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Aerials – Photography From The Sky


Sometimes it is through complete chance that I get to do unusual things in my life, and the fact that one of my father’s many hats is that of ‘Federal aviation safety trainer’ has allowed me early opportunities in my career to do aerial photography.  Though I’ve grown up having the occasional helicopter ride thanks to his connections, my first time doing aerial photography was during the summer of 2007, when I photographed Kipahulu valley for Haleakala National Park. (Note that these shots were taken with a Canon Rebel XT with my eventually-stolen 17-40mm f.4L lens)

I even got to capture a near-perfect circular rainbow!

Having seen my dad don his flight suit for various helicopter operations for the National Park, I was quite proud to put one on myself and join him in the sky. Plus, it was just cool!

One of the best parts of the experience was getting to fly with no doors!  Being 10,000+ feet in the sky and looking over the edge is an amazing thrill. (And my dad is posing in the pilot’s seat in the following photo – he’s not a pilot himself.)

(I don’t care how geeky those helmets look, it’s totally awesome!)

Fast-forward three years to 2010, and I’ve finally taken my first helicopter tour of Oahu, my home-away-from-home for the last six years.  I was joined by my father, naturally, as well as my great-aunt, for the tour provided by Blue Hawaiian Helicopters.

It was fascinating to see Oahu from the air!  Unfortunately, because this was a tour helicopter, there were doors present, and thus my photos were of an infuriatingly degraded quality than they would have been otherwise.  The aircraft was also moving very fast, so if I missed a shot, the opportunity was gone within a few seconds.  The tour was a good refresher in being aware of keeping my shutter speed fast enough to compensate for the movement of the helicopter. I was using my 5DMKII with a 24-105mm f.4L lens for its focal range and Image Stabilizer. Here’s a sampling of some of the practice shots I took today:

Finally, here’s a shot of Kaʻaʻawa Valley, though there is some glare from the helicopter’s plexiglass. This is the valley, a part of Kualoa Ranch, where several productions, including George of the Jungle, Jurassic Park, and parts of LOST have been shot!

Hopefully the next time I’m flying, I can do it doors-free for optimal image quality!  If any of you ever have a chance, take a helicopter tour and practice some aerial photography! I highly recommend bringing a polarizer and swift reflexes for balancing ISO with aperture (for as much depth-of-field as possible) and shutter-speed (for compensating for hand-holding in a moving helicopter).

Finally, check out my 365 Photo Blog for one more shot from today!

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