Aerial Rig and Film Thoughts

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by DMCarbo, Feb 21, 2009.

  1. DMCarbo

    DMCarbo Member

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    I recently had a request for Aerial Shots and plan on using a Rollei 6008i Medium Format with 180mm lens and a Kenyon Labs stabilizer

    Film choice is Astia 100f, Fuji 160s color neg .

    I was wondering what your thought are on this rig...would you recommend different lenses, or film ?

    I Need the Sharpest, Finest Grain film

    Do I need a longer lens to get tight property shots from 1000' ?

    Thoughts

    Viva LA Velvia
     
  2. resummerfield

    resummerfield Subscriber

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    I used do aerial photography as a business, with clients wanting shots of smaller commercial properties, such as fast food franchises or small industrial plots. I used a Pentax 67 on a Kenyon stabilizer, and my lenses ranged from 55mm to 105mm.

    Even with the gyro stabilizer, you need the fastest shutter possible. I used an ISO 400 color neg film, but you could possibly use an ISO 160.

    Only in congested areas like in a city would you need to be at 1000 feet. If possible get down to 500 feet and use a wider lens. My most used lens was the 55mm, shot from 500 feet. This would give a nice perspective effect behind the subject property.

    And make sure you can fully open the airplane window. I mainly used a Cessna 172, and before takeoff I had to remove a small screw on the window hinge, to allow the window to open fully in flight. If you use a helicopter, which I do NOT recommend due to vibration, try to take the door off. Shooting through a plastic window will not give satisfactory results.
     
  3. Mackinaw

    Mackinaw Member

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    For years we used a Rollei 6003 with 70mm back with either a 80mm or 50mm lens. This was all for natural resource aerial photography using Kodak color infrared film. We used a Cessna 122 with a hole cut in the belly pan (had to get FAA approval first) so the camera would point straight down. Elevations would vary, but we finally settled at about 5,000 feet.

    As for what film to use, even though CIR was our film of choice, we also used standard C41 process color print film in a 120 back and always got good results. I'm sure you'll be happy with the Fuji film you're considering.

    A 180mm lens may be too long, it all depends on the elevation that you fly at.

    If you have the opportunity to do a test first, you may want to try several different focal lengths to see what each lens can offer.

    Hope this helps.

    Jim B.
     
  4. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Check the FAA and local rules for minimum altitude. They can range from 500 - 1000 ft in the USA depending on location within a given area. Over a city the minimum altitude is generally higher than over a housing area, but even this general rule is not always true. Due to air traffic near the airport there are often stringent rules as to what you can do as far as maneuvers. There are also restricted corridors.

    In some places, I have heard that they even limit the number of "passes" you can make in some areas. Buzzing is always forbidden.

    With a good pilot, there is a trick whereby you can "hang" a small aircraft motionless in the air, suspended on its prop power. This is excellent for taking pictures. You hang at about a 45 deg angle with the throttle full forward. I've done this sort of photography for stills and due to the lack of motion it works out very well.

    You have to review this all with the pilot before you go up.

    PE
     
  5. mgb74

    mgb74 Subscriber

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    When I did a fair amount of aerial photography in the 80s, I regularly used a 150mm or 200mm lens with 6x7 format for tight property shots (generally small to medium commercial buildings) where limited to 1,000 ft. Of course, your definition of tight property may differ from mine. I very rarely used a lens wider than a normal lens. Sometimes, if the subject was too small to fill enough of the 6x7 negative with a lens 2x normal, I'd use 35mm.

    Usual aircraft was a Cessna 172 (occasionally a smaller 152 or a larger Cessna without the wing struts). Removed the hinge screw as resummerfield noted to allow the window to stay open by airflow. Never let any part of your body touch the airframe except your rear end.

    Mostly color negative (iso 400). Top 3 considerations were: contrast, speed, and contrast. No typo there.

    Depending on your location and atmospheric conditions, haze and resulting loss of contrast will negatively impact results more than sharpness and grain. Of course, if you have flexibility in when and from what direction, you can "pick" your conditions.
     
  6. Chris Nielsen

    Chris Nielsen Member

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    Recently was asked to take photos of a sign on a beach that read 'marry me' as a memento.. I was surprised how small it looked from even 500 ft. Had my 80-200 on the F5 right out at 200mm and it was still small in the frame...
     
  7. johnnywalker

    johnnywalker Subscriber

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    I wouldn't recommend trying this at low altitude, since the plane is very close to a stall. Not all small airplanes are capable of doing it. My old SuperCub would do it on floats but not with the wheels on. The plane isn't really motionless, but it feels like it. I only tried it a few times just for the hell of it, and made sure I had lots of altitude. If I recall correctly the only way of getting out of this was to purposely stall the SuperCub and then recover from the stall.
    Ron is probably talking about a much different airplane however with a lot more horsepower than I had available.
     
