Saturday, 17 May 2014

Aerial Photography: What Type of Aircraft Works Best?

Aerial Photography: What Type of Aircraft Works Best?

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Aerial Photography: What Type of Aircraft Works Best?

Posted: 16 May 2014 05:19 PM PDT

Aerial photography is as challenging as it gets for the professional photographer. Many decisions need to be made to get spectacular results—everything from type of aircraft to subject matter and time of day. Teamwork is also required, as the photographer and pilot have to communicate well in order for the photographer to get the desired images. This article covers aerial photography platforms with a small amount of photography technical information. Part 2 will cover the technical and artistic side of aerial work.

aerial photography aircraft

“too high” captured by David Hobcote (Click Image to See More From David Hobcote)

While aerial photography has been accomplished with everything from hot air balloons to space shuttles, most of us are a little limited in the resources we have available. I have used helicopters, fixed wing aircraft and ultralights for my work, and I’ll cover these in a little more detail in my personal order of preference.


Aerial photography from helicopters is likely the easiest platform to work from under most circumstances. When used specifically for photography, most pilots will allow the removal of a door, leaving a large workable shooting area. This can be very advantageous, as you can literally pan the camera to keep the subject within the frame while still traveling in a straight forward direction. Helicopters also have very impressive turning characteristics so you will find that there is far less lost time as you circle back to shoot from a different altitude or angle.

There are a few downsides to shooting from helicopters, however. First is the big expense—easily $500 per hour or so for a Robinson R22 to $1,500 or more for a large jet. It’s very impressive how much you can shoot in a few hours, but the credit card can take a big hit after you land. Do you need a jet helicopter for most uses? I have used both the smaller Robinsons and large jet helicopters and have had very good results with both. Some will argue that the bigger helicopters are a little safer, but I’ll leave that up to the experts.

Jet helicopters are significantly faster, so if you are traveling large distances they can have an advantage. Secondly, vibrations can be an issue depending on a number of factors. My experience has been that a good pilot can often hit a “sweet spot” where the helicopter settles into a somewhat smooth forward motion. This generally is not while you hover; forward movement plays a part.

helicopter aerial photography

“look mum no hands” captured by David Hobcote (Click Image to See More From David Hobcote)

Helicopter photography, from a technical standpoint, can be both a challenge and an exhilarating experience. If you can’t remove the doors, wear dark clothing and make sure to have a lens shade installed. Most of the windows are Plexiglas and tend to have scratches, so you will probably want to shoot fairly wide open to limit the depth of field. Window tint might also be a problem, although this can generally be cleaned up in Photoshop or some other editor. I recommend shooting RAW for this reason. Whatever you do, do not place any part of your body or camera against the sides of the helicopter, as the vibration will transfer over to the camera and cause unsharp images.

Life is easier without doors, but be aware of the turbulence if you lean out a little too far. The buffeting can be quite strong. All gear and other equipment needs to be securely fastened to your body or a harness, you don’t want to think about what might happen if you drop a lens or camera out the door! I go as far as taping the lens hood to the lens as a safety precaution, as I’m sure the tail rotors would make quick work of a lost lens shade, possibly with bad consequences. If at all possible, use a few different cameras so you can keep changing lenses and memory cards down to a minimum.

I try to keep my shutter speeds around 1/1000 or faster if at all possible but have had reasonable success around 1/500. If this means increasing the ISO as the light fades, I do this in preference to having somewhat blurred images. This should allow for an aperture of about f/5.6 in most circumstances, although as the light fades, you might be looking at f/2.8 or so—a good reason to have fast lenses.

photos from above

“Costa Rica Aerial” captured by irisbb (Click Image to See More From irisbb)


I first did aerial photography from an ultralight in Costa Rica a few years back. I must admit I really didn’t know what to expect; all my previous aerial photography had been done from helicopters up to that point. I expected a large amount of vibration and bad wind buffeting but was in for a shock. Ultralights are actually an amazing aerial photography platform under the right conditions, which is when you tend to fly them anyway.

