I went to an awards ceremony for a local photography contest held in Maun the other night. It reminded me of going to similar shows in Alaska. When surrounded by beauty in nature, whether it be landscape or wildlife, taking a good picture is easy. Especially with the rise in digital camera/photo-doctoring technology, snapping a good photo is something anyone can do.
Creating a good picture is another thing entirely. I’m reminded of a friend in Hawaii ranting about all the people that came into his gallery and after looking at his work exclaimed, “Wow, you must have a great camera.”
You don’t go to someone’s house and after a wonderful meal say, “Wow, you must have a great stove.” No one has ever asked me what kind of pen I use. For the record it’s a Zebra (pronounced so it rhymes with Debra by everyone except Americans) 301. My friend Ryan gave me my first 301 more than a decade ago and I haven’t looked back since I dropped the Uni-ball.
But check out a photography magazine or website. They’re chock-full of fractions, lens sizes, and f-stop gobbledy gook. That stuff helps, sure, but first you need to know some real basics. Here’s what I know about how to take a good picture from a helicopter.
Lose the vest. We’ve already pegged you for a douchebag by the hat. Those things were designed to hold rolls of film. You don’t use film.
Turn off the flash. It’s annoying to at least one pilot and the reflection off the windscreen won’t help you land a NatGeo cover. Oopsie, I’m getting ahead of myself. Learn the buttons on your camera before you get into the helicopter.
Turn off burst mode. That way at the end of the flight you’ll only have 300 terrible photos to delete instead of 10,000.
Keep your lens zoomed out until you find the critter. Once it’s in the frame, adjust the zoom. And it works best if you find the animal with your eyes before you start looking through the camera.
To paraphrase Kenny Rodgers(who also wrote ‘The Condition of the Condition I’m in’) there’ll be time enough for looking at the pics when the flight is done. Fuck man, helis are expensive. Why waste your time assessing the photo you just took on a tiny screen in bright sun? This is an extension of the ‘learn the buttons’ category.
Realize that if you ask the pilot which lens you should bring, he will think of several responses which he can’t use in the name of good customer service such as, ‘If you have to ask me, the pics are gonna be shitty anyway,’ or ‘Why don’t you take the small lens? That way I don’t have to worry about whether I’ll run out of cyclic authority with a 6kg lens and your fat ass leaning out the door.’
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