Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Night time aerials of Miami

I have been waiting for almost a month and a half to do some night time helicopter shots of Miami. Unfortunately, the weather hasn't cooperated, and thunderstorms kept moving in to spoil my trip. Two nights ago I caught a break. There were some thunderhead clouds on the horizon, but enough clear sky for the sun to break through to fill the sky with color. I had planned to do strickly night photos, but with such I beautifully colored sky, chose to depart ten minutes earlier, just after the sun set, to capture the color in the sky. Miami isn't like New York. It is not filled with as many discriptive buildings. Consequently, I felt it needed and earlier timing for a night shot to preserve color and detail in the water, which enhanced the shape of the city.

My technique for shooting night time aerials hand held from a helicopter is to set the ISO to Auto, open the lens to full aperture, and control the shutter speed manually. I then vary the exposure when necessary by adjusting the +/- exposure control on the camera. I try to keep the ISO as low as I can, which often means using low shutter speeds in the 1/60 - 1/125 range. I am usually using wide angle lenses, and this helps to allow the slower speeds. Nonetheless, helicopters, especially with the doors off, are vibrating quite a lot. To protect myself against motion blur, I choose a high frame rate and keep the shutter pressed for a long time to guarantee that at least one of the shots will be steady enough. Kind of a crazy techniques, but it works most of the time.

I usually try to use wide aperture primes of f/1.4 whenever I can. This helps keep the ISO down. On this occasion I was shooting Miami from the air for the first time and didn't know what to expect so I packed short zooms with their f/2.8 apertures on my cameras. This gave me a range of about 24-70mm focal lengths, but caused the ISO to get up in the 3200-6400 range -- not where I usually like to be.  Had I used my f/1.4 primes, I could have knocked two stops off the ISO by working at 800-1600 maximum instead. This makes a huge difference in image quality and sharpness.

My thanks to FlyNYon Miami for helping to arrange the scheduling for this flight. I have used their services in NYC and now am using them again in Florida.

On September 9th, I will be conducting an "Over Miami - Aerial Photography Workshop" for the Leica Academie. If you'd like to join me, you can check out the details here.

1 comment :

  1. Growing up in South Florida . I've been here over 50yrs , I can say these are terrific
    Im surprised that Miami's skyline has gotten so big
    I hope your adjusting to South Florida