I recently returned from a week long assignment shooting for a tourism bureau in Alaska. I’ve worked with these folks for years, and it is always one of the most enjoyable assignments I shoot all year. First, I get to return to my old home in Alaska. And second, I get to shoot the coolest things like fisherman hauling in huge king salmon, float planes soaring over remote lakes with Denali in the distance, and endless scenic landscapes. And many years I go up in helicopters to photograph. Shooting aerials is always exciting; you just have to remember a few things to get good shots.
First, make sure you and the pilot are on the same page. I like to tell the pilot what I have in mind, and then hear from him what he has in mind. Things like how close to fly to the ground, are the doors going to be on or off, and where can I put my gear if I have some. For shooting in helicopters, I normally take one body with a 24-120mm VR lens. The VR will help reduce vibration, and this focal length works great for both distant landscapes and allows me to zoom in on interesting parts of the shot. I make sure to have a fresh battery and plenty of card space.
Second, wear a dark shirt. Your reflection on the window may be a problem to photograph through, so a dark shirt will minimize this issue. I get as close to the window as I can without touching it. This reduces glare issues. If you touch the window with your lens, you will get vibration and may cause a scratch on the glass.
Third, take off your lens hood. Anything that can fall off (filters, hoods) during the flight is a very bad thing, and dangerous.
Fourth, make sure the pilot knows how high and fast you want to go. On my shoot in Alaska this year, I was with some tourists on my flight so the pilot wanted to give them a good ride. He was flying low and fast over a huge glacier, not ideal for shooting but a lot of fun! To compensate for the high speed/low flight, I dialed up my ISO and shot at 1/3200 to stop the action, or in this case, freeze the landscape.