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Author Topic: Gyro for helicopter shooting  (Read 6405 times)
haefnerphoto
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« on: July 30, 2009, 11:39:38 AM »
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I'll be shooting from a helicopter in about 9 days and am wondering what the consensus is concerning the use of a gyro with my Mamiya 645 or Canon 1dsM2.  Will I get sharper results or is the problem more a vibration issue.  What's the slowest recommended shutter speed (for both camera's)?  I shoot from these craft about once a decade and would appreciate some advice.  Thanks, Jim
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Peter McLennan
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« Reply #1 on: July 30, 2009, 07:14:16 PM »
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Quote from: haefnerphoto
I'll be shooting from a helicopter in about 9 days and am wondering what the consensus is concerning the use of a gyro with my Mamiya 645 or Canon 1dsM2.  Will I get sharper results or is the problem more a vibration issue.  What's the slowest recommended shutter speed (for both camera's)?  I shoot from these craft about once a decade and would appreciate some advice.  Thanks, Jim

A gyro won't help much with still images, unless you're really strapped for light and forced into long shutter speeds, IMHO.  Gyros work best with motion imagery.  Besides, for really good control, you need 3.  One for each axis.

Of course your minimum acceptable shutter speed is dependent on the lens' FOV.  In any case, at least 1/1000th.  Everything's moving.

You might get lucky at 1/500th, but who wants to gamble at those prices?    With a long lens, say 200mm equivalent, you'd need to go 1/2000th or higher.
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haefnerphoto
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« Reply #2 on: July 30, 2009, 07:55:27 PM »
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Quote from: Peter McLennan
A gyro won't help much with still images, unless you're really strapped for light and forced into long shutter speeds, IMHO.  Gyros work best with motion imagery.  Besides, for really good control, you need 3.  One for each axis.

Of course your minimum acceptable shutter speed is dependent on the lens' FOV.  In any case, at least 1/1000th.  Everything's moving.

You might get lucky at 1/500th, but who wants to gamble at those prices?    With a long lens, say 200mm equivalent, you'd need to go 1/2000th or higher.

Peter, Thanks for getting back to me.  I thought the reason for the helicopter is so that it's hovering and not moving very much.  My subject matter is large crowds and an event overview, I'm thinking that the lens will be in the normal to wide range 28-80mm.  With that in mind, will the shutter speed still need to be as short as a 1/1000 sec?  I guess that shouldn't be a problem if there's plenty of light, at ISO 200 on the P45 in bright sun I'd get 1/1000 sec at F8 or so.  Anyone else have any experience with a shoot like this?  I'd appreciate hearing from you.  Thanks, Jim
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Nick Rains
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« Reply #3 on: July 30, 2009, 08:48:34 PM »
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Quote from: haefnerphoto
Peter, Thanks for getting back to me.  I thought the reason for the helicopter is so that it's hovering and not moving very much.  My subject matter is large crowds and an event overview, I'm thinking that the lens will be in the normal to wide range 28-80mm.  With that in mind, will the shutter speed still need to be as short as a 1/1000 sec?  I guess that shouldn't be a problem if there's plenty of light, at ISO 200 on the P45 in bright sun I'd get 1/1000 sec at F8 or so.  Anyone else have any experience with a shoot like this?  I'd appreciate hearing from you.  Thanks, Jim

My experience is that gyros do indeed help stills - but you need to use a bigger size than you might expect. For the Phase camera go with the K12.

All other advice is correct. Keep up the shutter speeds, I also use AF so there's one less thing to worry about.

Oh, and don't hover. Unless the chopper has a perfectly balanced rotor (rare) you will get a smoother ride at a slow forward speed - experiment and ask the pilot.
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Nick Rains
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haefnerphoto
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« Reply #4 on: July 30, 2009, 09:23:28 PM »
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Quote from: Nick Rains
My experience is that gyros do indeed help stills - but you need to use a bigger size than you might expect. For the Phase camera go with the K12.

All other advice is correct. Keep up the shutter speeds, I also use AF so there's one less thing to worry about.

Oh, and don't hover. Unless the chopper has a perfectly balanced rotor (rare) you will get a smoother ride at a slow forward speed - experiment and ask the pilot.

