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Thread: Aerial Photography

  1. #1
    Andrew76's Avatar
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    Aerial Photography

    Hello all - I have an opportunity (this Friday) to go up in a small, single engine, tail dragger.

    I have never tried any sort of aerial photography, and was hoping that there may be some members here who have some experience they could offer me as to techniques, lenses, etc.

    There are no doors on the plane, which is beneficial, but beyond that, I don't have much other info.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

    Thanks!

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    Re: Aerial Photography

    The very few times I've done photography from a small plane or helicopter, I was very glad to have had a polarizing filter.

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    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: Aerial Photography

    I expect your two biggest issues to be reflections off the windows and a lack of clarity shooting through the windows (lots of surface scratching). Any rain in the air and that will screw up your shooting as well. The windows won't necessarily be flat / straight, so you might see some distortion issues in certain places too.

    Then of course is the noise and vibration; two things small aircraft are known for.

    This is not a great shot, but you can see how "clear" the view can be.

    Aerial Photography

    The plane is some of the best 1950's technology money can buy. You can see some of the curved surfaces in this shot,

    Aerial Photography

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    Re: Aerial Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Buckley View Post
    The very few times I've done photography from a small plane or helicopter, I was very glad to have had a polarizing filter.
    Hey Mike - funny that you mention that. That's actually the very first thing that crossed my mind. I've got a CPL for my 70-200, but not one for any wide angle lenses.

    Thanks for the tip! Much appreciated.

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    Andrew76's Avatar
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    Re: Aerial Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumpyDiver View Post
    I expect your two biggest issues to be reflections off the windows and a lack of clarity shooting through the windows (lots of surface scratching). Any rain in the air and that will screw up your shooting as well. The windows won't necessarily be flat / straight, so you might see some distortion issues in certain places too.

    Then of course is the noise and vibration; two things small aircraft are known for.

    This is not a great shot, but you can see how "clear" the view can be.
    Thanks Manfred! There actually won't be any doors on the plane, which I thought might help the situation. The vibration is definitely something to consider.

    The weather is 'supposed' to hold out, but it is summer in Ontario, after all.....

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    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: Aerial Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew76 View Post
    The weather is 'supposed' to hold out, but it is summer in Ontario, after all.....
    That's why there is a "Severe Thunderstorm Warning" on again (after a "clearning in the afternoon" forecast).

    Enjoy the flight!

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    Re: Aerial Photography



    It's been a crazy summer, huh? Oh, well. I'll make the most of it. It may not be my only opportunity if Friday doesn't work out.

    Nice photos, by the way!!

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    Re: Aerial Photography

    I've done a little aerial photography and LOTS of flying. Vibration will be the big factor in a small aircraft. This can come from the engine or wind blast. Don't hold the camera against the aircraft structure to eliminate the first and don't lean out where your camera is affected by the wind. This will probably not be a problem for you. Lighting will be a factor in how the ground looks. Mid-morning through late afternoon will have rather flat lighting. The most dramatic lighting will be early morning and early evening when you have long shadows. Side lighting is effective to give ground objects shape. The same rules apply here as for shooting on the ground. Just consider you are shooting from a very tall and moving tripod.

    The air will be the smoothest at these times as well. My dad loved to take people up for their first airplane ride in the early evening. The air is glassy smooth and the "golden hour" lighting is very dramatic and beautiful. It always created a powerful impression (they loved it).

    The higher you fly, the less will be apparent motion. Here in the US, the minimum altitude is 500 feet above the ground (AGL) in the country and 1,000 feet over towns and cities. Your pilot can brief you on this. This may help you in deciding which lens(es) you wish to take.

    Have fun and enjoy the flight! Send us some pictures.

    Paul S

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    Re: Aerial Photography

    Wrap up nice and warm - take a longer lens - keep your shutterspeeds as high as you can - shoot in bursts - secure your camera to you.

    Oh - and keep your feet off the brakes as the aircraft touches down!!!

