Photography while Flying in a Cessna

While vacationing on the island of Guam, a long time client of mine asked my web business, Kumidia Web Marketing to make a tutorial video. I have never done this before as my web services mainly focus on web marketing and not on educational videos but education in many ways and its effectiveness is in many ways a great marketing technique for many types of businesses. This video opportunity turned out to be a fun, successful, and wild ride through the skies over Guam!

As with any shoot, a learning experience is always present and I’m glad that the overall project was a success for me and my team. I used a variety of cameras (5D Mark 2 and the 7D) for the job and it would be my first time to use a gopro for this particular project.

Anyway, I want to share three main things that I learned…

  • You will get airsick: Shooting while peeking through a viewfinder and non-stationary 2 inch LCD screen and camera viewfinder can get you airsick. Although I wasn’t affected as bad, my assistant was turning pail as we did corkscrew descents, 30 degree banks, and several touch and gos landings.
  • Expect the Unexpected: My client wanted us to shoot him inside his best plane.  It turns out, his best plane was unavailable due to a small maintenance problem during our shoot.  So plan B… we chose his second best plane. All that mattered to me was that the plane could fly and land us safely back.
  • Non-manual cameras such as gopros don’t work well with props because of the rolling shutter effect. The most effective way to fix this is to decrease the shutter speed by placing a dark filter (an ND filter) in front of the gopro camera. Problem was I didn’t have the means to do this because I was on vacation and the call came in on short notice. I did plan on going to the local Home Depot and rigging a platform that can hold a dark tint in front of the camera but because I didn’t have high quality filters on-hand, this would have compromised the quality of the film quality which is not acceptable to our standards. See the vid below to see what the shutter rolling effect is.

Even though the scenes captured were crystal clear, for some people like me, I don’t like seeing the strange rolling effect you see with the Cessna’s propellers and this is because the shutter speed on the camera is rolling pretty fast causing this visual phenomena. If I was able to manually control the shutter speed of the gopro, like how we can control the shutter and apertures of many dslrs, I don’t think we’d see this problem.  However, after seeing the final result, my client was highly satisfied with the overall video and to be honest, I’m quite happy to hear this considering this is my first official video project for a long time client.

Overall, after about two hours of flying and filming, I really wanted to get my PPL (Private pilot’s license) soon. Not only did I get to see an aerial view of Guam while getting a chance to shoot with three HD cameras, I was able to see some flying action from a professional veteran pilot, who is also the CEO of Micronesian Aviation Systems.

We finished the tutorial with great success and as a complimentary gift, we made a short one minute commercial for his company. Although still in it’s beta phase I hope you enjoy! The official version will be out by the end of September. All followers will be notified! If you want to know what I used for this shoot check out this blog.

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