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Thread: Large format aerial photography...anyone?

  1. #1

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    Large format aerial photography...anyone?

    My current photographic project involves doing some aerial photography. I started the project with digital, then went 6x7cm with a Mamiya 7 and now I'm shooting 4x5 (I know, it's a slippery slope to larger formats!).

    I'm trying to figure out if I can shoot all 4x5 or if I'd need to stick with 6x7 for the aerial work. I'd love to shoot all one format for consistency as well as simplicity when traveling.

    Is it at all possible to shoot aerials with my field camera (a wista 45vx)? It's very rigid and has a shoe that could hold a viewfinder--but I've heard that the bellows can cause vibrations. I'm not sure if I understand why, since if the whole camera is vibrating I'm not sure why a soft bellows would make it worse. Perhaps I could add a stiffener between the back and front standard? Focus should mostly be infinity and the photos would mostly be overall views of urban areas.

    I'd be shooting 400 speed color neg with a modern Rodenstock 150mm lens (or maybe 135mm). I'd be shooting from a helicopter, usually with the door removed.

    I know the alternatives would be a gaoersi or a fotoman (Anyone selling one with a 120/135/150mm cone???). But since my work does involve travel, if I could get by with the Wista that would be great. I'm not doing aerials full-time, it's just a small part of the project.

    Of course I would try it locally first before renting an expensive helicopter overseas, but I was wondering if anyone here has any relevant experience...

  2. #2

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    Re: Large format aerial photography...anyone?

    Quote Originally Posted by Noah A View Post
    ...

    Is it at all possible to shoot aerials with my field camera (a wista 45vx)? It's very rigid and has a shoe that could hold a viewfinder--but I've heard that the bellows can cause vibrations.
    ...
    Hmm. And the bellows is also very rigid?

  3. #3
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
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    Re: Large format aerial photography...anyone?

    I've done a bit of aerial from planes and helicopters, mostly with Hassleblads. I can't imagine doing it without a MF or a 4x5 DESIGNED for it. Between the wind and vibrations, I don't believe you could get sharp images with any bellows camera.
    Thanks,
    Kirk

    at age 71:
    "The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep"

  4. #4
    Format Omnivore Brian C. Miller's Avatar
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    Re: Large format aerial photography...anyone?

    thread: LF from the air, and thread: Retiring from LF aerial photography business

    Stefan88 was doing it professionally with a modified Toyo 8x10. There are gyroscopes made specifically for stabilizing cameras for arial photography. I think that a shroud would need to be constructed to keep the wind off the camera, and then a dampening platform would be made to keep the camera stable. Stefan88 said that his mount kept the camera stable to 1/60th sec.

  5. #5
    Brett Simison bsimison's Avatar
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    Re: Large format aerial photography...anyone?

    Sounds like you need an aerial camera. Peter Gowland made some nice-looking ones. Does anyone know if his wife is selling of his remaining inventory?

  6. #6

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    Re: Large format aerial photography...anyone?

    I guess I was just curious if anyone has actually tried to use a bellows camera for aerials. It's not a good solution I know, I was just wondering if it's workable at all.

    I know the bellows isn't rigid and that it could vibrate, but unless it interferes with the optical path, would it be all that much worse than a rigid camera vibrating? Maybe it would be, that's why I was asking if anyone has tried it. Even a local test flight would cost $$, so while I will certainly test whatever solution I come up with, I'd like to have some confidence that whatever I use will work.

    I guess wind would be the biggest problem.

    If I were to use a rigid camera, I'd probably go for one with a helical mount so at least it could also serve as something of a backup for my wista for non-aerial work.

    As I said, I'm talking about a small amount of aerial work, maybe three or four flights over the next two years. So buying a dedicated camera and carrying it across the world isn't my first choice unless it's the only option. And renting isn't a good option, since while I may only need the camera for one day per trip, I'll be traveling for a while and I don't think I could rent such cameras locally.

    I'm aware of gyro systems, but again, they're not in the budget and rental would be tough for the same reasons.

    I guess a fotoman/gaoersi could be useful for other things, like occasional handheld use on the ground.

    I wish fotoman were still around...but since they're not does anyone have experience with gaoersi cameras? I can find very little online about them, but the quality seems iffy. The price is right, however.

  7. #7
    Stefan
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    Re: Large format aerial photography...anyone?

    The problem is probably not that bellows cause vibrations, but rather the design of cameras that use bellows. Consider how the back and front standard are joined together, only on one side (baseboard/monorail). If you start vibrating the entire camera, the front and the back are also going to vibrate in relation to each other, same for the bellows.

    The vibrations affecting the entire camera are not going to affect sharpness, moving your camera up one millimeter does not matter when shooting subjects miles away. The front standard vibrating relative the back is going to cause blur, as will any movement of camera parts relative to each other (film holders, film sheet, lens board etc.).

    Second, you have the issue of wind. The bellows will be moving on its own relative to the rest of the camera, which will result in forces jerking the front and back of the camera.

    The two above factors are going to make a bellows camera a lot less suited for aerial photography than a dedicated camera. You could probably improve performance greatly with two modifications. One is to add metal struts from the top of the body to the top of the front standard, which would add a lot of rigidity (fixed focus though). The second is to somehow shield the camera bellows from wind.

  8. #8

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    Re: Large format aerial photography...anyone?

    I would build a custom system similar to the hyperfocal fixed focus cameras only set it up for infinity. It needn't be complicated. Lots of good ideas in the homemade camera thread.

  9. #9

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    Re: Large format aerial photography...anyone?

    Quote Originally Posted by Noah A View Post
    ...
    I wish fotoman were still around...but since they're not does anyone have experience with gaoersi cameras? ...
    Fotoman (the Chinese one) does exist and produces and sells cameras...

  10. #10

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    Re: Large format aerial photography...anyone?

    Quote Originally Posted by engl View Post
    ...

    The vibrations affecting the entire camera are not going to affect sharpness, moving your camera up one millimeter does not matter when shooting subjects miles away.
    ...
    Go take a camera with a long lens, try to hand held it and shoot with it and you will find what it does with sharpness...

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