LIGHT WORK

Camera - - CONTENTS -

These ar­ti­cles are de­signed to help you ap­pre­ci­ate how pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­phers ap­proach as­sign­ments and the tech­niques they use, in­clud­ing some help­ful tricks of the trade. In this is­sue, ed­i­tor Paul Bur­rows is air­borne shoot­ing graphic aeri­als… some­thing that’s now much more ac­ces­si­ble via camera drones.

An aerial study taken from a hot air bal­loon fly­ing near Byron Bay in north­ern NSW. The small lake is sur­rounded by trees and par­tially cov­ered in wa­ter lilies, cre­at­ing a graphic com­bi­na­tion of shapes and colours.

The Pho­tog­ra­pher

Camera ed­i­tor Paul Bur­rows is par­tic­u­larly pas­sion­ate about aerial pho­tog­ra­phy and jumps at any op­por­tu­nity to get air­borne. Hot-air bal­loons are a favourite be­cause of their speed – well, ac­tu­ally, more their slow­ness – and sta­bil­ity, mak­ing them an ideal camera plat­form.

The Equip­ment

Olym­pus OM-D E-M10 with M.Zuiko Dig­i­tal 70mm f1.8 ED prime lens (equiv­a­lent to 140mm). Sen­si­tiv­ity set to ISO 200; the ex­po­sure was f5.0 at 1/50 sec­ond with multi-pat­tern me­ter­ing and auto white bal­ance.

The Tech­nique

It seems log­i­cal to select a wide-an­gle lens for aerial pho­tog­ra­phy, but viewed from the air, a land­scape is full of graphic shapes and pat­terns that can be best ex­ploited with the tighter crop­ping of a longer fo­cal length. Of course, you can al­ways crop an im­age later on, but to main­tain the op­ti­mum res­o­lu­tion, fram­ing in-camera is the bet­ter op­tion… es­pe­cially when the scene con­tains a lot of small de­tail as is the case here.

How It Was Done

Hot-air bal­loons op­er­ate the most ef­fec­tively when the out­side is cold, so flights gen­er­ally start in the early morn­ing just as the sun is com­ing up. The sun’s low an­gle in the sky cre­ates long and deep shad­ows which, in com­po­si­tional terms, can ei­ther work for you or against you. This im­age was taken a lit­tle later into the flight when the sun was higher and the shad­ows less ob­vi­ous. The key was wait­ing un­til the bal­loon was al­most di­rectly over the sub­ject to give a very flat per­spec­tive which en­hanced the graphic el­e­ments of the sub­ject. The im­age is re­pro­duced here ex­actly as it was framed in-camera. Shut­ter-pri­or­ity auto ex­po­sure con­trol was used to main­tain man­ual con­trol over the shut­ter speeds, but as the bal­loon was drift­ing so slowly – which gave plenty of time to set up for the shot – a speed of 1/50 sec­ond was quite suf­fi­cient.

Tricks Of The Trade

With any form of aerial pho­tog­ra­phy it pays to keep things sim­ple and straight­for­ward. You’ll waste valu­able (and ex­pen­sive!) time fum­bling with gear so set­tle on one cam­er­aand-lens com­bi­na­tion or have a sec­ond body with a lens al­ready fit­ted if you think you’ll need more flex­i­bil­ity. For­get try­ing to dive into your camera bag ev­ery few min­utes. Load up mem­ory cards with plenty of space – you’ll al­ways un­der­es­ti­mate how many shots you’ll ac­tu­ally take – and, of course, make sure all bat­ter­ies are fully charged… and carry a spare in a pocket just in case.

De­gree Of Dif­fi­culty (Out of 10)

First get your hot-air bal­loon… but, se­ri­ously, part of the fun of aerial pho­tog­ra­phy is the com­pletely dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive it gives, and so there are in­ter­est­ing pic­tures to be had ev­ery­where, es­pe­cially when fly­ing just af­ter dawn. Once you get over the ini­tial ex­cite­ment, it’s a case of look­ing for the more in­ter­est­ing com­po­si­tions and then get­ting in the right po­si­tion to cap­ture. The bal­loon pi­lot gets a ‘10’ here, the pho­tog­ra­pher a ‘9’.

Can You Try This At Home?

Un­less you’re for­tu­nately to have a friend who owns an air­craft of some sort, aerial pho­tog­ra­phy used to in­volve hefty rental costs. But you can now get air­borne quite cheaply us­ing a camera drone (see the in­tro­duc­tory fea­ture in this is­sue) which, in many ways, can cre­ate more in­volv­ing and dy­namic images thanks to op­er­at­ing at low al­ti­tudes and in lo­ca­tions be­yond a nor­mal manned air­craft.

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