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Tuesday, 07 August 2018


Nice post, I liked it. Maybe we should all carry 8 foot periscopes in our vehicles. That would solve the problem. Then we would know when to get that ladder that is strapped to the roof down.

Re: Mr. Batson, bravo! As a younger person I admired people who had the courage and determination to just launch themselves into the wild blue yonder. Still do, in fact. (Although I've never personally been a fan of long road trips...much prefer trains and planes...ERP) Nice photo diary! Stay safe, Kyle!

Re: "...but how do you know when there's a view to be seen above the corn when you can't see the view because of the corn?"

Solution: That's what these are for! In fact, they're opening a whole new page in amateur and professional photography. You ought to try one of these, Mike. You live in the perfect location for it. (I can't even think about it without lengthy permits.)

I can't speak to corn stalks but when it comes to grains they are trying to get the stalks shorter, not longer. Easier to harvest, less prone to lodging and less "stuff" left over on the field.

[Not always. According to an article at SFGate: "Field or dent corn is usually raised for livestock feed. When the entire plant is chopped and fermented to produce silage, a tall stalk is desired." --Mike]

Ansel Adams used to plant his tripod atop his ur-Suburban utility vehicle (nothing "sports" about it). That gave him part of his God-like perspective. It's a good idea, but I'd trim out that van with a nautical-looking rope railing, for safety.

Or you could just get a drone. You can fly a MFT sensor for under a grand now, you know.

So, how high is that elephant's eye, anyway?

Mike, if you build such a contraption and use it, you can then truly say that you are out standing in the field.

Ansel started off with Shooting Platforms on his Cadillacs then moved to the international ‘Travelall,. I’m convinced he’d buy a Sprinter today.
They are big, Tall, well made, and quite efficient.
Good luck Kyle!

Put a 360 degree video camera on a stick on top of the platform to see if there are views worth stopping for.

When you say corn, do you mean wheat as we would call it in England or corn on the cob? My perception is that wheat is considerably shorter now than I remember in my childhood, much more so than can be accounted for by my simply being taller. I remember you could really get lost in a cornfield before being chased off by an angry farmer whereas now it seems to grow to no more than 18 inches at the most. You never see the tall stuf.

Make photos of the corn.

Such tall corn everywhere actually sounds a bit depressing. In Denmark I’ve never seen any crop taller than like five feet.

At last, a good reason to want a drone. (Not for me, alas, I'm not near corn country).

In Australia such campervans (from the small, converted people-movers hired out to young tourists on the Australian leg of their world tours, up to the largest Mercedes and Iveco models like Kyle’s nice setup, getting popular with “grey nomads”) are known, among the caravaners and motorhomers, as “whizzbangs” for the noise that sliding door makes. I suspect it was initially disparaging, made by retirees from their large wheeled homes bought with retirement savings towards converted minivans hired out to the aforementioned younger folk, and generated by frustration at the 2am wake up when a nearby occupant has to go to the loo (not so much a problem with facilities in the larger models). But I think it’s starting to enter the general lexicon. A whizzbang is no doubt a great way to see the country. And photograph the bits you see.

I think these views miss the much more important aspect of this, corn is the horizon on most of the Midwest. And yes it is taller because of GMO and new mass farming methods.

The mass production of corn and how it is grown is a problem.

If you really want to produce landscape images from a human perspective you are dealing in fantasy in the Midwest if you shoot from a elevated platform.

In 1943 the musical Oklahoma! opened on broadway, the opening song was "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning" and was sung by Alfred Drake. The writer of the lyrics was Oscar Hammerstein II. A portion of the lyrics states that "the corn is high as an elephant's eye." So at least on broadway corn grows to a great height.

I looked at the pictures before I read the blog post, and when I saw the photo of Kyle Batson in that tiny kitchen captioned as "at home" my first thought was "this guy must live in Manhattan."

How would you survive in places like Finland where all you ever see is forrest around you? Good luck seeing the horizon there ;)

"The heights by great men reached and kept,
were not attained by sudden flight,
but they, while their companions slept,
were toiling upward in the night."
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


@Ed Hawco: Or Tokyo at $1400 per month.

Like others here, I was completely mystified by your saying that corn is getting taller since my experience is that it is uniformly* shorter - so much so that the stalks are useless for thatching. But finally it dawned on me that you weren’t referring to wheat but to maize - two countries divided by a common language indeed! Maize is grown in UK mainly for livestock feed and the whole plant is processed.

* so uniform that it looks as though it is a solid surface you could walk over.

In answer to Tom. Corn is a generic term. It can refer to wheat, barley or corn, or corn on the cob corn. Round here corn is taken to refer to corn as used to make flour. Some farmers are now growing Corn on the Cob corn here in Ireland to convert into silage but no way does it reach 8-10ft high

On the subject of tall corn, there was an item on BBC Radio Four and on the BBC web-site last year or the year before about the growth that is occurring in nature, thanks to all that pesky CO2 that humans and other animals put out.

Think NASA may have some photos from earth orbit to view of this, if you care to search.

Mike, you say the corn blocks the view. Well then, when the corn becomes the view, shoot the corn.

Another equipment centric way to see over the corn is the current photo trend - drones! I use mine primarily for fun, and to coordinate Search and Rescue training, but it's a handy scout as well. It's also worth noting that many/most current cameras have remote viewing apps so that a smartphone and tall monopod might do where a ladder or elephant and howdah aren't so convenient. (or just go for a really nice DJI/Hasselblad drone combo:)

I echo those cautionary warnings about potentially getting distracted and falling off your wonderfully high roof, Kyle. A year and a half ago I slipped on black ice, fell the mere 5 feet from the back of my head to the concrete below, suffered a subdural hematoma (a.k.a. brain bleed) and am STILL working on recovering from the subsequent post-concussion syndrome!

That's slowed me down considerably, but is nothing to compare with my roofer friend who fell off the top of a house and is now paralyzed from the waist down....

You've young, you've got a great van and you've made some wonderful pictures, but please be careful not to fall victim to the downside!


[When I used to fantasize about this--I normally do nothing but fantasize--I envisaged a sort of "crow's nest" attached to the roof, made of chrome tubing such as you see on a boat. It would simply consist of a railing in a circle about a meter in diameter, with an opening. That way once you're inside it, you can maintain contact with the railing by feel and you really can't fall any direction except through the entrance-exit gap, and I image I would be very conscious of that. The gap could even have a hinged bar across it that continues the rail across it, that could be opened and closed.

Of course it would increase the height of the vehicle and that might be a problem at some gas stations and older underpasses.

P.S. Sorry to hear of your ghastly fall. --Mike]

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