Top 10 Tips for Aerial Photography

[photoshelter-gallery g_id='G0000pJto755ffqs' g_name='Aerial-Photos-of-Alaska' width='600' f_fullscreen='t' bgtrans='t' pho_credit='iptc' twoup='f' f_bbar='t' f_bbarbig='f' fsvis='f' f_show_caption='t' crop='f' f_enable_embed_btn='t' f_htmllinks='t' f_l='t' f_send_to_friend_btn='f' f_show_slidenum='t' f_topbar='f' f_show_watermark='t' img_title='casc' linkdest='c' trans='xfade' target='_self' tbs='5000' f_link='t' f_smooth='f' f_mtrx='t' f_ap='t' f_up='f' height='400' btype='old' bcolor='#CCCCCC' ] Perhaps one of the most incredible ways to see (and photograph) Alaska, is from the air.

Aerial photography brings a whole new set of challenges to landscape photography. Ditch the tripod, say goodbye to long exposures and polarizer filters (for the most part...), and get ready to shoot landscapes at f8 or faster.

Working as an Alaskan photography guide and shooting projects around this incredible state, I've spent more than (what most people jealously would call) my 'fair share' of time doing aerial photography. Over the years, I've accumulated a short list that I think might be helpful for photographers 'forced' to participate in aerial photography (in Alaska or anywhere else, for that matter).

  1. If you're shooting with the doors or windows on, be sure to remove any polarizing filters, they will create a horrendous sheen (and I don't mean the 'Tiger Blood/Winning!" kind...) when looking through the plexi. If you are shooting with the 'doors off' (the helicopter-based shoots I do always have the doors off), I use a polarizer at times with good effect.
  2. Use a fast shutter speed. I typically use Av (Aperture Priority Mode) on my Canon cameras, and set the aperture nearly wide open - perhaps f4-f8, depending on the brightness of the scene. This guarantees I'll be letting more light in (than at f/16 or other small apertures), so I get the fast shutter speed I need). This helps with the motion of the landscape as you fly and the vibration inherent in all aircraft.
  3. Use I.S. or V.R. lenses if available.
  4. Don't brace your lens or body against the inside of the aircraft, if at all possible. This will directly translate more vibration to you and your camera.
  5. Wear dark clothing (preferably black) - no, I'm not 'goth' - the windows of the aircraft that you are shooting through will reflect back whatever you are wearing into the lens, so avoid bright/light colors.
  6. If shooting from a helicopter, remember to be careful when shooting with a wide angle lens, the rotor blades can sneak into photographs, even if you can't see them while flying.
  7. Use high ISO's (640+) to help get higher shutter speeds. Don't be afraid of noise. Be afraid of blurry shots. There are no 'blur reduction' filters or PS plugins...
  8. Remember to take a break from the viewfinder. Two reasons; you need to take a look around and get some mental images for your memory banks & looking through the viewfinder for long periods of time can induce motion sickness, even to those with the stoutest of stomachs.
  9. Plan ahead. Now what the heck do I mean by that? Well, imagine you have to shoot landscapes from a car, and every section of the route is entirely new to you - you can't slow down, stop, and rarely can you turn around for another pass. Now, imagine you're doing the same thing, but in the air and traveling 3 times as fast. So, even though you don't know exactly what is around the corner, always keep scanning the route ahead. If you are just noticing things when they come along side you, you're too late & too slow.
  10. Use a fast wide angle zoom. I like the flexibility that my Canon 24-105 offers. It's not so wide that I'm constantly worrying about getting a wing tip or strut in the shot, and it's got a little reach to get those really cool abstracts that have (likely) never been photographed before. Remember, this isn't Yosemite & you can't put your tripod feet in Ansel's marks.


Into the air, Junior Camera Man...

Sorry. Couldn't resist...

Stay tuned!