strap to it so I can easily carry it over my shoulder.
This step ladder has only two steps, with the second step being a larger platform. In many cases these two steps are all it takes to change your point of view enough to get that great shot. In the photo to the left you can see how it enabled me to shoot over the safety fence near the corner of one of the velodrome’s banked curves.
This small lightweight ladder has become a permanent part of my photography kit. I bring it along no matter where I’m shooting because it opens the door for countless vantage points, many of which completely change the feel of an image. I suggest you consider adding one of these lightweight ladders to your photo gear. After you do, you’ll wonder how you got along without it.