I am just going to say it, I love flying! If I could have one superpower, flying is what it would be. I even like flying on a commercial airliner, there is just something about being on a plane, the anticipation of seeing a new country or just being up in the air with no one able to contact you albeit usually being squished on a plane for 20+ hours… Oh, the joys of living in Australia.
On my 6th trip to NYC, I was roaming the streets of NYC when I looked up and saw a helicopter flying over Manhattan. From what I could see, it was one of the tourist flights that I had always wanted to do but was either put off by the cost or didn’t have the time. I decided to finally try and do the helicopter ride and wanted to find a company which would let me shoot with the windows open, as the normal scenic flights just don’t let you do this. In my opinion, you need to shoot without the glass reflections to get the best images. As I was doing my research I found a company called FlyNYON which doesn’t let you shoot through the window, it does one better… they take the doors off and harness you in!
I ended up contacting FlyNYON and asked them what the policy was for using a camera, the best time of the day, what I should be aware of etc. They instructed me that I could take up to 2 cameras or 1 camera and one phone and they would make sure all devices are strapped in for obvious safety reasons. They recommended if considering a sunset shoot having experience being a photographer was advised due to dealing with the dynamic and changing light, it was also a premium price sunset. I thought I would give it a go but sadly all sunsets were booked out while I was visiting NYC, so I booked for the mid afternoon slot it was the next best thing.
Preparing for the Shoot – What Gear
I had a limited choice when selecting gear as I had the 10-24mm, 35mm F2 and the 56mm 1.2 for this trip. I contemplated the idea of the 56mm but did some research and thought It would be best to go with the 10-24mm zoom as it had Image Stabilisation and the additional flexibility of being a zoom lens. I had to keep in mind there was no way to change lenses and I only had one Fujifilm body, so It made sense to take my zoom lens with my only concern being it maybe too wide.
After the shoot – What Gear
All in all the 10-24mm was a success, if you look at the images, I think it captured the cityscape pretty well. I got pretty close to the buildings and flew on top of the freedom tower, so the 10-24mm was wide enough to capture this where something less wide wouldn’t have done the job.
If I had the choice what would be my ideal kit? I would definitely recommend 2 bodies (yes a luxury but if you can then do it). On body 1, I would have the 10-24mm and then the second body, I would either use a mid-range zoom (18-55mm or 16-55mm) or depending on how reviews come in, the 16-80mm. There is one other option though and that’s the 50-140mm telephoto, that would be good to try but maybe a bit limited, could be worth the risk though.
What about my settings?
I am no pro photographer however my plan was to set the ISO to auto with a max ISO of 1600 (it was mid to late afternoon so I felt pretty comfortable with this approach), I set the F stop to F6.4 as a baseline and adjusted appropriately. I left shutter to auto as well. I think the best approach for me was to minimise changing too many settings and rather than fiddling around with the settings focus on getting the shots.
Believe You Can Fly
From the moment you take off, it’s pretty exciting, all strapped in, hanging out of a helicopter (literally), camera ready, phone ready, the adrenaline is pumping and before you know it, you are up in the air and feel like you are flying. Approaching Manhattan and capturing its beauty is an experience I will never forget. From flying past the statue of liberty to the first approach of Manhattan it really is amazing. When I look at the images I still have to pinch myself that it was up there. This experience has pushed me to explore aerial photography and I am hoping to do a few more trips in the future and sharing those images and the adventure that comes with it.
In terms of the camera, The Fujifilm X-Pro2 handled the experience like a boss, obviously you are going pretty fast and not every shot is going to nail focus, so sometimes you do miss a few shots with the autofocus but it was definitely more hit than miss. Also, you may experience some warping at the edge of the frame on the 10-24mm especially when shooting different crazy angles at the widest end of the lens. I would have to say my favourite shot was where I was looking down and literally hanging over the freedom tower.
Loved it so much I did it twice however
On my first attempt, there was a slight delay with our flight, at the time I didn’t get an indication that anything was wrong. We eventually took off and flew over Jersey and then headed to Manhattan. We flew close to and on the fringe of Manhattan then headed back. We all seemed ok with this although I was a little disappointed and then found out later that the President was in town and therefore there was a no-fly zone around the time we were due to go over Manhattan.
The next day I received a survey email and, in the survey, I just highlighted that I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get to fly over Manhattan even only for 3 or 4 mins. To my surprise, they emailed me the same day and apologised for this and without me even asking for anything they offered me the 30min flight (I went on the 15min flight) at any time I wanted now that’s what I call customer service!
I was fortunate enough to book in another late afternoon flight the next day before I left NYC the day after that and I have to say the 30 min flight is definitely the option to go for. It was a fitting end to a great trip with some images I am really proud of.
Amateur travel photographer, Fujifilm fan and passionate product manager based in Melbourne, Australia. Photography is my creative outlet that drives me to continue to see the world and journal the experiences.