…or why I love my work as an aerial photography pilot.
Regular readers know that one of my jobs is as a helicopter pilot. Sure, my little company offers tours and day trips from Phoenix in the winter and dries cherries in Washington State in the summer, but my favorite kind of flying is for aerial photography.
To me, there’s nothing more rewarding than being a pilot for a talented still or video aerial photographer. These are the people who not only understand basic photographic concepts such as light and composition and exposure, but who also know what a helicopter can do and how they can use it as a tool to get amazing images of the world around us.
In August 2010, I had the privilege of working again with Mike Reyfman, a regular client, over Lake Powell in northern Arizona/southern Utah. He was there for the AirPano Project, capturing images that would become interactive 360° aerial panoramas, as well as still photos around the lake.
He emailed me yesterday to let me know that the Lake Powell Panoramas had finally been put online. There are four of them, including one shot over Reflection Canyon (see screen grab below). Each image is interactive, drag in the image to pan and zoom. You can click on the helicopter icons to switch from one viewpoint to the next. Here’s where you can find them.
Aerial photo work is challenging, especially with a demanding photographer on board who knows exactly what he wants. Mike is one of those photographers. Not only does he know what time of day he wants to shoot, but he provides instructions regarding shooting location, direction, and altitude. For the panoramic shots, I need to get into an out of ground effect hover, sometimes as high as 3,000 feet above the ground, and hold it there for 5 minutes or more. This isn’t easy in my little R44, especially in windy conditions.
I find it especially rewarding work, though. Although I didn’t create the incredible images the photographers on board make, I feel that I was instrumental in making those images possible. After all, my helicopter and I were part of the photographer’s equipment — almost like a tripod. Surely to say that the image would not exist without us isn’t too far from the truth.
And so despite the challenges and the relative dangers, I love flying aerial photographers. And I love seeing the work they create when they fly with me.