Aerial Shots - thoughts

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by dennismcarbo, Jul 9, 2008.

  1. Hello All,

    I am doing a large project for a local city, mostly Panoramas and Stills from the ground/Rooftops Using a D200 and various lenses. The
    project has expanded to include Aerial shots to be made into large VERY large prints ideally 8' x 10' for viewing at a distance as
    close as 5' . I think this is far beyond the capabilities of my D200 but well within the capability if my 4x5 ...Thoughts ?

    For my 4 x 5 rig I am thinking Speed Graphics (1/1000 curtain shutter) and Aero Ektar 178mm F2.5 lens, Shooting Provia 100F from a
    Cessna 172. kenyon gyro stabilizer needed yes or no ? Anyone have experience with a speed graphics doing aerial ?

    For prints that size what would you use ?

    Not looking for a Film vs. digital debate...just what is the best tool given the my choices ?

    Happy Shooting : )

  2. I've done 6' wide from a D200 and it was okay. I don't think 8' would fly... pun intended. The 4x5 would be costly to scan (if that's how you'd print it--I would). Have used to do substantial aerial photography with a Crown Graphic when not using a Hasselblad, and it is perfect. I just set the bellows at infinity, checked it on the ground, and normally had a 135mm lens that worked really well. You don't need a stabilizer, depending on what you're shooting. My stuff was all construction, architectural, and engineering with oblique angles.

    The pilot I used was crazy, and eventually was killed in a bad storm, but he flew a Cessna 172 and we'd put it in a slight descent to reduce vibration. You really won't have any troubles whatsoever.
  3. In 1955, an Air Force Staff Sergeant, I was told to get in the back seat of a T-33 and photograph the arrival of a
    squadron of F-86Ds ---------- with a 4x5 speed graphic and film packs (my choice) ------
    All went fine - the camera was heavy under high G loads --- but the pictures came out fine.
  4. Many years ago, as an Air force Staff Sergeant, I was told to climb into the back seat of a T-33 and photograph the arrival of a squadron of new F-86Ds ------- with 4x5 Speed Graphic and film packs (my choice) we took off --------
    Met the incoming, took some pretty good shots AND learned a lot about handling a large format camera in the high G environment of a jet aircraft.
  5. Thanks Guys !....Michael 6' wide from a D200?....Wow...I never would have thought. The Crown Graphic doesnt have the focal plane shutter and You were stilll ok with a slower shutter speed ? What did you use for film iso ?

    Morris...sounds like a great shoot ! The F86 was a Super Sabre right ?


  6. Wasn't the F 100 the Super Saber? Our squadron, 363RT flew RF101 Voodoos and the RF4C as well as RB66 for aerial
    during Cuba, Universities of Mississippi and Alabama and later Vietnam.
  7. if you are going to be shooting out of a helicopter make sure
    you have a something like a sliding metal sleeve around your speed graphic bellows.
    the down-draft from the helicopter blades will push your bellows in and will obstruct your film.
    ... and if aren't holding on to your camera and film holders really well, you might lose them.
    if you are shooting out of a plane, try to use a high wing and shoot out of an open door.

    you might want to test your fp shutter to see if 1000S is 1000S, if the shutter is out of time
    it might be slower than you expect.

    good luck!
  8. For 4x5 aerials:

    Scoll down about half way for info on his aerial 4x5. Perhaps he could help you locate one to rent if purchasing is not an option.
  9. I read that William Garnett used to shoot with either a Speed or Crown while flying solo for his business. (One of the reasons he set up a business flying was so he could photograph.) Of course, over the years he used a bunch of different camera set-ups, but that one comes to mind.
  10. Hi

    I worked for 3 years als aero photog in Switzerland with a Linhof Aerotronica 6x9 cm my most used shutter speed on this
    cam was 1/800 sec. und sometimes 1/500 from a helicopter.
    If I would do a shooting for not larger pictures then about A3 format I would at the moment hire a Canon with 21 Megapixels
    and a Lens with IS!
    Very soon I would use the Nikon 24 MP camera with a Nikon VR lens!
    Only if you need the pics really large then I would use a 4x5!

    Just my 2 cents, Armin Seeholzer
  11. Hi Armin,

    Pictures will exceed 8' wide, I have settled on 4 x 5 and astia film for its fine grain....too large and viewed too close for digital me thinks! Thanks to all for your comments...will post some samples when I am done !
  12. Here's what I would do: Buy a 4x5 spring back...most any brand would do...and have a local sheet metal shop make you a box EXACTLY the right length for the lens in shutter that you will use (i.e. the 135mm or 127mm off of your Speed Graphic press camera) when focused at infinity (measurements from the Speed); mount the back on the back of the box, the lens in the hole in the front of the box, and mount the viewfinder from the Speed on top (or make a "sports finder" type viewing frame for the top (look at the ground glass and make the frame cover the same area at infinity). The sheet metal shop or you should make and attach grips to both sides of the camera, one with a hole to run a cable release through so you will have a firm grip on the box. Don't go for any fancy angles on the box to make it look like a bellows camera...a simple square/rectangular box of 5x6 or so and as long as needed to focus the lens on the ground glass is all you need. Paint the inside flat black and you're ready to go! Shouldn't cost very much at all. If you really want to save money, make the whole thing yourself out of wood!

    Since I have a Cambo with an easily removable back, I'd probably make a wooden box to take my Cambo back and lens boards and go with that...I could make that for less than $10.00 I'll bet!
  13. Thanks for the response Vick, My concern with the 127mm and shutter I have was speed being too slow for aerial. I plan on using an AER EKTAR which is a Barrel lens with the Focal Plane shutter on the Speed Graphics which is up to 1/1000 shutter speed. Also plan on using a Ken Labs Gyro to remove any vibration I might pick up from the air craft. We shall see !
  14. Pick a sunny day and use the 1/400 top speed on your shutter, with a film of 100 speed or better, and I really don't think you'll have any trouble with the shutter going off fast enough to negate the motion and vibrations of the 'plane.
  15. A late entry to this thread would be one of the Graphics, lens choice being relatively unimportant although I might ponder a wider lens such as the 90mm Optar to start with. I saw a nearly mint Crown Graphic the other day, and its owner showed me its various options, including a "sports finder" that would obviously serve well for aerial photography as well. It had a Rodenstock 135mm which would also serve quite well for what you are doing.

    IF you choose to try this with a hand holdable 4x5 like a Speed or Crown Graphic, get Graphmatic backs for the film. Six shots in a row before changing the holder.
  16. I think a 90mm is just too wide for 4x5 Aerial. Depending on the shot, I can't imagine using anything shorter than about 135mm, and in my experience, the 150mm range is just about right.
  17. I guess it depends on just what you are shooting, and just how high you sit when doing it....
  18. Bradford Washburn took 8x10 in. aerial photos using a 50 lb. Fairchild K6 camera; a real man's camera. Read about him at

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