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Author Topic: What is the perfect landscape photography support vehicle?  (Read 28947 times)
bretedge
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« Reply #40 on: February 17, 2013, 10:26:00 PM »
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I'm in the process of building up my 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser into the "Ultimate Off-Road Vehicle for Outdoor Photographers".  Certainly, this is a subjective topic as we each have our own considerations and requirements.  Mine revolve less around fuel economy and more around getting deep into areas only accessible by very capable 4 wheel drive vehicles or extremely long and committing backpacking trips (some times both!).  However, Project FJ focuses on the specific needs of outdoor photographers to include shelter and powering your equipment when in the wilderness.  Some of what I discuss applies to any vehicle used by outdoor photographers.

If you'd like to read more about the project and follow along on its progress you may do so on my blog.
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Alto
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« Reply #41 on: February 18, 2013, 08:01:05 AM »
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Hi All

These seem nice


http://www.unicat.net/en/


enjoy

Jon
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TMARK
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« Reply #42 on: February 18, 2013, 08:23:21 AM »
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We had two Sprinters for production.  One was outfitted with an editing station, the other for transport.  Wonderful, comfortable vehicle.


There's no perfect vehicle, but there is a perfect vehicle for you.  (and me, since you agree with my list)  There's just not one perfect vehicle that suits everybody.

I wore out three Asstros and two E250s before I finally found the perfect vehicle for landscape photography.  : )  It just wasn't available back then.  But it is now.  It's a European LCV "Light Commercial Vehicle" made by Mercedes Benz.  The Sprinter carries Dodge badging, but it's a Merc, through and through. 

You get a lovely little five-hole diesel and a six-speed tranny that combine to deliver great performance and nearly 30 miles per USG, if you treat it really nicely.  It has really long legs.  I can easily go a thousand kilometers (600 miles) on a tank.

It has quite high ground clearance and the view out the windshield is without peer, and that's the point, isn't it?

Maybe best feauture of all, you can stand up and walk around inside.  Six feet of headroom.  Imagine!

You can see it in this thread:

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/forum/index.php?topic=73877.0

and you can learn all about them here:

http://sprinter-source.com/forum/index.php


On my list.  So far, I just use a very well insulated ice box, but I can see the need.  Being able to make ice would be a good thing, especially on those summer evenings in the desert.


Always a problem.  I hate even leaving it for a minute, especially in urban areas.  I trust that the kind of people that frequent the remote sites are honest.  Elsewhere, there's nothing much you can do, other than get a really big, loud dog.  Fortunately, people seem to ignore me.  I've slept in some pretty weird places in cities and it seems you're just invisible.
Used Sprinters are out there.  Fifteen large would get you a reliable ride and you'd never pay for a motel again.  They are a bit of a princess, though.  The older ones are better, but the current models are loaded with drivetrain management computers, anti-pollution junk and tons of stuff nobody can fix unless they have the proper diagnostic tools.  Something to think about when you're parked somewhere miles from anywhere else.

I'm off to the desert with two new cameras and two new lenses in about a month.  Can't wait.

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Dan Berg
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« Reply #43 on: February 18, 2013, 09:08:46 AM »
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Guess I will jump in with my on going project.
1984 motorhome never ending restoration.
With only 40,000 miles on the frame it looked like a pretty good unit for my solar rv project.
Started with the engine which had nothing wrong with it but still needed a little fine tuning.
Fuel mileage was at about 8 and my friend mechanic had several ideas to improve on that.
We tore off the entire single exhaust system and replaced it with a custom made dual system.
 The next step was to drill the jets out on the 2 barrel carb which was a whole lot cheaper then replacing the manifold just so it would take a 4 barrel.
Highway mileage is now about 11mpg and has so much more power.
Since I did not want a generator our next step was the solar system. We installed 2 Sharp 240 watt panels with Outback inverter charger.
Outback makes quite a system ,Flexnet dc,Mx60 charge controller,Mate 2 system controller and VFX 2812m inverter charger.
Not done yet we tore out the stock alternator and replaced it with a new unit with the internals disconnected.
The newly installed Balmer mc-612 digital regulator is now connected via a shunt back through the Outback and battery system.
Driving down the road with no sun the Balmer charges the batteries through the Outback.
With no generator required we used that bay for the battery system. 6-trojan 106's.
Losing you yet?
3 ways to charge the battery system. Solar,running the engine and plugging into shore power all can charge the batteries.
If you have sun you never run out of power. Cloudy day or two just start the motor home up and charge the batteries.
Boondocking with all the comforts of home,no grid electric required!
Tons of space for equipment storage as well as a place to eat,sleep,cook and shower.
Installing some lock boxes for photo gear.
A couple more things to fix up and out to southern Utah we go.
Time to start looking for property in St. George,Hurricane or Cedar City,Ut.
Any suggestions
« Last Edit: February 19, 2013, 04:33:13 AM by Dan Berg » Logged

lfeagan
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« Reply #44 on: February 18, 2013, 05:52:25 PM »
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That Sprinter is totally kickass Peter. I looked through your construction posts--great work.

