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Subject: "Helicopter Photography" Previous topic | Next topic
mklass Platinum Member As a semi-professional involved in all manner of photographic genres including portraiture, sports, commercial, and events coverage, Mick is always ready to help Nikonians by sharing his deep knowledge of photography and printing. Nikonian since 08th Dec 2006Mon 15-Jul-13 05:34 PM
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"Helicopter Photography"


Tacoma, US
          

I'm looking for some guidance from those of you who have experience shooting from a helicopter.

I have an opportunity coming up in a few weeks to shoot some of our company facilities from a helicopter. At this stage, all I know is that it is a 5 seater and I will be in the front passenger seat, with an open window. (There will be a guy shooting pro video from the back.)

Subjects will be dams, reservoirs, power stations, transmission yards, rail yards and office buildings.

I am assuming that the main enemy is vibration (assuming the skies are clear), so I am guessing VR lenses are a must and shooting hand held.

Most shots will be from 800-1,200 ft altitude, with some possibility of occasionally getting lower. Slow circles and fly-bys.

I'm thinking of mainly using the 24-120 f/4 VR and 70-200 f/2.8 VR II. Any reason to go longer (70-300 Tamron SP VC or Sigma 150-500 OS) or wider (14-24 Nikkor)? I'll probably take a fisheye along for fun.

Considering the challenges, does it make more sense to go with detail from a D800e, or use a more "forgiving" D3s? I can back up with the other or a D7100.

So if you done some pro shooting from a helicopter, I'd sure would appreciate some advice.

I'm not getting paid as a pro to do this, it is just one of those "Other Duties As Assigned" in my job description.

Mick
http://www.mickklassphoto.com
or
Visit my nikonians gallery

  

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Ned_L Moderator
15th Jul 2013
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Ned_L Moderator Awarded for his in-depth knowledge in various areas, especially Travel Photography Charter MemberMon 15-Jul-13 06:49 PM
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#1. "RE: Helicopter Photography"
In response to Reply # 0
Mon 15-Jul-13 06:50 PM by Ned_L

Philadelphia, US
          

>I'm looking for some guidance from those of you who have
>experience shooting from a helicopter.

OK, here goes.

>I have an opportunity coming up in a few weeks to shoot some
>of our company facilities from a helicopter. At this stage,
>all I know is that it is a 5 seater and I will be in the front
>passenger seat, with an open window. (There will be a guy
>shooting pro video from the back.)

I assume this means the configuration is from the front 2-3 so you not only have a front seat, but it's right on the side, next to the door.

There are windows and there are windows, on helicopters. Many of the "windows" on helicopter doors are rather small, generally like portholes. Try to find out how big the window is and where it's positioned on the door. Generally, when we try to shoot from a helicopter, it's best to go without doors. According to the window size and position, you will then know at what angle you can shoot without the helicopter banking (leaning) to give you a good angle for the image if the subject is more below than along the horizon, and how much you can stick out the lens through the window to get a good shot.

Moreover, you'll be able to judge how windy and cold it will be in the helicopter. I can tell you that with the door open, you can't change lenses, and you can't have anything loose in the helicopter or it's likely going out the door. Moreover you can't wear anything loose, such as a ball cap, and you better protect your eyes from dust and dirt. If the window is large, the conditions in the helicopter will be similar. Make sure you know how cold it will be with the air coming in. You might want a jacket.

Frankly, even with a somewhat small window, I have found I didn't want to change lenses due to getting dust and dirt into my camera bodies.

I strongly suggest you want to use 2 camera bodies.

>Subjects will be dams, reservoirs, power stations,
>transmission yards, rail yards and office buildings.
>
>I am assuming that the main enemy is vibration (assuming the
>skies are clear), so I am guessing VR lenses are a must and
>shooting hand held.

Photographically vibration is an enemy, but not the only one. Actually VR isn't a must, because you're going to be using shutter speeds at 1/1000 sec or higher if at all possible, as you also have to account that your helicopter, even when station keeping, typically isn't exactly not moving. Helicopter movement makes this photography difficult, as does dust/dirt, and wind.

>Most shots will be from 800-1,200 ft altitude, with some
>possibility of occasionally getting lower. Slow circles and
>fly-bys.

Okay, that sounds good.

>I'm thinking of mainly using the 24-120 f/4 VR and 70-200
>f/2.8 VR II. Any reason to go longer (70-300 Tamron SP VC or
>Sigma 150-500 OS) or wider (14-24 Nikkor)? I'll probably take
>a fisheye along for fun.

The 24-120mm makes sense. I'd put that on your D800e and I'd definitely take the 70-300 and I'd put that on the D3 or the D7100. The 150-500 won't be all that useful as most of it is too long and it's heavy to hold well in the helicopter.

I doubt the fisheye will be particularly useful, and I repeat that you're not all that likely to want to swap lenses in flight.

The problem with the fisheye, is more so of the problem you might have with the 24-120mm lens at its wide angle end. Be aware of the helicopter rotor blades and skids (the ‘feet’ the helicopter stands on while on the ground) not only for your safety, but also for framing your shot. Before the helicopter takes off, judge your widest focal length before the blades or skids start to show. Once airborne, check again with some test shots.

>Considering the challenges, does it make more sense to go with
>detail from a D800e, or use a more "forgiving" D3s?
>I can back up with the other or a D7100.
>
>So if you done some pro shooting from a helicopter, I'd sure
>would appreciate some advice.

