It was my first time in a doorless helicopter, let alone a helicopter. The nerves were kicking pretty hard when we were gearing up for the ride. My fear of heights is "medium-light" so I thought if anything doing this photo flight would be a way to face a modest fear head-on. I found out later it was totally worth it.
Learning From Others
Mike Kelley, a wonderful architectural photographer has been doing some amazing things in Los Angeles with aerial photography. He wrote this guide on shooting aerials for photographers just getting into this type of work. After reading it half a dozen times I decided it was time to stop analyzing and go for it. Here are some of my own experiences that I can add for anyone looking to do this:
- With the helicopter door off, the wind force is similar to sticking your hand out of a window on the highway. I wouldn't recommend sticking your camera out of the door your first time.
- The temperature outside was in the low 40's and I got hot even with the door off! The helicopter had heat that made the ride comfortable. I got hot because of my jacket and hat.
- I had a slight case of motion sickness throughout the flight. This stemmed from the nerves and the newness of the experience. Go for a second flight and any nerves and motion sickness should go away 90%, it did for my second time.
- Look down! Even with your plan in place on what you want to capture, I found that looking down enabled me to catch interesting scenes and details that I would have otherwise missed.
Kansas City Offers Unique Benefits for Aerial Photography
Blissful mountain ranges, deep blue ocean water, white sand beaches, mega skyscrapers, herds of majestic wild horses... KC has none of that. But let's not forget for every down there is an up! Despite the lack of unique natural landscapes, KC has a major advantage for shooting from a helicopter: Freedom.
What do I mean by freedom? Because of the lack of air traffic, ease of access to helicopter rentals, and density of KC's main features, capturing KC's scenes from a helicopter is surprisingly efficient. What amazed me when getting up in the air is how fast we moved across the city. My first flight I wanted to do three circles around downtown to capture what I could. After the third pass I asked my pilot "time" and he said "we've only been up eight minutes". Dumbfounded, I told my pilot to fly to other areas in the city and we arrived to each destination in a matter of minutes. What would have taken a few hours in the car we covered in the helicopter in about 25 minutes. The service I used takes off from KC's downtown airport which means you are just minutes away from everything.
I'm excited to announce that aerial photography (from a helicopter) is now a service I offer in the area. Capturing a project from the air offers an exciting perspective and context to what is happening on the ground.