It was the end of a three week road trip through the Canadian Rockies and the Pacific Northwest. I had to say goodby heavy hearted to these breathtaking landscapes and amazing wildlife. So I drove to Vancouver airport to fly back home to Munich. But luckily my journey was not yet over, because I had a stopover in New York city for an other five days (lucky me, right?).
A few month ago I saw pictures of New York shot from a helicopter. After some research I discovered that these photos were taken on an open door flight. “Hell yeah that sounds great! Can you imagine, sitting on the skid of a helicopter and shooting photos?” So the decision was made and I book a 30 minute flight.
It was my second day in New York and the flight was planed for 6pm, so I had plenty of time to decide what lens I want to use. My camera kit consist of the Fuji X-Pro2, the XF 14mm/f2.8, the XF 23mm/f1.4 and the XF 56mm/f1.2. That’s all I normally need for my landscapes and cityscapes. Knowing that there was no way I could change lenses during flight, I decided to use my 14mm lens. It is fast and wide, everything I needed for my first flight.
But there was one problem: It was so foggy in New York this day, I could not even see the top of the skyscrapers. So I was hopping that it would clear up in the afternoon. The time went by and it got even worse. I was not surprised when the flight got canceled and postponed… Let’s try again tomorrow.
The next day the weather was quite a bit better. In the afternoon the sky cleared up a bit and there was some potential for a nice sunset. So I took an Uber to the heliport in Kearny. After a short security briefing we got strapped in to a harness. Last check “Is my battery fully charged and did I put in a empty SD card?” Then my X-Pro2 got fixed to the harness as well. Now we had the chance to talk to the pilot what we want to photograph. After a short discussion we all agreed on a plan. Everybody took his place in the helicopter and got some headphones to listen to the pilot.
A brief moment later she was starting the engine and we were heading to Manhattan. The minute we started it was just an amazing feeling to sit in a helicopter without doors, directly looking down to the ground. That moment I knew it dosen’t matter if I take a good picture, the experience it self was already worth it.
And there it was, the skyline of Manhattan. I decided to set my shutter speed to 1/250s and keep my aperture around f/4. I left the ISO on auto because the sun was setting during the flight and the light was fading away fast. I wanted to concentrate on composition and not on my settings, so that was the logical discussion for me.
Looking on the peninsula of New York from the upper bay was just fascinating. I shot frame after frame as we flew up the Eastriver over the Brooklyn-, Manhattan- and Willimansburg Bridge and then turned into Midtown, just a few blocks away from central park. The pilot made some hard turns and tilted the helicopter sideways, so that we were literally looking straight down in the deep street canyons. And what a view!! It was just stunning to see these famous skyscraper directly from above. I had to remind my self to put away the camera for a minute or two to breath and really suck in ever moment. The sun got lower every minute and suddenly a red/purple light was hitting the city, that was still a bit covered in some low mist. One turn later the pilot was flying directly into the sunset light. I raised my camera and captured the pilot while flying a corner in the evening light. That turned out to be one of my favourite photos!
After a view loops and a last pass of the skyline in the dusk light, we were heading back to the heliport. The time went by unbelievable fast and everybody was leaving the helicopter with a big smile on there face. On my way back in the subway I could not wait to see the pictures, so I connected my phone to the camera to preview some shots. And I was quite happy with the results.
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