photo shoot and aerials?

Joined
Jun 8, 2008
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Corpus Christi TX
Hello all, I have a photo shoot lined up end of May for the Shallowsport Owners Tournament in Port Isabel TX. Part of that will include shooting from a helicopter to capture the early morning shotgun start for approximately 160 boats. I have never shot aerials in fixed wing or rotary aircraft. My longest lens is a 200/f2 so I may be somewhat limited for telephoto work. Does anyone have any tips for getting good images shooting from a helicopter which is inherently very rough as far as vibration. I am concerned about being able to get good clean focus in these conditions. I will be using my gitzo tripod with markins ballhead or the RRS monopod whichever proves to work out better for available space. I sure don't want to end up with a bunch of images that are poor quality due to out of focus or other problems I don't know about yet. It would be really great to get some good shots from this event, especially the aerial part of the shoot. Any tips appreciated.
 
Joined
Jan 25, 2009
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There is a pretty good article in the Learning section on Photo.Net (http://photo.net/learn/aerial/primer). In general, open the window or door to avoid shooting through the plexi window, use a normal to short tele (the 200mm lens is pretty long for aerials), and keep the shutter speeds as high as possible. Since you’re shooting over water, plan on a polarizer and try to keep the aircraft in the area where the polarizer works best.

I must be reading this wrong—“I will be using my gitzo tripod with markins ballhead or the RRS monopod whichever proves to work out better for available space.”, as surely you will NOT be using this in the aircraft. When shooting aerials, avoid touching any part of the aircraft, to minimize vibration.
 
Joined
Aug 27, 2008
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Townsville Straya
I have done some chopper work and i asume you might not be able to open the window, so what i did was get a piece of black cardboard approx 20" square and cut a neat hole to fit over the end of the lens this will stop any reflection shooting through the plexiglass windows and don't rest the lens against the window for 2 reasons 1) vibration and 2) the pilot won't be happy when you leave scratches on his windows
 
Joined
Jun 8, 2008
Messages
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Location
Corpus Christi TX
There is a pretty good article in the Learning section on Photo.Net (http://photo.net/learn/aerial/primer). In general, open the window or door to avoid shooting through the plexi window, use a normal to short tele (the 200mm lens is pretty long for aerials), and keep the shutter speeds as high as possible. Since you’re shooting over water, plan on a polarizer and try to keep the aircraft in the area where the polarizer works best.

I must be reading this wrong—“I will be using my gitzo tripod with markins ballhead or the RRS monopod whichever proves to work out better for available space.”, as surely you will NOT be using this in the aircraft. When shooting aerials, avoid touching any part of the aircraft, to minimize vibration.
Extremely good point. I don't know why I didn't think about just handholding. Makes perfect sense. Also using a wider telephoto. Great advice thanks.
 
Joined
Nov 4, 2005
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Down Yonder Florida
Never use a tripod in the airplane/helicopter for this type of work. Never. Almost all my aerials are now with a 150mm/f2.8 Sigma (along with a 135mm/f2.8 and 300mm/f4, my basic exposure at 200iso around 30-degree sun-angle is 1250th@f5.6 - give or take 1/2~1 stop depending on the subject. I also find Active-D almost a necessity, but it depends a lot on the subject.

Depending on the helicopter, vibration won't be as much a problem as just plain old motion. Plan to pan against the aircraft direction and with your subject...and also depending on the helicopter, you may or may not be able to just take the doors off to make life easier.


FWIW here are some samples - this is with a Nikkor 300/f4+TC14II at 1500ft with a D70:
Click to enlarge...
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...and also with a Nikkor 300/f4 at 1000ft with a D300 (could be better but it was an off-the-cuff snapshot more than anything):
Click to enlarge...
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Joined
Jun 8, 2008
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Location
Corpus Christi TX
Nice shots. I have been told they are taking the doors off the helicopter so that will make it somewhat better for photography. There will also be a videographer working too. I was going to try for a good mix of wide-angle and telephoto; not knowing exactly what altitude the ship will be flying at hopefully my 200mm will be long enough. It is past time that I started getting some longer glass. Thanx for the tips.
 
Joined
Mar 20, 2011
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Location
Australia
There will also be a videographer working too. I was going to try for a good mix of wide-angle and telephoto; not knowing exactly what altitude the ship will be flying at hopefully my 200mm will be long enough. It is past time that I started getting some longer glass. Thanx for the tips.
you'll have more time to work than you might think. you'll also be able to direct the chopper, (within reason) to get the best angles and fill teh frame. a 200 should be fine. take a teleconverter if you have one.

forget the tripod idea. it'll be too cramped in the chopper and you'll get HIDEOUS vibrations through the camera.

one more thing: tie EVERYTHING down if the door is coming off. i once had to explain why an F4 + 300 wound up at the bottom of Sydney harbour while covering the start of a yacht race.
 

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