What to Shoot When You're in the Air
When you get in, there's often not a lot of space, usually not, certainly if you're going to be sharing the aircraft with other people, there won't be a lot, so you can't take lots and lots of gear, your camera or cameras will probably be around your neck as well and you just wanna be there, where you've just got really one, maybe two cameras just to work from and that's it.
But we're going to touch on that as well, what to take. So when we get up there--
Take a camera.
Take a camera's a good idea (audience laughing) and you've come here to CreativeLive to hear that from the master himself,
Take a camera, there you go, that's it.
when you're doing aerial photographs--
Can I go, it's done?
You're done. Alright, awesome, awesome stuff here, round of applause, thank you. Yay Tony, that was great, excellent, (audience applauding)
Thank you, but I have something to add, there's more.
Okay, all right, there's more.
Take another camera. I'm serious, if you can get t...
wo cameras in, you got to borrow one, don't spend the money and the time getting up in the air and having a problem with a camera. Now, most cameras are good, they don't fail and there's no problems, but on occasion you will get a situation, where something goes wrong, something goes wrong, so to have a second camera you can grab means you're not wasting that opportunity, so I think it's important to have a back-up.
It's very hard, well, depending on how you are, but if you're in an open helicopter, changing lenses is interesting, because we all try to make sure that when we change lenses, we don't let too much dust and stuff get inside our camera bodies
And you're in this.
And you're in a small Tornado doing all this sort of stuff, so when we're taking up two cameras, it is a good idea to have it as a back-up, if you had to, one camera died and you had to change lenses, well, you do it and you spot the dust out afterwards, if you need to, but it also gives you an opportunity
to take up two viewpoints
Two lenses, yeah. and having you know, like I usually find I can put something on the ground at my feet, so what I'll have is if I've got a jacket or something, I'll just put it down on the ground at my feet and I can put the camera on it, it means I can pick up cameras in a hurry and I'm not bouncing them on metal or anything like that, it can sit comfortably there, grab the next one, 50, grab the next one, 85, back to the 50, stuff like that.
And at the beginning of every shoot, start with a full battery, take a spare, hopefully you won't need to use it, start with an empty card, take a spare, hopefully you won't need to use it, but that's the idea, I mean, I know that on some flights, you know, I've gone up with 64 Gigabyte cards and they've filled up, it's just you know, it's amazing, I mean they're big files, the middle bit.
I remember a time when you, you know, 'cause there's always lots of shots, but I remember a time when you stuck-- (laughing) We were in a helicopter, I've got to share this story, so we've been very privileged in our careers, that we get to go to amazing places and we were in a helicopter in the outback of Australia, flying to this amazing location--
It was actually a big helicopter, wasn't it? It was that orange one--
It was a big helicopter, it was that shot that you saw, the orange one, took us to this very remote mountain range and the helicopter could land on the pivot, you know, and we had to clear some trees and he landed, anyway, we were on the way back and we had shot, I was gonna say shot the crap out of the place, it was so much to shoot, so exciting, so stimulating and we just didn't get tired, we were shooting away, shooting away and I remember us sitting there, Pete,
On the way back in the flight?
On the way back and two of the guys had driven the car back, 'cause he'd taken extra fuel out, 200 kilometer drive in the car with a trailer, bringing the aviation fuel out to the helicopter, he kept refueling and we kept doing our shot stuff, when the helicopter went back to base, it was an hour flight, we'd been going all day, we're flying back, we're sitting and we had the back of the helicopter to ourselves and that was a, was it a Bell?
It was a Bell, yeah.
Ranger, Long Ranger?
So it has three seats along the back, two in the back facing this way, someone in the front and I think we had Dr. Les Walkling in the front
with his, shooting away and the pilot and Pete and I were in the back and we had this whole back of the helicopter to ourselves and we just, you know--
Legs up, legs up on the seat.
Legs up on the seat, like this and we were looking out, take a shot, click, and then we got about halfway back and we're sitting there and it was like, and we went like that and I was like, no, we've got that one (laughing) and it was at that moment, I realized how privileged we are there.
