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Photography from a Light Aircraft

Discussion in 'Help Team' started by Ddraig-goch, Aug 26, 2015.

  1. Ddraig-goch

    Ddraig-goch Active Member

    I have been offered an opportunity next year that will entail a fair amount of travel by light aircraft. So, will be flying at fairly low level (not up with the big boys) and would appreciate any tips for taking photographs from a light aircraft. Will not be able to open door or window in flight so anticipate potential issues with trying to shoot through the window glass, maybe.

    Any advice or pointers to useful websites/magazine articles/books appreciated. Thank you in advance everybody.
  2. Sejanus.Aelianus

    Sejanus.Aelianus In the Stop Bath

    The things I've found...

    • Scratched perspex means you'll need to lock your lens on infinity and use a wide aperture.
    • This is not so bad, as light aircraft vibrate a lot, so you'll want the highest shutter speed you can manage.
    • You'll probably need to up the contrast as you get a fair amount of haze looking down.

    The good news is that, if the 'plane is a high wing type, you'll get a better view than through the porthole of an airliner, which this was...

  3. gray1720

    gray1720 Well-Known Member

    Assuming you can still get such things, a rubber lens hood might be an idea - you can stick it right up to the glass to cut down on reflections.

  4. AlexMonro

    AlexMonro Old Grand Part Deux


    Other suppliers are available, but I've been very happy as a customer of Premier Ink.

    The rubber lens hood, while useful, really only works over a limited angle - up to around 30 degrees off perpendicular to the window.

    Also, you'll probably have to avoid using a polarising filter - perspex windows introduce their own polarisation, which can introduce strange atrtefacts.
  5. LargeFormat

    LargeFormat Well-Known Member

    Take the windows out if you can although this can only be done at low altitude because of the cold and only applies to things like Austers, autogyros etc.

    I recently photographed Mount Kenya and very little problem with reflections (The windows were left it).
  6. Ddraig-goch

    Ddraig-goch Active Member

    Hi guys,

    Many thanks for all your advice.... ....please if there is any more out there then keep it coming.

    Take the window out isn't going to be an option unfortunately!

    I am hoping that as light aircraft fly at lower altitude and in general the cabins are unpressurised, that the windows will not be as thick as on an airliner, so will reduce some of the problems.

    Good reminder about vibration though, which despite doing a fair bit of flying, I hadn't considered.

    Once the trip is over (it won't be until next July) I'll post a photo or two on here so you can pass verdict on the results!
  7. mark 1

    mark 1 Well-Known Member

    A parachute might come in handy. and sick bags. oops sorry. clean the glass both sides if you can. reflections might be a problem. Putting the lens right up on the glass might not give you the best shot or the vibration might to hard. so a jacket or blanket might come in handy to put over your head and around the window to block any back light reflecting off your widow. taking the window out as said would work better. some have small sliding widows. depends on what the plane is. A polarized filter might help to.
  8. 0lybacker

    0lybacker In the Stop Bath

    Vibration from a fixed wing should not be as bad as that from a rotary wing craft. Something the late Vic Blackman used to point out in his AP column. He was a qualified pilot & did a bit of air to air & air to ground photography as well.

    If you hunt out his book 'My Way with a Camera' you may find some helpful tips.
  9. Terrywoodenpic

    Terrywoodenpic Well-Known Member

    I spent a couple of years as an arial photographer, but we always removed a door or window. Very few light aircraft have anything likeclear and unscratched windows. Mostly i took an incident light reading on the ground, and worked at that as there is remarkably little contrast or variation in the light from the air. And pp becomes more one of increasing contrast. and a minor adustment in exposure to compennsate.

    do not rest the camera on any part of the structure or it will increas vibration.
    Many of your shots will be taken in a fairly steep turn so your camera will become heavier than you might expect.
    You can also widen your available field of view on many planes if the pilot flies it with a heavy yaw.
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2015
  10. Ddraig-goch

    Ddraig-goch Active Member

    Apologies for taking so long to post the results of my trip. Was it really last summer that we made that trip to Kenya?! Any way, I was grateful for the advice that was so freely given - yes scratches to the Perspex windows is a pain in the behind; I didn't get too many issues with condensation between the two layers of Perspex; I didn't realise just how much air pollution there is in Nairobi until I saw it from the air; and the best pieces of advice you guys gave me was... ....to invest in a rubber lens hood! Such a simple piece of "technology" and so cheap, but very effective at cutting out both vibration and reflection from the perspex. I got mine from Premier Ink & Photographic for the princely sum of £5.99! So, as I promised, all those months ago, here are some of my first attempts at aerial photography.

    Attached Files:

  11. Ddraig-goch

    Ddraig-goch Active Member

    By the way, I should have mentioned, any constructive comments and feedback (polite please) are very welcome.

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