Best way to take photos from a plane?


simonkit

Link Posted 17/05/2010 - 11:54
I'm after a few pointers as I have a trial flight lesson over Snowdonia/Anglesey this weekend and would like to get a few shots at the same time.

The flight is in a Cessna...just wondered which lens would be best (choice is 17-70 or 50-300 or 50mm prime).

I'm intending using manual focus and obviously using the lens hood to try & minimise reflections

Any pointers appreciated

Simon
My website http://www.landscapephotographyuk.com

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MattMatic

Link Posted 17/05/2010 - 12:01
Simon,
I had some success using the hyperfocal distance at f/8 - f/11 on a 35mm prime... but that was in a regular jet. Higher up the view was wonderful, but the haze was a problem (as was the double-skinned windows ).

I would have said the 17-70 is probably the best option (especially if you mean the Pentax DA17-70 - there won't be much between that and a 50mm prime at f/8 ).

Whether you'll get decent shots from the 55-300 is another matter... (will depend on atmospheric conditions, effectiveness of SR etc).

Have fun!!!
Matt
http://www.mattmatic.co.uk
(For gallery, tips and links)
Last Edited by MattMatic on 17/05/2010 - 12:02

thoughton

Link Posted 17/05/2010 - 12:15
I also recently had a go from the window of a passenger jet. Most of my half-decent shots were from my 17-50mm lens. Mostly around 30-50mm as any wider and I would get the edges of the windows in the frame.

I did try a few with a 70-300 but the haze is so bad when you zoom in it didn't seem to be worth the effort.
Tim
AF - Pentax K5, Sigma 10-20/4-5.6, Tamron 17-50/2.8, Sigma 30/1.4, Sigma 70-200/2.8, Tamron 70-300/4-5.6
MF - Vivitar CF 28/2.8, Tamron AD2 90/2.5, MTO 1000/11
Stuff - Metz 58 AF1, Cactus v4, Nikon SB24, Raynox 150, Sigma 1.4x TC, Sigma 2x TC, Kenko 2x macro TC, Redsnapper 283 tripod, iMac 27”, Macbook Pro 17”, iPad, iPhone 3G
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Feel free to edit any of my posted photos! If I post a photo for critique, I want brutal honesty. If you don't like it, please say so and tell me why!
Last Edited by thoughton on 17/05/2010 - 12:15

ChrisA

Link Posted 17/05/2010 - 12:30
I find that aerial photography is actually an ideal opportunity to use my old FA 28-200.

I took this, for instance, at 38mm.

Much wider than that, and you'll have a lot of aircraft structure in the shot, and detail on the ground will appear too far away.

I took this, on the other hand, at 200mm, which at the heights you're likely to be at, is a good focal length for getting a decent amount of detail closer up.

That second shot is completely genuine, by the way. Some pranksters painted a huge Homer Simpson next to the Cerne Abbas giant. I thought it would be rude not to fly down there before the rain washed the new artwork away.

Returning to your question, if you can only take one lens (and changing lenses in a cramped aircraft cockpit can be a bit of a faff, it must be said), you have something of a dilemma. 70 won't be long enough for getting distant detail if the visibility is good, and 50 might not be short enough for a wider view. Although this one of the Didcot Power Station was taken at 50mm, so you might be all right.


If I had to pick one or the other myself it would be the 50-300, but if you can get hold of a 28-200 it would be perfect.

Forget the prime. The additional quality will be wasted if you're shooting through the canopy, and even if you're not, you won't have much framing flexibility.

One thing to remember: don't hold the end of the hood against the canopy to steady the camera, since the engine vibrations can cause dreadful camera shake at a frequency that gives the SR no chance at all.

Edit:

Here's another example, of the particle accelerator near Wantage (Oxfordshire), taken at 113mm.

Hope these examples give you a feel for the sort of focal length range that's useful.

Do report back!
.
Pentax K-3, DA18-135, DA35 F2.4, DA17-70, DA55-300, FA28-200, A50 F1.7, A100 F4 Macro, A400 F5.6, Sigma 10-20 EXDC, 50-500 F4.5-6.3 APO DG OS Samsung flash SEF-54PZF(x2)
.
Last Edited by ChrisA on 17/05/2010 - 12:55

Daniel Bridge

Link Posted 17/05/2010 - 12:57
Some discussion about it all on this thread.

Dan
K-3, a macro lens and a DA*300mm...

aliengrove

Link Posted 17/05/2010 - 14:31
Cessna single-engine aircraft are all high-wing, which is good for photography. If you are taking pictures through the window, then the hood will not be that good for eliminating reflections, unless it's rubber and you press it against the window (in which case as Chris said, vibration will be a problem), but will help with flare. It might get in the way a bit though, as there's not much room. A piece of matte black card placed against the window, or better still matte black rubber if you can find it, can be moved around to get rid of reflections. Dark perspex works well too. The plane should have dark perspex shades for the windows which work really well for shielding reflections.

