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Medium Format Ariel photography?

Zerimar

New member
Hello! I just got an opportunity for a 90 minute helicopter flight around LA with the doors off, for photographic purposes.

I am thinking that my 5d with 24-70 f2.8 L II would be sufficient for this (maybe another body with a 70-200 too) but am also contemplating bringing my H2, P45+, and 50-110 lens to shoot some ariels with.

Would this setup even be worth bringing? My fear is the setup being too slow for some scenes that I would only have limited time to capture and possibly getting some motion blur as the light fades (going during golden hour)

I would like to make the most of this opportunity and am wondering if it's worth bringing the medium format rig for the increased resolution over the 5d.

Any past ariel photography experience would be kindly appreciated.
 

Shashin

Well-known member
The nice thing about aerial photography is things are far away so stopping down for DoF as you would in landscapes is not as important. One member at GetDPI (sergio lovisolo?) shoots aerials with a Pentax 645D. So it is possible to use MFD. Keeping the shutter speed high is critical. Some will use camera mounted gyros to stabilize the camera. they present their own problems, but I am sure you can find these for rent in LA and might be worth a chat with the rental company.

With any aircraft, if you don't want to shoot the aircraft itself, wides are not much use. You might find the 70-200 much more useful.
 
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dougpeterson

Workshop Member
The below advice is from working with aerial clients. As full disclosure I have zero hours of aerial experience hands on.

---

First you need to define success. I'm not being trite - there are several perfectly reasonable answers here.

If you're looking for an aerial system which will get you a very high hit rate (out of every 10 potential compositions you are likely to get a decent (in focus, sharp, usable color) image of 9 or 10 of then), then a Canon is a better option.

If you're looking to come home with X really great shots from the flight, which you can print big or sell for any use-case, with stellar color and detail, and it is acceptable if you miss several (maybe even "many" given it's your first time in this scenario) potential compositions as long as you're really happy with the ones you nail, then consider bringing your phase one 45+, or bringing both canon and phase.

Sensor+ on the newer backs would have been nice to have, but not an option for your 45+.

Also if you bring both systems consider bringing a prime on your hassy instead of the slower zoom. A Canon with a 70-200 IS and a phase with an 80 or 50 is one combo that comes to mind.

I wouldn't worry *too* much about golden hour, even with a 45+, especially with a fastish wide angle and with a gryo. But without sensor+ I think you'll find anything after sunset to be impossible from the air with your 45+.
 

jsf

Active member
You can shoot wide open, depth of field is meaningless at the distance that you will be from the ground. I usually shot at f/2.8 to get a high enough shutter speed. But in truth, if your pilot will do a gentle arc around your picture, the relative ground speed is so slow, that vibration from the helicopter is all you are fighting. The 5d is a 12 MP which if you use a normal, heavily my suggestion, it is quite adequate. How big do you want these to go? Is one question, the other is, handling equipment in any kind of small aircraft and actually shooting is a learned skill. I would suggest,use the camera you are most familiar with. LA should have some nice sunset light, but usually shooting at right angles to the sun gets you the best look. but it really depends on what you are going for. It will be very cold even at 1000 feet, bundle up. Good luck. Joe
 

gerald.d

Well-known member
If you were going during daylight, I'd say go for it -



ISO 100, 1/1000th, f/5.6
IQ180, FPS, 32HR

I've just had a 2.8m x 2.1m print of that delivered. It looks lovely.

In golden hour though? That'll be tough with a P45+ I reckon.

Kind regards,

Gerald.
 

johnnygoesdigital

New member
I do my own aerials as I'm also a pilot too, and in our Super Cub with no door or window the slipstream can be extreme even at 90 mph. Forget using a gyro unless your shooting video. Space can be limited and the easiest camera is best. I shot my H4D/40 with an 80mm while flying the aircraft, and while it was a tight fit, I found the 80mm too wide. Shooting from a heli is fun! I shot a music video with an Arriflex, low and slow over Los Angeles. Pilots love to share the experience, so just ask him to hover if you find a cool perspective. Boost your ISO, or bring ND filters and keep your shutter speed fast at f2.8 you should be good. Shooting at 200mm can offer amazing compressed perspectives, remember to press the camera against your forehead while pushing your forehead against the camera with arms tight and close. One more thing to think about is don't stare too long through the viewfinder at any given time and don't eat heavy, greasy food prior to departure, that mostly applies to aerobatics, but keep in mind nonetheless. If you shoot without looking through the viewfinder remember to shut your eyepiece to protect against stray light. Consider ND/UV haze filters, as LA sits in a perfect location for inversion layers and smog. Sunset/sunrise flights certainly create the most dramatic shadows. Enjoy!
 
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Zerimar

New member
Update:

I currently have these as my 'go to' setup:

5d Mark II with 24-70 f2.8L II (I am aiming to get a shot of dodger stadium with DTLA behind it, as well as doing some wide shots of the DTLA area in general.

1d Mark IV (or I can borrow a 1ds3 from the same friend) with a 70-200 f2.8L IS v1
(leaning towards the IV as the higher ISO capability may be really useful)

I am thinking about taking the hasselblad with me. I would be able to bring a 100 f2.2 which does let in a lot of light, and maybe push iso 400 on my back.

