I don't know if I have an all time favorite photographer but Vincent Laforet has been a huge influence on me. One aspect of his work that I go crazy over is his aerial photography, its simply unmatched compared to anyone else's aerial images. After seeing all of Vincent's work, I've always wanted to go shoot from a helicopter and after following certain accounts on instagram over the years, I've had the urge to fly over the buildings in NYC. 2015 is the year for me to do as many new things and go to as many new places as possible, so I decided to go for it, and booked a flight with FlyNYON.
Everyone who works at FlyNYON is really cool and is willing to work with you and help you out with anything you need, the pilot even asks you where you want to go before you take off, so you can sort of make your own route. One thing I didn't understand is that they didn't make us sign any forms or waivers saying we can't sue if we fall out or anything like that. You just show up at the hangar, gear up and go.
Having your feet dangle over the buildings of Manhattan is unlike anything else. I can't imagine experiencing anything like it any other way. You get SUPER close to the buildings, way closer than I thought and there's a lot to see in the 20 minutes I had in the air. Watching the sun set while flying next to the Freedom Tower is truly an unforgettable sight. When you land back in Jersey, you step off the helicopter feeling like you just won a gold metal at the olympics. You get such a rush, its unreal.
For anyone who is reading this to try to get a feel of what they need in order to do this, here is some helpful information.
I didn't know when the next time I would be able to do a thing like this again, so I wasn't playing when it came to what I was shooting with. I love wide angle photography, so of course I took my Canon 6D with a 16-35mm. I put a circular polarizer filter on it also so I could get the most blue out of the sky. Even though most of my shots were taken at 16mm, the propellers get in the way when shooting that wide. That was one of my problems that I noticed once I was in the air. You also need fast glass if you're going to take the last flight and capture sunsets. Even at f/2.8 I was struggling to get my shutter fast enough towards the end of the flight.
I also took my second camera which was a Canon T5i and I brought it with a 70-200 which I was hoping to get super telephoto shots with. The pilot told me that would be too tight, and he was right. Especially having a cropped sensor, we were way closer to the building than I thought, so I only used that setup about 20% of the ride. I also have the non IS version of the 70-200 so once the sun started going down, it was too dark to use since its extremely hard to hand hold that lens with all the wind. If I ever do this again I will definitely substitute the 2 cameras for just my 6D with a 24-70mm instead, or maybe a 24-105mm.
Also, I had my GoPro mounted to the hot shoe on my Canon 6D which was what I used for most of the video. I had never done that before so I figured this would be a pretty cool environment to test it out in. I was very pleased with the results.
I'll be honest, half of the reason I wanted to do this was to get my own shoe selfie. I got really jealous of seeing other peoples photos and needed to have my own. I highly underestimated the difficulty of these images. I can honestly say they're some of the hardest shots I've ever taken.
The wind is a major factor for shoe selfies. I knew it was going to be windy up there, but it was 100x windier than I anticipated. I consider myself to have somewhat strong legs. I ride my bike all the time, and I've been skating for the past 19 years and this was a struggle. At some points, it was hard to lift my legs up like this and sometimes when I managed to do so, the wind swung my legs all the way to the left and I would kick the person next to me really hard. It was no joke. Even though I thought I had my sneakers tight enough they still felt like they were going to fly off at any moment.
I feel like an experience like this is very hard to nail first shot. I am happy with a few of the images but I would definitely like another chance. I'll probably do this again at least one more time in the future, probably sooner than later. I wish I could go all the time but it's a really expensive addiction. I would definitely want a nice shot of the empire state building and probably fly directly over the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges. And maybe I'll try a daytime flight so I won't have to struggle with chasing low light.
For photographers interested in doing this, check out FlyNYON for more info, its 100% worth it.