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Signal Photos


An eye in the sky

Posted: March 30, 2010 9:10 p.m.
Updated: March 31, 2010 4:30 a.m.

Jim Martin, creator of On-Target Aerial Services, demonstrates a remote-control aerial camera mounted on a 25-foot mast. He can see from the camera's point of view using a special glasses with a built-in display.

Jim Martin peers down on the Santa Clarita Valley as a hobby, but he’s hoping to make it an income source.

A machinist by trade, the Valencia resident is the founder of On-Target Aerial Services, his specialty being elevated mast photography.

Using a camera mounted on a mast that extends about 35 feet, Martin can capture images with a different perspective. His Web site features sweeping shots of local parks and developments.

“You get a vantage point that you can’t get from a straight-on, street-level shot,” Martin said.

Martin said he’s provided the city with a number of photos from area parks and events, and said he’d like to start delving into real-estate site photography.

On-Target started as a hobby, Martin explained. A radio-control helicopter enthusiast, he started experimenting with craft-mounted cameras. Eventually, he started designing his own camera rig.

His current setup — which can be mounted atop a mast or underneath a small copter — holds a digital camera with servo-driven controls that allow the user to rotate, tilt and focus the camera.

To see what he’s shooting, Martin uses a high-tech monocle system that looks like a pair of sunglasses, and tethers it to the camera via a cable or with a wireless transmitter/receiver.

Martin is working on a system that uses gear-driven motors rather than servos, which he said will allow more precise control.

“My goal is to build systems with a number of applications,” he said. “I try to take hobbies and do something with them.”

Martin’s typical setup is a mast that extends to 35 feet tall, and he is building another setup with a mast reaching up to 60 feet.

He said he’s garnered interest from everyone from city officials and TV news crews to a U.S. marshal.

Martin said he’s even been labeled “the Google guy” by some people who spotted him photographing in public — a reference to Google’s street-view photographers.

“I’m trying to sell the city on the idea of virtual tours,” he said.

For now, Martin is keeping his eye in the sky on pro bono terms.

“I’m a true believer in paying it forward,” he said.

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