Finally catching up after a fantastic month on the road, all in Alaska. We taught two bear photo workshops in Lake Clark and Katmai NP, and then did a week long assignment for Alaska tourism. Every trip to Alaska involves flying in small planes and often in helicopters, and this trip was no exception. In Katmai our group flew along the coast to Hallo Bay, and honestly it was one of the most scenic flights I’ve done in Alaska. We also flew right through the center of Lake Clark NP, another incredible flight.
This was my 20th year photographing for Alaska tourism. I can’t say enough about how grateful I am that they have continued to bring us up for this incredible assignment. This year we did some incredible flying in helicopters, and also did some doors off flying. I’ve talked about aerial photography before on this blog, but I wanted to add a few more specifics to doors off flying. This is a special occasion, and you want to get the most out of it.
First, wear lots of clothes because the temperature is going to be chilly. This might be less of an issue in Hawaii, but I am always surprised at how chilly it gets in the helicopter or plane with the doors off. Take off your baseball cap, because it will blow away (sunglasses too). Only wear items that won’t blow off.
Next, take off the lens hood and cap and secure them in your pack. Nothing makes a pilot more nervous than having items bouncing around in a cockpit…this is dangerous. Put your camera strap around your neck…all cameras must be tethered or secured. Make sure you have a fresh battery and lots of flash card space.
Don’t lean out the cockpit. It is tempting to lean a little further to get the shot, but the second you get outside the cockpit you will feel the rotor or prop wash. You might be flying over a hundred miles an hour, and have a fast moving prop ten feet in front of you…imagine the wind you will experience. Truth be told on my first doors off aerial I stuck my camera out the door and instantly my lens hood blew off.
Fold your headset mic back over your head. Nothing is more frustrating than having someone’s mic picking up wind noise and not being able to communicate during a flight. Some pilots will use a manual switch for windy flights to reduce wind noise over the radio.
I like a 24-120 or 24-200mm for aerials. I used my Nikon Z7II with 24-200mm during our assignment, and it worked great. Remember to turn on your vibration reduction.
And last, remember what the pilot says is the golden rule. Ask your pilot to get in a different position if you need a new angle, but if they don’t want to fly there, so be it. You don’t want to ask your pilot to do something they aren’t comfortable doing. Sit back, enjoy the breeze, and start clicking the shutter at all those amazing scenes below you!