Shooting from helicopter with open door

Discussion in 'Aerial and Drone' started by Mary Doo, Dec 18, 2020.

  1. Vincent Peri

    Vincent Peri Metairie, LA

    Hmm... I don't get on any-
    thing that leaves the ground,
    except for my treehouse...
    Mary Doo likes this.
  2. Think helicopters should be banned then? :eek:
    Yes, postcards galore everywhere. Hwvr, nature and wildlife photographers do not have the habit of buying postcards of nature and wildlife. What's wrong with them? :(

    Btw, the Victoria Falls are not in East Africa.
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2020
  3. You want to waste our time and your money fretting over taking a cliched shot, up to you.

    Almost everyone I know who has been to the falls consider East Africa as the main photo attraction in that part of Africa.
  4. Generally, It is a good idea for one to do some homework before wasting one's time (and others' for having to respond to clarify matters).

    The Victoria Falls is in South Africa, shared by two different countries: Zambia to the north and and Zimbabwe to the south. You are right that East Africa is the main wildlife photo attraction. First time African-safari visitors often choose Tanzania and Kenya (both in East Africa) as first destinations. I had been there 3 times. Have you been there? If not, I would highly recommend it.
  5. I have no experience with an open helicopter door or with a monkey belt. Just saying that I truly wish I had your opportunity! My 2 cts: just go for it and enjoy the 'rush'. I would do it tomorrow. Have faith in the professionals who maintain and fly the helicopter and rig the 'monkey belt' for you.

    It occurs to me that mountain and sea rescuers aboard helicopters over the whole world do the 'open door/leaning out/belted in' thing regularly. As - I suspect - do many US media cameramen. And of course, as do all 'gunners' aboard military helicopters worldwide.

    There are some articles about using 'monkey belts' or 'monkey harnesses' online via google. Unless you're undertaking a flight which no-one else has taken, they well be references/quotes on the website of the helicopter service provider.

    Mary Doo likes this.
  6. Happy New Year Mike. I had been on helicopters and Cessna's before, not to mention the small planes in Africa and sea-planes in Alaska. But not shooting from an open door harnessed by a belt.

    Yes I have ordered the flight already. I was asking about the "open-door with monkey belt" experience and, quite frankly, I was surprised that someone here (at Photo.Net") suggested that everyone should discourage me from riding a helicopter (never mind "monkey-belt), and that I should just buy a postcard and not take this "cliched" shot. It was interesting. ;)
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2021
  7. Hi Mary. Enjoy the exhilarating opportunity. In the 80s I was a videographer and was hired to shoot videos over SF from an open helicopter. The only intimidation was thinking about it before the first flight. The policy of the company I flew with was to have a 2nd and to always have their hand on the harness. For safety I never felt that it was needed. The only issue I had was with the weight of my equipment. Professional video cameras back then were big, heavy and cumbersome... The 2nd operator was normal & needed for what we were shooting. We rigged a secure line for the camera.
    It was fun and a good memory.... Not to worry, enjoy!
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2021
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  8. Thank you Inoneeye. It is encouraging to hear from your experience; I do remember the big camcorders that videographers used to carry on their shoulders. So thinking about it was more intimidating than the actual shooting? LOL! Truthfully I am a little apprehensive about the open door but my camera will be much lighter, I am leaning toward using either the Nikon Z6 or Z7 with a zoom lens. The added advantage of using either of these cameras is one can capture a low-res still image while shooting video. However, it would not take much to switch to still-photo mode to capture a hi-res image.

    Thanks again. Happy New Year!
  9. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    A great many years ago, it used to be possible to take a helicopter from the tip of Manhattan to either of the major New York airports. Subsequent to that time a variety of accidents either temporarily or permanently ended the service. That notwithstanding, and no open doors, an entirely memorable experience. I still have slides taken with my Nikons of New York City from above. Frankly it always comes down to risk vs. gain. I have survived considered risks for a long time, and as a result, have enjoyed life. Flying in a helicopter is more dangerous than commercial airlines, but safer than driving - at least according to some statisticians. I won't quote Mark Twain.

