Before my New Zealand adventure, I knew that I wanted to take pictures from the air, but learning to fly a drone in such a short amount of time was impossible. My only option was a nimble aircraft, and a cunning pilot.
I prefer to let the flying be handled by professional pilots – and leave the photographing to me.
I booked with Heliworks Queenstown, and they offered to remove the doors for the whole flight as a courtesy to me, so I wouldn’t have to shoot through a door or a window.
We went up above the clouds, and up to a permafrost glacier where we landed after a 30 minute flight. There was zero wind at the top. Dave, my pilot, informed me that usual tour groups that land at this spot can’t stay for more than 5-10 minutes before the wind and cold gets the better of them. We stayed for close to 45 minutes in this one spot looking over the clouds at distant mountain peaks.
We flew from the highest peaks of Fiordland down to the beaches that form the western coast of New Zealand’s south island. Quite the juxtaposition of climates between glaciers and sand dunes – frigidity and tropics. Travelers beware – if you hit the beaches, bring some bug spray! Ouch!
Shooting from the helicopter was different and challenging. While I had been shooting composites throughout New Zealand with high f-stops and long shutter speeds, I had to quicken my shutter speed to be sure that I had a sharp image, and shoot on burst mode – otherwise I’d risk only taking one shot and possibly having a helicopter rotor blade ruin the shot. More shots meant a better chance of a clear picture.
Further and further into the wilds, we traversed the awe-inspiring valleys, and rivers which carved their way through the rocks over the centuries. Shooting from a helicopter allowed me to have such a unique view of the landscapes. I could look straight down at the forest canopy from thousands of feet above.
This flight was the absolute highlight of my trip. It was both the scariest and most calming adventure I have ever been on. We initially departed the helipad at 6:30am and arrived back in Queenstown at 4:30pm. I was able to spend as much time as I wanted at over 10 different landings we made that day.