Aerial Photography over the Fraser Valley

Cessna flies near mountains
Flying over the Golden Ears Mountains, the Cessna 180 shows its stuff. This image was made into a large print for the owner.

When the weather feels gloomy it’s nice to remember the brilliantly sunny days. Like it was on New Year’s Day, 2015. I got a phone call that morning from Rick Church, a fellow photographer, pilot and one who rebuilds airplanes in his hangar at the Langley Airport. He had recently completed a major overhaul of the Cessna 180 pictured above and, before delivering it to the owner in Edmonton, wanted to get a few photos of it in the air. Have camera, will travel fly!

In a short time we were in the air above Langley, headed northeast toward Golden Ears. Rick flew the client’s plane and I was in an identical plane flown by a friend.

What a sight on such a beautiful day! I had to remind myself I was there to photograph the airplane and not the scenery but I did manage to squeeze off a few shots. We circled Golden Ears with the jagged, snowy peaks below us. The two planes criss-crossed paths a few times so I could get shots from both sides. We also changed elevations to try and get the background in the right spot.

As we headed back toward the airport, the growing communities of Langley came into focus. Our 40 minute flight was about to end. It seemed like we had just left but what a great start to 2015. Always ready to fly!

Did I mention we were pretty close to Golden Ears? The mountains look good from any angle, even with the wing of the aircraft above.
Cessna flying near mountains
With Rick keeping a close eye on us, we were close enough to give a thumbs up!
The updated Cessna 180 going through the paces on its test run.
cessna 180 flying at sunset
The colours in the sky were telling us we had little time left.
Cessna 180 over Fraser River.
The winding Fraser River beautifully reflects the setting sun as we head for home.
Fort Langley from an airplane
Fort Langley from the air.
approaching the runway at Langley airport.
Final run on the flight into 2015.

For Photographers:

There were a few challenges to get these photos of the Cessna. The biggest one was shooting through the window in the passenger door of the airplane. It was dome-shaped piece of plastic so the curves that create the dome made focusing very difficult. In some images, parts of the plane are sharp and parts are not. This is caused by the curves in the plastic. Best shooting would be with the window open or the door removed but it was a ‘little cool’ outside and with the pilot’s girlfriend in the back seat of the plane, I was reluctant to open the window.

Another important factor was shutter speed. You want to show some motion in the propellor but with the movement of the plane, you need a pretty fast shutter speed to get sharp images. I was able to get a nice blur in the propellor with shutter speeds between 1/500th and 1/1000th second.

Thanks to the experience of Rick and his friend Jim, they suggested I use my 70-200 lens. It was the perfect lens to show the plane as the dominant subject in the scene yet with enough background. My focal lengths were between 100 and 200 mm, depending on how close the two planes were. In the image that shows Rick piloting the plane, I was zoomed right out to 200 mm.

If you get a chance to do some aerial photography, be ready to say YES!

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