They do get tossed around a little bit, but generally the vibrations are not as bad as helicopters. While they aren’t as maneuverable as helicopters, they are better than fixed wing aircraft. Possibly the only downsides are that they are somewhat slow and you have to feel comfortable in them, as they are very bare bones and seat of the pants!

Fixed Wing Aircraft

Likely the bulk of aerial photography is done with fixed wing aircraft. While not as maneuverable as helicopters they are still very competent shooting platforms under the right conditions. Try to get an airplane with a high wing, like the Cessna 172 Skyhawk, to get the best view. The low winged aircraft really limit the view below! Even with high wings, the wing strut will probably be in the way, it’s just not generally located in a good position for photography.


“on the plane” captured by Jason Cao (Click Image to See More From Jason Cao)

I’m sure some people fly with the doors off, but in general you will be flying either shooting through a small opening window or through the glass. Either way, positioning of the aircraft is very critical to line up the image, so a good pilot—preferably with experience working with photographers—is a must. What’s the biggest advantage of a fixed wing platform? Cost! Likely 1/4 or less of what the helicopter will cost.

Getting Organized

Flying in circles looking for photographs could be very exciting and entertaining until you land and find out how much money you spent without really accomplishing anything. Do your research beforehand and get a good idea about what you want to photograph and how you will accomplish it. What side of the aircraft will you be shooting from? What altitude or different altitudes are required? When will the light be the best? Often you will find that one flight will not produce all of the required images due to some of these decisions and a second or third flight might be required.

Once you have done your homework, it’s time to find your aircraft. Your budget is likely the biggest decision here, as well as the type of aircraft available. Hire a good pilot, preferably one that has experience working with photographers! Pilots do vary and some are better at others when it comes to understanding the requirements of aerial photography. Go over a flight plan and stick with it. The most important part of the shoot is that the pilot calls the shots and has the final say in what will be done. They know the regulations, safety issues and the bottom line; they are responsible for you, the aircraft, and the people on the ground!

night aerial photo

“Tampa,Brasov, Romania” captured by amarg.alecram (Click Image to See More From amarg.alecram)

Happy shooting!

About the Author
Kevin Oke is a professional nature and travel photographer with over 30 years experience. When not travelling he writes on his blogs, Nature Travel Photography and Kevin Oke Photography. Kevin is available to answer questions about photography on his Photography forum.

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Article from: PictureCorrect Photography Tips

Building Trust: Advice for Photographing Couples (Video)

Posted: 16 May 2014 03:16 PM PDT

There’s a reason that so many professional wedding photographers offer complimentary engagement sessions along with their wedding packages. It’s a simple reason, but it’s powerful, and it’s the key to capturing stunning wedding photos: trust.

Here, wedding photographer Ryan Brenizer provides basic advice about how to conduct a successful engagement session and explains the importance of using engagement shoots to establish trust with wedding clients, with the ultimate goal of helping the couple to feel comfortable in front of the camera on their special day:

Widely known as the creator and namesake of the “Brenizer Method,” Ryan Brenizer believes that engagement shoots are perfect opportunities to forge friendships with clients before their weddings. He believes that building that foundation of trust and communication is essential to producing the best images possible during the couple’s wedding.

After all, better communication probably means greater efficiency and accuracy, which will result in a wider variety of great photos that you can provide to your client. The more your clients trust you, the more creative license they will give you and the more “real” they will be in front of your camera.

“Comfort is everything in wedding photography,” said Brenizer. “The people we’re dealing with generally aren’t models and most of them, like most people, are really uncomfortable in front of the camera. So, anything we can do to make them more comfortable, to help them let their guard down… makes for better photos. And then when it comes to the wedding day itself, I know exactly what works for them.”

trust benizer ryan b&h method couple engagement

For Brenizer, couple photography is all about storytelling.

How to Conduct a Successful Couples Photo Shoot

1. Select a location that means something to the couple. 

Your photographs might be awesome, but they’ll mean even more to the couple if they’re captured in a location that has emotional significance to them.

