Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Right Place, Right Time...

I took my camera into work yesterday - it was a lovely sunny day, and I planned to go out for a photowalk at lunchtime... which I did... and I got some photos - but I'm saving them for another day.  Half way through the afternoon, there was a load roaring rumbling vibration outside my 23rd floor office window, and just outside was an Army Black Hawk helicopter, buzzing around and between the high rise offices - I grabbed my camera, and started snapping away - but after the excitement of getting the first few shots, I started to think a little more about what I was actually doing.

The camera was set on ISO 400 and P mode (which on my camera seems to give a wide open aperture, and adjusts the speed accordingly as its starting point) - so with ISO 400 and f/5.6, I was getting shutter speeds of 1/800 and 1/1000 second - which was freezing the rotor movement (but giving me crystal sharp pictures).

I wanted a bit of blur on the rotors, so I adjusted the balance towards a much smaller aperture of f/20 - but I think that was too far, as it gave me shutter speeds of around 1/80 second - which combined with a 200mm lens - even with Vibration Reduction - is a bit too slow.  So the next few shots gave me the motion blur on the rotors, but at the expense of blur everywhere else too :(

I decided that sharp pictures were the better option, so I opened up the aperture again, but did reduce the ISO to 200, as the 400 setting was going to give me some grainy noise - especially if I had to crop into the detail too much.  Luckily, the sun was bright, and I was still able to get pretty quick shutter speeds.

The helicopter was doing some manouvres from down low (way down below me), and swooping up towards me, then banking off behind the building opposite, before popping up over the top - right at my level.  In the first picture (uncropped), you can see how hard it is to see the helicopter at all - but the next two are crops into the detail of that same photo, and a second pass a few minutes later.  I call these my Quentin Tarantino shots.
I think the second pass shot was more successful, due to the lighter background of buildings, and also the angle of the helicopter.

Then it popped up from behind the other building - it was like an action movie.  I quite expected a force of elite paratroops to drop down ropes onto the roof and invade the building... Now that WOULD have made a good shot - and it would have been sold to the Sydney Morning Herald by now!!!

As it finally departed for goodness knows where, I caught this last shot as it left its shadow on another neighbouring building.

In all, I had 9 minutes of shooting time of this spectacular close-range display of flying.  Boy, was I glad I chose to take the camera to work!!

Until next time - keep snapping.


  1. Just a little postscript...
    ABC News considered my second close-up worthy of posting on their site :D I don't know how long it will stay there, but here's the link


  2. Another excellent handy post Grumby. Thanks for the info on the settings you used, very helpful.

    Fantastic shots of the heli...what is that saying? You should never leave home without your camera. Congrats on getting your shot on the ABC news site.

  3. Thanks Angela - I'm glad you find the techie info helpful. So have you passed on another camera to Steve - or is he hankering for a dSLR as well now? ;-)
    Thanks for the congrats - must admit, I still haven't stopped grinning about seeing my photo and the ABC logo together on the same page...

  4. Big success story Graham, and another great post. I love seeing all the different shots you took, and the explanations (not that I understand all the 'techie' stuff but I'm getting there!)
    I really like the last pic of just the shadow, but I guess it really has to follow the other shots for it to have much meaning for viewers.