Aerial Photography SF - Toby Harriman

Above The Bay

An Evening Above SF

I finally lived a dream of mine and was able to check it off my bucket list! Yesterday I met up with Nick Cahill and his buddy Jeff Scott for a private, no doors, helicopter ride above San Francisco around sunset and blue hour. As you can see from the pictures, the conditions were ideal and the fog was epic. Having low fog, around the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset is perfect, to say the very least. (A bit lower would have been nice though!) Overall it was an incredible experience, but I don’t think the pictures really do anything for me as much as the ride it self! I was running two cameras with different lenses , so I could quickly change my zoom range. The biggest thing I got out of this trip though was learning how not to shoot in these situations. When it comes to photography, I am not perfect at all. And shooting in a moving helicopter during low light situations, is not easy. I am so use to a tripod and maybe was a bit to use to panning surfers in Hawaii recently! So a lot of my shots are pretty blurry and unusable. Everything happens so fast that you don’t really take your finger off the trigger, to look and see what you’re getting. My bridge shots where alright as it was brighter over in that area and closer to sunset. But once we got over the city and later into evening, it became very difficult to get sharp and well exposed shots. Or because you are moving around certain buildings, like the Transamerica Building for example. You can see that building is in focus but nothing else is. Some cool effects I got, like a tilt-shift effect, but not really what I was going for. Just means I have to do it again :)


My Mistake and what I would do next time:

I shot in AV mode (yeah kill me!) I started off at around f/8 ISO 500 and my shots were around 1/15 to 1/50 of a second in AV mode. Around the bridge they were alright settings, a little faster shutter would have been better though. As we got over the city I bumped down to f/4 ISO 1250 to 4000. The issue here is I woudl get a building in focus around the center of image but everything else got blurry, this is also because my f-stop was at f/4 and I am focusing on maybe the tip of the skyscraper so I would get some depth of field, but also a slight blur from movement. In the future I am going to be set on manual. I am going to start off with my fstop around f/8 and bring it up to f/2.8 by the end of the evening. I will have my ISO start off around 640 and bring it up to 6400 or more by the end of the evening. Then set my fstop around f/200 and go up and down to where I feel comfortable. Another setting option I may play with, is setting it in AV still and dropping the EV to -2. Keeping the ISO and f/stop the same. Sometimes you just gotta fail first to succeed!


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