Is This The Life?

February 08, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Hill Inlet Catamaran, Whitsunday Island - shot on the 'Away - The Art of Photography' workshop last year.

I've been fortunate to do quite a bit of aerial photography. Not as much as some of my professional friends, one of whom was telling me he was spending all day, every day in a plane doing survey work. I guess too much of anything becomes monotonous, but I wonder if the pilots at Hamilton Island ever get sick of flying out over Whitsunday Island and the nearby Great Barrier Reef?

Aerial photography is greatly affected by the weather. Sometimes you can fly to where the light looks interesting, on other occasions you have to make the most of what is there. Last year we had picture-postcard perfect weather for our helicopter shoot. Part of me was ecstatic, but another part disappointed because some cloud and inclement weather around the islands can look really interesting and moody.

However, I wasn't complaining and I dare say the people who hired the catamaran in the photograph above were pretty happy as well. They are sitting at the mouth of Hill Inlet up the north end of Whitsunday Island and Whitehaven Beach. The water really is this colour (and I know some readers might doubt the veracity of a statement like this from someone like me - but no colour pixels were transformed in the production of this photograph).

The challenge when shooting from the air like this is nailing the exposure. It's important to retain detail in the white sands, but fortunately, there is so much light being reflected up that most cameras automatically reduce the exposure, so chances are your shots on automatic will be okay. Of course, if you have time, take a test shot quickly, check your histogram, then move on.

In recent years, restrictions for flying over Hill Inlet have become tighter and tighter. Essentially we can fly around, but not over the top. Nevertheless, a telephoto lens will get you in close enough to create some great pattern shots. These photos were taken with a 70-200mm zoom. Normally I recommend a 28-70mm zoom or similar when shooting from a helicopter, or take two cameras with different lenses which is what I did on this occasion.

So, which shot looks better? The tighter crop above, or the more expansive view below?

And will we see you on Hamilton Island this June for a helicopter shoot and four days of fun?

A wider view taken a few seconds earlier. Which works better for you? Personally, I prefer the tighter angle as it is more abstract, but a travel agent may prefer this one.

Using contrast in post-production lets you reveal the shapes of the sand below the water - simply amazing.

Another aerial over Hill Inlet. I like the square format.


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