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I need to take a high-resolution photo of a fresco that is located inside a church, in the nave, about 4-5 meters high.

From where would it be optimal to take such a photo? If I use a standard tripod, the camera is located much lower than the fresco, resulting in a lot of trapezoidal distortion. Are photo editors good enough in correcting it or is there any kind of tripod that can extend this high?

My last resort would be to rent an indoor scissor lift and take the tripod up with it, but this is quite costly.

Thank you!

P.s. there is unfortunately no gallery, organ loft, pulpit, etc. inside that would be conveniently located.

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    \$\begingroup\$ What about a drone? It's cheaper than renting a lift. \$\endgroup\$
    – Danielillo
    Apr 5 at 12:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ what about a ladder? \$\endgroup\$
    – ths
    Apr 5 at 15:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ How big is the fresco? If you're too close to it, wouldn't it be too big to fit in the frame? Also, wide-angles tend to distort perspective at the edges - I'd rather shoot from further away. Figure out what focal length would fill the frame with the fresco from the ground (you say 4-5 metres?), and just set your tripod up directly underneath, with camera pointing dead vertical. Is the fresco flat, or painted on a curved ceiling? Wait...I think I misunderstood - is the fresco on the ceiling, or on a wall? \$\endgroup\$
    – osullic
    Apr 5 at 22:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ Personally I think that after a drone, the scissor lift is likely to be the best option for taking the best shot. When positioned, you'd then be free to think about the shot itself without worrying about falling off anything. And you wouldn't need to learn how to use a drone just for this image. \$\endgroup\$
    – Peter M
    Apr 6 at 2:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ An auxiliary question is how you manage the lighting on that thing... Obtaining a decent lighting could be harder than hauling a camera to the adequate height. \$\endgroup\$
    – xenoid
    Apr 6 at 7:22

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Where I live several accidents have resulted in prohibiting scissor lifts for capturing game film video from beyond the end zone of American football fields. They now use tripods with masts that extend up to 20+ meters into the air. Every high school in my area has them.

They're usually called Sports Camera Masts, Aerial Masts, End Zone Camera Stands, or "Coaches Poles".

enter image description here
This one extends to 8 meters, but some go much higher. Many of the taller ones have winches (manual or powered), or even pneumatic extension.

If you're in the right place in the world you may be able to rent one from a video production rental house or even rent/borrow one from a local school sports team that films practices and games for their field sports teams. There are quite a few companies that make similar products in the UK & the EU for football/soccer and other field sports popular there as well.

You'd obviously need a way to control the camera remotely, but that's readily available for most current still cameras up to and including full frame models. I'm not sure about the larger format cameras like Fuji's GFX series if that's what you're using.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is the best answer, IMO. Even if OP has to raise/lower the mast to manually re-orient the camera for stitching, it's probably substantially cheaper, and all-done, probably less time involved than a scissor or mast lift. \$\endgroup\$
    – scottbb
    Apr 8 at 21:56
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There are tripods that tall and taller; e.g. the Glide Gear TST20. But, they are rather unsteady being that tall. I would be very hesitant to put much weight on it without at least some additional stabilization (guy ropes, weight bags, etc).

And then you have the issue of controlling the camera at that distance; the hardest part being accurately orienting the camera. But it should be doable with a little trial and error.

Shift lenses are what is used to prevent distortion in architectural photography. But you might not have enough room to use one effectively for that height. And I'm not sure there even is a shift lens suitable for this application.

IMO, the lift is the best answer; with a tripod head clamped to the lift railing. The high resolution requirement is the main problem... to actually record high resolution/detail you need to be close.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Useful high-resolution also requires your capture device to be stable as well \$\endgroup\$
    – Peter M
    Apr 6 at 2:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeterM, Agreed... \$\endgroup\$ Apr 6 at 12:17
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If you're looking for most lighting control, highest resolution fidelity, and general ability to take plenty of shots (perhaps for stitching), you'll need to get close enough. IMO, you're going to need a lift.

But if space on the chapel floor is tight (such as maneuvering around pews, etc.), instead of a scissor lift, look into a mast lift. They are usually more compact, and can fit into smaller places than scissor lifts can. If you have the space for a scissor lift, great. They have larger work platforms, so you have more room for lighting equipment, tripods, and gear like camera bags.

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You could rent/borrow/buy a tilt-shift lens (really the shift is all you need). They're expensive but they're meant for removing this kind of trapezoidal distortion.

Also, take the picture from as far back as you can and still have an unobstructed view. Parallax errors like this distortion reduce with distance. You might even get away with doing this and just correcting in an editor after the fact.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I am giving myself a facepalm. I forgot about this "photographic gear" solution by focusing myself on logistics. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rafael
    Apr 10 at 23:27
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There are programs that can get rid of the trapezoidal distortion whilst keeping the aspect ratio correct. I used Hugin to do this for street chalk art so the final image is from a bird's eye view by setting up three guide lines in the program. Lightroom may also do this, but I haven't verified that this function produces proper aspect ratio.

I would get as tall a ladder as possible to reduce the trapezoidal distortion so the post processing isn't stressed. 3 meter tall ladders are fairly common in the construction trade.

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I was tempted not to write any option because of the safety concerns. But the options need to be addressed after all. Remember: Safety first!

I am assuming the fresco is on a wall (Not in the ceiling)

Options:

1. A drone. There are several types of cameras that can be used. You need to get a certified drone operator so he can get close enough to take a series of photos but not put at risk the painting.

You could then stitch a series of images. I would try to stitch some tests beforehand.

2. Go to the opposite wall With a step ladder. So you do not need to turn at all, It does not need to be very high. It is only to reduce partially the perspective distortion.

As you would be firing handheld, use flashes to light the scene.

Shoot the flashes to the opposite wall and ceiling.

3. A tall light stand.

It could become very wobbly tho. I would not go all the 4 m. Only 2-3. Your call. But this movement can be reduced if you use flashes to illuminate the fresco. Again bounce them.

To reduce the problem targeting, and if you do not have wifi on your camera, you can put an action camera on the top of your big camera to aim using your cellphone.

You need a remote trigger for the camera.

4. A crazy option

Could you lift a steel mirror on the opposite side and shoot thru it?


Are photo editors good enough to correct it

Yes. It can be corrected but at the expense of reducing the resolution.

Make some tests to see what the final usable resolution would be from a corrected perspective.

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    \$\begingroup\$ A shop specialized in aerial photo near my place use Option 1A: a captive balloon and option 3A: a telescopic pole operated from a van. \$\endgroup\$
    – xenoid
    Apr 5 at 21:55

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