You will get better shots with the 17-70, longer focal lengths magnify the distortion of the windows, which can give weird effects like double images. the same is true of lenses with a large frontal area. A lot of aircraft windows are scratched, so find a clear spot, and take shots through different parts of the window. I find a a UV filter helps with haze, even though the windows block UV. No idea why. Polarisers can give weird colour effects through perspex, so I wouldn't bother with it. As you'll be in the front seat you will need to use live-view to avoid getting too much of the glareshield when taking photos through the windscreen. However, the front window distots light a lot. The side window will give better shots.

Take the longer lens though and try it, but I suspect you will be disappointed with the results. It might be useful up to 100mm or so though...........Shoot RAW so you can eliminate some of the haze in processing.

Here's a link to a few aerial shots have I have taken myself...

Enjoy your flight and look forward to seeing a few pics on the photo section of the website!

Rgds,
jon
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Last Edited by aliengrove on 17/05/2010 - 14:56

RobE17

Link Posted 17/05/2010 - 15:30
You might find this thread of some use as well - link
My Flickr Page

simonkit

Link Posted 17/05/2010 - 22:39
Thanks for the useful tips..I'll be taking the 17-70.

As the main mountains around Snowdon are 3000ft+ I'm guessing that we'll not be too far above so I shouldn't need the 300mm. Think I'll give the flying club a call for a bit more info

Simon
My website http://www.landscapephotographyuk.com

My Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/landscapephotographyuk

Find me on Google+ link

kerrowdown

Link Posted 20/05/2010 - 09:25
I was gonna say from the inside
My Harem of Ladies.... “Mistress" (Pentax-A 15mm F3.5 ), "Good Lady” (Pentax-A 20mm F2.8 ), “Friendly Lady” (Pentax-A 24mm F2.8 ), "Deviate Lady" (Pentax 28mm F3.5 Shift ), "Street Lady" (Pentax-A 28mm F2.8 ), "Retro Lady" (SMC Pentax-M 40mm F2.8 ), "Special Lady” (Pentax-A 50mm F1.2 ), “Femme Fatale” (Pentax-A 50mm F2.8 Macro ), “Sweetheart” (Pentax-A* 85mm F1.4 ), "Lady Luck” (Pentax-A* 135mm F1.8 ), “Gorgeous Lady” (Pentax-A* 200mm F2.8 ED ), “Duchess” (Pentax-A* 300mm F4.0 ) and "HM The Queen" (SMC Pentax 500mm F4.5 ).

terje-l

Link Posted 20/05/2010 - 09:43
At least you will (presumably) get a chance to clean the window before taking off
Best regards
Terry

K20D, Optio I10, DA 18-55 1:3.5-5.6 AL II, A 1:1.7/50, D FA 1:2.8/100 Macro, Sigma 70-300 1:4-5.6 APO DG Macro, Pentax AF 360FGZ

PeteL

Link Posted 21/05/2010 - 12:48
Hi,
I use the Cessna from Caernarfon quite a lot, If you ask nicely you can open the window in flight, But it`s best to remove your headset whilst taking photo`s as the wind noise get`s really high. I would put the strap around your neck too! Also keep the lens out of the airflow as much as possible. You will be in the left hand (Port) seat for a trial lesson. Are you using the trip as a trial lesson or for taking photo`s?
A trial lesson will be at a higher altitude than a pleasure flight or a SPECIAL flight (The one i use). It will probably be quite hazy at around 2,000ft but you could get some nice shots of the Menai Straits with the 17-70. If you are using the trial lesson just to take photo`s (as i sometimes do)then you can go much lower and circle some of the many places of interest. For this i would choose your longer lens at around the 100-150mm mark.
I tend to use 200 iso and set the shutter speed to 1/800th sec and either take a exposure reading before take off and leave it unaltered (as long as the light doesn`t change with cloud etc) or use shutter priority.
Have a great flight.
Regards - Pete

simonkit

Link Posted 21/05/2010 - 18:24
PeteL wrote:
Hi,
I use the Cessna from Caernarfon quite a lot, If you ask nicely you can open the window in flight, But it`s best to remove your headset whilst taking photo`s as the wind noise get`s really high. I would put the strap around your neck too! Also keep the lens out of the airflow as much as possible. You will be in the left hand (Port) seat for a trial lesson. Are you using the trip as a trial lesson or for taking photo`s?
A trial lesson will be at a higher altitude than a pleasure flight or a SPECIAL flight (The one i use). It will probably be quite hazy at around 2,000ft but you could get some nice shots of the Menai Straits with the 17-70. If you are using the trial lesson just to take photo`s (as i sometimes do)then you can go much lower and circle some of the many places of interest. For this i would choose your longer lens at around the 100-150mm mark.
I tend to use 200 iso and set the shutter speed to 1/800th sec and either take a exposure reading before take off and leave it unaltered (as long as the light doesn`t change with cloud etc) or use shutter priority.
Have a great flight.
Regards - Pete

Thanks for the advice Pete, much appreciated....based on this I'm going to go with the sightseeing option and take the 55-300 instead of the 17-70 - hoping to get a nice shot of Penmon/Beaumaris/Menai Bridge

I was hoping for a few mountain shots but I guess we won't be high enough to get anything of Snowdon etc

