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Old May 7th, 2010, 03:48 PM   #1
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Got some tips for aerial photography?

I'm doing my first aerial shoot tomorrow. It's all very last-second and I don't have many details. I'm not sure of the time of day or type of airplane (small and private, but I don't know if it's high or low-wing, where struts are, etc.) -- but it is going to be a plane, and not a chopper.

I'll be shooting stills with a 7D, but my partner will be shooting video with a 7D. We're scrambling for tips and advice. We'll have a Canon 100-400mm and a 70-200 IS. Hopefully we'll be flying relatively low, although I don't think we're allowed below 1,000 ft. We're shooting several sites where there are a collection of vehicles - tractor trailers, vans, cars. We also have a couple of HVXs, but since space may be an issue, I'm not sure this is the best option for video.

Hit me with your best advice. Go basic, go complicated -- I'll take it all. Thanks!

Last edited by David Lavender; May 7th, 2010 at 03:49 PM. Reason: adding necessary detail
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Old May 7th, 2010, 04:05 PM   #2
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Stills should be a piece of cake. Just keep your shutter speeds high and use the IS. Also, burst shooting might give you a better chance of getting what you need. Video is another story.

Your biggest problem will be turbulence. Handheld is almost impossible. My buddy and I have both shot quite a bit from inside a B-17. (lots of space to move around!) He used a 5D on a shoulder mount with decent luck. I used a monopod on both my T2i and HMC150 with decent results.
The best results, though, were from using a large suction cup mount and tripod head. Essentially, the head will damp your movements out and the camera being virtually hard mounted will move with the plane.
Depending on the plane, this may not work. We had multiple tables and large windows (including the nose) to mount to.
Another thing that would help is to get something soft to press the lens hood up against a window. Like a piece of foam or thick cloth so the lens hood won't bounce on the window.
The whole idea is to have the camera move with the plane and not you.

Hope this helps! Good luck and have fun!
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Old May 7th, 2010, 04:24 PM   #3
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I've shot hand held out of small planes and usually have been able to get smoother footage than out of a helicopter. But the plane has to be moving with the wind, not cross-wind or against it. A pilot who's experienced in flying for photographers can go upwind and sort of drift downwind for you. For video your lenses are too long for handheld. I'd use the longer one for stills, and shoot at least 1/250 or 1/500 (for stills, not video--obviously for video you're at either 1/50 or 1/60). If the video shooter keeps the IS lens at 70mm he might get some useable footage. I'm assuming you have a Zacuto or Hoodman, etc., viewer so he can press the camera up against his eye to help stabilize it.

Sometimes you can attach a bungee cord to something overhead and add a bit of stability. I've only tried that once and it helped a little bit. Also, I've always shot out of planes with doors they could remove or prop open. You can lean out a little, but don't go too far because the turbulence will hit the camera and ruin your shot. It's easy to find the good spot. If it's not an over the top wing, you might have trouble, but the pilot can usually bank for you and go in a nice slow curve.

My biggest concern is your long lenses. I've always shot fairly wide for stability. If you have a shoulder mount rig, that might help some. If you bomb out for video, get good stills, then edit them in with a little angular movement and some plane noise and people might think it's live video.

It's probably too late and you may not be close to a good rental house, but a Kenyon stabilizer is pretty nice for aerial video when you can't have a regular Tyler mount or equivalent setup. It's rare to find them in rental but there are some houses that have them, I've heard.
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Old May 11th, 2010, 12:19 PM   #4
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I just read this thread, obviously any advice I might have is pointless now. Just curious how did it go?
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Old May 11th, 2010, 01:48 PM   #5
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For any future shooters. I had great luck on a calm day out of a super cub airplane going hand held with a cavision rig, but then recently shot out of a helicopter, and the vibration got the jelly cam going. The footage is pretty bad of an important event; covering the aftermath of a volcano eruption.

I would suggest something that dampens the vibration between you and your hand. Not sure if you can create a hand held rig with some shock or bungy between how you hold it.
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Old May 12th, 2010, 10:54 AM   #6
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I wanted to see how well the 7D could handle aerial videography.

We removed the right rear door, I set up a tripod with a 5/8 pin and a mini-rod and grip head that extended and hung just outside the door. Attached small bungee to that and cradled the lens with the bungee. Both the rod and the bungee absorbed most of the vibration, worked great.

Unfortunately I shot this at 60 fps and forgot to change the shutter to 120, I had the shutter set to 60 which gives the impression of frame blending - I think. At any rate the image is not as sharp as it should be.

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Old May 13th, 2010, 06:06 AM   #7
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Chuck,

That's a pretty stable result for a chopper. Any chance of a photo of that mounting with the bungees?
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Old May 13th, 2010, 10:21 AM   #8
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Sorry David, but I was an idiot and didn't think to take pictures of how I mounted the camera, maybe next time I'm at the airport I'll set it up and take some pictures. In most helicopters you can pull the soundproofing back and attach a strap that spans across the door at the roof. From there hang a bungee cord that supports most of the weight of the camera. I use a stripped down version of my shoulder mount, this gives me three points of contact with my camera for smoother, better control.

In this case this was an executive helicopter with a leather interior, so there was no way to attach a strap. Instead, I used a lightweight - but solid tripod, I attached a strap from the front seat seatbelt to the rear one an synched it down tightly. The rest is explained earlier. A couple of things I would add is you either need to slow the aircraft down to about 30 knots or keep the camera out of the slipstream. We were flying at about 90 knots and there was no way to hang the camera out the door at that speed.

I hope this helps.
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Old May 14th, 2010, 04:24 PM   #9
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Idea!

Hi Chuck:
You just gave me an idea for aerial or other motion work. I primarily do Voice Overs. Our mics all have shock mounted brackets that suspend the mic from the main mounting system with elastic cords. If you could devise such a platform to mount your camera on and then attach the bungee cords to the perimeter of the aircraft, such as you mentioned it might behave like the suspended microphone. Just a thought.

Phil
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Old May 14th, 2010, 04:24 PM   #10
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Thanks for the info

The shoot went okay from a stills perspective. We got out a bit late in the morning and missed the best light. It also got fairly turbulent, and the humidity (combined with Nashville's altitude requirements) made for fairly average photos. My buddy, who was shooting the video, ended up opting for the HVX. I haven't seen his footage yet, but it may not be too usable. The choppiness got to him, and he was holding a paper bag with one hand while shooting with the other. I didn't have the heart to flip my 7D to video to capture a little "behind the scenes" footage. It would make for a great gag reel. Literally, of course.

Thanks for the tips. If we ever get up in a chopper rather than a Cessna, I'll be returning to this thread, for sure.
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Old May 14th, 2010, 08:16 PM   #11
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You can get really sick looking through a view finder

I know it all too well. Flying and shooting video is a mix that sometimes does not end well. Hard to do. Some can shoot from the air with no problem. Others have real issues.
Phil
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