…to focus only on the different perspective and incredibly wide field of view that photographing from a helicopter provides, is to ignore just how different the world looks from a few hundred feet above the ground.
Aerial Photography Comparisons in the Seattle / Tacoma area
For more than thirty five years, I’ve been looking down on the world from small aircraft – first as a private pilot in single engine airplanes, and for the past eighteen years as a photographer from small helicopters. It’s a wonderful way to view the world and a fantastic vantage point for making graphic, eye-catching images. One that I wrote more in-depth about a couple of years ago.
How close can you get?
One question I’m frequently asked by clients or potential clients when talking to them about aerial photography is, “how close can you get?” That’s a very valid question when trying to figure out just how useful these images will be. After all “aerial photos” might mean snapshots out the window of a jetliner, they might mean straight-down aerial mapping type images from the belly of a small plane, or they might even mean Google Earth-type satellite views — none of which is very useful for showcasing finished architecture, construction, or engineering projects. So the short answer is that I can generally fill the frame with an area about the size of a soccer field, or even a bit smaller. I’ll qualify that by saying that factors such as light conditions, wind, and population density can all play a factor in how low the helicopter can fly and how long of a lens I can shoot with, but that size is a good rule of thumb.
How many images will I receive?
One of the great things about small helicopters flown by experienced pilots is just how maneuverable they are. I generally spend about 10-15 minutes over each site I photograph, and in that time I usually shoot about 80-100 images from a variety of altitudes, with a variety of focal length lenses (both wide views and close-in images), and from all four sides of the project if relevant. These images are shot with the same pro-quality cameras I photograph architecture with from the ground, operated by a human photographer with years of experience, and are stabilized by a small, powerful gyroscope to help eliminate camera shake. In my mind, the results are far more varied, are more creative, and are technically superior to almost any drone image. [More on the limits of drone photography here and here.] In the same 10-15 minute photo session, I can photograph a project in the context of the whole city, show visitors or users engaging with the space or building, and also shoot details of pattern, shape, and design. This full set is later edited down to a more manageable delivery set, typically 20-30 images total, still maintaining a nice wide variety of views.
Lastly, I’ll just point out that focusing only on the different perspective and incredibly wide field of view that photographing from a helicopter provides, is to ignore just how different the world looks from a few hundred feet above the ground. Because of the perspective of looking down on objects that are generally much taller than we are, the world becomes very 2-dimensional from the air. The height of the urban environment is flattened and the shapes and patterns are emphasized. As an architectural photographer with an eye for geometry, I see the world in very graphic shapes and forms. The world as it appears from 500 feet off the ground really appeals to my graphic way of seeing and I love the opportunity to play with photography compositions from up there.
How would I use these photos?
Please have a look at the dozen pairs of images below to compare how different architecture, construction, and landscape design projects can be showcased with both far and near aerial photos, and don’t discount the impact on your marketing efforts of using aerial images for more than just high vantage point snapshots. Thanks for having a look, and please be in touch with any questions about aerial photography or if you’d like to discuss an aerial photo project in the Greater Seattle area, or anywhere on the West Coast.
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