  8. nyoung

    nyoung Subscriber

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    What we need to know is what the OP will be flying.
    FWIW, the 150/152, 172 and 182 all fly just fine with one of the doors completely off. With the door off you move out of normal and into restricted category operations which basically means no intentional stalls/spins or other extreme maneuvers.
    Friend/customer of mine from my A&P IA days in the 70s paid for his 172 shooting aerials of farm/ranch steds with a 180mm lens on an RB67.
    He flew with the left side door off and used a left hand grip on the RB.
     
  9. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    I did this in an old Piper Cub with an RF101C command pilot at the controls. We were very low in altitude, 500 ft or less hanging over a huge cliff with the Pacific Ocean below, taking pitures of a landmark on the top of the cliff. I may dig the photo out. I shot with Sakuracolor sheet film in a Speed Graphic, and my Nikon F.

    According to the pilot, we were at zero speed and he showed me the air speed indicator. The wheels were on attached firmly in place.

    We did do a small stall and dive to recover, but I would say we lost no more than 50 feet. Any motion was due to wind drift according to the pilot. There were 3 passengers + the pilot. We flew from a private field in central Okinawa, north of Kadena, south to Naha and then east and south again to the monument to the people who threw themselves from that cliff in order to avoid being captured by the invading Americans coming ashore just north of that point at Buckner bay.

    Sorry for the bit of history there. It was a very sad story to hear it told by survivors.

    PE
     
  10. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Funny, I was just chatting with Richard Pippin about aerials and we were both speculating that some early military aerial shots might have be taken with engine off to avoid vibration. As I recall, the fastest speed on my WW2 aerial camera is 1/500, and the speed of the film was likely 100 or lower...

    Anyway, I have done some (a very few) aerials and I think you'll want a pretty fast lens... f/2.8 or so... and ~ISO 400 and up, or it's a no go from low altitude. I had some mixed success at lowish altitude with 645 gear, and more success with 35mm gear with faster lenses. My suggestion would be to take (in addition to the gear you mentioned) some fast 35mm gear with you, with VR/IS lenses, and see what you can do with that at low alt.

    One other thing, I have not had the luxury of shooting through a hole in a window or belly yet, so far I've just shot through the window and it worked out fairly acceptably... when I used a big shade. The mamiya shades are kinda like toilet plungers and they are flexible enough to "seal" quite well to curved windows.
     
  11. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Well, my photos were taken with ISO 100 film IIRC. Regular Ektachrome and Sakuracolor. HS Ektarchrome was 160.

    As for the engine, in my case it was roaring away, literally, at full power. And, most of the film we used was about ISO 80 or 120 back in the 60s. I really don't remember the maximum lens opening, but we had a special slide rule for calculating the exposure and aperature.

    And, military jet engines at full thrust can generate quite a bit of chatter in the cockpit, similar to a prop plane. It is not like a commercial jet with all of the quieting and dampening thingies.

    IMHO, I don't think that a high ISO rating is needed if done properly.

    PE
     
  12. mgb74

    mgb74 Subscriber

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    I used a series of 6x7 cameras, starting with a Rapid-Omega, a Graflex XL, and finally a Pentax 6x7. I don't think I ever had a telephoto (which I used 75% of the time) that was faster than 4.0. Never used film faster than 400.

    But we had the luxury, most of the time, of scheduling our shots.

    The older 6x7 rangefinders worked quite well. Ergonomics were good, especially with the grip that most models had. Leaf shutters helped with vibration. Lacked some precision in framing, but that wasn't too much of an issue.

    I found a spotmeter critical. Even when using a 35mm body with meter. BTW, weathered asphalt is very close to 18% gray.

    The only time I tried shooting through the plastic was an air to air shot from a Mooney (window did not open). The result really wasn't too bad.
     
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    DMCarbo

    DMCarbo Member

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    Thanks for all the info guys...I will be in a Cessna 172 with a screw removed in one window to allow it to open fully, near stall or anything close will be done...low and slow is about it ..the lens is a 180/2.8 max shutter speed on the Rollei with this lens is 1/500 and I will be using the Kenyon Stabilizer. My question was more about film selection and if the lens was long enough. I had tried to get a Cessna 177 but no dice
     
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  15. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Look at my photos taken with standard speed graphic, normal lens and at speeds of about 600 mph. Posted in the gallery!