As for the OP's question, which has been somewhat scaled back from the "perfect" vehicle to "what do you have/like?", I have personally enjoyed using Subaru Outbacks for many years on dirt roads or reasonably tame non-road locations. They certainly aren't a go-anywhere vehicle, but they can go most places. The primary things to be aware of, that may or may not be an issue are:
  • although the ground clearance is reasonable, the front and rear overhang impact your ability to attack steep terrain
  • the underside protection is better than a sedan, but isn't as much as most 4x4s have
  • the differential's don't lock which hurts your ability to attack uneven terrain where one or two wheels may not be getting traction

After 17 years of driving (and loving) Subarus, I defected a few months ago and bought a Toyota Land Cruiser V8. I needed a bit more capable vehicle off road with a bit more cargo area and a lot more towing capacity. So far I adore it. But I still feel a bit guilty about leaving Subaru. They were just so darn reliable and utilitarian.
« Last Edit: February 18, 2013, 08:34:13 PM by lfeagan » Logged

Lance

Nikon: D700, D800E, PC-E 24mm f/3.5D ED, PC-E 45mm f/2.8D ED, PC-E 85mm f/2.8D, 50mm f/1.4G, 14-24 f/2.8G ED, 24-70 f/2.8G ED, 70-200 f/2.8G ED VR II, 400mm f/2.8G ED VR
Fuji: X-Pro 1, 14mm f/2.8, 18mm f/2.0, 35mm f/1.4
Peter McLennan
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« Reply #45 on: February 18, 2013, 06:11:47 PM »
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Thanks ifeagan. Frito allows me to stay on the road for a month at a time, motel-free, and that's a very good thing. If I save $3K a month on motels, that's a D800.

The Subaru is "The National Vehicle Of Creston" according to me. : ).  Creston, in the Kootenays district of British Columbia, is the town where I live.  There are more Subarus here than pickup trucks.  Nearly.  Drove one for the very first time just this week. A Forester. Very impressive.

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tsjanik
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« Reply #46 on: February 19, 2013, 07:48:18 AM »
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Just my 2 cents:  I see a Sprinter in my future, but currently use a Forester Turbo which imitates a Porsche when not used for camping.  My ideal vehicle is no longer made, a VW Syncro:
 see:  http://www.sfgate.com/cars/article/1991-VW-Vanagon-Syncro-the-perfect-getaways-3204053.php

Tom
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B-Ark
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« Reply #47 on: February 19, 2013, 09:21:13 AM »
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This is what works for me.

Advantages include:
- quite mobile - can get almost anywhere and don't have to worry (too much) about getting stuck in mud/snow
- diesel engine, so reasonable (not great) fuel economy
- motel and restaurant bill is approximately zero
- self sufficient for 2+ weeks
- comfy and warm at night
- can review day's images in the evening on the laptop while sipping a tea, coffee, beer ...
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arlon
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« Reply #48 on: February 19, 2013, 04:11:50 PM »
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Some great ideas comng in here. Thanks for taking the time to post up some of the details. I'm finding that there are more didicated back roads camera platforms than I thought. Be fun to have a gathering of roadtripping camera junkies one of these days..
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tsjanik
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« Reply #49 on: February 19, 2013, 10:07:55 PM »
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This is what works for me.


Although I'm leaning toward a Sprinter, I have to say your solution has appeal.  A troubling aspect of camper vans is that after time, the accomodations may be fine, but the vehicle is aging and I'm way past the age of wanting to deal with break-downs.  In your case, just get a new truck! 
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B-Ark
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« Reply #50 on: February 20, 2013, 04:01:12 PM »
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@ tsjanik

Agreed.
I had also originally contemplated a special purpose camper vehicle. I did want the four wheel drive, so that naturally led to the pickup truck.
When at home, I take off the camper, and can then use the vehicle for other things - e.g. moving lumber, firewood, cement blocks, top soil, etc, etc ...
It also came in handy when I moved a few years ago. Saved a lot on moving expenses.
I do get a full 12 months of use, as opposed to only a few weeks for a dedicated camper.
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NancyP
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« Reply #51 on: February 20, 2013, 05:00:42 PM »
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Reading this thread is like planning a dream vacation out west.

