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Old October 1st, 2003, 07:57 PM   #1
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Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: Bemidji, MN 56601
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Videoing From an Airplane

My assignment is to video creeks between certain lakes here in Minnesota. Also certain fishing hot spots.
I have never shot from an airplane, so it will be a new experience. I'm sure there are many of you have done this feat.

The aircraft is a Piper Super Cub, high wing with floats; It has a split window configuration that many old timers who fly or have flown that aircraft will know the design..

The plan is to open the top split window so that I will have a clear view of my target area. I'm aware of the air pressure that occurs with the window open.
My questions are: What altitude shall I tell the pilot to fly during the fly overs. I'm using a Canon XL1s camera and wonder shooting from the air; what would be the best settings??? Auto, Manual, TV or AV. In Autofocus or manual???
Any input will be appreciated.
Tom Turney Video Productions
Bemidji, MN
Tom Turney
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Old October 1st, 2003, 09:58 PM   #2
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I have never shot from a plane, but am a pilot and know the Super Cub. The altitude will be determined by how much of the creek/lake you want to get. Go meet the pilot and let him know what you need. Depending on whether it is a populated area or a non-populated area, the lowest altitude will vary. He can "get away with" 500 feet to 1,000 feet above the non-populated areas. But, if you get into populated areas it will have to be a bit higher.

As for settings, I would put it on "Frame" mode and shoot autofocus because when you get over lakes (especially) you experience thermals which will cause turbulence which will be hard to shoot in. The altitude will also be determined by the size of the lake. Big lakes = big altitude. Super Cub pilots are usually cool guys and will help you out, so just tell him if you are not getting the shot and need to go higher or lower. He/She will let you know the minimum/maximums.

Also, I don't know how big the floats are, but it may make it difficult to simply open up the window and put the lens out. The pilot may have to circle the area at a 30 to 45 degree bank so the floats are not in the shot. This can get hard on the stomach, especailly with an eye in the camera! Hope this helps and the shoot goes well.

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Old October 1st, 2003, 10:51 PM   #3
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Location: Vancouver Island and the rest of Western Canada
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When I shoot arial photography and video I set the focus on manual and the focus distance to infinity. If you can not remove the door/window itís handy to have a Circle Polarizer to prevent glare from the windows. Also if you are shooting out of a window if you shoot with a small aperture so you can selective focus past the glass. This will decrees the amount of artifacts visible on the window.

Best of Luck
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Old October 2nd, 2003, 04:50 AM   #4
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This time last year I had the chance to shoot over the Broken Group of Islands off West Vancouver Island. I was in a four-seater float plane with the passenger door off. I have jumped out of small planes numerous times and still I had to summon all of my concentration to defeat the tearing wind and the single lap belt that kept me dry when the pilot corkscrewed around to stay with whales in the water below. We flew at nine am on the only cloudless day of the trip. The slanting sunlight was great for contrast and colour but the motion, wing struts and glare required that I shoot a lot of footage and fly over the same areas more than once to wind up with enough chunks of good footage for editing. Great experience, and one I've relived many times. Having opportunities like this is one of the reasons I love video so much!

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Old October 9th, 2003, 04:31 PM   #5
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I've been an arial photog for 20 years, and have been doing aerial video for a couple. Don't try to shoot through any window- get both the top and bottom doors open on the Cub- air pressure is nothing, just keep the camera out of the slipstream. You'll need to be in the front seat of course. Your biggest problem will be getting smooth clips- do your work as early in the am a possible, and perhaps try to use the 3x wide-angle lens at a lower altitude than the "normal" lens, though it's stabilization feature works very well.
Don't touch any part of the plane while shooting, and try to absorb the bumps through your arms and shoulders. I get good, smooth stuff, but if it's windy out- forget it. DO NOT use autofocus, unless you want the camera to hunt for focus whebnever you change camera angles- set it to infinity and leave it. Use auto exposure, IF your subject changes exposure, othewise, lock that down too.
I think you'll find getting smooth fottage to be the greatest challenge, without an expensive gyro camera mount. Hope this helps, Mike
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Old October 9th, 2003, 06:31 PM   #6
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I've done a bit of aerial video. Apart from earlier mentioned tips, I found looking thru the viewfinder and getting a good shot resulting in awkward body postures for uncomfortable lengths of time. If you can hook up a small monitor and watch that with the camera sticking out of the plane that may work. I found I had to hold on real tight to the cam when sticking it out of the window. Make sure it doesn't get wrenched out of your grip if holding only with one hand... Same goes for glasses and any other loose stuff. Might be dangerous too if things start flying around. But it's really exiting!!!
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Old November 12th, 2003, 08:11 AM   #7
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Bemidji Video

Hey Tom,
good to hear someone from my old stomping grounds. Yep- I went to college at Bemidji State and graduated 1987. I live in Atlanta now (nicer weather!) and shoot for a large corporation.

Not much else to ad about shooting from a plane however. I'm a pilot myself, and have shot from above a number of times. The colder air should give you a smoother ride.

If you are ever in my neck of the woods give me a call. I'll be up that way when its warmer.

Jeff Patnaude
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