New Straits Times
View from above
Taking to the skies with a powered paraglider opens up amazing creative possibilities for photographers, writes Salliza Salleh
WHILE drones are the cheapest and safest option for photographers to shoot the world from above, some prefer aircraft, helicopters or other aerial vehicles to capture their surroundings.
For five years, I had the privilege of photographing aerial landscapes around Malaysia via a paramotor or a motorpowered paraglider.
A paramotor is a form of ultralight flying vehicle where the pilot carries a motor on his back. The motor provides enough thrust to take off using a paraglider-like wing.
With tandem paramotor trike, the pilot sits at the back while the co-pilot and passenger have the first-class seats in front.
Aerial photography helps us to see Earth from a different perspective. We get a bigger picture of our surroundings from a different angle.
Here are some tips on what’s involved when taking photographs using a paramotor.
1. COMMUNICATION: When flying, good communication — between you and your pilot, other PPG pilots and ground crew — is very important.
The radio will be attached to your helmet. Feel free to communicate with the pilot.
Before the flight, discuss with him the image you want and how he may be able to help you.
This photo of Wai Meng flying against the sunset is staged. I radioed him while flying and instructed him to be at that spot so that I could photograph him against the sun.
Camera setting: Aperture f/4.5, shutter speed 1/1250 and ISO 800.
2. COMPOSITION: Apply the Rule of Thirds. Use lines. Look for patterns. Simplify. Do not overcrowd your frame. Use multilayering. All these composition rules apply here.
The vast open space can make you confused about where to start.
With practice, I find it easier to apply the rules when framing my shoot.
The morning and late afternoon period (between 6pm and 6.45pm) provide the best light, so plan your flying time accordingly.
I captured this photo of the Sungai Tinggi dam while flying tandem for a twohour cross country trip to Hulu Selangor.
Camera setting: Aperture f/10, shutter speed: 1/1000 and ISO 800.
3. TOOLS: Fly with the minimal to avoid excessive weight on the engine. Zoom lenses are recommended.
I carry two bodies of cameras attached to a 24-70mm lens and a 70-200mm lens. A GoPro is attached to a pole and my handphone.
Things tend to move faster when you are flying. You will not have enough time to change your lens and you may also risk getting dust entering the camera sensor. Pack extra batteries and extra memory cards.
A camera with a large sensor is an advantage as it allows cropping.
I use my GoPro to capture this moment during sunset at Pulau Indah, Klang.
4 SKILLS: If you have a fear of heights, this is not for you. You will be constantly cruising at 20-50kph at a height of 150m to 300m above ground. Changes in wind conditions can create pressure on you and the fluctuations will make you dizzy and lost.
Do preliminary research on the area, route, landscape and what to expect while flying.
Set your camera while still on the ground.
I usually go for fast shutter speed (minimum 500s), ISO at 800 (but do not hesitate to push up the ISO) and aperture according to the situation.
I took this photo of KLCC while flying tandem. The wind was wild due to the thermal heat generated from the building.
Camera setting: Aperture f/7.1, shutter speed 1/640 and ISO 800.
5. PERSPECTIVE: The adrenaline rush makes the flying experience different from flying drones. Shoot with different lenses and from different angles for creative perspective effects.
Looking at the landscape from the perspective of a bird is amazing. To be able to photograph such views is a privilege.
For this photo, I was flying above my friend Adnan. I radioed him to look up and captured him with his wing.
Camera setting: Aperture F/10, shutter speed 1/320 and ISO 500.