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Neal Rantoul shares his aerial photography with Luminous Landscape

By dpreview staff on Apr 4, 2013 at 18:56 GMT

Aerial photographer Neal Rantoul has written an article for The Luminous Landscape, explaining how he got started in air-to-ground photography, and sharing some interesting advice.

Neal Rantoul has been photographing in and around Washington State for many years, but in the late 90s he started to become intrigued by the possibilities of aerial photography... Neal started out using medium-format film equipment but has since moved on to digital, and these days he shoots with a Nikon D800E and fast zoom lens.

In the article, Rantoul describes his first trip in a light aircraft, pointing his camera through an open hatch in the floor of the plane - 'the pilot had removed the back seat of the Cessna for me so that when we got set and took off I was lying on my stomach looking straight down through the 4 inch hole. As there were about 6 inches of plane between the inside and the outside of the hole I quickly found I could either look through the hole or shove the camera down through the hole to take a picture, but not both at the same time'.

Neal shot 16 rolls of medium-format film on that trip, but these days he prefers to shoot from up front, in the seat next to the pilot, with a Nikon D800E and Nikon 70-200mm F2.8 lens. 

Unlike many aerial photographers, Neal isn't trying to capture buildings or property boundaries. He explains 'I prefer to let the subject be more abstract in the aerial work I do. I don't need to reference the photographs with buildings or highways'.

He prefers small, light high-wing aircraft like the Cessna 172 and 182, and recommends shooting from relatively low, explaining 'for what I want and tend to shoot, I find 800 to 1300 feet above my subject is about right. Too high and I am zooming in all the way so quality drops and too low everything moves by too fast'.

Explaining his approach, Rantoul says 'Most aerial photographers are flying on a mission. They have a client, or are making survey pictures, or real estate pictures and so on. I am not. I just go up to make art, pure and simple. If it looks good, I shoot it'.

You can see more of Neal's work on his site.

Comments

Total comments: 9
CNY_AP
By CNY_AP (Apr 5, 2013)

I do it from a 54" wingspan foam electric powered RC airplane. Before going on vacation, state park; etc, I look for a school or park to fly from (needs lots of room for landing) near whatever I want to shoot (usually a lake).

1 upvote
dgeugene1
By dgeugene1 (Apr 4, 2013)

I think I could do this kind of work slicing up images from Google Earth.

Does anyone still remember William Garnett?

0 upvotes
Camediadude
By Camediadude (Apr 4, 2013)

This is more like it.
Please get back to your roots, dpreview, by sharing more great photo stories like this.

5 upvotes
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Apr 4, 2013)

Our 'roots'? I appreciate your kind words, but it's only been relatively recently that we expanded our front page content to the extent that we'd cover work like this.

2 upvotes
Camediadude
By Camediadude (Apr 4, 2013)

You're right. I guess I should rephrase it to say just stick with the pure photography and gear related topics, and try to leave out any extraneous material, especially the kind that gives some of us high blood pressure! (which is rare, but still!)

3 upvotes
CNY_AP
By CNY_AP (Apr 5, 2013)

I've been on these sites since the year they started, and covering cameras has been the focus. I remember when steves digicams hit 1m hits. He used to give gifts at milestones...was 1m the last milestone or 100m? I think it was only 1m hits - seemed huge at the time!

0 upvotes
WhoozOn1st
By WhoozOn1st (Apr 5, 2013)

Some really interesting non-aerial material at Rantoul's site as well, e.g. Mutter Museum, Reggio Emilia, and salted crane at Salton Sea.

1 upvote
Tape5
By Tape5 (Apr 5, 2013)

Roots schmoots

0 upvotes
Paul Guba
By Paul Guba (Apr 5, 2013)

Don't you know photography is about buying the latest gear. If you were busy making pictures when would you buy stuff?

1 upvote
Total comments: 9