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    Re: Aerial Photography

    Piggy backing on some of the above..,

    As it has been noted, keep your camera away from the aircraft also, try not to rest your elbows on your knees because the vibration can be transmitted. But, I have found that vibrations are usually less in fixed wing aircraft than in helicopters.

    Depth of field is of no consequence so use the widest aperture that your lens can produce decent images using. I would want to use a lens that produces very good to excellent IQ wide open. You want to shoot at a fast shutter speed.

    I would boost the ISO a bit to ensure a fast shutter speed.

    You don't have a choice regarding the type of aircraft but, a high wing monoplane is probably the best.

    The difference between shooting with the sun behind you and into the sun is usually quite striking. I far prefer shooting wih the sun behind me.

    Don't stick the camera out into the slipstream because of turbulence. Along that line always have your camera strapped to your body so it doesn't become a missile.

    I usually prefer lens of slightly longer focal lengths so parts of the aircraft such as the wing are not included in the image (unless you want the part included for artistic purposes)

    Make sure you know your camera well, trying to figure out how to adjust the camera can be bothersome in the air.

    Make sure that you have your accessories secured, like CF cards in a buttoned pocket, and that you know where the acessories are.

    I try not o switch lenses if possible in n airplane because of the danger of dropping the lens.

    Unless you have a headset and mike, work out a set of hand signals with the pilot beforehand...

    Finally, unless you have flown before in a small aircraft, Dramamine or some other motion sickness suppressant might be in order. People have gotten airsick viewing through the lens. Along that line, don't drink a lot of alcohol before flying.

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    Re: Aerial Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post

    Along that line always have your camera strapped to your body so it doesn't become a missile.
    http://petapixel.com/2011/09/15/cano...-hole-in-roof/

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    Re: Aerial Photography

    I'm on rpcrowe's bandwagon. The three things I'd emphasize are:

    1. Set your ISO up a bit
    2. Make sure (1 above) is high enough to account for the frequency of vibration and also for movement of the plane in relationship to the landscape
    3. Don't fly in a storm (you can't take enough Dramamine for that situation)

    Have fun.

    virginia

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    Re: Aerial Photography

    JEALOUS!

    (Love the Beaver shots BTW Manfred... a true classic )

    As others have said... bump up the shutter speed to mitigate the effects of vibration, keep the lens out of the turbulent air around the doors... it'll be a lot easier on you, two bodies (one with a WA and one with a tele) as you don't want to be changing lenses in flight.

    Having said "keep the shutter speed up", too fast a shutter speed will freeze the prop... better to go slow to blur the prop movement a bit.

    Above all... have fun!

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    Re: Aerial Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    I was thinking about this link when I mentioned dropping a camera but, I couldn't find it. I think that I also once ran across a similar article on a Canon 5D than was dropped from an aircraft...

    Actually I was also almost dropped from a helicopter once. I was using a Nelson Tyler Helicopter Motion Picture Mount when the guy with me tried to help me adjust the setup. The dummy removed both the safety pins that prevented the seat, camera, mount and me, the cinematographer (who sat on the seat while filming) from dropping out of the chopper. I didn't notice what he had done until we returned to base. Luckily, the pilot had not made any harsh banks to the right...
    https://www.google.com/search?q=nels...iw=960&bih=471

    Prior to using the Nelson Tyler Mount, we often used a Kenyon Gyro Stabilizer. While great for still photography, I did not like it for cinematography because it fought against the cameraman to keep the camera steady and wouldn't allow pans. It also took time to start up and time to slow down after being turned off. However, if I were doing a lot of still aerial work, I would invest in one.
    http://photoshipone.com/camera-gyro/

    We also used one of the first image stabilization devices which fit on the front of a 12-24mm Angenieux zoom lens and worked like the image stabilizer of a Canon IS lens. The version I used was called a Dynalens but, I cannot find any information on it. Maybe I am spelling it incorrectly...

