Flying over Grand Canyon - what lens?

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by steve_crist, May 27, 2009.

  1. In two weeks I'm going on a sightseeing trip to Arizona. One day I'm going to the Grand Canyon where they have 1-hour Cessna plane flights over the Grand Canyon. What would be the range of focal lengths that would be most useful? I have a 1D MKIII (1.3 crop) and 16-35L, 24-70L and 70-200LIS lenses. I prefer to not be changing lenses (don't know how shaky the plane might be). Thanks. Steve
  2. Steve,
    I would mount the widest lens and try to include a recognizable piece of the aircraft in the composition .
    I've never found much use for the middle lens range. Will the aircraft allow you to compose anything nice with the 70-200? For that reason I'd take the widest available. But, pack the others anyway!
    Enjoy your trip! And don't forget to ignore the camera from time to time...
    I'll check this tread in a few weeks as I'll be flying over the Rotterdam port and I'd like to learn from your experiences.
    Regards, Nico
  3. Make sure you can drop the window, so you will not be shooting though plexiglass. I would do the 24-70 myself and make sure you are not flying other than at sunrise or sunset.Thermals are starting so it will be bumpy midday. Noon light will suck.
  4. Steve, I'd recommend the 24-70 for starters. Cessnas aren't terrible shaky so you shouldn't have trouble changing lenses if you need to. The problem is going to be getting decent shots from inside any aircraft when you're shooting through plexiglass windows - lots of reflection and distortion. You'd get much better photos on the ground from one of the rim vantage points, preferably at sunrise or sunset for the best light. If you just want to document the flight, take a P&S with you and fire away. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy the ride. You'll miss a lot if you're always looking through the viewfinder.....:)
  5. Thanks for the comments everyone. William - do you know if the windows can be slid open on the Cessnas? The tour companys' web site touts all the great photo-ops. A clear view would beat shooting through (probably) scratched glass.
  6. " make sure you are not flying other than at sunrise or sunset" - not shure how you can do it, perhaps not possible since hours of commercial/tourist flights are limitted there by the regulations.
    You will learn more and see how high you can be above the ground:
    this should give you idea what angle of view of the lens is best.
  7. Do you know what kind of Cessna? If it's a 172 or 182 (4-seat planes) then you can get OK downward shots from the front seat with the window open (there's about a 5 inch opening you can shoot down through). If the pilot is used to photogs, they may even be willing to remove the brace that keeps the window from opening all the way so you'll have a nice opening (it does make it a bit windy in the back seat through).
    Don't touch any part of the plane with you hands, arms, or camera to reduce vibrations. Shoot at a high shutter speed. Use IS if it's available.
    If you're in the back seat or in a larger plane, then it's likely you won't have an opening window and you'll have to deal with all the things mentioned above (reflections, etc.). Wear a black shirt and that will help some. I'd also suggest RAW format to give you the best chance at color-correcting any tint out of your photos. Also, ask the pilot/tour-operator if they can clean the window you'll be sitting at. You don't want to try it yourself, since plexi/acrylic need special cleaners/technique to avoid scratches.
    As other posters have mentioned, there are two schools of though on bits of the plane in the shot. People who are interested in the landscape eschew any part of the plane in the frame, but folks with a more documentary bent go to great lengths to use the plane as part of the composition.
    I'd probably use the 24-70mm, although wider might be desirable...
    Aside: peering through a viewfinder it one of the sure-fire ways to induce motion sickness if you're at all inclined to it.
    Have fun!
  8. On the Cessna 172 I used to fly, the door could be removed for serious photography (and for parachuting).
    Wearing a seat belt is advisable. ;)
  9. Your plane is a wing-over airplane so you will be shooting forward or to the side only. Odds are the pilot will ask each of you your weight and distribute you in seats of his choice. If you are the only photographer, let him or her know as soon as possible and luck may be with you. I hate to say this but shooting from the backseat is not a grand option.
