Fiona has been photographing wildlife semi-professionally for the last 6 years. She has a background and degree in both wildlife biology and photography. She joined the South Pacific team in September 2018 and is responsible for a lot of our wildlife shots that you may have seen on our Social Media pages and website.
We asked her to share her 5 Top Tips for getting the best photos from your helicopter or plane flight!
Know your Gear
It is important that you really know how to use your photography gear when photographing wildlife as the action can start as quickly as it can finish.
When shooting from 500 ft up the best thing I can recommend is a telephoto lens. I personally use a 100-400 which allows for some nice close ups but it is also good to remember to mix it up and make sure you photograph the wildlife in their surroundings too. During your flight you will also get some great opportunities for some scenic shots so make sure to bring a wide angle too.
Most importantly don’t worry if you don’t have all the right gear, work with what you have got. We often get to see passengers’ photos and videos from their trips, some of the best video I have seen has been from a passengers iPhone!
Know your Subject
It is always important to have an understanding of the animals you will be photographing as it will allow you to predict their next move before it happens. Thankfully our pilots will give you an in-depth briefing on the sperm whales and any other species that you could see on your flight before taking off. Having knowledgeable pilots like ours, they will also be able to read the whales body language and let you know when the whale is about to dive so that you don’t miss that all important tail shot.
Use a fast Shutter speed
In general, when working with marine mammals in a moving aircraft I tend to use a fast shutter speed and wide aperture, so I have every chance of capturing the unexpected whether it be a humpback whale breaching or a sudden rush from a large pod of dolphins.
In both the helicopter and plane there will be a little bit of vibration to take into account too so along with the shutter speed make sure that you handhold your camera as leaning or resting the camera or lens on the plane will result in blurry images.
Composition is still Key
Sometimes in the moment in can be easy to just click in an effort to capture the action. However, it is important to still think about the outcome of your final image. Have patience and frame your shot. Shooting from above can give you a unique perspective and insight into the lives of these animals. We often see behavior just under the surface that you would not see from a boat. With multiple animals take the opportunity to have both in the frame, this will add a richer background story to your image.
Put the camera Down
Yep I said it, from time to time put the camera down. For a lot of people, a helicopter flight is a once in a life time opportunity. Make sure that you enjoy the ride and the views (not just from the view finder)
I struggle to follow my own advice with this one, the fear of missing out is real! However, it is important to put the camera down from time to time and just enjoy what’s unfolding in front of you and to not get caught up in worrying about whether you have set the camera correctly or picked the right lens.