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    Re: Aerial Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post
    I was thinking about this link when I mentioned dropping a camera but, I couldn't find it. I think that I also once ran across a similar article on a Canon 5D than was dropped from an aircraft...
    Meh - the 5D was over-rated in my opinion anyway

    Actually I was also almost dropped from a helicopter once. I was using a Nelson Tyler Helicopter Motion Picture Mount when the guy with me tried to help me adjust the setup. The dummy removed both the safety pins that prevented the seat, camera, mount and me, the cinematographer (who sat on the seat while filming) from dropping out of the chopper. I didn't notice what he had done until we returned to base. Luckily, the pilot had not made any harsh banks to the right...
    Reminds me of an Air Force pilot friend of mine who had his 5 point harness come undone during a -ve G maneuver -- apparently he lost several hundred feet regaining control. It wouldn't have been a good ending if they'd done that with the base photographer on-board - the used to sometimes slide back the perspex hatch in flight and invert the aircraft so that the 'tog could get a clean shot ...

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    Re: Aerial Photography

    My small contribution could be a life saver ... make sure you are secure with the seatbelt. I wonder what a 'dragger' is?
    My experience comes from a Piper Cub with passenger window secured open, Pilot told me afterwards that downdrafts were more than he could cope with up over the mountains. The second situation was in a newly arrived C-130 and I was sitting in the cockpit as 'favoured TV cameraman' [ there was no 'media pack' in those early days ] and the airforce demonstrated how little runway they needed to land, showing off to army folk aboard.

    A second point only of interest to movie types ... my boss asked me how I got so much better and relatively steady shots from the PC compared to what we usually got .... the answer was simple ... I had a Bolex with 64fps capability whereas others using Arriflex were tied to 25fps, or didn't use a faster frame rate if the Arri can do that ... never used one. The 64fps gives one a 1/125 shutter speed but it was the shooting in slow motion rather than the higher shutter speed which did the trick ... I believe modern video cameras can increase the shutter speed without speeding up the frame rate which is not wanted in this situation.
    Last edited by jcuknz; 14th August 2013 at 08:26 AM. Reason: spelling finger probems

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    Re: Aerial Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by jcuknz View Post
    I wonder what a 'dragger' is?
    A tail dragger is an aircraft that doesn't have a nose wheel (eg Piper Cub, DC3) (Dash-8 on a bad day ...)

    My experience comes from a Piper Cub with passenger window secured open, Pilot told me afterwards that downdrafts were more than he could cope with up over the mountains.
    I've had a light twin at full climb power going down at around 500 feet per minute around Mt Egmont -- One of out local air traffic controllers died when he crashed a Piper Senica into the same mountain. Mountain air currents can be horrid things.

    The second situation was in a newly arrived C-130 and I was sitting in the cockpit as 'favoured TV cameraman' [ there was no 'media pack' in those early days ] and the airforce demonstrated how little runway they needed to land, showing off to army folk aboard.
    The pilots used to have competitions to see who could stop in the shortest amount of runway during my Air Force days - most pilots stopped in a similar distance, except for one pilot who landed much shorter -- he was an American exchange pilot, and "over there" they do it by engaging reverse thrust whilst (just) still in the air -- I heard they had a little chat with him to say that "we don't do that to ours here!". I also remember standing behind one of the pilots once as they decided to climb from 1500 feet to around 5000 - power levers forward - yoke back - and I almost buckled at the knees as 18,000HP of Allison T56 turboprop engines "did their thing".

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    Re: Aerial Photography

    Um, I wonder why it's only Canon gear that falls out of the sky? Must be photog frustration

  19. #19
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    Re: Aerial Photography

    That's awesome! Thanks everyone, quite a few suggestions I had never thought of. I will definitely post some results when I get back. Maybe on the weekend.

    The pilot is actually also quite an accomplished photographer, and so I'm sure we'll be hitting up some nice locations.

    Thanks again everyone, now I'm getting excited!!

  20. #20
    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: Aerial Photography

    What areas are you planning to fly over Andrew?

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