Thanks Nick, I appreciate the advice!  Jim
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guyharrison
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« Reply #5 on: July 31, 2009, 12:58:51 PM »
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Quote from: haefnerphoto
I'll be shooting from a helicopter in about 9 days and am wondering what the consensus is concerning the use of a gyro with my Mamiya 645 or Canon 1dsM2.  Will I get sharper results or is the problem more a vibration issue.  What's the slowest recommended shutter speed (for both camera's)?  I shoot from these craft about once a decade and would appreciate some advice.  Thanks, Jim
Hi,

I have used gyros from boats, planes and helos with my Contax 645 MF system and lenses up to 210mm.  They most definitely help with image quality, but require very specialized techniques.  The Kenyon people have a lot of good information about how to use them.  I also agree that you should use a one-step up larger size.  I am assuming you have chartered the helo, have it to yourself and can control the flight plan.  (ie, no tourist rides--the gyro would be way too bulky for that situation).

If you use your Canon, you can go for a less expensive option by using IS lenses and the techniques I discuss below.  However, I believe the gyro adds even more benefit, and using the gyro plus IS together is the ultimate.

The Kenyon gyros resist movement in all directions.  This means no fast pans or re-compositions, you must work deliberately.

The key is to let the camera/gyro combo "float" in your hand with NO contact to any surface of the aircraft and minimal contact with your body.  No tight gripping, no eye/forehead touching the camera, use a cable release instead of holding the grip and pressing the shutter. These things are heavy and will wear you out, but they are fabulous at damping vibration.  

I put a quick-release plate on the post coming up from the gyro.  I then made an open-fist circle around the post/plate and let the camera base rest on the top of my open fist.  The gyro also tends to be self-leveling and this is a big help.  I look through the finder but don't allow my head to touch the camera.  I use a cable release so my other hand does not touch the camera either.  You must move the camera slowly or the gyro will resist the motion with sharp jerks.  The overall motion of the aircraft will not trigger this, only if you try to move your hand too fast.  Your arm will get tired, trust me, but if you are only up for an hour or so it should be OK.

Kenyon used to also have instructions for a bracket using bungee cords to "float" the camera, but I never used this.

You still need to strive for the highest shutter speed possible, but if you are using polarizers and lower ISOs for max quality you will not get very far on the shutter speeds (for aerials my standard practice is focus at infinity and stop down to f/8 this pretty much provides all the sharpness/depth of field you will need.  I do not recommend using autofocus).  With digital you can use ISO 200/400 with still good quality for large prints, with film I use Velvia 100 pushed one stop.

I would also recommend that you get the gyro one day ahead and practice with it.  A expensive helo is no place to have a learning curve.  In fact, I would call them today to begin getting information.

If you are going for big prints or money shots, they are worth every penny.  My only regret is that I could not afford to buy the thing.  

There is nothing like aerial photography--I love it!

Hope this helps.  By the way I have no affiliation with Kenyon just rent their products at my own cost.

Guy Harrison

There are a couple of aerials on my website, www.guyharrisonphoto.com, in the Alaska gallery, all shot with these techniques.
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haefnerphoto
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« Reply #6 on: July 31, 2009, 08:28:40 PM »
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Guy, Thanks for the in depth report on your gyro technique.  This is the kind of help I was hoping to find.  The helicopter is not rented but belongs to the county sheriff, I believe I'll have a fair amount of input as to what we do.  Do you concur with Nick about hovering being problematic?  Thanks again, Jim
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rainer_v
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« Reply #7 on: July 31, 2009, 10:29:14 PM »
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Quote from: haefnerphoto
Guy, Thanks for the in depth report on your gyro technique.  This is the kind of help I was hoping to find.  The helicopter is not rented but belongs to the county sheriff, I believe I'll have a fair amount of input as to what we do.  Do you concur with Nick about hovering being problematic?  Thanks again, Jim

i was shooting several times from helicopters without gyro. with mf it becomes difficult to reach opt. aperture and speed,allthough i never f*** up a shot. the sinar m wasnt bad therefor cause its sharp wide open. i used the 40 and 80mm lens with speeds between 250 & 500 for the 40 and 500 & 1000 for the 80mm at iso200 with emotion backs.
dont use af, put the lens at inf. it worked but is not possible to get always sharp shots and its painfull if the best perspectives get blurred, so i wouldnt recommend to use mf without gyro unless you really know what you do  and how your camera behaves ( as mentioned the heli is not an environment to study the camera manual ) .
the 645 contax is worse than the m, cause the lenses want to be stopped down to f5,6 for opt. sharpness.

no problem i see using a canon or nikon. you can easily use 400 or 640iso and also IS lenses, so you can stop down without any problems to f8 an get still tack sharp shots without gyro even with overcasted sky. i dont see this problematic at all, but it depends also on the heli. if the rotor has more blades it will run quieter. avoid small two blade helis or use very hi speeds on the cam.


