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Poynter.org goes behind the scenes of magazine's post-Sandy cover picture

By dpreview staff on Nov 5, 2012 at 22:17 GMT

Poynter.org has published an interesting article examining how photographer Iwan Baan took his striking post-Sandy picture of Manhattan, which is currently gracing the cover of New York Magazine. According to the article, Baan took his photograph of Manhattan - which is half blacked-out due to the destructive effects of Hurricane Sandy - from the open door of a helicopter hovering at 5000 feet above New York. He went up on the night of Wednesday 31st October, when limited air traffic made it possible to hover for longer - and higher - than would normally be allowed over a major city.

Dutch photographer Iwan Baan took this striking cover image from the door of a helicopter hovering 5000 feet above New York. This view shows very clearly the vast blacked-out areas of the city, caused by the destructive force of hurricane Sandy. 

According to Baan, heading upwards 'was the only way to show that New York was two cities [...] one was almost like a third world country where everything was becoming scarce. Everything was complicated. And then another was a completely vibrant, alive New York'. 

Baan took the picture using a Canon EOS-1D X, paired with the new EF 24-70mm F2.8 II USM lens. In an effort to get a sharp image from the vibrating helicopter he selected ISO 25,600 and shot wide open. 

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Comments

Total comments: 33
Tabitha665
By Tabitha665 (Nov 16, 2012)

awesome photo

0 upvotes
F M
By F M (Nov 14, 2012)

Baan says "the new 24-70mm", but does this imply the f/2.8L II USM or an advance unit of the f/4L IS USM?

The f/4 would lose an f-stop of sensitivity, but pick up 4 f-stops in stability for a static image, perhaps a better result, especially at 1/40 sec.

Net would be 3 f-stops?

Also, would f/4 with the f/4 lens have better fidelity than the f/2.8 with the f/2.8 lens?

0 upvotes
srinivas Volety
By srinivas Volety (Nov 13, 2012)

Amazing shot., Ideas worth sharing :)

0 upvotes
jande9
By jande9 (Nov 7, 2012)

Interesting how all the streetlights on every bridge stop exactly half way across.

Comment edited 22 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Louis Dallara
By Louis Dallara (Nov 6, 2012)

Ok, Inquiring minds want to know? What did he get paid for on the image?
He ran up up a lot of expense and was he on assignment for the New Yorker or free lance?
Anyway I'd read the New Yorker article.
Got to go vote !!!

0 upvotes
ahmami
By ahmami (Nov 6, 2012)

Very nice image. 2500 captures in 30 minutes? Wow. that's my annual quota done :-)

0 upvotes
EricoftheNorth
By EricoftheNorth (Nov 6, 2012)

Just think, if the new lens had IS. 4 stops lower ISO would be nice. Doesnt matter if its the sharpest zoom ever if there is motion blur.

0 upvotes
G3User
By G3User (Nov 6, 2012)

There's a lot of noise in that image, especially in the clouds. He should have use a Nikon D4.

1 upvote
Nishi Drew
By Nishi Drew (Nov 6, 2012)

That's right, because a noise free image with technical perfection is the only good image one can produce

4 upvotes
MichaelEchos
By MichaelEchos (Nov 6, 2012)

No, he should have used Topaz Denoise.

1 upvote
MichaelEchos
By MichaelEchos (Nov 6, 2012)

@Nishi, we are not requesting for noise free image, but we would want a low noise photographs, or else we wouldn't buy newer cameras.

2 upvotes
Sdaniella
By Sdaniella (Nov 9, 2012)

Making blanket statements like that is absurd... backed up by no one-for-one comparisons of the exact same shooting 'moment', so all we have left are 'studio' test comparisons.

