What does an aerial photography flight involve? Professional aerial photography is quite a technical affair involving knowledge of not only flying an aircraft, but competencies in color science, physical and geometric optics, meteorology, the Global Positioning System (GPS), the National Airspace System (NAS), and even solar astronomy.
After assembling our various assignments into time blocks based on sun position, weather, and air traffic ‘pushes’ (periods of relatively high air carrier activity at major airports) we plan our course out via GPS and import it into our onboard GPS navigation system. Doing so helps us remain clear of various airspaces and minimize our enroute (‘dash’) times and climbs for the sake of economy.
GPS ground tracks are easy to digest:
…but there are also altitude changes to contend with (this flight was an unusually simple flight concerning altitude changes):
Most subjects and contexts offer a single ‘best’ altitude, though complex assignments can involve several. For example, a small subject such as a strip mall usually calls for low and slow flight, while a large subject (like the 6/16 Table Rock Fire of about 2,500 acres) requires much higher altitudes and faster speeds. Flying such a large site produces a perimeter of about 20 miles, which is an expensive proposition even at 80 miles per hour when several circumnavigations at various altitudes are required.
We automatically collect data points every few seconds during our flight; those data points include Latitude, Longitude, Altitude, Heading, Speed, and some other parameters that we use to tag both our photography and videography (including thermographic videography) to a very high degree of accuracy. Once again, the date shown is the time in Greenwich, England; 7 hours later than our Mountain Time flight. Aviators use the standardized Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) since we regularly hop around between various time zones and need a common clock reference. Mountain Time changes to Pacific Time just north of Riggins, Idaho, and at our Nevada and Oregon borders (with minor deviations). GMT is an elegant solution to a complex issue.
The GPS data from a flight can be used to geolocate imagery, ensure compliance with Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR’s), and compiled into very comprehensive animated flight records. The video below is sped up 40 times so that the 8/26/16 2 hour, 180 Nautical Mile flight only takes 3:09 (minutes:seconds) to review. Each small ‘dot’ on the course represents a significant heading change, not a per se navigational fix. The indicator arrow jumps around a bit at first-that’s us getting fuel and taxiing on the (Nampa Municipal, KMAN) airport.
Our last product of the day is a northwesterly view of Lake Lowell in southeast Nampa, with the wildfire smoke from burns in northeastern Oregon generating some spectacular color.
CEO, Idaho Airships, Inc. Certified Master Aerial Photographer. Adobe Certified Expert: Photoshop, Premiere Pro, Flash, Web Specialist, Video Specialist. Certified Level III Thermographer. Trained LiDAR Operator.
CEO, Idaho Airships. Inc. Certified Master Aerial Photographer. Adobe Certified Expert: Photoshop, Flash Professional, Premiere Pro. Adobe Certified Expert Video Specialist and Web Specialist. Certified Level III Thermographer. Trained LiDAR Operator.