The decadence, it was wonderful.
It was decadence, but it was, I was very grateful in that moment for the opportunities I've got and I suppose the point of that story was not to sort of say, hey look at us, look what we got to do, 'cause as I said, we're very grateful for that and it's a privilege, but it's when you do get to do aerial photography, it's really important when you're out there to actually enjoy the moment, to actually not just get caught up in all this technique, but to seriously sit down and look at the wonderful world we look upon and to find a way to get that inside you, as you're shooting, because as you shoot, you will capture images that everyone else misses.
So what are we going to shoot, Tony? What do we shoot?
Well, I think there's three different ways people shoot, people will shoot to record something, I mean, there's a lot of types of cameras and there's a lot of people, who have a full-time occupation just recording the environment, recording the landscape, satellite imagery etc.
as a diary of where you've been and of course, what I tend to focus more on is art and abstracts,
Abstracts, yeah, okay. So you mentioned this photograph to me earlier on and you wanted to say a couple of words about, you know, what was important to you about that image?
Well, this image, one of the things this image taught me, when I took it, this was an example of very bright sunlight coming off water and for half the actual orbit of the plane, as we came around, it was just too strong, A, I couldn't see any color coming out of it, it was just overblown, but as we came around and we got to the right angle on the light, all that glare disappeared, now you could have done it with a polarizer and maybe had a larger window of the art to use, but when it disappeared, I suddenly saw what the edge of the reef was about, this is the edge of the Continental Shelf, where the warmth is, the warmth is about life, that warm color permeates life, it expresses life, whereas the coldness of the deep water talks about something different, it also, to me was about danger and safety, for a lot of people, that shallow water, where they can see the bottom, feel like there's something there underneath their feet, they feel safer, they wouldn't get into the deep, dark blue water as a little bit more trepidation comes in and then that diagonal line running through, the way that I've shot that abstract and composed it, for me says this is a very long reef, you don't know where it finishes, it's actually a 500 kilometer long reef and it's one of my favorite pictures, because of its simplicity and yet because the depth of, sort of story that I feel, when I was up there taking it, which is different to the next one, Peter.
Well, the next one is a shot taken in Iceland, I've squished it together a little bit just to make the mountains look more magical, Hollywood like, there's a lot of atmosphere and you know, we did a lot of photography up on that particular visit from a plane, we did a lot of photography and you're just going mad, shooting, shooting, shooting, but you know, the light just didn't really happen for most of my flight, except for this little opportunity, where just a couple of little bits of light started to happen and it's still a little bit of a work in progress, just to get the color in the lakes and that sort of stuff, but it has got quite a, I quite like the feeling.
I like also the fact that you've sort of documented here some of the mystery of the mountains and it says to me something about that blue lake is cradled up in amongst these high peaks and it's one of those things that you just don't see from anywhere else, unless you're prepared to climb and even when you climb, by the time you get to where you can see the lake, it's kind of hidden down there, there's a whole different viewpoint, when you're up above it and you can look down and you see this little bundle of blue cradled.
And I guess the point is that you know, you can take photographs horizontally out of the plane or out of the helicopter and that's quite okay, 'cause what we will be showing you over the next few days are a lot of planned, you know, a lot of photographs looking directly down and yes, that is our preference for the fine art side of things, I probably wouldn't put this up as an art photograph, but it would be a pride of place in a book or something like that, but it's just personality, different ways of looking at things.
I just wanna point out too that, you know, being consciously aware at every moment of the way the light's playing, you'll notice in the left-hand side of this image and I'm gonna guess here, I might be wrong, I don't think Pete actually added in that darkness, but it provides a beautiful little vignette in that bottom left-hand corner, the cropping at the top, where we've got that darker gray in the cloud, this is natural vignetting, based on the lighting conditions at the time, so being aware of that as you're coming around in your composition, you don't have a lot of time, sure you can compose it a little bit later, you can crop, but as you're shooting aerials, it's changing all the time, you need to be able to sort of nail a composition pretty quickly.