Make sure you have straps from the cameras holding your cameras to your body well, especially if the window is large, or if you get them to take off your door, or fly with it open, locked to the side of the "cabin." You're likely going to be wearing a headset so you can communicate with the pilot. It's extremely noisy in these helicopters and gets noisier when a window or door is open inflight. You've got to make sure that your camera straps don't get all tangled with the headset.

By the way, you want no accessories, even lens hoods. Anything that's not locked down can easily come off in the wind generated by the main rotor, your speed, and atmospheric conditions, and that's a major safety hazard. Even a lens hood flying off and into the tail rotor can cause damage and serious flight problems.

No polarizing filter should be used. You can't keep adjusting it and take photos.

If you have more questions and if you get more information, please post them.

Enjoy your flight.

Ned
A Nikonians Team Member

-----------------------------
Visit my Travel Photography Blog and my Galleries.

(Edited for spelling.)

  

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Ned_L Moderator Awarded for his in-depth knowledge in various areas, especially Travel Photography Charter MemberMon 15-Jul-13 07:49 PM
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#5. "RE: Helicopter Photography"
In response to Reply # 1


Philadelphia, US
          

I almost forgot. Is this your first flight in a helicopter? If it is, have you ever had any problems with motion sickness? If you have, you might want to take precautions with the helicopter. It's not like flying on a plane, including the lift-off, and especially if the floor is see-through, which is true in many helicopters which have those front bubbles.

Also don't hesitate to let the pilot know if he/she turns up the heat too much, as that aggravates motion sickness. I was on a flight in Juneau, Alaska some years back and the other person shooting was a real Smart Aleck. On our way back to the helicopter pad, the pilot nodded to me with his hand on the heater switch. I understood and shook my head okay. He had us close the two large windows and a minute later the Smart Aleck was sick as a dog. As he got out, he whoopsed all over himself. Frankly, he deserved it. That's an old fighter pilot training flight trick. If you're not used to flying, you can really get sick from the heat and the movement.

Ned
A Nikonians Team Member

-----------------------------
Visit my Travel Photography Blog and my Galleries.

  

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mklass Platinum Member As a semi-professional involved in all manner of photographic genres including portraiture, sports, commercial, and events coverage, Mick is always ready to help Nikonians by sharing his deep knowledge of photography and printing. Nikonian since 08th Dec 2006Mon 15-Jul-13 08:27 PM
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#7. "RE: Helicopter Photography"
In response to Reply # 5
Mon 15-Jul-13 08:30 PM by mklass

Tacoma, US
          

>I almost forgot. Is this your first flight in a helicopter?
>If it is, have you ever had any problems with motion sickness?
>If you have, you might want to take precautions with the
>helicopter. It's not like flying on a plane, including the
>lift-off, and especially if the floor is see-through, which is
>true in many helicopters which have those front bubbles.
>
Fortunately, I've been on two before, one was a fairly comfortable 5 seater, but it was still noisy as could be. The only way to hear was headphones.

>Also don't hesitate to let the pilot know if he/she turns up
>the heat too much, as that aggravates motion sickness. I was
>on a flight in Juneau, Alaska some years back and the other
>person shooting was a real Smart Aleck. On our way back to the
>helicopter pad, the pilot nodded to me with his hand on the
>heater switch. I understood and shook my head okay. He had us
>close the two large windows and a minute later the Smart Aleck
>was sick as a dog. As he got out, he whoopsed all over
>himself. Frankly, he deserved it. That's an old fighter pilot
>training flight trick. If you're not used to flying, you can
>really get sick from the heat and the movement.
>
Sounds like I better keep on eye on the video guy!

Mick
http://www.mickklassphoto.com
or
Visit my nikonians gallery

  

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esantos Moderator Nikonians Resources Writer. Recognized for his outstanding reviews on printers and printing articles. Awarded for his high level of expertise in various areas, including Landscape Photography Awarded for his extraordinary accomplishments in Landscape Photography. His work has been exhibited at the Smithsonian. Nikonian since 10th Nov 2002Mon 15-Jul-13 07:15 PM
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#2. "RE: Helicopter Photography"
In response to Reply # 0


McAllen, US
          

Wow Mick, that sounds like a great opportunity. Sorry, I can't offer any advice but it sounds like Ned has covered all the bases. Good luck!

Ernesto Santos
esartprints.com Ernesto Santos Photography

  

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w0gm Silver Member Nikonian since 03rd Jan 2006Mon 15-Jul-13 07:17 PM
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#3. "RE: Helicopter Photography"
In response to Reply # 0


Fort Collins, US
          

Mick, sounds like fun. I've shot from a helicopter once, but many times from a fixed wing airplane. Here are some things I've learned.

Do a thorough briefing with the pilot before takeoff so you both understand the mission. Make sure you are both on the same page about subjects, where you want the sun, etc.

Don't touch the aircraft when shooting. For example don't use the window to brace the camera. That will just transfer the vibrations to the camera and a helicopter has plenty of vibrations.

Don't stick anything out of the aircraft into the slipstream. There are more vibrations and a good chance that the camera will be ripped from your hands. Also, don't use a lens hood. If you happen to make a mistake and get out into the wind, it'll leave the camera quicker than you can imagine.

