Salt ponds near the Dumbarton Bridge, San Francisco Bay.

These ponds can range in color from pale green to bright red depending on the salinity of the pond.

I’ll have to spend some more time shooting the vibrant colors and the abstract shapes these salt ponds make. I want to go back again for another shoot when they are bright red !

I was near Fresno on a client shoot last week, and not surprisingly saw a lot of  vineyards, fields and orchards from the air. The Central Valley is massive and covers 22,500 square miles, much of which is farmland.

This colorful field caught my eye. I’ll have to make another trip just for stills to get some more. There is a lot of potential for cool abstract shots in the central valley.

Last Thursday was a perfect day for an aerial shoot. Speck (who make the awesome ipad case I use) filmed me for a video testimonial for their web site. 

I’ve added another San Francisco land mark to my Tilt-Shift Series :-)

I’ll have quite a few more images and some video to post soon. Stay tuned!

The ultimate ipad accessory might well be a helicopter, but I’ll have to settle for a good case for an ipad to use when I’m shooting from one.

I spent a while looking for the right case to use on aerial shoots and the Speck HandyShell for the ipad 2 is perfect.

The case holds my ipad nice and securely. The red handle is handy for attaching a climbing sling and carabineer to to my harness or an anchor point in the chopper.

Thanks to my good friend, artist Kurt Stoekel for telling me about the case.

I recently got an ipad, and it’s been very useful to have on shoots. In the back of the helicopter an ipad is lot more convenient for notes and shot lists than bits of paper blowing around.

I used a great free App GPX Master to track the path the helicopter flew, and then used the GPX file it created to geotag all my images. You need a separate program on your PC or Mac to do the geotagging, but there are quite a few to choose from.

Check out the screen shot, the ipad is pretty accurate with the GPS position, and for the 2 hour shoot the GPX Master App used up about 20% of the ipad battery life at the highest accuracy settings. Not bad !

Yesterday I got to try to fly a helicopter. And I do mean “try” as I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.

Shooting from a helicopter is a lot of fun, but I’m usually stuck in the back snapping away. I never get to watch how a pilot flies, they just effortlessly get me to the right position I need for the shot. I’ve wanted to fly for a while, partly for the challenge, and partly to give my pilots clearer instructions when I’m on a shoot. The pilots I use for aerial photography usually have at least 3000 hours of flying time, and many are also ex-military. They all make flying look easy, and I have great respect for their skills.

Having a go at hovering was hard. It’s amazing how little the controls need to be moved, and how tricky it was not to over compensate with each move. My hover looked more like a bucking bronco but once my instructor took control again we were instantly stable.

I have a lot to learn.

I'm a nominee for the 7th Annual Black & White Spider Awards

My aerial shot of the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco was a nominee in the Professional Architecture Catagory :) 

It’s becoming quite a prestigious annual photography competition with the judges from the Tate Gallery in London, National Geographic, Bonhams Auction house, and more.

http://www.thespiderawards.com/gallery/7th/gallery.php?g=&x=p&cid=105&fid=95273

I was also a nominee back in 2006 in the Professional Sports Category for my portrait of Tochiazuma the number 2 ranking sumo wrestler at the time I shot him in Japan.

Today is the 30th anniversary of my first published photograph. It also happened to be my first ride in a helicopter, and my first attempt at aerial photography.

My school had visit from a military helicopter and gave a few students a short ride around the surrounding area. I lived near the school, so there was just enough time to run home, grab my camera, a roll of film and try to catch the last ride of the day.

I was lucky. One of the helicopter crew saw my camera and suggested I wear the winchman’s harness. So for my first helicopter flight I sat on the floor with my legs dangling out while we flew around the town. I was more excited than scared. What really worried me was losing my shoes somewhere over the town, and how angry my mum would be if I lost them.

My aerial was published in The Wellington Weekly News. I think I got paid £2, which is about $3 for my first published shot. It was on page 7. Score!

It’s funny how life goes full circle. I had no idea I would end up shooting a lot more aerials. 

Back in college I was lucky enough to arrange to fly with a Royal Navy Search and Rescue Helicopter from RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall as a photography project. On a rainy September morning I went up with the crew on a flight exercise.

They practiced hovering close to the cliffs. And I mean really close to the cliffs – the blades were maybe 20 feet away from the rocks. Because the instruments can’t tell you what is beside you, only your altitude from the ground below, the observer had to look out of the side door to tell the pilot how many yards away the rotor blades were from hitting the cliff. This was the only guidance the pilot had. These guys were really good.

I wanted to get some shots of the helicopter hovering over a rocky outcrop. So they dropped me off in a field. Later, after I had finished my shots they retrieved me by winching me back in, dangling outside the helicopter door. This was a bit unnerving to say the least.

The last part of the morning flight was to simulate a total engine failure a few times and land with no power. This was my first experience of autorotations, and a crewmember kindly suggested I unplugged my headset in case I threw up as the sound would annoy everyone. Happily, I didn’t get sick. 
Watch on blog.jonhope.com

Here’s a short video of me shooting the Transamercia Pyramid in San Francisco from the air.

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