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'.

Recent Videos

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.