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Photography Question 
France Freeman
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/27/2005

Shooting From A Helicopter In Hawaii

I will be doing a Helicopter tour in Hawaii - Kauai specifically. I've got a Canon 20D with a 24-70mm lens. Wondering if anyone has advice regarding the best lenses to take and what shutter speeds to use. And do I need an image stabilizing lens?

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12/30/2006 1:23:02 PM

Sharon  Day
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/27/2004
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  I've never had the opportunity to shoot from a plane or helicopter, but I would think an IS lens would be a huge help, and the 24-70mm sounds like good focal lengths but hopefully someone else will know first hand. Have fun!

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12/30/2006 7:33:01 PM

Raymond H. Kemp
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/2/2004
  I’ve been up on assignments several times in helicopters including air ambulances and the ride is not always that smooth. Chances are you will be looking out plexiglass window with no opening. I was fortunate since many of the helicopters I went up in had a television camera port, which could be opened. This allowed for me to stick the lens partially out the window and rest my camera on the ledge to help minimize shake. In later flights I would take a small towel to place on the ledge and this would help dampen the vibration of the helicopter. In addition I had the privilege to tell the pilot to hover while I framed up the shot. Your tour helicopter may hover from time to time to allow the passengers to “take in the moment”. I’m not sure since I never flew in a tour helicopter.

Anyhow, make sure you use a reasonably fast shutter speed that is at least equal to the focal length of the lens. Faster would be better because in the helicopter everything is moving. Chances are you will not find anything to rest the camera on so everything will be hand held. Almost all of my shots in the air were done with a Nikon 28-70 2.8 ED lens. I usually was trying to get some detail from the ground in the image and that lens worked well for that. I would switch to the 12-24 Nikon lens only when I was photographing the pilot or crew.

One word of caution… don’t look through the viewfinder for long periods of time while the helicopter is moving or you may find yourself ralphing your lunch or breakfast.

Have fun!


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12/30/2006 9:05:39 PM

Nobu Nagase
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/31/2003
This was shot with a Canon 50mm on a film camera several years ago in Maui. My interest was craters and waterfalls. The piolot will accomodate the photographers' (tourists) needs for photo opportunity and fly fairly close to the target landscape.

I was happy with the craters, but the waterfall shots didn't turn out as I wished because primarily of two reasons: one was the sunlight (wrong time of the day) and the other, the distance. The pilot did the best he could but my equipment had limitations, and also I was just a casual shooter (a tourist) at the time.

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12/31/2006 9:52:59 PM

France Freeman
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/27/2005
  Thanks to all for your suggestions and tips. Wish me luck!

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1/1/2007 6:22:04 PM

Deborah Liperote
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/8/2006
  Hey France,
My husband and I went last year to Maui and took the helicopter tour. First of all, it wound up being the best way to see the whales. We took a whale cruise and hardly saw a thing. Then we did the helicopter and it was awesome....use a fast shutter speed. suggestion though... unless it's for a project or work or something like that, take SOME pictures but make sure you don't see the ride just through your camera. Put it down some and just suck up all the beauty. You are in for a serious treat and oh my gosh- have fun!!!!
Mahalo Nui Loa- Deborah

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1/1/2007 7:17:59 PM

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