Rather, Nikon D4's are noisier at ISO 25,600:

http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/canon-1dx/FULLRES/E1DXhSLI025600NR2D.HTM

http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/nikon-d4/FULLRES/D4hSLI025600NR2D.HTM

one need only look at the black coffee mug here to get an approximate sense of how night shadows/sky's on the image Q would have turned out minus pp fixes.

and with less D4 resolution, any poor NR obliterates more details, if it caught any, it would be more mushy/noisy than the Canon 1DX. (just look at the obliterated 'fine lines' on that PS 69 Proportion Scale, only larger 'gross' sized details manage to be resolved)

0 upvotes
Funduro
By Funduro (Nov 6, 2012)

From NYMag, best part of story/article on the effort it took to get that shot:

"That view of Manhattan, I had it in mind because I'd shot it a number of times before," he said on Monday from Haiti, where he's already on another international assignment.

Fortunately, Baan was in town last week and had prepared for the storm. "Before the hurricane hit, I had already decided that it could be very difficult to get out of the city," Baan explained. "I was in Tokyo last year during the tsunami and the earthquake and experienced the moment of panic breaks out in a big city. So as a precaution I had already booked a rental car for the day after, just in case."

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
3 upvotes
Funduro
By Funduro (Nov 6, 2012)

But when he got to Hertz in Manhattan, they had run out of vehicles. "I made kind of a scene," Baan admitted, "and in the end they said, 'We have a car for you but it's at JFK Airport and instead of $300, it's now $2,000 for the week.' It took me about four hours to get to JFK in a cab and when I finally got there, it was late in the afternoon. It was literally the last car in town."
Then he had to track down a helicopter. "I started to call around the pilots that I usually use, but they were already out of gas or power or on a rescue mission, so none of them could help. I finally found one about an hour and a half drive away in Long Island, but they said they only accepted cash because the hangar didn't have power. Luckily, I had also gone to the ATM before the storm and I had enough cash with me, so it all lined up perfectly."

2 upvotes
Funduro
By Funduro (Nov 6, 2012)

"I was already in Brooklyn, so I didn't have to get out of the city anymore," said Baan. "I drove straight there." Total flight time was two and a half hours: one hour to get to Manhattan, half an hour shooting time over the city, and one hour back to eastern Long Island. It was a clear night with wonderful visibility and just enough cloud presence to make for a beautiful sky.

"It's quite difficult to shoot from a moving helicopter even during the day because of the vibrations," he said. "It was super dark so I had to shoot with a long shutter time, and I could only do it because I had just gotten the newest Canon" —a 1D X with a 24-70mm lens — "which is more sensitive. I shot between 2,000 and 2,500 shots — 80 percent of the shots are a blur, 10 percent are maybe useable, and 1 percent were really sharp.

1 upvote
Funduro
By Funduro (Nov 6, 2012)

"It was very uncertain, but I knew it would be an amazing shot of New York at that moment. All these details of the day just lined up. If one of the things didn't line up, the shot wouldn't have been possible."

1 upvote
PicOne
By PicOne (Nov 6, 2012)

I'm digging the 24-70L and 1DX Amazon adds directly underneath this news item.

Awesome image though.

0 upvotes
John Koch
By John Koch (Nov 6, 2012)

Didn't the storm tide subside after the peak on the night of October 29? The photo suggests that Battery Park was still under water on the night of October 31, when Baan is supposed to have shot the picture from a helicopter holding a Canon 1D X by hand and using a 24-70mm lens on full open aperture, 25,000 ISO, with the shutter at 1/40. Plausible?

How do people get assignments to fly over Manhattan two days after a catastrophe, when half the people have no power, then fly off to Haiti, where more than half never had it?

Well, other Dutchmen do some miraculous flying about too.

0 upvotes
rrr_hhh
By rrr_hhh (Nov 6, 2012)

Read the story on the special issue of the New York Magazine : they explain how they hired the photographer for those takes, how he had anticipated things (how he had experienced the tsunami in Tokyio, how he knew from there what could succeed when panic was spreading in a big city), how he managed to find a car and then had difficulty hiring a helicopter, how he had cash with him because he knew it would be needed, how he shot may be 2500 pictures in half an hour from the helicopter and how about 80% were blurred, 10% almost sharp and only 1% was sharp and good for publication. The magazine is showing a slideshow with ten other pictures :

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 12 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
TheDreamingWatchman
By TheDreamingWatchman (Nov 6, 2012)

If you call somebody a liar you should have more than an uneducated guess.

