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Thread: Taking Landscape photos from a helicopter?

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    Member Pinarelloman's Avatar
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    Taking Landscape photos from a helicopter?

    Hi, I will be doing a helicopter flight around the Bungle Bungles in June and have a couple of questions.
    We are booked for an 0700 flight time, light may be tricky.
    I will be using the 5D3 and I have either the 16-35 or 24-70 both Canon 2.8s.

    Any idea on what sort of shutter speed I will need?
    My thoughts are along the lines of full manual. Aperture F8/ Shutter about 1/500th (or faster) leave ISO on Auto, shoot raw and take lots of photos.

    Happy for people with more experience to tell me how to set up.

    Thanks

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    Ausphotography Addict Lplates's Avatar
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    I've never done it but received a newsletter from Peter Eastway about exactly this subject which may help. http://www.betterphotography.com/ind...tmpl=component
    Glenda


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    Great stuff, thanks. Interesting that he uses Tv instead of M. Food for thought.

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    Going Cold Blooded outstar79's Avatar
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    A good mate of mine wrote this comprehensive guide for those starting out in aerial shooting, it's mainly tackling shooting from a plane but most of the same principles apply
    https://iso.500px.com/your-first-aer...ke-it-awesome/

    Good luck and have fun! It's something I've been meaning to do myself!



    Adam Brice

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    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    P'man.
    Depending on the amount of light available for the day - but I am assuming fairly bright sunlight - set your
    camera to Tv (ie, Shutter priority). You don't need small apertures for any DOF. I don't see the need for
    Auto ISO either. Pick about 1/400sec, and most importantly, DO NOT lean the camera on any part of the
    aircraft while pressing the shutter. Hold it in your hands, as this will dampen/eliminate any airframe vibrations.

    I have never been in a helicopter, but have had heaps of flights in light planes.
    Am.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Confession: I'd be using Manual, because I have mostly encountered fairly consistent lighting condition, and
    I can easily vary the f-stop as required. But since you asked... Main thing is to keep the shutter speed up(pish),
    but be aware that no shutter speed will stop airframe vibration.
    CC, Image editing OK.

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    Ausphotography Regular Hamster's Avatar
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    Way higher shutter speed, especially from a helicopter which vibrates more than a plane. 1/2000 min and go higher if light allows. A couple of stops from wide open and just have your bum in contact with the helicopter, nothing else. Shooting through glass is not ideal but I assume you'll have no choice.
    Summary, key thing is high shutter speed, with aperture wide but not so wide you're getting softer images, tweak iso if needed to keep shutter speed high. You can go pretty high with the 5DIII.
    If you tape the focus of the lens to infinity don't use the infinity mark. Actually focus on something in the distance and tape the lens at that point. It'll probably be a small distance before the mark.
    I use the 5DIII and 24-70. The 16-35 is a bit too wide. I also use the auto focus rather than tape at infinity because it works well.
    My Flickr Site
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    Gear - Canon 5D mkIII, 16-35 f2.8L, 24-70 f2.8L, 70-200 f4L IS, nifty 50, 75-300 f4-5.6. Canon G1X MkII, Panasonic Lumix DMC LX3, iPhone.

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    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hamster View Post
    ...Way higher shutter speed, especially from a helicopter which vibrates more than a plane. 1/2000 min and go higher if light allows...
    Alex. This implies that you are trying to "freeze" the helicopter vibrations that are somehow going to be transmitted to your camera.
    My contention is that you can't, but that you can avoid them by the way you hold your camera.

    I have read the article Adam (Outstar) cited and although it also says to use a high shutter speed, it does not say why - apart from the quaint
    runway test he does.

    So, a few "whys" would be good.
    Am.

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    I have spoken to the heli company and the doors will be OFF, unless I am too scared!
    So this way, we are not shooting through plexiglass.

    Sorry for the untrained, but -Tape the focus ring, what is that?

    Thanks for all the comments.
    Last edited by Pinarelloman; 24-03-2016 at 3:58pm.

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    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    It means fix the focus ring in place - presumably "at infinity" - using sticky tape.

    Hmm! I've hung lenses out of open light aircraft windows a few times and have not
    found the focus to move. I would say instead to keep INSIDE the slipstream - as I
    almost always did anyway. I think 1nce or 2-ice I pointed the lens backwards out the
    window a little to get a shot, but it's not something you DO as a rule.

    Inside the aircraft your AF should serve you quite well (or manual as in the ole days).

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    Ausphotography Regular Hamster's Avatar
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    Taking Landscape photos from a helicopter?

    Door open is the only way to go. Only thing is it sometimes limits the amount of banking the pilot will do. Banking gives you a clearer, vertically downward view.
    Taping is exactly that, using a piece of tape to hold the focus ring where you set it at infinity. Personally I am still worried that I may move it and stuff up my shots so I use auto focus which is excellent on the 5DIII.
    Last edited by Hamster; 24-03-2016 at 10:48pm.

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    Ausphotography Regular Hamster's Avatar
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    Taking Landscape photos from a helicopter?

    Quote Originally Posted by ameerat42 View Post
    Alex. This implies that you are trying to "freeze" the helicopter vibrations that are somehow going to be transmitted to your camera.
    My contention is that you can't, but that you can avoid them by the way you hold your camera.

    I have read the article Adam (Outstar) cited and although it also says to use a high shutter speed, it does not say why - apart from the quaint
    runway test he does.