    As a pilot and photographer, if at all possible, re-schedule with a helicopter operator. If this is not an option, you will still have the time of your life. Forget about sharp pictures, just shoot what you see and have grand memories.
    Also, take two large plastic bags with you. If the guy sitting next to you looses his lunch, hand him a bag. Then keep the other one for you. Wing-over airplanes are usually very gentle. Canion updrafts are not. Enjoy the ride....Yahoo....
    I wish I was going with you . . have tons of fun.
  10. Hey Steve,
    I did a Cessna tour in over the bay and mountains in Alaska. I had no problems switching lenses. Airplane glass apparently scratches easily, so the pilot told me to be careful about hitting it with my lens. The glass was very clean, though you could not open the windows, and I did get some glare/reflections from the window in some shots.
    On my Rebel I used 10-22mm, 50mm and 70-300mm lenses. The ultrawide was good for shots that included the plane in some way, but I mainly used the 50mm for most of the landscape shots.
  11. Geoff - here is a picture of the Cessna from the tour's web site. Thanks.
  12. here is a picture of the Cessna​
    That's probably either a 172 or 182. Try to get the front seat!
    Mark's comment about scratching the windows is key. You don't want to touch the window anyway (because of vibrations). If I need to shoot out a window or canopy (and I try to avoid it as much as possible), I'll check the front of my lenses - some filters have a nasty knurled front edge to make them easier to turn. I take those off for "through window/canopy" shoots so that if I do accidentally bump up against the surface there's less chance of leaving a scratch.
  13. That plane looks to me like a Cessna 207, with seating for 2+2+2+1. I would try to be in the last row by myself if I were you.
    Unless the company has special permits (which I doubt), they have to always be at least 2,000 ft above the rim. You are probably going to need all your lenses. While crossing the canyon, you will most likely need the 16-35 to get that wide angle of view down the canyon. If you want to isolate a subject, you'll need one of the other lenses, which you can change to easily.
    Here is what I do: I always use ISO 400 and f5.6 (with my 10-22) or f8 (with my 28-135), and hope to shoot at least at 1/250 sec. I shoot short bursts (3-5) for each composition, and almost always come out with a crisp shot. The plexiglass has never been a problem for me, since it's out of focus. However, the reflections off it can be a problem. Here are some photos from one of my flights:
    Please post your photos when you get back. I will be flying in our Cessna 182 the weekend of 13/14 June, so it will be nice to see your photos before I go.
  14. That plane looks to me like a Cessna 207​
    I think you're right; I missed the dorsal hump. I've nver flown in one; can you get shots from both sides the back seat? How large are the windows?
  15. I have never sat in a 207, just seen a lot of them at airports (like Page). I suspect that the last seat will offer views on both sides, although if the person next to you is friendly, you can shoot on both sides from any other seat, just not as easily.
    One more thing. I suggest you wear a dark (black) towel/apron/shirt/skirt (anything) over your head and camera, so that you minimize or eliminate the reflections.
  16. Thanks for the comments everyone. Great shots Momo, better than I'd expect through a window. When I get back I'll post some shots.
  17. Geoff and others: would a polarizer be of any use I reducing reflections if Steve winds up having to shoot through plexiglass?
    Might be a good idea to replace your metal lens hood with a cheapo screw-on rubber one for this shoot. Just make sure it doesn't vignette at your widest focal length.
  18. A polarizer will cause the plexiglas windows to show lots of nice rainbow colors, not what you want.
  19. Brent, I often shoot from aircraft (albeit larger Boeings), and a polarizer is indeed a no-no when shooting through the window. Regarding lens choice, I reckon the 16-35L :)
  20. I'm sure you'll do better than this, but here's an image from a Boeing 757 at 30-some thousand feet over the Canyon. Not too bad considering the distance, lighting and Plexiglas windscreen....
  21. Oops, here it is.
  22. Colour corrected?
  23. And here's mine :) 17-40L over Seattle in a Boeing 737-800. f/8, 1/320

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