Overview of Aerial Photography
There we go.
Well, it's something both of us have started to do a lot of over the last six or seven years I'd say, since we did that project together.
We started off with the Pilbara Project, Where we did aerials, and I think the aerial project was Shark Bay, which is this photograph, and that's probably where a lot of other people started noticing what we were doing, I guess.
Yeah. Although, people often say we started it, I think there's obviously been people before us.
In Australia, we had a fantastic aerial photographer in Richard Woldendorp.
Toward the end of last century, we started to recognize people like Jackie Rankin, who now resides in Queenstown, New Zealand, but I think aerial has now exploded in so many different ways. I'm looking forward to exploring that.
It is. I think this is another image that we took from that series.
And just whizzing through, we've shown or talked about the tree photo, where we had a little bi...
t of a chat about that.
And some of our aerials, which, those last three, you know, quite organic, versus industrial, but they're all plan, and of course there's other perspectives you can take.
Yeah, including the horizon, I guess, is what you're referring to.
Yeah, yeah, more of an oblique.
So what I think is important in this session, what we want to get across to you guys in this session is that the photos might look nice and great and sharp; how do you actually get them sharp? How do you get them in focus, because when you're in an airplane, or a helicopter, it's quite challenging, so the things that we want to touch, what we want to share with you guys at the moment, is how to fly with a camera-
And we don't mean, you know, strap on a pair of wings and-
Well that's an option. I've seen people-
It's amazing isn't it? Put the camera on the top.
The best camera settings and all that sort of stuff.
You know why that doesn't work?
Why doesn't it work, Tony?
You try and hold onto a camera while you flap your wings.
Oh, you just use one of the small ones. Hold it in your mouth.
Oh, you've always got an answer for everything.
The best camera settings, what lenses do you need, and most importantly, making sure of focus, because I think that it's one of the things that certainly I've struggled with a lot. So my first aerial shoot, or my first aerial shot, this isn't actually the photo. I don't have the photo, 'cause it was taken a long, long time ago, in the dim dark recesses of my memory. I was doing a photograph for the army in Australia, and they asked me to go up in, I forget the name of the helicopter, but it had room for a lot of troops, and there were two little side seats, and I was in one of the side seats, and they would pick up a group of soldiers and they'd take them around to a location and all the soldiers would repel out on their ropes, and then they picked up and I'd go around to get the next lot, and there I am at the back with my headphones on, and the chopper goes up and it goes over, and as we go around the headland, it just tilts on the side like this, and I'm just into the harness, I'm held by the harness, so I'm looking straight down, a couple thousand feet down to the rocks below, a few hundred feet, but a thousand sounds better, and I listen on the radio, and the pilot's voice comes over, "Hey, haven't we got that photographer on the back-" actually it should have been an Australian accent. "Haven't we got that photographer in the back there?" "Oh, yes," says the copilot, and slowly the chopper comes back around to the flat bit. Now, I'm sure they knew I was there all the time, but it makes a good story, doesn't it? (laughs)
So how did you feel? Because one of the things about aerial shooting, I think, for people, is to get over that initial, you know, it's different.
Well maybe that experience, I mean, I was 20, 21 when that happened, and maybe I certainly didn't have any fear back at that stage. It was just excitement and exuberance and euphoria. But maybe having that happen to me, it's never worried me in the past. Sitting there, next to an open door, doesn't faze me at all. Do I want to jump? Only ever second or third week do I want to jump, but other than that, I'm okay. (laughs)
See, 'cause what a lot of people don't know about me is as much as I shoot aerial and aerial fine art, I'm afraid of heights, which is kind of an oxymoron, you know? So I struggle to climb up. If I had to climb up in a crane, and I've done it before, I struggle to get up past the 20th step, because suddenly I'm off the ground, and I don't know what happens, and some people have fear of heights, will know what I'm talking about. Put me in a helicopter, give me a camera, even with the doors off, it's different.
So what about your shoot? Where to begin?
