A couple of months ago I was asked by a local NGO, TIDE, to go on the Light Hawk flight to take images of the Private Protected Area, Marine Reserve and National Park that TIDE is managing. The flight time was split between two, one and a half hour flights.
The first flight was concentrating on Port Honduras Marine Reserve with the Marine Park Manager on board and the second flight was over the terrestrial areas to record the Private Protected Areas and Payne’s Creek National Park with the Terrestrial Biologist with us. The images were for the purpose of monitoring any illegal deforesting, construction and activities throughout this vast land and sea area.
The plane was a small Cessna 5-seater plane that had removable side doors so I could be taking pictures directly from the plane without any obstruction. I was strapped in to the plane by a harness and seatbelt and off we went. I took my wide angle 10-20mm lens and I also had a 28-135mm with me for more close-up shots. Due to the speed and plane movement I set my camera on to the ISO of 250 and put it in the Av mode with f/11. Right after takeoff I fired some shots and checked the speed and I was in the region of 1/250th of a second. I thought that it was perhaps a little too slow to stop all the movement especially with the longer lens so I adjusted the aperture to f/8. After I fired a couple more shots I checked it again and the speed was about 1/500th of a second. It was a very nice day with some clouds in the sky that created a nice dramatic pattern on the sea surface.
We did 90 minutes in the air and then went back to the Punta Gorda Airport to pick up the Terrestrial Biologist and have a 5 minute break and off we went again flying over the land this time. Because of the darker background of the land I opened up the aperture again to the f/6.7 to get some more speed. Another 90 minutes flew pass while I was clicking away, changing lens and clicking some more.
Literally hanging out of the plane taking pictures at 600ft altitude, what a great thing to do. When I got home I imported all the pictures in to Lightroom, got rid of some blurry and over/under exposed pictures and corrected the rest and this is the final images of the day: Inland aerial pictures and Marine aerial pictures.
So if you ever have an opportunity to take pictures from a low flying plane either through the window or with the side missing I would recommend setting your camera to Aperture Priority mode, set the aperture to f/8, or around it, and set the ISO low enough to be able to take picture at about 1/500th of a second. If there is a window in your way you have to be careful not to catch the reflection from it and also don’t have the lens resting on the window. It will transfer the vibration from the plane to your camera and it could result in shaky pictures. Another thing that is quite obvious, but I’ll mention it anyway, is to turn your camera flash off. All you will get will be a big light reflection of the flash bouncing back from the window. Even without the window the flash will not be any help since you will be quite far away from the ground.
You don’t have to be in a special plane to take nice pictures from the air. This picture was taken through the window of a commercial plane on the way back to Belize.You can see the Bahamas Islands in the photo.
Well good luck and thank you for reading.