I've probably taken most images with my 17-35mm f/2.8 lens on a D200 or D300. I've used the 70-200, but I find it's hard to get solid shots in focus at the longer focal lengths. I would expect your 24-120 would work pretty well. Depth of field shouldn't be an issue, so I usually shoot wide open to get the fastest shutter speed. Of course, that's not the best aperture for most lenses, so you could certainly stop down to f/5.6 or f/8 for better sharpness if you can still get a reasonably fast shutter speed.

By all means, use the D800. No reason not to capture the best images possible.

75 knots airspeed works well in an airplane, but a helicopter has the advantage of being able to get much slower, like zero, if necessary. However, flying slowly and repeatedly around the type of subjects you mentioned may get some security officials excited. Homeland Security is very unforgiving about stuff like that these days, so it wouldn't be too surprising to see you met by law enforcement of some type when you land. You may want to contact security at the places you want to photograph and let them know what you will be doing and why. A few phone calls up front could save you being met with armed officers later. This has happened to several pilots in the past few months, so consider the possibility seriously.

Bill

Bill Standerfer
Fort Collins, CO

My website.

  

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mklass Platinum Member As a semi-professional involved in all manner of photographic genres including portraiture, sports, commercial, and events coverage, Mick is always ready to help Nikonians by sharing his deep knowledge of photography and printing. Nikonian since 08th Dec 2006Mon 15-Jul-13 07:34 PM
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#4. "RE: Helicopter Photography"
In response to Reply # 0
Mon 15-Jul-13 07:54 PM by mklass

Tacoma, US
          

Ned- Thanks for the detailed advice. Many things I hadn't thought of, but make complete sense. I'll get a better feel for the configuration in a week or so. I'll keep the kit simple, D800e with 24-120, D7100 with 70-300. At present it looks like we'll be doing this over 2 days, so there will be a chance to adjust, if need be.

Ernesto- Since I've contributed the non-portrait shots for the company's annual report for 2 years now, they seem to think I can do this stuff and are giving me more and more. A nice break from my usual marketing job and certainly better than a day in the office! (And I am still getting paid.)

Bill- Since this is a company shoot over company facilities, I sure hope they expect us to be there! Should I paint "Don't Shoot" on the bottom of the helicopter?

Mick
http://www.mickklassphoto.com
or
Visit my nikonians gallery

  

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Ned_L Moderator Awarded for his in-depth knowledge in various areas, especially Travel Photography Charter MemberMon 15-Jul-13 07:57 PM
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#6. "RE: Helicopter Photography"
In response to Reply # 4


Philadelphia, US
          

You're very welcome.

>Bob- Since this is a company shoot over company facilities, I
>sure hope they expect us to be there! Should I paint
>"Don't Shoot" on the bottom of the helicopter?

Better than a bullseye. (LOL)

Bob is absolutely right about security, if you were photographing other facilities, the police consider sensitive. My last helicopter flight included time over a hydroelectric dam. We notified Homeland Security. They notified the local police and the dam's owner.

Ned
A Nikonians Team Member

-----------------------------
Visit my Travel Photography Blog and my Galleries.

  

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mklass Platinum Member As a semi-professional involved in all manner of photographic genres including portraiture, sports, commercial, and events coverage, Mick is always ready to help Nikonians by sharing his deep knowledge of photography and printing. Nikonian since 08th Dec 2006Mon 15-Jul-13 08:29 PM
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#8. "RE: Helicopter Photography"
In response to Reply # 6
Mon 15-Jul-13 08:31 PM by mklass

Tacoma, US
          

>You're very welcome.
>
>>Bob- Since this is a company shoot over company
>facilities, I
>>sure hope they expect us to be there! Should I paint
>>"Don't Shoot" on the bottom of the helicopter?
>
>Better than a bullseye. (LOL)
>

Or "Just Shooting"

>Bob is absolutely right about security, if you were
>photographing other facilities, the police consider sensitive.
>My last helicopter flight included time over a hydroelectric
>dam. We notified Homeland Security. They notified the local
>police and the dam's owner.
>

I'll paint the bullseye on the video guy.

Mick
http://www.mickklassphoto.com
or
Visit my nikonians gallery

  

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w0gm Silver Member Nikonian since 03rd Jan 2006Mon 15-Jul-13 09:50 PM
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#9. "RE: Helicopter Photography"
In response to Reply # 4


Fort Collins, US
          

>Bill- Since this is a company shoot over company facilities, I
>sure hope they expect us to be there! Should I paint
>"Don't Shoot" on the bottom of the helicopter?

I'd call them just to be sure. DHS and some local agencies are absolutely paranoid these days.

Bill

Bill Standerfer
Fort Collins, CO

My website.

  

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KerryS Silver Member Nikonian since 30th Nov 2012Tue 16-Jul-13 04:06 PM
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#10. "RE: Helicopter Photography"
In response to Reply # 9


Sedro Woolley, WA, US
          

Going to shoot the dams on the Cowlitz? Sounds like fun. I wanted to shoot Seattle City Light's dams on the Skagit. Signed up for a tour and was then told no cameras allowed. Cancelled the tour and drove up to the dams with river sled in tow and shot them from the road and from my boat. I was questioned by a couple of SCL employees at the launch. They were annoyed by my shooting but did nothing.

Visit my Nikonians gallery.

