Mike Holder of Historic Banning Mills

A camera system to suit a guinness world record

By Kim Bridson

Mike Holder, former Special Operations, U.S. Army Ranger, and aviator, helped design and construct zip lines for mountaineering training and combat demonstration purposes around the world. It should come as no surprise then that a former Marine helicopter pilot used to taking it to extremes would apply that same mindset to operating his several businesses. Any small business owner can attest to the difficulties of operating just one buisness. For Mike Holder running a successful hotel and restaurant was not enough. He had to add a world record adventure enterprise to his resume.

Tucked an hour west of Atlanta, Georgia sits what Guinness World Records has declared the Longest and Largest Zip Line Canopy in the World- Banning Mills Adventure Park. Mike and his wife Donna own and operate the nearly 10 miles of zip lines and 190 feet high sky bridges which comprise the park. Of course, the world’s tallest free standing climbing wall also happens to stand at Banning Mills.

Mike Holder is recognized as an zipline industry pioneer and Banning Mills attracts visitors from all over the world who spend days exploring the myriad zipline course-options. 6 different course levels soar 80 feet above the canopy and hit speeds that can reach 60mph across expanses up to a half a mile. Mike and his team wanted to provide his customers with unforgettable images to match their experiences - memories they could take away to share with friends and family, as well as create a new significant revenue stream. However they quickly learned that providing high quality images their customer deserved, while generating the revenue they knew existed, presented a technical and creative challenge not dissimilar to building 10 miles of zip line in the sky.

Capturing these moments at a remote, occasionally treacherous location like Banning Mills and then getting them to a central location for easy customer viewing proved problematic. Mike tried another photo operating system provider in the industry, but their system required his guides to shoot photos manually with antiquated cell phones. Not only were the photographs of poor resolution, but the process potentially shifted the focus of the guides from the customers to acting as photographers- an obviously untenable situation.

Furthermore, the lack of a photo sorting mechanism meant customers had to comb through hundreds of images of other people in order to find their own, and when various issues arose technical support was often unavailable. This finally drove Mike to seek a new photo system provider that could consistently capture and convey the photographic beauty and excitement of the Banning Mills “Guinness Record” experience.

Mike wanted the Banning Mills customer to easily, efficiently, memorably and affordably share their experiences home while also generating significant revenue for his business. So he joined the growing list of Fortune 500 corporations and small businesses who have hired Snapsportz to transform their automated action photo systems into complete photographic coverage of their adventure experience.

It would prove to be no easy task for the Snapsportz team but company founder Ben Kottke was eager to meet the challenge. Co-founder Riley Cooney and Ben had logged over 15 years experience in the professional and retail photography industry and teamed up with some weathered Silicon Valley executives and a group of skilled engineers to create the technology that is Snapsportz. Initial challenges were many, chief among them being the difficulty of capturing and presenting the overall experience - exactly what drove Mike to seek a new system provider in the first place.

There was the challenge of enabling reliable power in the harsh Georgia environment. There were freezing winters. Hot summers. And everything in between - rain, snow, ice, humidity, and insects. Banning Mills Park is located in a mountainous region with a canopy of soaring, deciduous pine trees - not topography conducive to wireless networking.

But for each challenge, Snapsportz was ready with a solution. In addition to 3 handheld roving cameras, the team installed 7 automated cameras in creative and dramatic positions. Using a series of over 20 short, medium and long range wifi antennae, they transmitted the photos and RFID data back to the retail location instantaneously where customers could then browse through a catalog of photos of them hurtling through space having the time of their life.

Of course Mike sometimes needs technical support and the Snapsportz team is always there to provide it - day, night, weekend or holiday. Mike and Banning Mills now have a photo system that delivers superior images seamlessly to his customers, along with quality customer/technical support and importantly - the revenue stream Snapsportz created. “We switched to Snapsportz from one of the other photo solution providers and it was a great decision. The photos are incredible, our customers are happy, and the revenue is significant.”

In fact Mike Holder was so pleased with his experience with the Snapsportz team and system - and the revenue it generates - that he hired the Snaportz team to do it again. This time at Screaming Raptor Adventure Park at the Creation Museum in Cincinatti, Ohio.