I drive around the Midwest. Off-road driving destroys habitat, so I am not interested in off-road. Almost all non-paved roads that I choose to use are purpose built (with berm) pebble roads in state parks or wildlife refuges. Some have good drainage, others have less good drainage and may become muddy (hey, I am driving in flood plains). If park roads are open to visitors, I drive, and if roads are off-limits to visitors or are temporarily shut for special events*, I hike into the desirable spot. Sometimes I like to pull over into an untrimmed berm of a paved road to park and shoot. My perfect vehicle is a 4WD with a bit of undercarriage clearance and a slightly-better-than-car takeoff angle, takes economy grade fuel, has excellent mileage, has room in back for "lives in car" stuff like tripod, knee pads and gardeners' pad, folding stool, spare car fluids, spare daypack with "10 essentials", and can accommodate large backpack (tent,sleeping,10 essentials, selected camera gear) and the "storage" photo backpack with extra lenses I might want. This isn't very challenging. A Subaru equipped with an inverter will do the trick. I rather wish that the Toyota folks would add some hybrid to the RAV4 line - there's an all-electric version, but no hybrid. I don't need a pickup truck, I can't legally park a pickup truck on city streets (SUVs are OK), and I live in the city.

*Best local special event requiring closure of a road: the spring and fall Snake Migration weeks. Walk to the road and watch various species of rattlesnake mosey by. We Brake For Snake. Wink
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arlon
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« Reply #52 on: February 20, 2013, 08:35:26 PM »
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I never Go "off road" either but I have been on some rough park roads in Big Bend NP and Big Bend Ranch SP. In my 2 wheel drive truck, I turn around more than I'd like. The van is lighter, AWD and has a rear locker which makes a big difference. AWD probably works better in snow but it hasn't seen any of that since I got it. It doesn't have the low range of the real 4x4 but it does have 3:73 gears which helps. It has a 4" lift and "E" rated BFG TA/KO tires.  It sure isn't a Rubicon but it does get a little ways off the beaten path. It also has a 27gal tank so it has pretty good range even though it only gets 16-17mpg on the road.  Also have a nice awning that is wonderful down here in West Texas when the sun can just kill you. A little shade can be a real life saver.

Got another AGM battery and inverter but haven't quite decided on how to use it. I'd like to get an isolator and have it charge while the engine is running and maybe a small solar charger on the roof but it's just plug it in and charge it at the house for now. Also have a few LED lights for evenings that run for ever on a AA battery. Love the LED lights, have them in our Casita trailer and they will run for ever on the house battery it seems.

To make it better would probably cost more than it would be worth but I still dream about this van with a 3.9 liter turbo diesel in it.. At 25 mpg I'd have 600 miles of range before I started sweating. That would be handy. One of the things I don't like about the Jeeps and a lot of the SUVs is their limited range.




What do you carry for camera gear and your average weekend road trip? I've been trying to consolidate a little but haven't consolidated enough yet. Now if I had a Sprinter... I might not have to consolidate! (-:}
« Last Edit: February 21, 2013, 07:04:34 AM by arlon » Logged

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B-Ark
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« Reply #53 on: February 22, 2013, 10:37:44 AM »
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What do you carry for camera gear and your average weekend road trip? I've been trying to consolidate a little but haven't consolidated enough yet. Now if I had a Sprinter... I might not have to consolidate! (-:}

A Sprinter might help, or maybe not.

I have the space, so I bring a lot of gear with me. But then when I get to the destination, I take day hikes of 8-10 hours. Since I can't (won't) carry everything, I have to choose what I think is appropriate for the locations that I'm visiting.
 - do I carry the lightweight tripod, or the solid one?
 - do I carry wide angle or telephoto lenses? what about the macro lens?
 - which camera(s) ?
 - do I need a flash?
 - do I need any other gadgets of filters?

Add to that, the need for water, lunch, extra clothes, rain gear, etc and the  daypack starts getting rather heavy.

Most of the time, I get it right and have little regret.
Sometimes not. I was in the slot canyons of the Escalante and had several wide angle lenses with me. Imagine when, to my surprise, I encountered an Egret wading in a stream about 100 feet ahead of me in a narrow canyon. A 10-20mm lens is not the ideal bird lens.
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Peter McLennan
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« Reply #54 on: February 22, 2013, 06:50:21 PM »
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A Sprinter does allow you to take everything.  One of the luxuries Frito affords includes a table and chairs.  Yes, chairs.  I can accommodate guests for supper.
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Jay Kaplan
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« Reply #55 on: February 23, 2013, 05:12:57 PM »
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Everything is a compromise, but a truck camper maybe the best of the lot. It gives you a mobile home that can go almost anywhere and provides the amenities that you may desire as opposed to camping in a tent, a van or car. They can be mounted depending on the size of the camper on any pickup truck from a 1/2 ton [F150] to a 1 ton [F350]. Models are also available for the smaller pickups too. Aside from being weather proof, they can be used depending, on the model for either 2 to 3 or 4 seasons. And, the total cost is way below the $400,000 plus of the expedition vehicle.

