Aerial Shots of Istavrit Visual Solutions – 6

Airplane Windows

Avoid shooting through any windows. Windows are made of Plexiglas and, even if perfectly clean and polished, are not flat. With telephoto lenses they often will distort and make the image wavy as if you were looking through waves on an ocean. This is not much of a problem with wide lenses.

Ideally just open the window. On many small planes people rig them to open all the way. On C-150/152s and C-172s the windows usually open half way.

These Cessna windows can be made to open fully in flight with the permission of the owner and pilot by simply removing a small Philips head screw at the front retaining bracket while on the ground.  Then, when in flight, first stow all papers and light weight items and open the window holding on to the latch until fully open.  A good pair of ear-plugs is great to have with an open window. The wind will keep the window propped open in flight.

Hang on to that screw and replace it when back on the ground.  You might ask the FBO that provides the plane to have one of their mechanics remove it for the flight.  That will meet with varying degrees of enthusiasm.  A small Philips screw, no matter how seemingly inconsequential, can be a huge thing to the FAA.

Finding a Plane and Pilot

This is easy. Pilots look for excuses to fly. They love it. We talk about “$100 hamburgers” because many flights are simply to fly to the next airport just for lunch. Most planes are flown because pilots love flying for its own sake. It’s unlike many people who drive cars only because they have to.



Aerial photography has two technical issues. These are:

1.) Vibration. This comes from the airplane, its engine and air turbulence. Small planes bounce around a lot, unlike big boring jetliners. Fast lenses which are sharp at large apertures are a big help.

2.) Haze and any other obscuring phenomenon.

Conquering Vibration

This is easy: use a fast shutter speed and always hand-hold your camera. Don’t rest any part of it on the airplane. Keep every part of your arms elbows off any part of the plane. Ideally have your butt as your only point of contact.

You can use very large apertures since there is no need for depth of field. Experiment to learn the largest aperture at which your lens is sharp and use that.

Experiment and learn the highest ISO at which your digital camera makes clean images and use that.

Once you’ve set ISO and f/stop use whatever fast shutter speed you get. The faster the better.

If I use a shutter speed of 8x (eight times) the focal length I always get sharp results.

Gyro Stabilizers

I’ve never used one. I’m too cheap. I use short shutter speeds in good light.

You can rent or buy ones like the Kenyon Laboratories gyro. They help you make long exposures in crummy light. These are great for longer exposures with larger format cameras and in fading evening light. If you can get one go for it, but you don’t need it in daylight with a modern digital SLR.