focus. This shift in focus may be reduced by stopping
down the lens; however, this is not always possible
because you may need fast shutter speeds. The best
method of shooting photographs through a window is
to take the picture with the optical axis of the lens
perpendicular to the surface of the window. The lens
should be as close as possible to the surface of the
window without touching it. Although this method
allows you to take only one or two photos during each
pass of the target, the quality and definition of the image
is better. When shooting photographs with an SLR
camera through a window or canopy, you will find it
helpful to make a foam rubber "doughnut" about 2 or 3
inches thick. This foam rubber shield should be taped
to the camera using surgical tape because it sticks well
and can be removed without leaving a gummy residue.
After attaching the foam rubber shield to the camera,
you should place it against the aircraft window to block
internal reflections from that part of the window that the
camera "sees." The shield also absorbs vibrations from
the window.
Most of your hand-held aerial work, both oblique
and vertical, consists of single shots; however, you may
have to fly oblique and vertical strips that require
overlapping photographs. The camera-to-scene
distance must remain constant while you are shooting
the strip. Changes in distance cause the image size to
change and make matching the adjacent exposures
impossible. You should make the exposures at
regularly spaced intervals. You can determine the time
interval visually between the exposures for a strip.
Before the flight, mark your viewfinder to show the
distance an object must move in the viewfinder to move
the image 40 percent of the width of the film. During
the flight, make the first exposure, hold steady, and
make the second exposure after some point in the scene
has moved the distance marked on the viewfinder. The
marks are the same for any aircraft speed or altitude.
When you are not using an SLR camera, change the
marks on the viewfinder if you change either the film
format or the focal length of the lens.
Hand-held vertical photography is easiest from
helicopters. You can lean out from your sitting position
on the floor or from a passenger seat and hold the
camera with the proper attitude for taking verticals.
You should hold the camera firmly in your hands,
keeping your torso relaxed so your arms will act as
vibration dampers. Using this method, you can take
vertical aerials that are incredibly sharp because of the
maneuverability of the helicopter, its capability for slow
flight, and the possibility for both the pilot and the
photographer to see the target. Because of these
features, accurate vertical photography is easier from
helicopters than from fixed-wing aircraft.
Most air-to-air photography you shoot will be of
other aircraft. The purpose is to produce display and
public affairs (PAO) photographs. You may also be
assigned to take air-to-air photography for research and
testing purposes. When shooting air-to-air
photographs, you should maintain voice
communication with both the pilot flying your aircraft
as well as the pilot(s) of the aircraft you are
photographing. This provides an opportunity for you
to direct all the aircraft involved into position for
Generally speaking, the best air-to-air photographs
are made from slightly above, to the side, and slightly
forward of the plane being photographed; however, you
should try other views, such as from below or slightly
aft of the subject aircraft. A longer than normal
focal-length lens (80mm or greater for a 35mm camera)
should be used when you are photographing only one
or two aircraft at a time. Longer focal-length lenses
prevent distortion that results from using a normal or
short lens. With a normal or short lens, the wings that
stick out from the fuselage of the target plane and the
long nose or tail section appear distorted when you
photograph them from close range. When shooting
formations of three or more aircraft, you should use a
normal focal-length lens because you are farther from
the subjects and distortion is not a problem. For a
head-on view use a long focal-length lens and have the
pilot fly the aircraft you are in across and above or below
the projected flight path of the plane being
photographed. Of course, each of the pilots need plenty
of room to avoid a mid-air collision. A better and safer
way to get a head-on shot is to fly in front of the plane
being photographed, in the same direction, and at the
same speed. You can take this shot from the open ramp
of an aircraft, such as a C-130 or CH-53. In aircraft such
as these, you can stand at the edge of the open ramp;
ensure that you are secured properly with a safety
The aircraft you are photographing does not always
have to fly straight and level. Good, interesting pictures
can be taken while aircraft are maneuvering, such as in
a long, slow turn or in a bank. When the underside of
the fuselage must be shown, request the pilot of the
target aircraft to roll the plane, so the sun shines on the
underside of the aircraft. For this shot, the plane
containing the photographer should fly in a bank above
the subject plane. This maneuver provides you with a

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