Public Lab Wiki documentation

Pole Mapping Guide

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This is one of a series of guides for collaborative environmental research and advocacy projects. Pole Mapping is an easy way to get a view of your garden from above. This guide will cover how to make or purchase your own pole and affix a camera to it.

Planning this event

Ahead of time:

  • Take a look at the types of poles available by checking out the pictures on the wiki page:
  • Consider the pros and cons of making, borrowing, or buying a pole. For more information, browse through Activities 1 and 2 below.
  • Make a decision on what kind of pole sourcing endeavor you will embark on

Materials to have on hand, regardless of what kind of pole you are using:

  • A camera
  • an SD card that fits in the camera
  • charged battery(s) for the camera
  • rubber bands (15x)
  • an empty, rinsed 2 liter soda bottle
  • wide tape (usually packing tape, masking tape or painters tape)
  • Note: depending on your decisions above, pole materials will vary widely

Activity 1: If you are going to buy a pole

  • Visit Public Lab's store for the "world's longest selfie stick: an 11 meter carbon fiber pole"

Activity 2: If you are going to make a pole

Activity 3: Affixing a camera to the pole


  • Put your camera into a soda bottle rig (to protect it from hitting against the pole, or the ground while the pole is lying down)


  • Hang the soda bottle (with camera inside) on the end of the pole, using tape.
    • Note: if using a fishing pole, you may want to not use the very thin end sections that would bend over or snap under the weight. Carbon fiber sections with at least a 1/4" diameter should be strong enough.
    • if you are unsatisfied with the tape and soda bottle solution, consider reading this note about using hardware

Activity 4: Getting good images

  • Lay the pole horizontally on the ground
    • Note how long it is as compared to the landscape that you are going to photograph because there's a rule of thumb: as far up as the camera is above the ground is the same horizontal extent on the ground that any given picture can capture. The sketch below shows this concept with a balloon and it is the same for a pole:


  • Attach the soda bottle housing -- with camera inside -- to the end of the pole.
  • Make sure the camera is on and taking pictures!
  • Get your stance right: stand at the base of the pole (still flat on the ground at this point) and brace the base of the pole into the inside of your right foot (or whichever foot you tend to lead with)

[get picture for this]

  • Lean over and grasp the pole with your hands and begin lifting the pole up, keeping the base braced into your foot like an anchor. Keep your stance strong.
  • Bring the pole to as near vertical as possible to minimize the unwieldy weight (it's like holding a ladder -- straight up is easier and "seems lighter")


  • When bringing the pole down, you may want to have someone out near the end of the pole to catch the camera


  • Your last picture will frequently end up looking something like this :D