The other lenses I have are: 50-110, 80 f2.8, 120 f4 macro (not even going to bother with this) and the 150 f3.2

The planned route is to go by the Hollywood Sign, Hollywood Area, Downtown, Culver City, Santa Monica, Malibu, LAX then landing.

This is going to be my first experience in a helicopter, and I do not have UV filters for my lenses as I find they didn't ever really do much other than protect the lens and degrade the image quality. Luckily it has been extremely clear the last few days in LA.

P.S. Gerald, that is an amazing image.
 

Ed Hurst

Well-known member
Hi Rick,

The following images were shot on a 5Dii with 24-70 (mark 1) from a helicopter - I have certainly found the keeper rate to be much higher when shooting from a chopper around sunset with the 5Dii (and the D800E) than my 645D - once you get beyond the light levels that can be shot at f2.8 1/250 (or so) @ ISO 400, the MFD option tends to become inferior. However, as long as light levels are high enough, I'd say go for the MFD option (while expecting a somewhat lower keeper rate).

[/url] _MG_0044Step11SSSMALL by Ed Hurst, Spiffing Pics, on Flickr[/IMG]

[/url] _MG_0112_small by Ed Hurst, Spiffing Pics, on Flickr[/IMG]

P.S. If you can use an image stabilised lens, I feel that it does help a little...
 

johnnygoesdigital

New member
If you do shoot MFD try a few with MU. This will reduce slap, and get you a better success rate. If you do shoot wide, try to include a few of the helicopter too, good production value!
 

Ken_R

New member
I have been hired to shoot from a Heli about 4-5 times. I would suggest you only take the 5DII and the 1Ds3 or 1D4. If you want extra resolution rent a D800E and lens. Medium Format works great if you are looking to make a few specific shots only and in good light. In variable conditions and with a large possibility of views and subjects I would avoid it. You won't have time to waste, time in a Heli is precious.

One crucial thing, Do Not Underestimate the vibration of the chopper. It will ruin images very easily. The use of as high a shutter speed as you can cannot be over emphasized.
 

padams

New member
Shooting ariel from a helicopter is all about shutter speed. With the doors off you are basically strapped to the seat which is in turn strapped to the frame of the copter. That means you are taking on all of the vibration with no way to dampen it by sitting forward like you can when the doors are on.

I typically shoot the Phase One DF with an 80mm lens wide open (f/2.8). I've gotten some sharp shots at 1/800th of a second but don't really feel comfortable below that.

If light is low I can crank up the ISO on the IQ 140 back to ISO 400 before quality gets bad. If you are shooting at dusk I would definately opt for a CMOS sensor that can perform better above ISO 400.

Hope that helps.
 

Bill Caulfeild-Browne

Well-known member
I've shot MF from fixed wing aircraft. On my IQ180 I used ISO200 and shutter priority set at 1/2000 or 1/4000 with the Mamiya 150 mm f2.8 and the results were great - but the light was mid-afternoon sunshine.

Years ago I shot from a helicopter over Cape Town with my Rollei 6008. Big mistake - I only had a waist level viewfinder which is impossible to use in such cramped quarters! I ended up pointing the camera by guesswork and needless to say, got very few keepers!

Good luck!
 

gerald.d

Well-known member
Shooting ariel from a helicopter is all about shutter speed. With the doors off you are basically strapped to the seat which is in turn strapped to the frame of the copter. That means you are taking on all of the vibration with no way to dampen it by sitting forward like you can when the doors are on.

I typically shoot the Phase One DF with an 80mm lens wide open (f/2.8). I've gotten some sharp shots at 1/800th of a second but don't really feel comfortable below that.

If light is low I can crank up the ISO on the IQ 140 back to ISO 400 before quality gets bad. If you are shooting at dusk I would definately opt for a CMOS sensor that can perform better above ISO 400.

Hope that helps.
Sit on the floor of the helicopter with your legs out of the open door :)
 

Scott Tansey

New member
Hello All,

I was able to have a bucket list adventure, when I flew on an Airship Ventures Zeppelin (since has gone out of business) ride from Long Beach to Moffet Field in San Jose. I took well over 3,000 images with my Leica S2. It was amazing. Most of my images were taken with the 180mm lens. I had a high percentage of keepers. I tried to make sure that I shot the images at 1/2000 of a second. I also shot the images with the lens wide open. You can see more images at scotttanseyphoto.com to see more images

Scott
 
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Camdavidson

New member
I have shot aerials since 1979 - mostly 35mm and medium format film - until 2003. Since 2003 - all digital. I've shot around the world with both MF digital and DSLR's. A Gyro is an must-have tool for aerials with MF. Folks who use IS or VR are, in my opinion, kidding themselves about sharpness. A gyro is essential.

I shoot with my Alpa TC or my Hassy H series mated to a Leaf Credo back. I always use - either my Kenyon Labs KS 4x4 gyro or a KS-8 gyro.

Don't worry about depth of field, go for the highest shutter speed possible, stay out of a Robinson R-22 and remember, altitude is your friend.

http://www.camerondavidson.com/-/galleries/recent-aerial/-/medias/first
 

johnnygoesdigital

New member
Ditto on the Kenyon gyro, if you go that route. GPI Pro in North Hollywood rent's these gyro's. You should perhaps take a 35mm dslr that shoots video too. Ninety min. for aerials is a generous window for creativity.
 
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