aerials of toronto

I thought I would start this blog with something I don't do too often, hang out of a helicopter and shoot pictures of nuclear stations. As a commercial photographer I get to see and do some pretty interesting things, including dressing up in a rubber suit and shooting a nuclear reactor face, Freaky! This week I got to spend almost 4 hours in a Bell Long Ranger helicopter. Sweet!

We took off at about 5 pm and were soon heading out over downtown Toronto, I am always amazed at how the world looks from an aircraft, definitely an exercise in perspective.

Shooting from a helicopter is much more demanding than shooting from fixed wing aircraft. The biggest challenge a photographer faces, is contending with the excessive vibration during helicopter flight. One way of combating this is to mount your camera on a gyroscopic mount to absorb and counter the aircraft motion. However unless you're Arnold Schwartzenegger this can be a difficult and tiring process if you are going to be shooting for a long period of time as I was. Gyroscopes are heavy and the gyroscopic forces often feel like you are wrestling a wild boar in your hands. For optimum results with large format cameras however ie: 2 1/4 format, this is the way to go. Wild boar or not.

I was shooting with my trusty Canon EOS Mk II and III. These bodies are relatively light and provide high shutter speeds, one of the two important criteria for getting sharp pictures from a helicopter without a gyro. Shooting at least 1/800th of a second is critical, the other is to try and shoot with IS ( Image Stabilized ) lenses. This will greatly improve your success rate, in addition stay away from long lenses as much as possible.

Position your body comfortably in the seat, avoid leaning up against the aircraft body or window as vibration will be transmitted through your body into the camera. Finally the most important item of equipment, for some photographers anyway, Gravol. Yep, not fun getting the queezies after an hour in the air. If you get motion sick, pop these puppies before you go up.

I was using my 70 -200 IS lens at 70mm and my 24-70 lens, I did get quite a few good shots on the 24- 70 but the 70 -200 IS was awesome, producing most of my sharp pictures. After almost getting arrested by air One, during a refueling landing, due to corporate miscommunications because someone didn't tell someone that we did have permission to fly over a nuclear station, Gee don't understand why they are so picky over that, we returned to Toronto at sunset and I grabbed some awesome city scapes.

I was concerned that I would not be able to keep the shots of the Rogers Centre/ Skydome sharp in the dwindling evening light but with the ISO turned up to 800 the Mk III and 70-200 IS delivered.


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