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Photography from Helicopters

Timeshare Von

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I know several of you have photographed from helicopters. Steve and GEO immediately come to mind, from their Hawaii trips. Here's my question to those of you who have had good results with your DSLR equipment from helicopter tours:

I have an Olympus e500 and just recently acquired a 70-300mm, F4.0-5.6 lens specifically for my upcoming trip to Churchill, Canada. Mostly, I expect to use this lens from a stationary tundra vehicle to photograph the polar bears and other wildlife.

The lens has a bit of a rap because it's a bit slow in autofocusing. I'm wondering if I'll be better from the sky using my 40-150mm, f3.5-4.5 giving up a bit of the zoom for a slightly faster lens.

I am a member of the FourThirds (Olympus) forum and many of the folks there are extremely helpful. I hesitate to post there first, as many of them are professional photogs and I feel their experience makes it difficult to make their recommendations a bit skewed for someone like me who is more a hobbiest point n shoot photographer.

Any suggestions and help would be greatly appreciated!
 
S

Steamboat Bill

Keep your lens close to the glasss of ride in a helicopter without doors to avoid reflections.

I would use a faster lens if possible
 

geoand

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Yvonne,

Not sure if your reference of GEO is about me. But what the hey? All of our aerial shots have been in two locations in Alaska. First 2 set of shots were in Wrangell St Elias National Park and the third set from Talkeetna to Denali.

All the shots were from fixed wing craft and the cameras used were Nikon D70 and D200 with Nikor wide angle lens. We found much too difficult to use the telephoto lens due to length of lens. Fortunately, we were able to get some outstanding shots. In fact, DW put together a fotomagico slide show of the aerial shots in the 2 areas and we watched it last night (she spent a few hours selecting shots and music yesterday) after she got it done. What a great way to end the evening and go to sleep!:)
 

Timeshare Von

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Thanks Bill and Geo :)

I thought "GEO" was the guy who was from AZ who went to Hawaii this past summer and did the helipcopter but maybe I'm confusing you great photographers because I know the GEO from Washington State is the one with the wonderful Alaska photos :)

Given that we'll be doing this helicopter tour in the winter, I don't think it will be "windows/doors" open.
 

geoand

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Thanks Bill and Geo :)

I thought "GEO" was the guy who was from AZ who went to Hawaii this past summer and did the helipcopter but maybe I'm confusing you great photographers because I know the GEO from Washington State is the one with the wonderful Alaska photos :)

Given that we'll be doing this helicopter tour in the winter, I don't think it will be "windows/doors" open.
Ok, here are the facts: That GEO from AZ has got to be a great guy!

Forgot to mention about using the cameras in the airplanes. Oddly enough, we did not have to worry about reflections from the glass as we shot out of the windows. Biggest problem (one was in front seat and one was in back seat with smaller window) was that we had to be prepared to take the photo otherwise it was behind and gone.
 

Keitht

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Vibration can be a major issue when photographing from helicopters. If your choice is between a shorter zoom and high shutter speed or a longer lens with low shutter speed I'd certainly advise using the shorter zoom.

This was taken from helicopter over the Grand Canyon. Apologies for the dirt etc. It's an old transparency that I scanned in and haven't got round to cleaning up.

 
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T_R_Oglodyte

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Thanks Bill and Geo :)

I thought "GEO" was the guy who was from AZ who went to Hawaii this past summer and did the helipcopter but maybe I'm confusing you great photographers because I know the GEO from Washington State is the one with the wonderful Alaska photos :)

Given that we'll be doing this helicopter tour in the winter, I don't think it will be "windows/doors" open.
You're thinking of Gary, user name "gstepic".

I don't use DSLR, so I can't give you direct help there. I will say that you want something that has fast focus. You need fast shutter speeds. Small aperture (high f-stop) will also be good to maximize depth of field in case your focus length is a bit off. If it's bright sunlight and you're not using a large zoom, you should be OK. (My P&S has 12x zoom, and I didn't have problems shooting at 100 ISO.) If it's cloudy or you're using a large zoom you may want to increase your ISO.
 

Timeshare Von

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Thanks Steve - on both the advice and clearing up my goof on Gary/Geo :)

Keith nice photo of the Grand Canyon and thank you too.
 
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