Simon
My website http://www.landscapephotographyuk.com

My Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/landscapephotographyuk

Find me on Google+ link

PeteL

Link Posted 21/05/2010 - 19:20
It all depends on how long the flight is, There are several routes that you can take (or you can choose your own) To get Snowdon summit only you will need around 30 minutes straight out from Dinas Dinlle,(Caernarfon Airport) I was lucky to get some nice shots of a paraglider over a frozen Glaslyn during the winter when there was snow on the summit. Unfortunately it was too cold to have the window open on that one!
When you take off watch out for Fort Belan below if you take off towards Caernarfon and an Iron Age Mound at the Dinas Dinlle beach end.
The other route is down the Menai Strait You should take in Caernarfon Castle, Plas Newydd, Both Bridges, Beumaris Castle, (If you are quick you might glimpse nearby Aberlleiniog castle too) Puffin Island, Bangor Pier,A slightly longer flight will take in the Great Orme and Llandudno Pier. Of course there are lots of other things that you can photograph besides! There are other flights over the Lleyn Peninsula but i have not tried them yet!
I hope that helps

Hope too that the weather is good!

PS. If you do have the window open then the pilot will throttle back so allow for a slightly longer flight!

PPS. If you do use a hood make sure its a screw on one and preferably rubber. The petal ones might drop off if the window is open!It also causes more buffet from the airflow. Besides that,If you do try to get shots with the window shut you are sitting so very close to the perspex in a cessna it is difficult with a long lens and petal hood due to lack of space.
Personally when i go i leave my hood in the car!
Regards - Pete.
Last Edited by PeteL on 21/05/2010 - 19:38

simonkit

Link Posted 21/05/2010 - 19:37
PeteL wrote:
It all depends on how long the flight is, There are several routes that you can take (or you can choose your own) To get Snowdon summit only you will need around 30 minutes straight out from Dinas Dinlle,(Caernarfon Airport) I was lucky to get some nice shots of a paraglider over a frozen Glaslyn during the winter when there was snow on the summit. Unfortunately it was too cold to have the window open on that one!
When you take off watch out for Fort Belan below if you take off towards Caernarfon and an Iron Age Mound at the Dinas Dinlle beach end.
The other route is down the Menai Strait You should take in Caernarfon Castle, Plas Newydd, Both Bridges, Beumaris Castle, (If you are quick you might glimpse nearby Aberlleiniog castle too) Puffin Island, Bangor Pier,A slightly longer flight will take in the Great Orme and Llandudno Pier. Of course there are lots of other things that you can photograph besides! There are other flights over the Lleyn Peninsula but i have not tried them yet!
I hope that helps

Hope too that the weather is good!

PS. If you do have the window open then the pilot will throttle back so allow for a slightly longer flight!

Regards - Pete.

I have 1hr flying time so I'm thinking that Snowdon is a bit over optimistic..I like the idea of the menai straits etc so will ask the pilot if it's ok.

Is it possible to change/take 2 lenses as the more I think about it the more I can't make up my mind - I have the DA 17-70 & DA 55-300, I'm concerned the 55-300 might not be wide enough

Simon
My website http://www.landscapephotographyuk.com

My Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/landscapephotographyuk

Find me on Google+ link

PeteL

Link Posted 21/05/2010 - 19:50
simonkit wrote:
PeteL wrote:
It all depends on how long the flight is, There are several routes that you can take (or you can choose your own) To get Snowdon summit only you will need around 30 minutes straight out from Dinas Dinlle,(Caernarfon Airport) I was lucky to get some nice shots of a paraglider over a frozen Glaslyn during the winter when there was snow on the summit. Unfortunately it was too cold to have the window open on that one!
When you take off watch out for Fort Belan below if you take off towards Caernarfon and an Iron Age Mound at the Dinas Dinlle beach end.
The other route is down the Menai Strait You should take in Caernarfon Castle, Plas Newydd, Both Bridges, Beumaris Castle, (If you are quick you might glimpse nearby Aberlleiniog castle too) Puffin Island, Bangor Pier,A slightly longer flight will take in the Great Orme and Llandudno Pier. Of course there are lots of other things that you can photograph besides! There are other flights over the Lleyn Peninsula but i have not tried them yet!
I hope that helps

Hope too that the weather is good!

PS. If you do have the window open then the pilot will throttle back so allow for a slightly longer flight!

Regards - Pete.

I have 1hr flying time so I'm thinking that Snowdon is a bit over optimistic..I like the idea of the menai straits etc so will ask the pilot if it's ok.

Is it possible to change/take 2 lenses as the more I think about it the more I can't make up my mind - I have the DA 17-70 & DA 55-300, I'm concerned the 55-300 might not be wide enough

Simon

Yes it should be o.k but you don`t get much room so you will have to balance the other lens on your lap. I tend to stick with my DA* 50-135 and that covers just about all that i need. A wider lens would be nice if you want to include the cockpit interior in some shots but i don`t think that there would be many other occasions where you would desperately miss anything wider than 50 or 55, Mostly i use around 100-135 and that fills the frame nicely with most of the castles, bridges etc. Using anything too wide will also risk getting the wing strut in the shot!

Regards - Pete
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