    So, a few "whys" would be good.
    Am.
    A few "whys" ...... How's this?
    http://youtu.be/dJkisXzTwNw

    Seriously though, I figure that there are a variety of vibration frequencies and amplitudes and, these get damped by passing through your body. Hence only touching the aircraft by the bum on the seat (and presumably a sumptuous bum is an advantage here:-)). What gets to the camera is then "frozen out" by the high shutter speed. However, I'm honestly not sure, and this irks me as an engineer who likes to know how stuff works. You could be right.
    I do have some empirical experience though, since I found that letting shutter speed drop to 1/1500 led to a loss of sharpness and that hit rate improved with increased shutter speed. Maybe I'm sticking the camera too near the airflow and the higher shutter speed is stopping that movement, but I don't think so as its a real "wall of air" that you hit if you poke the lens out too far. Maybe my bum isn't sumptuous enough, although I doubt that.
    I've not done the calcs but gut feel is that relative ground speed alone should be frozen at 1/1500. I guess I need to work out what the equivalent of 200km/h at 2000ft is when the speed is 100 km/hr. Is it 1000 ft? I could then stand that far away from a freeway and take pictures of free flowing traffic to see where shutter speed freezes the action fully.
    TBH, I've not done photography from a chopper, I prefer planes as they tend not to plummet when things go wrong (auto gyrate my a**e..... it's plummeting). Plus they're much pricier/hr due to the increased maintenance. So the increased vibrations comment is second hand and I've not seen the effect for myself. Seems reasonable to me though given the big whirly things and need to defy the laws of physics.
    Last edited by Hamster; 24-03-2016 at 10:52pm.

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    Exposure aside, you stop down for two reasons. Neither of them apply in your case.

    (1) Greater depth of field. This isn't an issue for what you are planning. Your entire subject is at infinity, you could shoot at f/1.2 and still have all of it in focus.

    (2) Avoiding the poor part of your lens. With your lenses, this isn't really an issue either. They are high quality lenses and very nearly as good at f/2.8 as they are in the middle of the range - probably better by the time you allow for diffraction.

    Just the same, it never hurts to stop down just a little bit. With those lenses, I'd use f/4 and wouldn't go beyond f/5.6 in a blue fit. If you aren't getting the shutter speed you want, don't be afraid to use f/2.8.

    I have found that normal focal lengths are the most useful for aerial work. (Disclaimer, only from fixed wing aircraft, never tried it from a helicopter.) My most-used combo has been 35mm on APS-H, which translates to about 45mm on full frame. If you can only take one lens, the 24-70 for sure. You might find the 70mm a little bit short now and then, but the 24mm should be plenty wide enough. I suspect that you'll mostly use the 40-60mm range. If I was in your shoes and I had a 24-105 I mightn't bother with a second lens. With the 24-70 I'd like to have something a little bit longer. A proper tele zoom (e.g., 70-200; 100-400) would be (a) useful, and (b) a bit of a clumsy, bulky pain that you probably won't have time to use. (I use two bodies - much easier that way.) But if you have (say) a 90mm macro or something like that in your bag, you might be glad you took it along.

    I wouldn't use auto ISO. Why risk it getting it wrong? Just set the camera to ISO 200 (anyone who thinks they can tell an ISO 100 shot from one at 200 without looking at the EXIF is dreamin' - the quality is so close to the same it doesn't matter) and rely on your fast lenses to keep the shutter speed up. Go to ISO 400 if you need to, but you probably won't.

    I see no need for insanely high shutter speeds, by the way, not at those very short focal lengths. Anything over a 500th should be plenty. (I use much higher speeds than that all the time .... but 500mm isn't a 24-105!) That said, if you can get 1/2000th at ISO 200 and f/4, why wouldn't you? Intentional blur aside, you can't ever have too much shutter speed.

    Enjoy!
    Tony

    Edit and critique at will. Tokina 10-17 fish, Canon 10-22, 24-105, 100-400, TS-E 24, 35/1.4, 60 macro, 100L macro, 500/4, Wimberley, MT-24EX, 580EX-II, 1D IV, 7D, 5D II, 50D.

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    A couple of things I will try before the flight.
    Stand near a freeway and try to freeze the moving cars without panning. Thanks Hamster.
    Also running up the road taking pics of the ground and see which shutter speed freezes the motion.

    You have all been extremely helpful.
    Thankyou.

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    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    Alex.
    Whyse whords, indeed

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    Ausphotography Regular Hamster's Avatar
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    Tannin is right about the aperture. The 24-70 is excellent wide open, and you'll often be cropping (depends on the type of shot you're going for).
    Re shutter speed, my advice is just don't drop below 1/2000. You can experiment all you like, and believe me, I love a nice bit of research, but having the likes of Peter Eastway, Scott McCook, Christian Fletcher and Tony Hewitt tell me 1/2000 is the way to go is enough for me. But now I'm interested so you know what, I'll have a play today. I'm due to go up in a Cessna 210 today and/or on Monday, depending on weather, so I'll run through some varying shutter speeds and look at the effect.
    Re auto ISO, you can limit the max ISO used in this setting so enter what you're comfortable with and you're good to go. Play with ISO now, but the 5D is v low noise and you should be happy with 800, if not beyond. Really no need to worry too much about this though as there'll probably be plenty of light. Here, down south today it's a bit dull :-(

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