Going to take a helicopter ride in late December and I want to be able to photograph my house from "above". Any advice on the best lens length? Any other issues I should be aware of?
Aerial photography, any experience?(9 posts) (7 voices)
The most critical thing will be the weather on the day
I would chose something like 70-200 VR
and keep the shutter speed at or above 1/1000
if you can, take the door off
if you can, take the door off
70-200 vr v1 w/tc14e if FF or w/o tc14e if DX
70-200 vr v2 as is or tc14e if needed.
set vr to active if 1/250th or slower or shut off vr and stay above 1/1000, 1/2000 or 1/4000 is best.
Check your histagram for correct exposer as many factors can cause it to be off a stop or two.
If no door on helicopter, take some duck tape and tape your seat belt buckle so it can't open.
Try and keep any part of the camera out of the prop wash.
For any good images the view must be without any glass in between camera and subject. The VR lens in active mode is very helpful and even above 1/1000 might be helpful. In addition to the 70-200, a 16-35mm f/4 VE would be nice for a panorama. Make certain you have a secure strap firmly attached to either you or the aircraft. Sometimes the aircraft moves in an unexpected direction.
I have done a lot of aerial photography. Including govt work. Today a lot of house shots like yours are being done on video with drone helicopters. Since you are going to be on board and can review your shots (I assume Nikon DSLR) better quickly get the relative lighting right. I always shoot aerial DSLR stills on JPEG fine large so I have to be close in terms of exposure. So I use program and the plus minus settings are very important. Sometimes you can shoot stills on aperture with a fairly wide depth of field. I always take from wide (20-35Nikko)r is on of my favorite FX lens for wide, 12-24mm Nikkor for DX for wide, and the 18-200VR DX lens has served me well there. An 18-105VR might be a good combo with a 70-300VR. In the past I have usually done this work in larger formats. But 35mm DSLR is quite a bit easier to use aloft.
Watch out very carefully for rotor glare and distortion and because of that you may get a lot of cripples. I am used to having the pilots open bay doors and windows to avoid window glare. You will quickly realize that on a given day the approach direction will be critical. Pay attention before you go up what time of day etc. usually high noon gives the least shadows. At this time of year you may have a lot less leaf cover to block certain views but the shadows can be much longer.
As I have run large overview aerial projects these details can be very important as flight time costs for a single purpose flight can be very high. I'd also take a moderate tele since you do not know how high up you will be. I have always thought this eagle's eye view or that other winged warriors was pretty dramatic so usually the images are quite worth while. But that plus minus setting is very critical to your work and you need to be pretty close in terms of not to washed out or too dark. We have done aerials from man lifts which can't usually get as much height but are much steadier.
I have rarely found 35mm lens longer than 300 of much use but that depends greatly on what altitude you are shooting from, so by that I mean fairly low altitude. I prefer not much over 100 above tree tops for the kind of photos I think you are doing. When I was doing this for photo stereo pairs you need a lot more altitude and lens built for aerial photography. I would take some video if you are using a D7000 or D800. Aerial video work with both of those cameras has been featured in the Nikon ads from the introduction of both of those cameras. On drone (little) helicopters which have the way cool GPS system for hovering, etc., a D3200 is about maximum payload and Go Pro HD are more commonly used.
Sounds like quite an adventure and good luck. We have even equipped trained falcons with lightweight video and the results have been lovely. Another very frequently video set up is para-sailing, hang gliding, hot air balloons, and sky diving The drone helicopter and the real sized helicopter will give the most dependable results.
FWIW I have a v1 70-200 vr and using VR above 1/250th can cause problems like a soft area in the image, strange distortions. This may be fixed on the V2 lens, I have no personal info on V2.
Awesome advice folks. Right now I have a 70-300VR which sounds like it will be the ticket. I also have 10-24 and I was wondering how well that would work but it sounds like I'll be able to get some good wide shots with that as well. I'll probably bring two bodies to minimize lens change and to have a backup just in case.
