Aerial Photography Tips and Tricks

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In aerial photography, preparation is half the battle in capturing images you will be happy with.
In this video, professional nature photographer Doug Gardner rides passenger in a Cessna airplane for tips and tricks on aerial photography. Doug and pilot Glen Alsworth fly over Alaska’s snow-covered mountains and clear blue lakes, and even the famous volcano, Mount Spurr. Doug shows you the necessary steps you need to take before shooting begins. He straps himself in with two safety harnesses, then opens the passenger door to eliminate the window glass from view. The goal is to eliminate blurry images caused by wind, turbulence, and plane vibration. Keeping his lens clear of the slipstream, he positions his body at an angle to get an unobstructed view through this camera. Elbows close to his body, he composes the photograph.

Then, the aerial photography process begins. Although Doug carries three zoom lenses, he mostly uses the 24-105 for its versatility. The higher the shutter speed, the better, 1/500th or above. The ideal apertures are f8 and f11 to create sharp focus and expanded depth of field. In composing an image, he looks for patterns on the ground: mountains, lakes, rivers, ice, rocks, snow, and color textures. He also looks for cloud formations as an added visual element to the land patterns. He recommends taking your time in deciding what to shoot because the scenery can be overwhelming.

In aerial photography, you are shooting white snow and black rock. Therefore, measuring the exposure is crucial. You often need to adjust your camera’s light meter reading. For example, when shooting through a light haze, Doug recommends slightly underexposing your shots, and then bumping up the contrast in post production. Climb into the airplane with pro Doug Gardner for what you need to know about aerial photography to capture spectacular scenics over Alaska’s amazing terrain.

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