That's a really good question and something I think we didn't perhaps make clear enough, when you get up there, take hundreds of photographs, so that when I went passed that, I went click, click, click, click, click, click, I've got 20 frames all very similar and I don't, you know, you mentioned that a little bit before, but I just think we need to emphasize how many photographs we take, it's a little bit like you know, travel photography we talked about earlier and portraiture, you know, the famous portrait photographers would you know, get someone in the studio, have it under full control and they would take 30, 40, 50 photos. Why do we think as average photographers, that we can do what the masters did in just one frame? And it's the same here, it's a matter of taking multiple shots and then afterwards you can look at them on the screen, as you're editing them and find just the one with the right composition, the right angle, the right light.
Well, this one was from an exhibition called Coast and it's, well actually, it was out of Shark Bay first, but it was called Nature's Necklace, so it's again, just a reminder that often when I'm up there, looking at abstracts, the abstraction that I take from the landscape is a recognition or a sort of something that resonates with me, in terms of a symbol of something else, so I looked at this and I saw a necklace, I saw amethyst, which is a golden type of jewel, hanging down, I could see sort of like this loose, golden sort of thing that would go around someone's neck and for me, it was about nature's jewels, that presented in a different way, so every picture I take and every way I compose it, it's all got some design behind it to saying something.
And you know, it's completely abstract in that way, whereas the shot that I've got here
A little bit more literal.
is a little bit more literal and it reminds me of a goose's head or a duck's head or something like that, so it's different ways of looking at nature and you know, I've got different photos at different angles as we go around and just having the head looking directly down was the one that spoke to me, that made me feel warm, happy and inviting.
Yeah and you know, understanding compositional rules, in terms of when you frame something up, as you're coming in on a plane or a helicopter moves around, taking those different shots, if you don't understand what the best composition will be, that's why it's so important to get the different ones and have the time later, 'cause you can't wait and go, I'll wait until it's perfect, you might miss it and you may not get a chance to come around, so get those shots, look at them on your computer and you'll start to develop a background knowledge as to what is the best compositions for these things and you'll start to nail them a little bit quicker, it'll also give you an advantage, when you're starting to direct pilots, whereas you're coming in, then you'll see the layout of the land, you'll see that object or the point of interest, the shape of it and you'll think the best angle I can get on that shape with the light would be over there, so let's go round there and come in from that angle.
So, Kenna, do we get a pass mark, are we okay?
Okay, so a question had come in, when you are up in the planes or maybe it can be the hot air balloons or helicopters as well, is there a difference, different considerations when shooting with a DSLR versus the medium format?
Hm, I guess, well, the difference is becoming less, I would say, but when we first started off, the best you would get with a DSLR was 20 megapixels, whereas we were shooting with 60 megapixels and there's a lot of difference in resolution, so a little bit of vibration, you wouldn't see in 20 megapixels, but you could see it clearly in 60,
but now of course, DSLRs have got you know, 40 or 50 megapixels, sure, medium format is 100 megapixels, so really the DSLR shooters have got the same problems, that we used to have and so I, with the, I sort of have a wry smile, when you know, both Canon and Nikon came out and Sony came out with their 36, 42, 50 megapixel sensors, because they knew all of the photographers, who were gonna go out and buy them were going to have the same problem I had when I first grabbed a medium format, which was 37 and a half megapixels and I thought, oh yeah, I can use this, click, oh wow, it's not focused and it's blurred, why is that? Because we were looking at our pixels at 100% on the screen, if I then, so if I had 37.5 megapixels, if I dropped it down to 18 megapixels, or then down to nine, my picture looked really, really sharp and it's just that extra magnification, so I think that DSLR photographers today have the same challenges, that medium format photographers have, in terms of getting their images sharp, because there is so much resolution there. Is there an advantage of medium format over DSLRs? Is there an advantage of DSLRs over medium format? If I could summarize, Tony, I'd say the DSLR is much quicker to use, you can shoot a lot more frames, it's much more quick, it's quicker, the autofocus is probably more responsive, you have a wider range of lenses to use, although that's possibly not so important, medium format still has that extra dynamic range, so dynamic range is how many tones of light and dark can you capture and when Tony's doing his work or I'm doing my work over the scene, you've got breaking waves with very bright whites, it means that we can retain detail in those whites all the way down to the shadows of the murky depths of the water below, so I still see that medium format with the lenses, the lack of an anti alias filter, all of these things, there's still a quality difference that we love and appreciate, but it's not for everybody and we don't in any way want to say you have to have medium format, you know, to do what we do, if you've got a good quality mirrorless or DSLR, then join us in aerial photography and you're gonna love it, that's for sure.
