Many of you have seen a group of aerial pictures I made last spring of Martha's Vineyard (MV May 2012). This past Friday I made another flight as I wanted to see if I could extend the series. I also wanted to work with late fall colors.
Here are some of yesterday's photographs. The full set are now up on the site (Martha's Vineyard Fall 2012)
(Remember: if you click on an image it will open up a full size slideshow)
I haven't written anything yet about aerial photography. It is its own specialized category of making pictures and I feel like I am late to the party as I've just been shooting this way for a few years. It is surprisingly easy to do logisitally. Go to an airport, find the private aviation area, ask if there is anyone that can take you up for an hour or so, and make sure you are flying in a high-wing plane like a Cessna 172. Helicopters are great but far more expensive. Cessna's are good as they are light, maneuverable, slow and have windows with hinges on the top so that air pressure will hold the window open once you're in the air. It isn't good to photograph through the glass. I usually am charged about $250 for an hour's flight. Of course there are many levels of photographing from the air. If you begin to get serious about aerials a gyro stabilizer is next up the chain in the pursuit of higher quality. These are expensive but increase the ratio of successful pictures to failures considerably. I regard a shutter speed of 1/1000 of a second as a minimum and am always trying to get more depth of field (DOF). You'd think that DOF wouldn't be so important but if you photograph at an oblique angle with a long lens like I do you do need DOF. I used a Nikon D3x for a few years and am now using the Nikon D800E. The primary lens I use is the f2.8 70-200mm VR Nikon lens.
Yesterday's flight was in flatter light than usual for me and was something of an experiment. Having no shadows and less quantity of light is challenging but the pictures are the reward. Don't eliminate flat light as a way to shoot aerials but just make sure the ceiling is above the altitude you will fly at. Most of the aerial work I do is between 700 or 800 feet on up to about 1500 feet.
Finally, work with the pilot. Besides being tethered to the gyro stabilizer I am also wired into the pilot with headphones and a microphone as it is important to tell him what I am up to and where to go. Very often I will ask him to fly a circle around something or to tilt the wing down so that I can shoot straight down. I've been flying now on the east coast with George Reithof for several years. He is an excellent pilot and is a photographer as well so he gets what I am trying to do. George lives on Nantucket but is willing to fly over to New Bedford or Hyannis to pick me up. He can be reached at: 508-325-8655 or through his site at: Over Nantucket Website. I recommend him without reservation.
When flying in a Cessna you should try to avoid this:That's the wing support strut which I've made many more pictures of than I wanted to.
Got a comment or a question about this post or any others? Until we get a comment section set up on the site you can always email me at: Neal Rantoul's email.