    PE
     
  16. jbbooks

    jbbooks Member

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    Open the window on the ground, before you take off. That way, it gently flies up and stays parallel to the wing as the airspeed increases. If you try to open the window in flight, it is difficult to hang on to the little bitty handle and you risk bending things.
     
  17. Katier

    Katier Member

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    VERY doubtfull, last thing a pilot wants is for his engine to fail to restart.

    Your over enemy land too - so not as if you want to be unable to bring the pictures back.

    This is especially true for pilots like Adrian Warburton who's exploits include doing the pre-recce for the Taranto raid.. a recce I believe he did at BELOW mast height.
     
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    DMCarbo

    DMCarbo Member

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    SPEED graphics had a shutter speed of 1/1000 and could be used with an AERO EKTAR 178/2.5 which graphlex made an adapter for to fit on the speed graphics, I have this exact rig but decided on the Rollei because of number of shots and ease of use .
     
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    DMCarbo

    DMCarbo Member

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    The Speed Graphics has a speed of 1/1000 and a AERO ektar 178/2.5 was available with an adapter from graphlex
     
  20. frotog

    frotog Member

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    If you want tight shots of houses from 1000 feet you're going to need a much longer lens than your 180mm. I worked on a project photographing houses in LA both at nighttime (with a 1.2k xenon nightsun searchlight) and daytime. We shot with two 645 cameras, a mamiya and a contax. The contax had a retrofitted Nikkor 300mm f2 lens (weighs approx. 18 lbs) and the mamiya had a 200mm f2.8. Both cameras were rigged with armatures hanging from bungee cords. The mamiya had the kenyon stabilizer mounted in addition to the bungee rig but I don't think the kenyon made much of a difference. The helicopter pilot reached altitudes as low as 300 ft., low enough for a split level ranch house to fill the frame in the contax. 1/500th of a second showed no motion blur in about 50% of the frames. To fill the frame at 1000 feet you'll need a 400mm plus a 2x tele-extender. Your Rollei is the wrong camera for the job especially if you're planning on shooting from altitudes in the 800-1000 ft. range and you want to use slow speed film. Unless you welcome the motion blur a lens this long will require shutter speeds in the 1/1000th to 1/2000th range. Hope this helps.
     
  21. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    Like this? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mwdY7U5A38s
     
  22. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Well, we were a lot more stable than that!!!

    There was so much torque and so little lift in your example that the plane was rotating.

    That, BTW, is true of any prop plane that rotates up to a very high speed. IDK about jets, but I know that prop planes can flip from torque during takeoff if revved to high.

    PE
     
  23. mattk

    mattk Member

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    As a pilot who flies and teaches others to fly in 172's, I would say finding a pilot who knows what you are trying to achieve is almost as important as what camera you are going to use. I rent 172's for around $150/hr with an instructor/pilot. You don't want to be tooling around all day while he/she keeps trying to get you into a position you want. Another big consideration is winds aloft. With a 35kt wind (not uncommon at all in the midwest at 500-1000') the 172 could be traveling over the ground as slow as 15-20 knots or as fast as 85 knots the other direction. The 172 will not hover at zero airspeed--if the pilot tells you it will, find another pilot. Print off a google earth screen shot to show your pilot exactly what you are looking to photograph--formulate the plan on the gound and have fun. I have an RB67 with very good results. I can't wait to try the speed graphic.
    Matt
     
  24. mattk

    mattk Member

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    I think several pilots of the Corsair found out that firewalling the throttle on go-around from a carrier resulted in a torque roll that could not be stopped by the contol surfaces at slow airspeeds. You won't have to worry about torque from non-military piston or turbine singles flipping you on the runway or the air for that matter.
     
  25. mgb74

    mgb74 Subscriber

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    When I first read "tight property", I wasn't thinking residential. IIRC, when I did subjects that small (i.e. an acre or less), I used a 200mm on 35mm (this was a while back so I could be wrong). I was doing oblique photography, so the camera to subject distance was greater than my altitude (which was typically 1,000 feet).

    If my memory of using a 200mm is correct, that's roughly equivalent to 400mm on 6x6. You might find that you are shooting close to 35mm negatives, regardless of the overall film format. You should be able to test on the ground.
     
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    DMCarbo

    DMCarbo Member

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    Frotog, the Rollei is a better choice at the 6 x 6 Format in my opinion than the Contax or Mamiya 645 ...more film for starters. also much better glass. Even with a gyro I doubt a 400mm lens could be hand held on the ground let alone with a 2x tele converter in the air . Thanks to everyone for the input my final choice is The Schnieder 180/f2.8 on the Rollei with a vest full of films to test : ) ! I will Be using Velvia 100f, Provia 100F and Fuji 160s few rolls of Provia 400 as well. I will post some samples !