I’ll probably never own a house. But I got tents and canopies, and this is about my Finish Line Photo Studio set-up.
When I first started shooting finish line portraits, I evolved my way into how to shelter self and gear—keeping things out of blazing sun by day, setting up a working space and so on.
At first (2004) I used a swap-meet canopy kit, comprised of connecting hardware, tarp and ball-bungee cords. The linking units were 1″ EMT (Electrical Metal Tubing). I transported these 8′ & 10′ sections in two long 4″ PVC pipes (capped at either end) and secured to the roof-rack of my previous vehicle. In those innocent times I referred to them as my “Johnny Taliban Rocket Launchers”.
This was OK when I was driving locally in the LA basin. When I got invited to Western States in 2007, the idea of driving 800+ miles with these on the roof was not attractive. I had nightmares of cross winds tearing them off on the I-5 going over the Grapevine. So I bought an EZ-Up, which worked for 6 years.
Every finish line is different. Experience at Western States showed immediately that I needed side-panels. This secured my work-space, and more importantly, kept shade-seeking finishers and their friends out of my area as the sun rose, and shade was at a premium. At Angeles Crest there was abundant tree-cover, well away from my set-up.
Then it then took a stranger’s photo to tell me I wasn’t presenting myself well. Whoops! I created an identity, with banners that announced who I am and what I do.
Pop-ups are good if the conditions are dead-calm. A breeze comes up and they want to go. In May 2013 the pop-up died an ugly death in a 30mph wind-gust. Here it is, an hour before its demise at an event in Santa Barbara County.
Back To The Future
Repairs to the pop-up were uneconomical—it was a discontinued model, with blown connective joints and scissor-arms. Entry-models started at $130. More rugged models came in around $3oo. After thinking it over, I went back to the original 2001 canopy arrangement, updated with a new roof, and finished, grommeted side-panels. To make the canopy fully portable, changes had to be made.
- All 1″pipes previously 10′ in length were cut into 5′ sections
with a 1-1/8″ capacity pipe cutter. Five turns on the cutter and voila! pipes cut.
- The 2 previously 10′ 4″ PVC pipe storage units were cut into two 5′, and one 4′ sections, and capped. One end was glued solid, then spray-painted black to differentiate it from the twist-off cap.
These storage units could now be transported tidily inside my Honda Element.
Here’s a view of the pre-event set up. No need to find out nasty surprises on-site.
- Far sturdier than the average pop-up
- generic 1″ steel electrical conduit members instead of manufactured folding units
- can be staked with a vengeance. I bought the 18″ rebar stakes when I read a customer review stating “I used these at Burning Man”; which meant he pounded them into the playa and the 40mph wind-gusts didn’t blow it away.
- noticeable weight penalty
- more loose parts (roof, bungee cords, connecting hardware,
- Assembly and set-up can be done single-handedly, although 3 other people helping position it still helpful.
Looking into the open side of the shelter:
More modifications: I just got a 10×10′ shade-cloth roof, especially for here in California and the Southwest where it does not rain in the summer. The tarp does turn into a frying pan under the full sun. Another thing I learned was to hang the side-panels so they touch the ground, and enable more ventilation out the top, and lowering the graphics panels to follow suit. This tidies up the exterior presentation, encloses the work space, and so on.