    Edit: a touch late, but in the same spirit!
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  10. Decades ago, long before drones or even Google maps I was hired for aerial photos of some property. The budget allowed for a small helicopter, Robinson 22, 2 seater. Doors off, the flight was breezy but nice. Lots of vibration. Things I would suggest you look out for:1. make sure all cases/bags are closed and lids secured. 2. make sure bags are not in the way of any controls this includes your feet. 3. don't stick your hands/arm out of the open door, I did this and was immediately hit with massive static in the headphones. The pilot said the downdraft wash created the static and I grounded it. Perhaps your copter won't have that problem. 4. always do exactly what the pilot says. 5. check and recheck that your seatbelt/harness is secure. 6. have a good time.
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  11. You had an interesting job. I am paying close attention to your advices; they make a lot of sense. The Victoria Falls helicopter flight is booked for October, the next day after my arrival at Zimbabwe, followed by a photo safaris tour - the main reason for the trip. The condition of the waterfalls will not be optimum but I am hoping it will not be too bad, and that the Covid-19 restrictions would ease off to allow visitors from the US at that time.

    Thank you so much! Happy New Year!
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  12. I remember a guy getting off a helicopter in Manhattan who went back to the rear luggage compartment to get a bag. He was decapitated by the still rotating blades. . The bag had $1 million in cash as I remember.

    And BTW, I've been to 21 countries in Africa but not by helicopter. Yes, Vic Falls is beautiful.
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  13. Was it worth it to lose one's head? :eek:
  14. Mary there is a saying among aviators that helicopters don’t fly, they just beat the air into submission. Basically it’s a machine that vibrates constantly while going from place to place. You can always tell a pilot is flying a helo when you hear him on the radio. Use whatever strap you want to keep you from falling out and keep the shutter speed fast enough to beat the vibration.

    Rick H.
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  15. The last time I was up on Mt. Kenya (yes, that was a while ago) I saw the remains of a helicopter that had crashed during a rescue attempt. Reminds me of the completely destroyed ambulance wrecked in a crash on an Indian highway. I wonder if the passenger survived.
  16. Were it not for the inherent danger, would zip lines, bungie jumpsm virgin ski runsm and helicopter rides be as popular as they are?
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  17. Hey Mary! Randy has good advice. I was a UH-60 Blackhawk pilot in the Army for about 12 years and I wanted to add a little to Randy's suggestions. First, EVERYTHING you bring on board needs a place where it can safely be stored and if possible, tied down. An air crew in Iraq had a pair of chocks that became wedged over the collective lever and it caused a terrible accident. Things shift in flight, especially if you have any fast drops in altitude, as helicopter pilots love to do. The static thing is also absolutely true and it is universal. It won't shock you unless you are one the ground and the airframe is at a hover and you touch it, but it will cause static in your headphones. All of the gear you plan to use during the shoot needs to be connected to you. I used to call this putting a "dummy cord" on it, but basically, anything you use should have a sturdy strap on it such that, should an angry gorilla want to take it from you, it won't go without the rest of you. The vibration issue is more accentuated at what is called Effective Translational Lift. This happens somewhere around 12 to 18 knots (around 15 to 20 MPH) so the best place to take photos with a slower shutter speed will be either at a hover or over 25 knots. This does depend on the airframe. In a Blackhawk, 120 knots was a sweet-spot, but closer you got to max speed the more shake you can feel. And like Randy said, do EVERYTHING the pilot says to do. The pilot can explain the "why's" in pre-flight and post flight, but in-flight isn't the time to ask "why?" You're in for a good time. Let us know how it goes!
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  18. Noted your advice. Thank you!

  19. Maybe that's why I still ride a motorcycle.
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  20. According to my son, who studied aircraft mechanics in school, every piece of a helicopter, down to each nut and bolt, is under scheduled maintenance. This includes periodic replacement in addition to inspection. Hope this news keep the adrenaline flowing ;) Along this line, there are two classes of helicopters, the first being one that has not yet crashed.
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