My first aerial shoot in terms of actually taking photos that I was happy with was because of my wife bought me a ticket, and she came with us, of course, in a hot air balloon. We went up, and I had a camera with me, obviously, and went up and we were there at dawn, and watching the clouds roll in, and I took this image which I particularly like, and it's been quite popular with both people buying it and in competition. Just that whole new perspective excited me. It gave me a whole feeling that there was a whole new way to take my photography, and I heard you talking in the back with one of our amazing audience about purpose, and I think once I'd got that feeling of what it could be it gave me a purpose. I wanted to explore this whole new way of seeing, so that was my first shot.
Okay. So we need to perhaps talk about those amazing flying machines that we get around in, and I guess there are four that we can sort of all agree on: planes, helicopters, balloons, and drones. Now, we're not going to talk too much about drones yet. Drones are undoubtedly the future and gonna make it very accessible for a lot of people, already do. My challenge at the moment with drones is matching the aesthetic of the super wide-angle lens on most of them, certainly the affordable ones, with the way that we shoot, and I think Tony probably has the same challenge, and that we're normally shooting with our standard type focal length, and we'll talk about that a little bit as well.
Yeah, and for me, drones is another element toward that. I mean, as much as I can appreciate from a commercial value, and I know a lot of people do like to work with them, and I'm amazed at what they can get out of the drones, how low it can get, and get into places you can't bring a helicopter or plane, I still love the kinesthetic feel, I love the actual hands-on approach of having the camera in my hands. Maybe it's akin to a painter. He's got the brush, and rather than standing next to somebody who's holding the brush, saying, "A little bit more to the left," and when you've first started out in post-production, you may remember first getting someone else to edit your pictures and you're trying to describe to them what you want, and maybe that's part of what holds me back, but we'll see.
So, balloons is what your first experience. Balloons are a nice, easy way of getting involved, because they are great in the early mornings. Normally they go up before dawn and so there's an opportunity to take some photographs before you get off the ground, and once aloft, though, it's just magical. There's no noise. It's quite stable, but it's deceptively stable. As you're floating along in the zephyrs, and you're shooting down, you're thinking there's nothing happening and it's all okay, but when you get back, you're gonna need a still, a reasonably fast shutter speed, 1/500th of a second or better, because it's just deceptive, especially when using a slight telephoto lens.
And of course the vantage of balloons is you're in the wind, so the wind is moving you, so you're not fighting the wind, which in a plane and a helicopter, you get turbulence, whereas the balloon is being carried by the wind, and hence, minimal. But as you've said, there's still a minimal amount of shutter speeds you need, because even just for the ground movement itself.
Yeah. So these photographs that you're seeing now were shot from a balloon, and a balloon sometimes gives you access that you don't have in a helicopter or a plane, so to get this low over a residential area, for instance, you're not permitted to, in most, normally with helicopters, without permission you can't, planes, certainly not that low, but in a helicopter, it seems that you can do no wrong, and if you land in someone's backyard, at least in Australia, all you do is give them a bottle of Champagne and everything's okay.
The other thing about balloons that I like, is that it's a lot cheaper for people, too. It's a lot more economical, but you don't get to go where you want to go.
Yeah, but it's accessible and you don't have glass in front of you, which can be a challenge in cheap flights and helicopters sometimes.
The other thing about balloons is, to people who travel and get airsick, often one of the things I find when people are coming up to do aerial workshops and that is they worry about getting airsick; turbulence, bouncing around, being in enclosed environments. Balloons are airy, it's not sort of tight and squishy, and once, you know, if you can get over that fear that you may or may not have about being near the edge, it is actually quite a comfortable and pleasurable experience.
So when we boil it down to shooting the work that we want to do, we often need a bit of speed to get us to the locations where we want to shoot. So sometimes, to have a helicopter take you there and back is incredibly expensive, because it'll take you an hour to fly there, and hour back, and then you add it up. Whereas a plane becomes much more affordable, but once you're there, the maneuverability becomes an issue, and obviously cost is a huge factor. We're sitting here on CreativeLive, but just because we're well-known as photographers doesn't mean that we're millionaires. Do you know how to become a photographer with a million dollars?
This will be good.
Start with two million. Okay, right on. We're onto the next one.