The term aerial photography is one that gets misunderstood because it gets used for several types of photographic purpose. The conventional view of aerial photography is of an aircraft flying over a stretch of land and taking between one and a hundred photographs. The camera may be fixed to the fuselage or handheld by a crew member. In truth there are quite a few types of elevated photography that can be useful for different purposes. To help understand the value and limitations of aerial photography, I thought I would highlight a few of the main types of this form of photography.
Photo reconnaissance. This is used by the military to oversee a conflict zone or conduct intelligence gathering. This can be done with all types of aircraft and is often done using cameras fixed to the fuselage – as this is not going to be available for commercial use I will not cover it further.
Satellite Imagery. This is provided by commercial and government agencies. Images can be purchased from “stock” imagery. It can also be commissioned from the satellite owners, but is very expensive and beyond the means of small and medium business owners. The quality of the imagery is very high resolution and the majority of high-resolution commercial imagery is provided by satellites operated by DigitalGlobe, GeoEye and ImageSat International.
Elevated Pole Aerial Photography. This is a fairly recent innovation, but it is increasingly available. Elevated photography which is often referred to as mast or pole photography. This involves a digital camera being elevated above an area on a telescopic mast and remotely controlled form the ground. In general this gives an image from above a site, but at an angle. It can be useful for capturing aerial views of shows, schools, archaeological sites, architectural sites, road traffic accidents, golf courses, properties that are not easy to access and many more. Depending upon the material used for the pole, then winds can affect s the ability to use this equipment.
Using a very high building. Occasionally in big cities it is possible to get the shot you require from the top of a very tall building. This relies on a number of factors, such as a suitable building being in the right location, being able to access the building and there being a suitable platform at the top of the building to take photographs from.
Balloons for Aerial Photography. This can take 3 forms, firstly, flying the camera using a helium balloon (using it is a similar manner to the elevated pole aerial photography. This type of aerial photography is weather dependent for obvious reasons.
The second form of balloon photography is to use a hot air balloon; the problem with this form of photography is that it is very dependent upon wind speed and direction.
The third form uses a combination of kite/helium balloon but is classified by the Civil Aviation Authority as Kite Aerial Photography.
Un-manned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) or Drone Aerial Photography. A recent innovation is the UAV or drone which can operate up to 400 feet. They are effective where there is limited aerial access to full sized aircraft, but an aerial option is still required. This is great if exact positioning is not important, but you require a general aerial view, or one from high level. The use of a fixed wing aircraft can be weather dependent.
Remote-controlled quadcopters are becoming increasingly popular as prices for the cheaper models have decreased. However, it is still expensive to operate quadcopters safely and within the law and there are many photographers and videographers who are using them illegally and without an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC). Used legally, quadcopters are particularly effective in producing low-level video footage, bringing a real intimacy between the viewer and subject. To do it properly, the operator must have had the correct training and they must hold an AOC. There must be two people controlling a quadcopter – one to fly the aircraft and another to take the photos or to shoot the video. Also, they must monitor very closely every cell of every battery and have a battery replacement plan within their business plan. Currently, the batteries are very expensive and hold their charge for only short periods. Some larger quadcopters use two batteries and can still be flown if one battery fails, however, the smaller models only use one battery and they will fall out of the sky (potentially killing someone) if the battery fails. The CAA are actively looking for videos on the internet that have been taken illegally from UAV’s showing (for instance) the aircraft being too close to people or vehicles not under the control of the operator, so look out for reports of prosecutions soon.
Commercial Aircraft Aerial Photography. This can be quite expensive if the aircraft is specially fitted, but is very effective to a number of solutions. The photographs can be taken from an oblique viewpoint or vertically. Most vertical aerial photography requires the use of a specially fitted aircraft. It works well for PR, corporate, architecture and construction photography. If the aircraft is not specially fitted, the cost can be quite reasonable (and cheaper than helicopters, unless a twin-engine aeroplane is necessary for the area to be covered). I regularly take aerial photos out of the open window of aeroplanes. The disadvantage of using fixed-wing aircraft, is that they have to continually bank around the subject as they can’t be hovered, so accurate positioning is impossible. Naturally, there is a sub-set of this form of aerial photography using radio controlled models.
Helicopter Aerial Photography. There are helicopters specially fitted with gyroscopes for aerial photography and video, but these are expensive to hire. While these are essential for video, they are not generally necessary for stills photography, so I normally hire small two-seater helicopters that I can remove the door to give me a better view. Helicopters allow the photographer to capture an image in an exact location. I am regularly given old aerial photos and asked to take new ones of the same view. Sometimes, I may be given an artist’s impression of a new sites (that has yet to be built) so that images can be taken of how the landscape looks now. This form of photography can be weather dependent, as the ideal lighting conditions are a sunny day with very little cloud cover (as clouds cast shadows on the ground). Winter can be great for aerial photography because the visibility can be outstanding on a cold, clear, sunny day.
So you can see that aerial photography takes several forms and all have their place. I specialise in the helicopter or fixed wing aircraft options for Aerial Photography Hinckley. This gives me a lot of flexibility to provide the solution you require.
Call me now on 07973 638591 or on 01455 271849 or CONTACT ME for an estimate or to discuss an aerial photography shoot by the Aerial Photography Hinckley.
Last weekend I had the pleasure of photographing actor John Middleton who plays Ashley the vicar in Emmerdale.
John Middleton was visiting Kiwi House Care Home in Derby to officially open it and to talk to the residents. Kiwi House is a superb luxury care home run by Adept Care Group. I have done lots of care home videos and photography for Adept Care Group and I have found their homes to be exceptionally well run with very caring staff. Kiwi House has its own pub – aptly called “The Woolpack” (the same name as the pub in Emmerdale), so John just had to pop in there for a pint!
It was a great idea to get John to visit Kiwi House as in his role as Emmerdale vicar Ashley he has been in a storyline about dementia for the last 18 months which has left fans of the TV soap heartbroken. As part of his research for the plot, John visited many care homes to find out more about the illness. The story reaches its climax on Friday’s 7pm episode when Ashley dies surrounded by his family and friends.
John has been Emmerdale vicar Ashley for the last 20 years and has proved to be a firm favourite with fans. The Derby care home was packed with visitors who were all keen to talk to John and have selfies taken with him. It was quite amusing watching so many women throwing themselves at him!
I have worked with many celebrities over years and some of them can be be quite difficult (understatement!). However, I found John to be an absolute pleasure to work with. He was so amenable and friendly to me, the staff, residents and visitors. Thoroughly nice bloke. He deserves the holiday he is planning after such a long stint on Emmerdale. I look forward to seeing what roles he plays in the future. I’m sure he won’t be short of offers.
Here are some of my photos of John:
Even if you are not a famous actor, if you want photography or videography that will ensure that your business stands out from the crowd, then call me now on 07973 638591 or CONTACT ME.