“I want places that maybe have some resonance to you, have some emotional importance,” Brenizer tells couples. “Maybe you guys have some history there. Maybe it’s a place that you would like to hang out on a normal nice day anyway.”

2. Encourage the couple to decide on the type of “mood” that they want in their photos.

Some couples know exactly what they want, but many aren’t sure, so helping uncertain couples to identify the type of relationship that they have (e.g. playful, romantic, etc.) is a good place to start. Then, be the expert and coordinate the shoot to achieve that desired effect. The moods of the following two photos are starkly different, which is a product of the time of day, location, body language, and other related factors in the images:

romantic wedding photography photographer street lamp

Romantic and sensual photos are better captured at night.

happy laughing park spinning lift

Happy and playful images are better taken during the day.

3. Make sure all of the elements in each image tell the right story. 

Everything should complement the couple as if pointing to their love. If something distracts from them, then the composition is wrong.

“No two couples are the same and what I want to do as a storyteller is to show exactly how these two people relate to each other,” said Brenizer. “We don’t want the background in the scene taking away from the way that they’re relating to each other, or the kind of intimacy that they’re bringing. We want everything to come together into one seamless photo.”

4. Provide a lot of variety very quickly.

Couples need that standard, varied selection of engagement photos to submit to magazines or use on their invitations and save the dates, but Brenizer also spends a good deal of shoot time creating “new” images with creative framing and lighting, striving for the goal of making one hour engagement sessions look like four to five hour engagement sessions. Switch lenses, perspectives, and poses very often to ensure that you make the most out of your couple’s time.

“The more we can create and make it look like we’ve been all over the city for hours, [the better],” said Brenizer. “We [want to] have wide shots and close shots, shots that are based on being flattering… action, emotion, fun. We want to get all of that.”

5. Use flattering light.

For natural light shooters, that means sunset or sunrise, and if you’re living in a highly-populated city, it probably means sunrise unless the couple wants to fight the crowds to get their photos.

story sunrise sunset lighting

All elements in this image point to the couple’s passion and daring.

Ryan Brenizer is a New-York based wedding photographer. He has been named by American Photo Magazine and Rangefinder as one of the top 10 best wedding photographers in the world. During his career, Brenizer has photographed three U.S. presidents, the Pope, Muhammad Ali, and many other famous icons, but weddings, of which he has shot 325, are his favorite gigs.

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Article from: PictureCorrect Photography Tips

Interesting Photo of the Day: Mount Saint Helens Volcano Under a Blanket of Stars

Posted: 16 May 2014 03:03 PM PDT

On May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens, one of 160 active volcanoes in the United States’ Pacific Ring of Fire, blew its top—right after triggering a massive 5.1-level earthquake that caused the largest known debris avalanche in history. The eruption was catastrophic, killing 57 people, severely damaging or destroying over 15 miles of railway, 185 miles of highway, and over 200 homes in Washington state, and blanketing the entire Pacific Northwest in ash.

Now, more than thirty years after the disaster, the volcano still vents and shifts crankily, foreshadowing future tantrums to come. By contrast, however, the valleys and foothills around the mountain have regained much of their former majesty and tranquility. Landscape photographer Miles Morgan captures the beauty of it all beneath a blanket of stars in his image, “Heaven Can Wait”:

mount saint helens

“Heaven Can Wait” by Miles Morgan. (Via 500px. Click to see full size.)

Morgan created the photograph with his Canon EOS 5D Mark II at 16mm, 1/30, f/2.8, and ISO 1600. From his home base in Portland, Oregon, Morgan works as an airline pilot and travels to make landscape photos during his free time. Despite having only been shooting landscapes since 2009, he has already created a truly beautiful portfolio, one that is well worth exploring.

“The greatest gift that photography has given me is the return to nature that I was definitely missing in my life,” Morgan writes on his website. “I have seen enough stunning scenes during my brief stint as a landscape photographer to last a lifetime.”

