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.
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….