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Potpourri of aerial shooting hints

Things to bear in mind

Have the pilot bank the plane for shots at steep angles
Have the pilot bank the plane for shots at steep angles

1) If the horizon is included in your shot, make sure to keep it level.

2) Avoid having too much sky in the frame if you are using an automatic exposure camera, since it may underexpose the ground (unless you use a gradated neutral density filter or a polarizing filter). Sunlight reflections on snow, water, sand or a metal roof may also affect your exposure.

3) Bring a spare camera – just in case. If you have an assistant with you, your assistant could be loading one camera while you shoot with the other, saving valuable time. Having an assistant on board can be a big help in keeping things organized and ensuring bags are closed, film wrapping is stowed away, in locating the right-sized filter, etc.

4) Pre-load your camera before take-off and pre-set your exposure settings to save time and so you are prepared to shoot from take-off.

5) Keep an eye out to avoid getting the shadow of the aircraft in your pictures.

6) Look for interesting air-to-air shooting opportunities that might come up (an eagle in flight, another aircraft) and be ready to frame and shoot quickly, especially if the subject is coming towards you. (This is where a pre-set, very fast shutter speed will come in handy.)

7) Make sure your film is readily accessible, and have a secure place to store exposed film. You don’t want it rolling around the cabin because you just plopped it on the rear seat minutes before the plane banked.

When the horizon is visible, keep it level.
When the horizon is visible, keep it level.

A sudden banking of the aircraft for this shot should find your seatbelt securely fastened.
A sudden banking of the aircraft for this shot should find your seatbelt securely fastened.

8) Try to avoid contact with the window frame or aircraft parts - other than your seat - when shooting, to minimize vibration.

9) When the sky is overcast, avoid including the horizon in the image by increasing your shooting angle. Because overcast conditions reduce the amount of light, you may need to use a faster film.

10) Don't undo your seatbelt for any reason. That's your lifeline, and no picture is worth separating yourself from it. If you ever feel you have to undo it, notify the pilot first and be sure he or she gives the go-ahead before you undo it. And, just as important, be sure you are both aware of when it is properly secured again. Many photographer's protect against accidental release of their seatbelt buckle by wrapping duct tape around it once they are buckled in.

11) Give some thought to your attire.
Sunglasses - If you wear sunglasses (and we recommend you do, particularly glasses that are coated for UV protection), be sure they have a solid neck strap to keep them from dropping from the plane.
Clothing - Wear warm clothes in cold weather flying, and protect your hands from windchill by wearing half-fingerless leather gloves. The cabin temperature can become quite chilly when the window is open at high altitude. Avoid materials like wool that may shed lint or threads while loading film. Have plenty of easily-accessible, large pockets for storing film, filters and spare lenses, and be sure the pockets can be sealed in some manner to avoid items dropping out.
Headgear - Don't wear a peak cap (a baseball cap) unless you wear it back-to-front. Not only will its peak strike the camera when you bring it your eye, but the wind may snatch the cap from your head. A warm woollen diver's toque may be your most practical headgear when shooting from the air.