3 upvotes
Juck
By Juck (Nov 6, 2012)

John,, what did conspiracy kooks like you do before the internet?

1 upvote
Francis Carver
By Francis Carver (Nov 6, 2012)

I have difficulty with the 2500 pix in 3-0 minutes part. That would come to be 83.3 photographs every single minutes for a half hour period. No breaks, no cooling off of the sensor, no write times, no changing of memory cards, no nothing. Just 83.3 photos taken for 30 minutes.

In my view, that would be quite a feat even on dry land during the day, let alone up in the sky at night, hovering in a chopper.

0 upvotes
John Koch
By John Koch (Nov 7, 2012)

Hmmm. Is it an insult to consider a photo "incredible"? Or migth that be the highest compliment? Can others claim to capture equally "impossible" shots? Oh, yes, contenders abound. Do we all believe everything we see? Anyway, Mr. Baan, you've done the incredible.

0 upvotes
denooyer
By denooyer (Nov 7, 2012)

You obviously don't have a clue who Iwan Baan is, and what he does (and did) in the architectural photography business... ;-)

You also believe in the 9-11 conspiracy, right?

0 upvotes
dbateman
By dbateman (Nov 7, 2012)

The numbers do add up. He obviously had little time. The range is 2000 to 2500 so roughly 1 image per second or 1.4 image per second. He is using a camera capable of much more than 1 image per second, so most likely machine guns away, looks at the blur. The shifts to max ISO, machine guns away. Still sees blur, then shifts to max aperture and machine guns away. When lands just pray that one or 3 images is good. In Jpeg or raw only, you can get a lot of images on a 64GB card. He might even have a higher one.

0 upvotes
mattmtl
By mattmtl (Nov 7, 2012)

I think you are confusing "in the dark" with "under water". At least, I am not seeing anything under water here.

0 upvotes
tkbslc
By tkbslc (Nov 5, 2012)

Well deserving of the cover.

1 upvote
Dan Tong
By Dan Tong (Nov 5, 2012)

A truly creative image. It's great to have the story of how it was done. I also enjoyed his comment on how it reflects the difference between the Powered (or Powerful) and the Powerless.

The more I look at this image, the more I appreciate it the angle of view, so dependent on the height, the framing angle (focal length & distance), the color tone, etc. Clearly you will not find an image like this on microstock : )

Iwan Baan is one photographer who, based on this example of his work, well deserves his success.

Thanks,

Dan

5 upvotes
Francis Carver
By Francis Carver (Nov 5, 2012)

Same exact position in the air was used for the opening establishing aerial scenes in a 1961 movie called "West Side Story." And that was shot with a pretty heavy Panavision 70mm camera.

Whereas seeing part of Manhattan island fairly dark is interesting, the same thing (partial back-out of a city) happens quite often all over the world.

0 upvotes
ZorSy
By ZorSy (Nov 6, 2012)

And in that light (or partial blackout) there is no need to make a political statement as written; “What really struck me, if you look at the image on the left, you see the Goldman Sachs building and new World Trade Center,” said Baan. “These two buildings are brightly lit. And then the rest of New York looks literally kind of powerless. In a way, it shows also what’s wrong with the country in this moment.”
Whatever is wrong with the country has nothing to do with the fact a large city was struck with a blasting natural disaster - and no government on Earth could do anything about it. It is a great photo, but that's it.

1 upvote
jjlmoose
By jjlmoose (Nov 6, 2012)

What do you care what political meaning the author saw in this image?

1 upvote
Dheorl
By Dheorl (Nov 5, 2012)

Out of the other photos that were uploaded I really don't think this is my favourite. I prefer the one with a similar distance/focal length but different angle.

0 upvotes
Samuel Dilworth
By Samuel Dilworth (Nov 5, 2012)

An amazing photo. And the stuff of dreams: New York, helicopters, the latest cameras, a new business model… Cool.

4 upvotes
Total comments: 33