  

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HBB Moderator Hal is an expert in several areas, including CLS Awarded for his excellent article contributions to the Resources. Charter MemberTue 16-Jul-13 05:27 PM
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#11. "RE: Helicopter Photography"
In response to Reply # 0
Tue 16-Jul-13 05:29 PM by HBB

Phoenix, US
          

Mick:

My $0.02 worth.

I have done numerous helicopter sessions with a local law enforcement agency. Most were daytime, but a few were at night. Some were air to air, others were air to ground, and one session involved air to air and ground to air.

1) As mentioned by others, the sliding windows are usually very small and it is difficult to crouch low enough to shoot through them. Once I had logged enough flight time with them, they tethered me into the rear seat with a harness and let me open the doors, which provides complete freedom.

2) Most pilots are reluctant to hover in a stationary mode at altitudes below 500 feet AGL, as they need altitude to auto-rotate down in case of engine failure. They will circle slowly around a subject but will not hover.

3) Forget about tripods and monopods. While current helicopters are turbine engined, the rotor vibration is still very much present.

4) I have used the 24-70 mm for most of the air to ground, and the 70-200 mm and 80-400 mm for air to air. I recently acquired the new 24-120 mm FX lens, which will likely go with me next time. I have never used the fisheye. With a little arithmetic (subject size, camera to subject distance, etc.), you can identify which lenses will be appropriate.

5) You will likely have a headset on that permits conversation with the pilot and others aboard. If possible, have them set it up so you don't have to push a button on the cord to talk. This makes communication among all much easier.

6) If you are using a lens hood, be sure and tape it to the barrel using Professional Grade Gaffers Tape.

7) If you are in the front seat with the pilot, you will be on the left side of the helicopter. Pilots are in the right seat, which is opposite of fixed wing aircraft. They typically won't fly with the front seat door open, which means you will be limited to the small sliding window and you will have difficulty shooting with the camera parallel to the ground or pointing up at anything. In my experience, the "best seat in the house" is from the rear seat with the sliding door latched open. From the rear seat, it is also possible to capture interesting images through the front bubble of the helicopter, framed by the head/shoulders of the front seat occupants.

8) One of the night sessions was a simulated felony stop on top of a parking garage in the downtown area. We were circling slowly at 400 feet AGL and I shot at 6400 ISO which was adequate. Daytime shots were almost always shot at the camera's base ISO of 100 or 200.

9) Mid-day ambient illumination is usually difficult as it is a flat light. Earlier morning or late afternoon provides better shadow detail. Sunrise/sunset shots from helicopters with skylines silhouetted in background can be spectacular, weather and clouds permitting.

10) I recommend a discussion with the pilot prior to lift off, to tell him your objectives, camera angles, requested altitudes, subjects, etc. He will also give you the house rules, so to speak. I have flown with several different pilots and they all have their own approach to house rules. Better to have a plan prior to lift off. The pilot will likely explain the rules for entering and exiting the helicopter.

11) I have used my D3 and D3X bodies, as I just acquired my D800E a few months ago and have not been up since. It will be my camera of choice next time.

12) I don't know what model helicopter you will be in, but there is usually very little room in the front seat for extra lenses, bodies, etc. If the helicopter is equipped with dual controls (some are and some aren't) the pilot will not let you place anything on the floor because it may interfere with the tail rotor pedals. I much prefer the back seat, because I can take a small camera bag which is fastened to the floor at my feet and readily accessible.

13) The wind in the back seat with the door open is minimal when hovering or at normal cruising speeds, unless you are traveling sideways or stick your arms outside the door opening. As others have mentioned, leave your hat on the ground if you are in the back seat with the door open.

14) Most helicopters carry sick sacks. If you think you will need it, be sure and ask where it is located. I have never been airsick in my life, but have heard lots of stories from pilots about those who have. Not pretty!

15) Finally, I usually make a few prints of the better images and give them to the pilot and/or observer. A shot from the ground of the pilot in the helicopter is also a nice touch. These images are always appreciated by pilots, and will be remembered next time you fly with them. I captured a very nice image of a helicopter about six feet off the ground prior to touchdown. I was crouched down on the tarmac just ahead of it, shooting up at it. I printed the image at 24 x 36 inches, had it matted and framed and presented it to the air support unit at their 40th anniversary celebration in the hangar. It currently hangs on the wall in the ready room.

Hope this helps a bit.

Let me know if you have additional questions.

Regards,

HBB in Phoenix, Arizona
Nikonian Team Member

Photography is a journey with no conceivable destination.

  

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JonK Moderator Awarded for his high level skills and in-depth knowledge in various areas, such as Wildlife, Landscape and Stage Photography Nikonian since 03rd Jul 2004Tue 16-Jul-13 05:43 PM
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#12. "RE: Helicopter Photography"
In response to Reply # 0


New York, US
          

You've gotten great advice from several folk who are pros at this. My comment are only to reinforce what was said from my two trips and to mention one I didn't see above.

Forget the lens hood — or consider removing it up there. Depending on the type of craft, your seat, and the lens choice, with minimal space you may find yourself bumping the glass as you angle for a shot. That's really no good, so lose the hood.

Wear a dark shirt or jacket, black being best. The reflections can be a b*tch.

