The USS MICHIGAN In Your Gadget Bag


A disclaimer: the 1909 picture of the USS MICHIGAN was not taken by me – it is a screen shot I’ve fiddled with. If the man from the Bureau of Ships comes around looking for me just say I am on vacation.

The reason it is heading the column is not because of the 12″ rifles or the armour – it is the cage masts that concern us. They were a peculiarly American design for warships around the turn of the twentieth century. At the same time that the British fixed upon tripod masts for their dreadnoughts and the French persisted with tube masts, The US Navy came up with the cage. The whole premise of the things seems to have been based upon the idea that enemy shells might hit it and that less damage would be done to this sort than the solid types. In the event, few seem to have been fired upon by conventional gunfire and some of them succumbed to bad weather. They were a naval side-track.

But can they be used in the photographic world? I say yes.*

The cage mast is lighter in weight than the other types. It is flexible and stands shock well. It has a compact footprint. All things that would seem an asset in a studio. Thus the proposal to make a studio stand that would incorporate a baseplate and a cage riser – terminating in a platform for the camera to set upon. The photographer would steer it about the place easily and benefit from the compact dimensions. Presumably there would be few storms inside the average studio to destroy it as the foremast of the MICHIGAN was in 1919.

Could it be made of lightweight materials? Yes – I should try plastic tubing or rattan. The thought of a Tiki-styled studio stand is particularly appealing after a couple of tropical rum drinks. And the position on the top of the mast that was once occupied with searchlights or a rangefinder could accommodate a tray for accessories. Some of the larger Gitzo Studex tripods could be equipped with a plastic tray that did just this and it is a blessing when you need to park light meters, lenses, and filters.

And let’s face it – it would look so cool…



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