One of the coolest things I’ve been able to do in Dallas is go up in a helicopter with my friends at Epic Helicopters. They fly a fleet of Robinson R44 and R66 helicopters and there’s just nothing like being able to fly right up to whatever you’re trying to take pictures of to get the perfect shot!
Epic Helicopters ran a promotion for Supermoon photography flights, where they would leave the doors off their nicest Robinson R66 helicopter to give photographers the clearest shots possible.
Now, if you’ve never taken pictures from a helicopter before, it’s pretty tough. If you’ve never taken pictures from a helicopter at night, it’s nearly impossible! You have two things hampering your ability to get a clean shot: 1) it’s dark and 2) helicopters shake. The gear I took with me on this shoot was my Sony a6300 with the 55mm Sony Zeiss attached to it and my Sony a7rII with the Sony 24-70 G Master lens attached (all links Amazon affiliate links which may pay me a commission, thanks for your support!).
When we’re flying in the helicopter I usually put my cameras into shutter speed priority at 1/250 of a second with ISO set to Auto (with a cap of 6400). When you’re shooting from a helicopter at night you have to be comfortable with higher ISOs, they’re simply unavoidable due to the shutter speeds which are required to negate the helicopter shake.
They key for me on this shoot was trying to find compositions where the moon complemented the surrounding environment, in this case the downtown Dallas skyline. I also look for geometry that leads the eye into the scene.
The moon was powerful in the scene, which was great and also kind of difficult at the same time. A full moon is actually quite bright, making it difficult to get the rest of the scene properly exposed without blowing out the moon. As you can see, though, even if the moon is blown out it usually works out ok.
The really perfect part of this shoot was flying low over the Trinity River basin, bringing the Margaret Hunt Hill bridge into the scene. Whenever you’re taking pictures from a helicopter it’s essential to have one eye in your viewfinder and the other looking at the surrounding environment to see what is coming up. For example, when I saw the arch of the bridge coming into the frame, I also saw that the moon would soon be in the sky next to the Fountain Place building. I simply waited for a moment and then got the shot when the moon was in the right place in the sky to make my composition.
The final piece of advice I would give for your next helicopter shoot is to always have your camera ready. In our case the flight was rather short, only 15 minutes, and the highlight of the flight was downtown Dallas. On the way back to our departure point, Love Field in Dallas, there was not really much out there to take a picture of (Dallas is a relatively flat city), but my cameras were left on and ready. As we crossed the runways at Love Field, I saw the terminal building where there were numerous Southwest jets parked. Since my camera was on and ready I was able to pull it up and fire off some quick shots of the terminal building with the Supermoon in the background. I was very lucky it worked out!
Wrapping it all up, the last couple of days of the Supermoon were a wonderful excuse to get together with other photographers and go out shooting. Whether from the ground or from the sky, it’s always important to remember that, while photography is often considered an individual pursuit, things like this are better when shared!
Did you shoot the supermoon? Where did you shoot it from? Tell me in the comments below!