I was on scenic flights, Alaska glacier and Maui, with the 24-70 and 70-200. Skipped VR, shot fast shutter speeds. I found the short- to medium tele lengths most useful, isolating patterns and textures. Wide stuff was just so flat looking. I recommend side/angled views of the facilities at more length to (try to) capture a sense of dimension and maybe some shadows; the closer you get the more overhead which will look flat and probably silly.

Have fun, guy!

Jon Kandel
A New York City Nikonian and Team Member
Please visit my website and critique the images!

  

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w0gm Silver Member Nikonian since 03rd Jan 2006Wed 17-Jul-13 02:01 AM
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#13. "RE: Helicopter Photography"
In response to Reply # 0


Fort Collins, US
          

Just one more thing...

Except for mapping, most aerial photography for documenting stuff on the ground will be done by pointing the camera at about a 45 degree angle down. At a thousand feet above ground, that means you'll be about a quarter mile from the target. Make sure you and your pilot understand this. I tell my Civil Air Patrol students (both pilots and photographers) that if the pilot has to put the airplane in a steep turn to get the shot, he's put you way too close.

Of course, there are reasons to sometimes break that rule (mapping, art shots, etc.), but, in general, doing what it sounds like you are going to be doing, it should work best.

Bill

Bill Standerfer
Fort Collins, CO

My website.

  

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mklass Platinum Member As a semi-professional involved in all manner of photographic genres including portraiture, sports, commercial, and events coverage, Mick is always ready to help Nikonians by sharing his deep knowledge of photography and printing. Nikonian since 08th Dec 2006Wed 17-Jul-13 07:55 PM
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#14. "RE: Helicopter Photography"
In response to Reply # 13


Tacoma, US
          

Thanks all for the advice. This is all very useful.

It looks like we'll be shooting from a Bell Jet Ranger III.


That's the video's guy's rig from the last time he did it.

So it looks like I either shoot through the lower side window front sliding part, or get set up to sit in the rear door on the opposite side of the video guy and we make double passes of everything. It doesn't look like the front side doors are removable.

We will be flying 50 miles in every direction from the starting point, covering nearly a 100 mile diameter circle and 10-12 sites.

I haven't been airsick since I was a kid, even on 2 (non-photo) helicopter rides. But perhaps puking out of an open door would be best ...as long as you're not on the ground below us!

Mick
http://www.mickklassphoto.com
or
Visit my nikonians gallery


Attachment #1, (jpg file)

  

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HBB Moderator Hal is an expert in several areas, including CLS Awarded for his excellent article contributions to the Resources. Charter MemberWed 17-Jul-13 08:57 PM
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#15. "RE: Helicopter Photography"
In response to Reply # 14


Phoenix, US
          

Mick:

If the Bell unit is like the ones used by the local Phoenix agency, you will be on the left side, as the pilot will be on the right side, which would require two passes anyway to capture video and still images. If you are in the front seat, either side, you will have to contend with the small sliding window.

If this is the case, see if they will set you up on the left side, in the rear seat, opposite the video guy.

If you can get into the rear seat, I suggest taping your lens hood to the barrel. Depending on time of day, sun angle/direction, etc., lens flare may be a problem. I urge you to buy a roll of "Professional Gaffers Tape", as it has a terrific adhesive, that does not leave a gooey residue behind when removed. Expensive, but worth it. I use it every time I am up, and have not lost a lens hood yet.

Don't be too sure about heaving out the door ... it may all blow back into your face.

Good luck, have fun, and let us know how it all turns out.

Regards,

HBB in Phoenix, Arizona
Nikonian Team Member

Photography is a journey with no conceivable destination.

  

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Ned_L Moderator Awarded for his in-depth knowledge in various areas, especially Travel Photography Charter MemberWed 17-Jul-13 10:12 PM
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#16. "RE: Helicopter Photography"
In response to Reply # 15


Philadelphia, US
          

I agree with Hal.

"If this is the case, see if they will set you up on the left side, in the rear seat, opposite the video guy." That's definitely the way to go, if possible.

"Don't be too sure about heaving out the door ... it may all blow back into your face." I think you can count on that, as trying to lean out to release, the rotor down-draft will likely throw it right back on your body and pants. (LOL)

Hanging at the edge of the open door means 2 bodies with lenses is a must, as far as I'm concerned. You're going to be strapped in well at the door, with a four or five point harness. The picture shows a 4 point harness and what looks like an additional leg belt. This means a strap over each shoulder and then a lap belt as in a car. It will limit your movement more than your car seatbelt will, so moving around will not be easy, so you'll also need anything you bring, strapped to the helicopter, close by.

Ned
A Nikonians Team Member

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Visit my Travel Photography Blog and my Galleries.

  

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mklass Platinum Member As a semi-professional involved in all manner of photographic genres including portraiture, sports, commercial, and events coverage, Mick is always ready to help Nikonians by sharing his deep knowledge of photography and printing. Nikonian since 08th Dec 2006Wed 17-Jul-13 10:30 PM
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#17. "RE: Helicopter Photography"
In response to Reply # 16


Tacoma, US
          

I think the video guy was planning on setting up on the right side rear this time, so we would be on the same side. We'll work this out over the next week or so. The amount of time we have available may limit the options, especially if double passes would slow us down. I think they are already having palpitations about the cost. (Gee, I see we could by a used one of these for as little as $335,000!)

I have some good gaffers tape.

Hey, isn't it called "throw up"? (Did you know that is also the first rule of juggling?)

