How do I get up there?
I like to show off the height of the spaces I light by installing elements quite high up in tents and barns. Guests at the weddings I light often ask me how I manage to get up that high. Usually, the answer is: I rent a self-propelled scissorlift.
Here I am using a scissorlift to install aircraft cable rigging up high at Stonover Barn. The aircraft cable provides infrastructure between the barn’s columns and beams so that I can suspend lighting elements in the wide open spaces.
For indoor jobs where I have a flat, weight-bearing floor, I rent an electric indoor lift. My current favorite is this 26-foot Optimum 1930E from the North Adams Carr Hardware, a 3000-lb. self-propelled scissorlift that is large enough to allow an operator and one passenger to work comfortably, yet compact enough I can drive it easily through a regular-size doorway to stash it out of sight. Here I am giving my friend Crane, the florist Crocus Hale’s trusty assistant, a lift up to the top of Crocus’s scenic burlap curtain to fine-tune its arrangement.
For outdoor jobs such as pole tents erected in grassy fields, I rent a four-wheel-drive outdoor scissorlift. The ground must be solid, firm earth and relatively level, though there are models with outriggers that can level the machine if you are on a slight incline. These lifts are fantastic as long as you have plenty of room to work and it hasn’t been raining for a solid week–if the ground is soggy at all, the wheels can tear up the turf. After I’m done with the installation, I can drive this guy anywhere to stash it out of sight–over a hill, behind some trees, into a garage, down the road to a neighbor’s driveway, you name it. Here is one of my crew working on an installation of paper lanterns inside a pole tent:
So… do you need a license for this thing? Believe it or not, no. But you have to have some training, like you do for any kind of personnel lift, large or small.
I’m a member of United Scenic Artists, the union for performing arts artists and designers of all kinds, which is a subsidiary union of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. IATSE Local 481 in Boston offers training and certification on aerial work platform operation, and through their training program I am now an IATSE- certified Aerial Work Platform Operator, trained to operate mast lifts, scissorlifts, and boom lifts. Interestingly, though legally you have to have a license to operate a forklift, OSHA law does not require a license of any kind to operate an AWP. They merely require that the operator be “trained by a qualified person,” and they specify what that training must include. It’s left to the industry to create certification programs, as IATSE has done.