My gear is always changing depending upon the project or assignment. For my recent daylight aerial work this is my go-to kit. In the helicopter I carry a Gura Kiboko bag – either the 22 or the 30. I like them for the butterfly top design – it keeps everything tidy and organized. My primary camera for daylight aerials are my trusty Hasselblad H1 bodies. I shoot to a Leaf Credo 60. (I recently upgraded from an Ancient Leaf Aptus 75). Lenses on the Hassy include the Hasselblad 50mm f/3.5 HC II (Killer lens!), the Hasselblad 80mm f/2.8, Hasselblad 100mm f2.2 (another great lens and also a delight to use for portraits) plus the Hasselblad 150mm F/3.2.
I also use the Alpa TC with the Schneider 35mm f/5.6 Apo-Digitar XL that sports a center-weighted filter and an Linhof viewfinder. Everything is kept stable with my Kenyon 4×4 gyroscope. I think Jay Maisel once said “ A helicopter is a thousand pieces of metal trying to shake itself apart.” A gyro is an essential for aerials.
I’ve shot aerials since the first days of my career. For many years I used 35mm and 6×7 film cameras. In 2003 I switched from Nikon to the Canon system and started shooting with the Canon 1Ds. I shot a good part of my “Chesapeake” aerial book with the Canon 1Ds and Canon 1Ds Mark II or Nikon film cameras. In 2007 I bought a Phase P30 and shot aerials and landscapes with it for a few months. Speed of capture is important in aerials, so I went back to the Canons and eventually over to the Nikons again. I still use Nikons and think the Nikon D4 / Nikon D800 combo is fantastic for most shoots. However, there is something magical about medium format and particularly the Leaf backs. Maybe it is the oft-quoted “film like” capture, but I think it is more than that. Leaf makes great profiles and that is ninety-percent of the battle in getting the color and look that you want. The second part of that equation is using Capture One as my RAW converter. I like the workflow. If you shoot with a technical camera, the lens cast corrections are essential. Capture One for me, is my best choice. I use NeoFinder as my catalog software. However, I am testing Lightroom 5, Capture One catalog and Expression Media to see if they will do the job.
All of my photography is shot on location. I travel a great deal and often mix ground-level work with aerials for clients. I am starting to fly quadcopters as a test for some low-level aerial work. I am working on a custom design rig so I can fly higher quality cameras. My thirty years in helicopters plus being a licensed pilot has helped me a great deal in understanding how to fly these machines smoothly.
I started shooting aerials way back in 1979 for a story on Great Blue Herons in Southern Maryland. I primarily shoot from turbine helicopters. I have a network of pilots around the world that I have worked with over the years and they are a great resource for when I need to go into a new area and find a new pilot.
Besides my aerial work, I’ve shot a great deal of corporate, people on location and landscapes. Several magazines turned to me for aerial coverage of natural disasters and environmental problems. I shot the aftermaths of Hurricane Andrew and three others, the Great Mississippi River flood, Western USA wildfires in Idaho, the Earthquake in Haiti and mountain top removal in West Virginia.
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Recently Leo Kahng and I created a website called FuseVisual.org that features interviews with photographers and creatives around the world. That has been a fun side-adventure to see and show their work to others.
If I am traveling (often) I switch over to ThinkTank Airport International roller bags. I’ve used the ThinkTank bags for years and they take the abuse of travel better than any other transport bag that I can think of….