Mick
http://www.mickklassphoto.com
or
Visit my nikonians gallery

  

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BigRedDogATL Silver Member Nikonian since 21st Feb 2008Wed 24-Jul-13 12:38 PM
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#18. "RE: Helicopter Photography"
In response to Reply # 0


Alpharetta, US
          

I didn't see this listed on any of the other responses but might have missed it:

If at all possible, rent or borrow a gyro stabilizer to use on your camera. The vibrations in a helicopter are much more severe than in a fixed wing aircraft. There is no way that VR will be able to counteract the helicopter vibrations and no matter how steady you think you are, you can't handhold a camera in a helicopter and get sharp photos without a gyro stabilizer. You will need to have that gyro in order to get sharp photos without vibration blur.

Clifford W. Martin
Aviation Photojournalist
www.bigreddogatl.com

Nikon D4, D810 + MB-D12, 200-400mm VR f/4, 70-200mm VRII f/2.8, 24-70mm f/2.8, 14-24mm f/2.8, 105mm f/2.8, 80-400mm VR II f/4.5-5.6, TC-14E II, TC-20E III, SB-800 (x2), GPS-1, tons of non-Nikon stuff

  

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mklass Platinum Member As a semi-professional involved in all manner of photographic genres including portraiture, sports, commercial, and events coverage, Mick is always ready to help Nikonians by sharing his deep knowledge of photography and printing. Nikonian since 08th Dec 2006Wed 24-Jul-13 12:58 PM
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#19. "RE: Helicopter Photography"
In response to Reply # 18


Tacoma, US
          

Hadn't thought of that. I would have expected that a high enough shutter speed (1/1000) would cover it.

Lens Rentals won't have theirs available until after the shoot date. Borrow Lenses doesn't list it. A camera store in Seattle list a Kenlab KS-6 Stabilizer for $60/day. I'll need to check on availability. 2 days of shooting plus travel it will probably cost $180.00.

Mick
http://www.mickklassphoto.com
or
Visit my nikonians gallery

  

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Ned_L Moderator Awarded for his in-depth knowledge in various areas, especially Travel Photography Charter MemberWed 24-Jul-13 04:13 PM
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#22. "RE: Helicopter Photography"
In response to Reply # 18


Philadelphia, US
          

I've done a lot of helicopter photography over the years, and I've never used a gyro stabilizer. I generally shoot at 1/2000 or higher. I always recommend 1/1000 or higher. That takes care of any vibration. In addition, VR won't work properly at shutter speeds of 1/500 sec or above, so at fast shutters like that, it's better to turn VR off, as if on, it will either do nothing, or degrade you photo(s).

Ned
A Nikonians Team Member

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Visit my Travel Photography Blog and my Galleries.

  

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mrlysle Registered since 24th Jul 2013Wed 24-Jul-13 02:19 PM
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#20. "RE: Helicopter Photography"
In response to Reply # 0


US
          

Hi Mick. Great opportunity you have there! I've been shooting from a helicopter for years as part of my job with Haverfield Aviation. We use a variety of Nikon DSLR's, and usually the 80-400 VR lens, due to the nature of our work when we do shoot, which is comprehensive powerline inspections. We exclusively use MD500 helicopters in all of our powerline work, so having said that, and not knowing what type of ship you'll be flying in, I can tell what has worked for me over the years. Unless the helicopter you're using has some balance or tracking issues in the rotor system, which can cause the ship to jump, or hop a little when hovering, your main priority will be shutter speed, as you already guessed. So I shoot shutter priority 99% of the time. I mentioned the Nikon 80-400 VR lens, but honestly, I turn the VR off on many flights, especially if the weather is such to support the higher shutter speeds, etc, bright, sunny. Dark cloudy days cause me problems sometimes, but we work whether it's sunny or not, lol. It isn't uncommon to be shooting at 1/3200 some days. I'll bump the ISO up if needed to help me achieve that also, and run a noise filter in Photoshop later. If you need the DOF, and are forced to use some smaller apertures, and thus slower shutter speeds, the VR will help you. Good luck with your shoot. It's a blast flying around in a helicopter all day, and flying to take pictures is icing on the cake!

  

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RocketTom Silver Member Nikonian since 12th Jan 2006Wed 24-Jul-13 02:32 PM
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#21. "RE: Helicopter Photography"
In response to Reply # 0


Whittier, US
          

I'll add in my free advise here (so take it for what it's worth!).

I work for an oil company and take helo trips over some of our facilities and refineries for various work. Some things I've found that makes the job a LOT easier:

1) Don't take anything that requires you to swap parts, especially small parts. Murphy is a usual passenger and can cause small things to go missing. This also means memory cards. Get one big-un and leave the smaller ones in the car. (OK, maybe two. Just be VERY careful! The wind can just snatch it out of your hand.)

2) Vibration: A fast (1/1000) shutter speed is *usually* sufficient. If there is winds or unusual weather, vibration will definately become a factor. No matter how many goodies you put on a camera, when the copter is bucking around, it'll be a challenge. What I found is to crank up the shutter speed, and click-click-click-click. Somewhere, somehow, the movement will allow for a good shot. Or reschedule the flight for a calmer day (preferred).

