The good, the bad and the ugly of aerial photography - Part 1: Why shoot aerials?
Man has always had the dream of flight – but so has the photographer. It’s a unique experience to shoot from the air, and it has some incredible benefits in many senses. But as one might discover, it often carries a number of problems and a hefty price tag. I personally started my romance with serious aerial photography about three years ago, and I’ve been hooked ever since. My experiences have mostly been amazing but admittedly not always so, and I’ve come to wonder what makes photography flights in different settings so… well, different.
In this series of articles I’ll try to survey my own experience with aerial shooting, including the different aircrafts to shoot from, what equipment to use, what technicalities to put an emphasis on and of course, the prices. I’ll talk about some of my aerial shoots, and explain what distinguished them and what I learned. Aerial photography can be wonderful and exhilarating, but it can also be disappointing if you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into. I hope the following articles help with this.
So what makes aerial photography so darn good? A great many things. First of all, it allows for a new – and extremely different – angle of shooting. There’s a huge difference in the angle of view when shooting from the ground, or even from a mountaintop, and when shooting from hundreds of meters above the landscape. The same scenery gains another dimension, and the viewer gets a much better understanding of the surroundings. Perspective deformations are also less pronounced since there’s less of a difference in distance to the subject’s different parts.
|An aerial shot of Deadvlei, Namibia. It’s incredible to realize that most of the clay pan is actually devoid of trees - which is hard to perceive when you’re down there.|
It can be claimed that only from the air, one can see the landscape for what it really is. Unseen parts of the setting can be exposed, for example ones that are obscured by mountains, and with good visibility, one can see and shoot much farther than from the ground. In the image below, shot from a helicopter in Holuhraun, Iceland, several of these advantages are demonstrated: first of all, when shooting from the ground, it was impossible to get a shot of the lava which includes the caldera itself. Secondly, this angle allows for inclusion of the lava river in the background, which contributes a great deal to the composition.
In addition, some landscapes are hard to get to – not to mention shoot – from the ground, especially close enough to make them interesting. A good example of this is an erupting volcano. If the lava flow is strong, it can be impossible to go near the eruption point itself, but from the air, it can often be seen quite clearly.
But it’s really not limited to volcanoes. Instead of traversing miles and miles on foot, camping, climbing and struggling, one might take a short flight, shoot a location and fly back in time for dinner. Sounds enticing, and it truly is. Moreover, it’s quite addictive, so much so that when visiting a new location, I often feel like I have to shoot it from the air, even if there isn’t much sense in it. One mustn’t forget that aerial photography is an experience to cherish, not to be taken for granted. Do it when you must, when it offers real benefits, and not just as a means to shoot without making an effort.
|The terminal of Ilulissat glacier, Greenland.|
In the next article in the series I’ll talk about the two most popular aircrafts for aerial photography.
Erez Marom is a professional nature photographer, photography guide and traveler based in Israel. You can follow Erez's work on Instagram, Facebook and 500px, and subscribe to his mailing list for updates.
If you'd like to experience and shoot some of the most fascinating landscapes on earth with Erez as your guide, you're welcome to take a look at his unique photography workshops around the world:
Land of Ice - Southern Iceland
Winter Paradise - Northern Iceland
Northern Spirits - The Lofoten Islands
Giants of the Andes and Fitz Roy Hiking Annex - Patagonia
Tales of Arctic Nights - Greenland
Saga of the Seas and The Far Reaches Annex - The Faroe Islands
Desert Storm - Namibia
Selected articles by Erez Marom:
- Behind the Shot: Dark Matter
- Mountain Magic: Shooting in the Lofoten Islands
- Behind the Shot: Nautilus
- Behind the Shot: Lost in Space
- Behind the Shot: Spot the Shark
- Quick Look: The Art of the Unforeground
- Behind the Shot: Watery Grave
- Whatever it Doesn't Take
- Winds of Change: Shooting changing landscapes
- On the Importance of Naming Images
- Hell on Earth: Shooting in the Danakil Depression
- Parallelism in Landscape Photography
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