Another bonus, best to check with your accountant or tax lawyer, is that the entire rig, vehicle and camper could be considered as a 2nd or vacation home. If the package is financed, the interest paid on the loan could be tax deductible.

For more information go to http://www.truckcampermagazine.com A wealth of information and links to manufacturers. And, when not in use can be removed from the truck bed so the truck can be used for daily driving or work.

Jay
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Peter McLennan
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« Reply #56 on: February 23, 2013, 05:29:39 PM »
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Everything is a compromise, but a truck camper maybe the best of the lot.

I looked long and hard at truck campers, and I agree that it might be the best of all worlds. Certainly they offer much more comfort than a cargo van. What stopped me was the price.  $30K for the truck and another $20K for the camper was too steep for me, even if it did have a fridge.  That and the fuel economy.  If you want to drive long distances, that adds up quickly.  Diesel prices have doubled since I got Frito, but he's still not very thirsty.  I can approach 700 miles on a full tank (27 usg) if I'm careful.  At Interstate speeds, I can do 600 miles easy.  That's really handy out west.

Campers also scream "Recreational Vehicle!  Expensive toys inside, probably."  They invite flashlights through the window at zero dark thirty.  "No way can you park here overnight, sir. Move along, please." 

Frito's invisible. Nobody sees us.  Nobody cares.
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John Camp
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« Reply #57 on: February 23, 2013, 06:47:03 PM »
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When I'm traveling, I find motels to be the answer, even if I have to get up early or stay out late. If you're not fussy, you could spend half a year in motels for the cost of $10,000 in mods or upgrades to a stock vehicle, and you would be paying the motel costs over a space (probably) of years, rather than up front.

But, the lure of the perfect vehicle is out there, and I even started such a thread myself a few years ago. My eventual conclusion was that a Toyota Tacoma doublecab with a decent topper would be the best solution (for me.) They will take you pretty far down rough roads, allow you to move a lot of equipment in and out, and also sleep inside in some comfort with a blow-up mattress and a good sleeping bag (that will take you down to at least 0F.) The other good thing about this combo is that it is common as dirt, and unlikely to attract the eye of anyone interested in a high-value theft. You can get very secure toppers, though they're a little pricey, and combined with the invisibility factor, you're in good shape. (EDIT: When I say topper, I mean the low kind that do not extend above the car, but are in line with it; that will save you several miles per gallon. Also, if you find a topper with a roof-weight rating, you can stand on them to shoot over foreground clutter, although that's dangerous. If you fall off backwards, you'll land on the back of your neck.)

One thing I noticed in another post was a vehicle project with a vehicle that had advertising graphics on the side. That may well be necessary for that person's work, but I wouldn't recommend that, or any of the photo-related vanity plates that may tempt someone (SHTRBUG) -- it's really advertising for the equipment inside. I once spent ~70 consecutive days in a very good tent, and my eventual finding was that in the more extreme conditions, when you really need a GOOD tent, even a really good tent isn't as good as the inside of a camper.  
« Last Edit: February 23, 2013, 06:50:15 PM by John Camp » Logged
Peter McLennan
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« Reply #58 on: February 23, 2013, 07:02:54 PM »
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One thing I noticed in another post was a vehicle project with a vehicle that had advertising graphics on the side. That may well be necessary for that person's work, but I wouldn't recommend that...

I was going to put "Pete's Diaper Service" on the side of Frito. Nobody's going to want anything that's in there. Smiley
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B-Ark
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« Reply #59 on: February 24, 2013, 06:44:51 AM »
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$30K for the truck and another $20K for the camper was too steep for me, even if it did have a fridge.

Frito's invisible. Nobody sees us.  Nobody cares.

Frito - it's such a friendly name.

There are cheaper campers. Mine is the "el-cheapo" model, only $8k, but it still has fridge, stove, furnace.

Peter, I went back and looked at Frito at the Eureka Dunes - a nice compact vehicle. Did you know that there's a "road" that goes behind the dunes and winds its way over the terrain into the Saline Valley and comes out at the hot springs? Definitely a 4wd road.
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