3) Lens Hood: I leave mine behind. Besides vibration, the one thing that will definately ruin your shot (with an open door) is prop wash (is the the right term?). You need to keep your camera - and all parts - inside the cabin. Putting even a tiny bit of lens into the wash will make it behave like someone is holding your lens and yanking it around. Lens hoods stick out enough that this can be a real issue. It's up to you. If you take it, gaff tape it. Then gaff tape it again.

4) One thing that I've taken to doing is to do a 3, 5, or 7 shot pano while I'm up there. Why not? When are you going to be able to do that again? You'll be at least a thousand feet up and putting the subject in perspective of the surroundings makes for great results. This usually works best from a higher altitude. And this is one time where I found that it works best mid-day.

5) Definately do a flight plan with the pilot. Communications will be a challenge at best. If you're next to an open door the voice activation for your mic will need to be off. (Too much noise, it will always be on.) Get the pilot, videographer, you, and whoever represents the customer together to make sure you'll get what you need. And don't stop clicking.

6) If you are in the front seat, you will be on the left. Besides a small window, you'll have problems with reflections (especially if you're not in the shadow), small distortions are possible, and also dirt. Just be aware of this. (And make sure you keep your feet clear of the controls!)

As a side note, when I'm doing work over a facility like a refinery, we always are at an altitude where if the pilot loses something they have room to auto-rotate down. If we're lower, then we don't hover and maintain a speed that allows us to get to a safe area.

And enjoy! I love going up in helocopters. It's definately one of the perks of my job.

Hope this helps.

- Tom

We can't solve problems using the same thinking we used when we created them. - Albert Einstein

Visit my Nikonians gallery.

  

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kennoll Gold Member Nikonian since 07th Feb 2011Wed 24-Jul-13 08:06 PM
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#23. "RE: Helicopter Photography"
In response to Reply # 0


Seattle, US
          

This should be fun Mick. My wife bought me a helicopter ride for one of my birthdays a few years ago. Two-seater. I was in the right seat. My door had been taken off. I was strapped in with a 4- or 5-point seatbelt so it was OK that I was almost hanging out the door I used a simple P&S zoom camera so didn't have to mess with it. Would like to do it again.

I haven't read all the responses so if someone already suggested finding out what type and/or model helicopter you will be in then you could Google it and maybe get some pictures of it. That way you can have a little more prep info.

Also, the pilot will/should file a flight plan with the FAA so if Homeland Security is curious as to who is flying around they can get the helicopter tail number and look it up.

Ken
Seattle, WA
My Gallery

  

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mklass Platinum Member As a semi-professional involved in all manner of photographic genres including portraiture, sports, commercial, and events coverage, Mick is always ready to help Nikonians by sharing his deep knowledge of photography and printing. Nikonian since 08th Dec 2006Thu 25-Jul-13 11:37 PM
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#24. "RE: Helicopter Photography"
In response to Reply # 23


Tacoma, US
          

Looks like thy've finally settled on a aircraft, a Eurocopter AS360B2. Six seats. I'll be in back on one side, video on the other, shooting out of sliding doors. It looks like this:






Weather permitting, August 8th is the day.

Mick
http://www.mickklassphoto.com
or
Visit my nikonians gallery


Attachment #1, (jpg file)
Attachment #2, (jpg file)

  

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RocketTom Silver Member Nikonian since 12th Jan 2006Fri 26-Jul-13 12:25 AM
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#25. "RE: Helicopter Photography"
In response to Reply # 24


Whittier, US
          

Great helo, the back is a great place to be. Lots of room.

Have fun! (And make sure someone gets some pictures of you in action, eh?)

- Tom

We can't solve problems using the same thinking we used when we created them. - Albert Einstein

Visit my Nikonians gallery.

  

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kennoll Gold Member Nikonian since 07th Feb 2011Fri 26-Jul-13 01:54 AM
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#26. "RE: Helicopter Photography"
In response to Reply # 24


Seattle, US
          

Nice!

Who is the priimary on imaging? Video or stills? The pilot will probably favor one or the other when positioning the aircraft. Just a thought.

Ken
Seattle, WA
My Gallery

  

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mklass Platinum Member As a semi-professional involved in all manner of photographic genres including portraiture, sports, commercial, and events coverage, Mick is always ready to help Nikonians by sharing his deep knowledge of photography and printing. Nikonian since 08th Dec 2006Fri 09-Aug-13 04:59 AM
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#27. "RE: Helicopter Photography Session 1"
In response to Reply # 0
Fri 09-Aug-13 02:09 PM by mklass

Tacoma, US
          

We finally went up today for a little over 2.5 hours. Scheduled to do 8 more tomorrow.

The arrangement turned out to be different. The video rig is so big, they had to take out all 4 back seats of the Eurocopter AS350B. (3 would have been fine, but the seats were in pairs, so they all had to go.)

That meant that instead of shooting from the right rear with the sliding door open, I shot from the left front with the hinged door removed. No controls on that side, which was good, but they needed to install a supplemental windscreen to keep the video rig from flailing about. Basically that meant shooting about 120 degrees rearward and at no wider that 35mm (FX). When the video guy was shooting forward, that also got the end of his lens into my FOV at less than about 50mm.






(These two are pretty good with the D800e at ISO6400)


Took the consensus advice in Auto-ISO, SS and lens/body combinations, and it worked pretty well. The Tamron 70-300 on the D7100 seems to suffer from not having the lens hood on, but nothing so bad that I can't fix it in post. I could also probably gaffer tape the hood on, since I am behind that supplemental windscreen. I think I also have a short, collapable, screw-on hood in that size.