The other thing I'd add to that, 'cause I agree with everything Peter said is that with the DSLR, you've got slightly less weight in your hand and some people after a while, carrying a medium format can be quite taxing, you know, on your wrists and things, on the other hand, because it is heavier, there tends to be a dampening effect in the vibration, because of the weight, whereas with the lighter cameras, particularly when people take up really light cameras, they tend to bounce a little bit more, even though you don't think they do, there's less momentum holding them down, or less mass, so they tend to be a little bit more flighty, if you like, but I agree with everything else you said, Pete.
Great, thank you so much. Alright, so we talked a lot about the techniques and settings that you use to photograph, but I don't think you mentioned white balance, is there a particular, are you ever using custom white balance for doing your aerial shots?
Some people would shoot Auto.
Yeah, I always shoot Auto.
I leave it on.
And I always shoot on Daylight.
So I guess we can explain that in that
We're shooting RAW.
we're only shooting RAW files and you can completely control your white balance afterwards, so I, yeah, I just shoot auto white balance and then fix it up in post production later on.
Cool, awesome. I don't know if you're gonna talk about this maybe as we get more into post production or portfolio, but a lot of people were asking about the square crop,
that they're seeing a lot of the square crop and is there a reason to that, can you expand on the why, unless you're gonna go into that.
I can give my reasons and they may not make a lot of sense to a lot of people, but certainly the way I think about it and then Pete can expand and some of this comes from colleagues and people explaining there's a history to square versus you know, a rectangular panoramic, but for me, simply put, panoramic images are reflective of the way we see the world, we have two eyes, we see the world in a panoramic way, 16.9 or something close to, hence panoramic televisions, so when you stand in front of an image like that, you get lost in that picture, you can actually associate into the picture and almost forget you're looking at an image, when it's square, it's not the way we see the world, so it always remains separated, always remains disassociated and for me, that means when I put my art pieces up as squares, they tend to be seen as an object in the world, rather than a window into the world, so that's my way of explaining it, the only other addition to that is square means I'm not worried about whether it should have been vertical or should have been horizontal, it gives me kind of a blank canvas, in terms of composition, but that's just the way I go for it, what about you, Peter?
I think there are actually reasons where, you know, like the artists, the proper art people, who talk about the history of art and the structure of art, the armature of the frame and things like that, they actually have reasons where the square creates more a work of art, rather than a photograph, rather than an image sort of thing, it establishes it and I think you were sort of referencing that, whereas, I mean, look at the panorama, it was very popular for a long time, that 6.17 ratio, that was based on a film format and that became very popular and then went in and out of fashion. I know that I started to use square the first time in trying to break away from the panorama and just create a format that was different and the thing that really annoyed the hell out of me was first or second iteration of the IPhone and Apple started putting all of the photos as little squares and cropping them and I thought, oh go away, I don't want you to do that and then Instagram came out with squares and I'm going, oh, isn't there anything original in this world? (laughs)
There isn't, there isn't, there isn't.
It wasn't obviously me.
Oh, I think there are, there's gonna be artistic reasons, there's gonna be academic reasons and there's personal reasons and each to their own.
Yeah, I think we're personal reasons, we like the square, we ask, well, I'm square. (laughing)
Well, I think it also was a point of difference, when we did it, not because we were original, not because no one had ever done it, it had been around forever, but in terms of the contemporary market that we were in, when we presented our work that way, it was different and now people have followed that, who knows, we might try something different again.
Yeah, that's rather big of us to say that they've followed us, isn't it, Tony? (laughs)
Well, followed us as in following others is probably a fairer way, good point, good point.