Why start blogging now?
I’ve always believed that a photograph is worth a thousand words but a photograph can’t always share a behind the scene story or insight into what I was thinking when I took a shot, or who I met on the course, or what I do to actually make a photo-shoot work... My intention is to use my blog to tell stories, some long, some short, always with a lot of photos to keep things interesting.
What’s UP this Week?
On Thursday I was UP at Quaker Ridge Golf Club, actually about 2500 - 3500 feet UP above the Club in a Robinson 44 helicopter. We had to get clearance from air traffic control to go over 3000 as it was class B (Bravo) airspace. FYI: The Robinson 44 is my chopper of choice for shoots because of its maneuverability
So some people ask why I still need to hire a helicopter when I already have my DJI Inspire II primed for aerials? Pretty simple answer - FAA regulations don’t allow drones to fly above 400 feet! Quaker Ridge’s request was that I capture the entire course in one photograph. The only way to accomplish this was to get 2500 feet in the air. I shot with my Fuji GFX100. I used Wings Helicopter Company out of Westchester County Airport. Prior to taking off they removed the door on my side of the chopper and strapped me into a harness which makes it bit challenging to move around, but you can understand why . We took off at just after 5pm for the five minute ride down to Scarsdale (amazing how much faster it is flying over the Merritt than driving on it!). I wanted to be in position by in time to capture the late afternoon light that provides that beautiful golden glow on a course. I even managed to capture a few additional pics of some other area courses on the way back to the airport. Can you name them?
On those rare occasions when I do find myself strapped into a doorless helicopter I’m reminded of a trip to Southwest Ireland I did with my wife, Lisa, about 20 years ago. I was thrilled to be photographing Old Head Golf Links in its early days. It had only opened in 1997 and everyone in the golf world was talking about this extraordinary course built on a promontory that extended two miles out into the raging Atlantic. John O’Connor, one of the owners of Old Head offered me the use of a helicopter to take shots from off the coast and I jumped at the opportunity. Lisa was invited to come along. I was sitting up front on the left side next to the pilot. Lisa was sitting in the back.
The pilot was very serious when he removed my fiberglass door and strapped me in. Then he looked the two of us in the eye and said, “I need you both to understand that under no circumstances can you allow ANYTHING, not even a tiny scrap of paper to fall out of the helicopter. If that happens it will immediately get sucked into the rotors of the aircraft and we’ll crash into the ocean. And then we’ll die….”
I looked over at Lisa who had turned white as a ghost so I answered for the two of us with as serious a face as I could muster, “Yes, we understand.”
I was still shooting with FILM at the time. The particular film I used was called Fuji Chrome Velvia and it only allowed for about 12 shots per roll. Each roll needed to be loaded by hand into my Hasselblad’s filmbacks. It was Lisa’s job to keep pace with me in loading filmbacks, having the next one ready as soon as I had finished a roll. This particular film was wrapped in a special foil to protect it from being exposed to sunlight. Once the wrapper was removed there was a long thin white strip of paper wrapped around the film itself and that needed to be removed so that the film could be wound around the filmback. I was shooting at a pretty rapid pace and it was all Lisa could do to keep up with me. It wasn’t until we were back on the ground that she said she wasn’t feeling very well. I thought maybe she was airsick but then she admitted that her pockets had filled up pretty quickly with all the wrappings. Fearing that one of these single strips of film wrap might bring us down she began eating the paper (all the while maintaining our pace). Apparently she did a little risk/reward calculation in her head and had decided some extra ruffage was worth staying alive for. And by the way, I probably shot 15 rolls of film on that half an hour helicopter ride.