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rainer viertlböck
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stevephoto
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« Reply #8 on: August 01, 2009, 09:22:57 AM »
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Gyro controlled systems attempt to return the object to where it was. They cannot keep the object where it is, because the object had to move in order to be returned. If it is returned, and the original destabalising force still exists, the process will begin again.

This works fine for moving images, dependent on the system and mass of the camera, since the gyro provides a movement smoothing of a moving image. The needs of stills are very different, and dependent on the mass of the camera when using a gyro, it maybe the expertise in shooting that has overcome the instability, and not the gyro.

A helicopter is at its least stable condition when its hovering, and  air currents will move the helicopter continuously.
« Last Edit: August 01, 2009, 09:27:06 AM by stevephoto » Logged
DanielStone
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« Reply #9 on: August 01, 2009, 11:52:33 AM »
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Have you considered using the "bungie cord" approach? basically, you take a strong elastic band(something that stretches, but returns to a state after stretching) instead of a gyro? yout would attach one end to the helicopter( top of the open door, and one end to your camera's lens (if it has a tripod collar, such as the 70-200mm's). then you can let it "hang", of course with your hand on it . a friend of mine shoots out of helicopters during football games, and after using a gyro a few times, he decided he was getting too much vibration still.

he has since switched to using the "door gunner" sling-method, similar to how the machine gun is hung in this picture:

, even though i would recommend still keeping the strap connected to a vest (what my friend does). he attaches his strap to a swat-style webbed vest via a carabiner, the vest is quite light after all the bits are taken off, and quite cool.

-dan
« Last Edit: August 01, 2009, 11:55:30 AM by DanielStone » Logged
gmerrell
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« Reply #10 on: August 01, 2009, 09:25:23 PM »
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I am both a helicopter pilot and professional photographer. I frequently shoot with a p45/Mamiya645 on top of a Kenyon K8. The shooting technique is very important. You must let the whole unit float in your hands.
The stabilizer does make a difference but is not really necessary if the light allows for proper shutter speed. I use 10x focal length as a rule of thumb for minimum shutter speed.
I have never tried bungee cords but can see how they might help. The other guys are right, usually a slight forward speed (20-40 Kts) is the smoothest speed.

Good luck.

Greg Merrell
« Last Edit: August 01, 2009, 09:26:01 PM by gmerrell » Logged
haefnerphoto
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« Reply #11 on: August 01, 2009, 10:18:00 PM »
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I certainly appreciate everyone's advice.  I think I've got the info straight and will post my results.  If anyone else has more advice please post it.  Thanks again, Jim
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Craig Lamson
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« Reply #12 on: August 02, 2009, 08:07:40 AM »
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Quote from: haefnerphoto
I certainly appreciate everyone's advice.  I think I've got the info straight and will post my results.  If anyone else has more advice please post it.  Thanks again, Jim


I've had really good luck with Kenlabs gyros for shooting boats either from another boat or helo.  I own a KS-6 but use it mostly now with Canons.  Of course the main reasin I find to use it is to go slow with the shutter speeds to to get nice, flowing water wakes from the boats....or inthe good old days, to shoot K64 at sunset on a boat doing 60mph.

Frankly if I was doing your assignment I would opt for a dslr and an IS lens.
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Craig Lamson Photo
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KevinA
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« Reply #13 on: August 03, 2009, 04:49:13 PM »
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If you have access to one use it. if not don't worry about it.
If your shutter speeds are high the effect is negligible, more noticeable for me is still my 1DsmkIII inability to focus accurately. A gyro makes portrait views difficult. A gyro is essential in low light, a gyro is heavy.
Keep out of the slipstream and down draft.
I'm assuming you are shooting a static object, if it's moving a gyro is helpful if you want some background blur with slow speeds.
Kevin.
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Kevin.
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