With the development of sophisticated airborne
photographic systems, most aerial photographs today
are made by photo-configured aircraft, such as the F-14
Tomcat with the Tactical Air Reconnaissance Pod
System (TARPS). The role of the Photographer's Mate
in aerial photography evolves less flying as a crew
member and increased responsibilities in a
ground-support function. Even with this changing role,
you may be called upon from time to time to make
hand-held vertical photographs and oblique
photographs from airplanes and helicopters. This aerial
photography could include such assignments as
gunnery exercises, refueling at sea, publicity photo-
graphy, construction progress, accident investigation,
ship identification, display pictures, mapping, aerial
motion-media work, and so on. As a knowledgeable
PH you may also have to train non-photographic
personnel in the operation of cameras and
picture-making techniques for antisubmarine warfare
and maritime surveillance photography.
Aerial photographs are taken from a variety of
altitudes. The altitude ranges are defined as follows:
Low altitude: 0 to 1,500 feet
Medium altitude: 1,500 to 10,000 feet
High altitude: 10,000 feet and above
As a Photographer's Mate, your aerial photographic
assignments are normally accomplished from low to
medium altitudes.
Three basic categories of aerial photography are in
use today: vertical, oblique, and air-to-air. The vertical
and oblique categories are broken down further into
types of aerial photography. The three basic categories
are discussed first.
Vertical aerial photography is accomplished with
the camera held or suspended in the aircraft, so it points
directly downward with the optical axis of the lens
perpendicular to the ground (fig. 4-1). At the moment
of exposure, when the camera is level and the film is
parallel to the ground, the result is a photograph, for all
practical purposes, with a uniform scale. However, if
the aircraft is climbing, diving, banking, or the camera
is tilted for any other reason at the moment of exposure,
the resulting photography does not have a uniform
scale. It is always important in vertical aerial
photography to hold the camera in a true vertical
position. The angle between the camera axis (or optical
axis) and the true vertical position is called the TILT
ANGLE; straight down, perpendicular to the ground, is
0 degrees, and straight out, parallel to the ground, is
90 degrees (fig. 4-2). The purpose of vertical aerial
photography is to show details clearly of ground objects
at a uniformly accurate scale. In peacetime, these aerial
photographs are valuable for mapping and for planning
locations of buildings, streets, runways, docks, and
other similar projects. During wartime, vertical aerial
photography is valuable for a variety of military
purposes, such as determining enemy location, strength,
and capability.
The entire view of a vertical image is not perfectly
vertical because only the very center of the image area
is taken straight down. A building in the center of a
vertical image shows only the roof, but a building near
the edge shows part of the sides in addition to the roof.
Although this slight change in the viewing angle from
center to edge of the image is undesirable when you try
to match prints for laying strips or mosaics, it does
provide the necessary differences in photos for stereo
Most vertical aerial photography is performed with
photo-configured aircraft. It is possible, however, to
make hand-held vertical photographs from planes and
An oblique aerial photograph is made with the
camera directed out and down at an angle from the
aircraft (not straight out and not straight down). For
accuracy, the amount of the oblique angle is stated in
degrees. The angle between the camera axis (or optical

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