What focal length for chopper shooting?
I may take a chopper flight up the north of Australia, Weipa to the tip of Cape York,
Not sure whether to go wide or tele?
#1. "RE: What focal length for chopper shooting?" | In response to Reply # 0HT Registered since 20th Apr 2008Fri 17-Jul-09 07:13 AM | edited Fri 17-Jul-09 07:16 AM by HT
I used to shoot from rotary wing aircraft when I was in the services, to be honest I never had great success due to the charateristics of a rotary wing: they vibrate, a lot! And they move much quicker than people think. They also have truely crappy plexiglass windows you need to shoot through. I did have some success in military rotary wing aircraft but then we flew with doors off and thus no windows to ruin the image. Still, that was before I had some fast glass and VR!
Your profile suggests you like landscape and have a 14-24mm f2.8, thats the lens I would choose from the gear you have, but I would also pack the 135mm f2.8. Just be aware rotary wing aircraft move faster than most people think and manual focusing can be a challange. If "shooting downwards" at moving subjects (like Brumbies), then shutter speed is more important than depth of field for obvious reasons. If your ride is at a higher altitude (say more than 3000ft), then I would put the camera away and enjoy the ride, I have never got anything worthwhile above a few thousand feet except shoots of other aircraft flying in company. The shots of targets on the ground that I did like were taken at a few hundred feet through an open door. Landscapes shot at altitude tend to be really flat and uninteresting, but skyscapes might work if conditions are right and your high enough.
Have a look at some tourist shoots of places like Ayers Rock or Chambers Piller: note how the shots tend to be ground based and those shoots taken from the air tend to be tightly cropped and from a low angle? There is a reason for that...
Enjoy the ride, I loved flying in rotary winged winged aircraft, especially when flying "tactically" I am humming the 1812 overture as tap away on the keyboard
#2. "RE: What focal length for chopper shooting?" | In response to Reply # 0Floridian Nikonian since 11th Feb 2007Fri 17-Jul-09 05:06 PM
>Not sure whether to go wide or tele?
Tele. of the lenses you list in your profile, I'd take the 180. You might get some interesting shots with a wide angle, but it would just show the expanse of earth below, and no detail. I've never shot from a chopper, but have gotten good results with my 18-200VR at the long end on a D300, shooting from an airplane at 500-1000 feet altitude. Your D700 will give an even wider field of view. Even at low altitude you'll still be pretty far away from your subjects below.
#3. "RE: What focal length for chopper shooting?" | In response to Reply # 0ajdooley Nikonian since 25th May 2006Fri 17-Jul-09 11:10 PM
Gary - I shoot fairly frequently from a helicopter for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in St. Louis.
- Will this be a "tourist flight" with someone else determining what you see and from how close or will you have an input to the pilot during flight?
- Are you going to have to shoot through plexiglass or will you have an open window or door?
If this is your flight and you are calling the shots, talk to the pilot before you depart and make sure he or she understands you are very interested in photos. Unless the lighting is a factor, a rule of thumb is NOT to be backlit. Example: if your most important subject faces east, don't get there in the afternoon when ther sun is behind it. Then in flight, give instructions in relative terms: "come left 45 degrees, cut the distance in half, etc. Directions like "a little right or a little closer are meaningless to the pilot. It's also fine to say, let's fly all the way around the target and then go on to the next target.
If you can, get an open window. If you aren't scared of the idea and can, get the door slid open or removed. Shooting though plexiglass is a bummer. But if you MUST, as for the glass to be cleaned before the flight and DON'T rest your lens or lens shade on the plexiglass. That transmits the vibration directly to the camera and guarantees failure.
Lenses: I do a lot with a medium range telephoto. I have aNikon 24-120 that I use extensively. I read criticisms of its sharpness. Either I have a very good example or the criticisms are by people who have simply read and retold other criticisms. If you have a crystal clear day you can sometimes use a longer telephoto, but my experience is that haze, or what is called aerial perspective, negates the value. A good wide angle -- I have a Sigma 15-30 is usful as well, but watch to keep rotor blades out of the frame, except for effect and telling that you are in a helo. Finally, lens choice can eb driven by what you are shooting. Small targets may require longer lenses. Scenic shots require wider angles.
There are two basic kinds of shots.
A low oblique is shot looking more vertically or down. Low = NO sky.
A high oblique includes the sky and clouds, etc. High = sky.
Again, if you must shoot through plexiglass, DO NOT touch the window or the airframe. Instead, hold the camera, perhaps bracing on your body. Keep the shutter speed up -- I never shoot under 1/500 and 1/1000 or faster is good. Use the ISO capability of your D700 to keep the shutter speed up. Also to prevent the camera from trying to focus on dirt on the glass or something close, use manual focus.
Enjoy! A good aerial photo shoot is magic.
Waterloo, IL, USA
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#4. "RE: What focal length for chopper shooting?" | In response to Reply # 0glxman Nikonian since 04th Oct 2008Sat 18-Jul-09 02:43 AM
Thanks all your help guys,
Will take the 180 and 14-24,
Not sure about options as I will not be the only one flying,
At least it should not shake as much as my flights in choppers in the 60's, plus I guess there won't be a 50cal out the side!