After I get a chance to go through the images and work them, I'll post in a gallery. But here are a few:

A new water filtration plant under construction at Tacoma's main water source.



A delivery of what we are drinking in the meantime. (at the LeMay Car Museum in Tacoma)



This was cause for a double-take at the Renton Airport:

(Sorry, I didn't get any prop blur. )


Thanks to all that offered advice, it made this pretty easy and stress-less. The guy paying the $1,725 per hour helicopter bill is stressed enough for both of us!

Mick
http://www.mickklassphoto.com
or
Visit my nikonians gallery





Attachment #1, (jpg file)
Attachment #2, (jpg file)
Attachment #3, (jpg file)
Attachment #4, (jpg file)
Attachment #5, (jpg file)

  

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kennoll Gold Member Nikonian since 07th Feb 2011Fri 09-Aug-13 04:54 PM
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#28. "RE: Helicopter Photography Session 1"
In response to Reply # 27


Seattle, US
          

Nice shots Mick. I'm amazed at the lack of noise at ISO 6400.

Next time you come to the Renton airport let me know. I could take some photos of you and the heli. It's just down the street and I go there often.

Ken
Seattle, WA
My Gallery

  

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mklass Platinum Member As a semi-professional involved in all manner of photographic genres including portraiture, sports, commercial, and events coverage, Mick is always ready to help Nikonians by sharing his deep knowledge of photography and printing. Nikonian since 08th Dec 2006Wed 14-Aug-13 12:06 PM
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#29. "RE: Helicopter Photography Results"
In response to Reply # 28
Wed 14-Aug-13 12:09 PM by mklass

Tacoma, US
          

For those who may be interested in seeing the results of my helicopter photography adventure, I have the images in a online gallery here: http://mickklass.zenfolio.com/tpuaerials

The gallery contains both processed and unprocessed images. I've completed processing about 70 of around 400 "keepers" (out of about 1600 shots). You'll notice that a lot of the shots do not have a level horizon. The result of shooting quickly, back over my left shoulder though the gap between the supplemental windscreen and the video camera.

It can be disconcerting looking through a viewfinder doing that while flying sideways, combined with the smell of engine exhaust in the cabin while flying that way. Almost needed the airsick bag a few times, but fortunately beat it back.

This is my favorite of those that I have completed processing so far (click on the image for a larger view):


D800e, 24-120 f/4 VR Nikkor, ISO800, 1/1000

Thanks again to all that provided advice. It really made this work. Of the 1600 shots, only 3 or 4 were unusable due to blurriness. (Not counting the burst when I tried to shoot eagles flying below us. Moving bird + 70mph platform = bad combo)

Mick
http://www.mickklassphoto.com
or
Visit my nikonians gallery

  

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JonK Moderator Awarded for his high level skills and in-depth knowledge in various areas, such as Wildlife, Landscape and Stage Photography Nikonian since 03rd Jul 2004Wed 14-Aug-13 12:14 PM
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#30. "RE: Helicopter Photography Results"
In response to Reply # 29


New York, US
          

Outstanding results, Mick!

Jon Kandel
A New York City Nikonian and Team Member
Please visit my website and critique the images!

  

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KerryS Silver Member Nikonian since 30th Nov 2012Thu 15-Aug-13 04:46 PM
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#32. "RE: Helicopter Photography Results"
In response to Reply # 29


Sedro Woolley, WA, US
          

Looking at this shot gives me a touch of vertigo. Nice.

Visit my Nikonians gallery.

  

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timpsm Silver Member Nikonian since 17th Sep 2010Sat 17-Aug-13 02:29 AM
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#33. "RE: Helicopter Photography Results"
In response to Reply # 29


Salt Spring Island, CA
          

Cool shots, infrastructure is fascinating. Thanks for sharing the whole technical back-story as well.

I'm not exactly sure how the vibration from the helicopter compares to our BC Ferries, but the shots at 1/1000 look fine viewed on the screen.

Would you say that 1/1000 is fast enough for printing as well, or did faster shutter speeds give you better results when viewed full res?

tim

  

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mklass Platinum Member As a semi-professional involved in all manner of photographic genres including portraiture, sports, commercial, and events coverage, Mick is always ready to help Nikonians by sharing his deep knowledge of photography and printing. Nikonian since 08th Dec 2006Sat 17-Aug-13 04:06 AM
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#34. "RE: Helicopter Photography Results"
In response to Reply # 33


Tacoma, US
          

I think that ferries have a lower frequency vibration, and the buffeting is probably less, too. I wouldn't think 1/1000 sec would be needed. I'll have to go back and look at some of the shots I took from a Washington State ferry a year or 2 ago.

I think these are certainly quite printable, as least from what I am seeing on the screen, even at high magnification. Some show noise, but keeping the shutter speed up did result in high ISO in some shots.

I haven't printed any yet, as I am still editing. I've got about 250 shots left to go.

Mick
http://www.mickklassphoto.com
or
Visit my nikonians gallery

  

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mjt73106 Registered since 24th Mar 2013Thu 15-Aug-13 11:10 AM
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#31. "RE: Helicopter Photography"
In response to Reply # 0


US
          

Great photos. Thanks for sharing.

  

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