Post Format

THE ECKLA BEACH ROLLY: My Cloud Chasing Chariot

Photographer George Fiske with his wheel barrow he christened "Cloud Chasing Chariot"

George Fiske was a photographer of Yosemite. A familiar story goes that old George would wait in his studio located on the floor of Yosemite Valley and when a spectacular cloud would happen over Half Dome or an elusive rainbow appear in the mist of a favorite waterfall, the photographer would quickly pack his bulky view camera, tripod, plates and other gear into his trusty wheelbarrow he christened “Cloud Chasing Chariot” and would race off across the valley floor in “hot pursuit” of his intended image. It must have been quite a sight.

I too use a view camera and large Gitzo carbon fiber tripod and sometimes need to move my gear across the landscape in “hot pursuit” of an amazing photograph as well. My Lowepro pack when fully loaded weighs a little over 50 pounds and I am certainly able to carry it on my back for reasonable distances. But when I have to travel out into the dunes at say White Sands National Monument, or to a specific place miles from where my trusty Toyota Tundra is not allowed to go, I need better way to move my gear.

Enter the Beach Rolly Gear Cart made in Germany by the Eckla Gmbh. The solution to carrying my gear long distances in the field came interestingly by way of an e.newsletter I received from Outdoor Photo Gear, a company that sells nifty outdoor photo equipment to nature, sport and landscape photographers. In this particular newsletter I noticed mention of the Eckla Beach Rolly Gear Cart. The ad included a selection of product photographs and images of nature photographers transporting their sometimes ponderous gear to inspirational locations. Perhaps my problem was solved?

Eckla Beach Rolly

Well you can probably guess what happened next. I fired up my Visa card and ordered a Beach Rolly Gear Cart along with the horizontal loading bar so I could load the cart while in a reclined position and also the fold out cargo bar which increases the available cargo space on the Rolly. The package (shipped for free) arrived in about a week. While assembly of the Rolly was a bit of a challenge at first because of the roughly translated German instructions, the good pictures of the finished cart and a finely honed sense of spatial relationships made for swift completion of the assembly.

Now it was time to take the Rolly out for a test drive. I loaded my pack and tripod into the Rolly, strapped the gear into place with a Rolly cargo net, a $20. accessory that was included free at the time I made my purchase by Outdoor Photo Gear as a token of the company’s appreciation (gift) for my purchase and off I went in search of beautiful images. Once in the field, the Rolly performed admirably, and most notably on uneven ground which is due I am sure to the large nobby pneumatic rubber tires that come standard on the cart. And while I have only had the Rolly out in the field about a dozen or so times, I feel confident that my high opinion of this light-weight, German engineered well-built product will not wane. You may be wondering with all this praise, if I work for Eckla Gmbh. or Outdoor Photo Gear. Nope– I’m just a happy customer.

On a final note, if you haven’t heard of George Fiske (1835-1918), I’m not surprised.  It seems that his negatives were stored in an old saw mill in Yosemite and regretfully in 1943 were consumed in a fire. It is interesting to note that Ansel Adams was quite complimentary when it came to our hero George Fiske.  Ansel wrote,

“I really can’t get excited at [Carleton] Watkins and [Edward] Muybridge—I do get excited at Fiske. I think he had a better eye.”

Fortunately for us several good public collections of George Fiske’s photographs remain at the Bancroft Library at the University of California at Berkeley and the Center for Contemporary Photography in Tucson. There is also a book, regretfully out of print titled George Fiske: Yosemite Photographer that is available on the web and possibly at your local library. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend you check this important photographer’s work.

[NB I do not normally write about gear; there are plenty of great writers out there who love doing it. But this piece of equipment has so wonderfully changed the way I work in the field that I felt compelled to share my experience.]

Posted by

CRAIG VARJABEDIAN is an award-winning photographer who explores the back roads of the American West, making pictures of the unique and quintessential. He shares awe-inspiring stories of the land and the people who live on it . . . one photograph at a time.

2 Comments

  1. Very cool piece of equipment. Almost makes me want to get one of those big cameras… almost! <:)

    Appreciate the introduction to Fiske.

  2. Very cool piece of equipment. Looks like a perfect way to travel with a large format camera. When I graduate to a view camera, I will most definitely require one of these nifty gear carts.

    Appreciate the introduction of Fiske. His albumen prints of Yosemite are really beautiful. He had to be one dedicated photographer to live in and traverse that rugged area. Here’s an interesting quote about him I found on Misa Jeffereis’ blog:

    “Weathering the valley’s rugged conditions year-round, he traveled its trails in a carriage drawn by his horse Sailor Boy, or on one of his donkeys, Honest John and Bake. He and his wife also took up cross-country skiing to traverse the valley in winter. In the snow season the dedicated photographer and his mules hauled an 11 x 14 inch plate camera, tripod, and supply of dry plates on a sled.”

Comments are closed.