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Around the World in 360 Degrees: 3-Year Adventurous Selfie Project Filmed via GoPole (Video)

Posted: 16 May 2014 12:57 PM PDT

“36 Countries. 600 Days. 5 Motorcycles. 125,946 Miles Driven,” reads the introductory briefing for photographer and filmmaker Alex Chacón‘s latest video adventure project. Having decided to create an “ultimate selfie compilation,” Chacón motorbiked to some of the world’s most iconic locales and filmed selfie videos of himself using a GoPro.

What made Chacón’s project unique when compared to other adventure selfie projects? Why, his selfies span 360 degrees with the help of a GoPole extension rod, of course! Watch the video here:

Originally a medical student from El Paso, Texas, Alex Chacón is a pioneer in the motorcycle adventuring sphere. He has undertaken a number of lengthy motorcycle expeditions around the world to raise money for charities, and he began his first long journey by selling everything that he had—his house, his car, everything—to fulfill his dream of “traveling the world [in] the most adventurous way possible”: by motorbike.

alex chacon 360 degrees around the world motorbike motorcycle adventure

Chacón graduated from the University of Texas with a medical degree.

During his 600-day adventure, Chacón fell in love with a number of the places and people that he encountered, but he told Daily Mail that three of his favorite destinations so far are Alaska, Bolivia, and Brazil. He received great inspiration from Alaska, particularly, when he was able to finally witness and capture the Northern Lights—on his birthday.

“It inspired me and fulfilled me with positive energy to continue traveling,” he said. “[The whole trip] completely altered my being… It was a very nice spiritual journey.”

You can watch the full-length Modern Motorcycle Diaries video that started it all here:

“It was the most liberating experience any human could ever have.” –Alex Chacón via CBS This Morning

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Colbert Mocks Amazon’s Outrageous Studio Photography Patent (Video)

Posted: 16 May 2014 10:53 AM PDT

The United States Patent Office (USPTO) gave the thumbs-up to some doozies of inventions over the past 224 years. Sure, I can get behind the creations that made our everyday lives easier, like the wheel or the light bulb, but trying to patent a stick as an “animal toy” or stamp rights on “the method of swinging on a swing?” Get real.

Amazon recently earned the award for ridiculous patents when it gained legal ownership for “Studio Arrangement,” or, photography against a white background. Before you panic, wondering if Amazon is going to try to sue you for infringing on their patent on your next product photography shoot, check out Stephen Colbert’s mockery of the patent and his take on the entire patent system:

What does this mean for photographers? Are we no longer allowed to take photos of people and objects using a white background? Fortunately, it doesn’t look like it will hamper the studio photography business.

Amazon’s patent is so detailed, it would require a photographer to use an identical setup in order to even consider a lawsuit.

“A background comprising a white cyclorama; a front light source positioned in a longitudinal axis intersecting the background…an image capture position located between the background and the front light source in the longitudinal axis…an elevated platform positioned between the image capture position and the background in the longitudinal axis, the front light source being directed toward a subject on the elevated platform…”  -from Patent No.: 8,676,045 B1, “Studio Arrangement”

From this description, it sounds like a basic studio setup with lights illuminating the background and the subject, with a camera placed in front of the subject, right?


The patent goes on to detail the precise camera and light settings, making it easy to alter these enough to avoid any type of patent infringement.

“…the image capture position comprising at least one image capture device equipped with an eighty-five millimeter lens, the [sic] at least one image capture device further configured with an ISO setting of about three hundred twenty and an f-stop value of about 5.6…the plurality of rear light sources and the front light source further comprise a plurality of tungsten light sources configured to emit light having a color temperature of approximately 3200K…”

The question remains, “why would Amazon bother to file such a ridiculous and specific patent on something so commonly used?” While Amazon representatives have not yet released a comment to this effect, Colbert summed it up best:

“Now I know, I know, that sounds like bull***. But, it’s actually male bovine fecal matter extruded on a longitudinal axis.”

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Article from: PictureCorrect Photography Tips

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