I should also point out this is in the 50th state (Hawaii) so opening the window/door shouldn't be too cold :-) Thanks for the help everyone! I'll be sure to post the results, good or bad.
If you can't take the door off and have to shoot through the perspex, be careful with auto-focus as it can focus on the perspex.
The seat next to the pilot is not usually the best seat for photography.
Use tape on seat belt if the door is off (or slid open).
Many helicopters have small sliding windows in the back compartment. Ask the pilot if you can take your seat belt off in flight and kneel on the floor to shoot through this window.
Beware of the rotors in wide-angle shots - don't use fast shutter speeds.
Talk to the pilot while shooting about what you are doing and what you want to do. If the headset has a switch-operated microphone, it can sometimes be changed to be always on.
I was once in a helicopter trying to get good shots of a volcano from above. Without warning the pilot suddenly flipped the helicopter onto its side thinking it'd help me get a good photo. I was so disorientated by the move that I forgot to press the shutter! I got it second time.
This won't help you any with your trip, but I'll throw it out here.............I live in a really dinky little village in western Indiana; our county has one claim to fame........we have more wooden covered bridges than any other county in any other state; 34 in all; so, we get a LOT of tourists from EVERYWHERE, coming to photograph our old bridges. About a year and a half ago, I was leaving the old mill, (which belongs to a friend of mine), and I notice this fellow with a camera on a tripod at the portal of our local covered bridge; as it was nearly dark, my curiosity got the best of me, so I ambled over, and got to talking with him; very nice fellow, very "knowledgeable", etc. I should add, I had been working all day, so I looked "pretty rough"; (and I'm pretty old also) The fellow explained he had one of Sony's brand new, top of the line, D SLR's; Plus...... as we continued the conversation, we walked over to his motorhome, where low and behold, he has: a Nikon D3s, 2 d 700's, a D 300, a segway, and a LOT of lenses; I never saw this much equipment in a camera shop !
So he tells me he's thinking of "doing a book" on all of our covered bridges, and needs all the info he can get; I mentioned that many had done books such as he was planning, and few had made any "bucks; he seemed completely 'un-fazed", saying, "yes, but MINE will be photographed from the air! Now I know this guy isn't broke, what with all of these toys, so I ask him, "don't tell me you have a helicopter ?" He; "No, I have a blimp" ! (I'm thinking of the Goodyear Blimp)........realizing that I'm beyond curious, he whips out an iPad, says "here's my blimp"; the "blimp" is a great big blimp-shaped helium filled "blimp-balloon". thing is like 14- 15 ft long, 8 or 10ft in dia. The thing is made and sold for doing low-level aerial photography, up to maybe 2 or 3 hundred ft. He mounts the D 3s on the blimp on a remotely controlled "thingie" that can tilt up and down; the blimp has a small electric motor that moves it in azimuth, and the camera has a transmitter that sends a signal to his ground display that shows what ever is on live view;
Now I'm REALLY curious ! He tells me it take one and a half cylinders of helium to completely inflate the blimp; when he has to move it any distance, he has to exhaust a half of a cylinder of helium out, in order to get it into his 16 ft cargo trailer. I told him......you need a bigger trailer ! He agrees, says, "yeah, I'm working on that". Then......he shows me about 200 photos taken from the blimp; If all of this sounds a little "dopey"..........you oughta see those photos ! Absolutely BEAUTIFUL ! National Geographic will be getting a blimp when they see those pictures ! They're simply awesome.
What most people don't think about, most of the stuff that business people need aerials of, lower is better; actually, it's the "different perspective" that aerial photos offer that make people attracted to them; they're seeing a view that they never saw before; it's "different"; kinda like when tourists go up to the top of the Empire State Building, they think the "view" is awesome ! (because they're not used to seeing it); to the office types that work on the top floors, and see out the windows every day, it's just "ho hum", I see it every day". I must admit, I think this guy is on the right track;
He's gonna have to get a bigger trailer though, so he can quit wasting all that helium, every time he needs to move the blimp !
So there you have it; aerial photography with a blimp;
(Incidentally, he even let me ride his Segway around the parking lot !)
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