Shooting Out of Small Planes

Small planes are a lot cheaper than helicopters and can make many more scenic shots for the same money. If your shots are pretty much straight moves you might consider this option.

I've shot out of Cessna 180's, and 206's, 207's, 208's, with cargo doors, Helioporters, and a Grumman Goose. With seats removed, the Cessnas with cargo doors are OK in smooth air. Some require a "spoiler" attached to the front door hinges to deflect some of the air from inside the plane. (Tie down everything that could blow out.) Being high wing they have a fairly clear area to shoot out of. Making a "horse" out of Speed Rail with a ball mount for a ball head works well if pulled down tightly against the seat/cargo tie down rails. There are special cargo tie downs for these rails. If not available make your own out of modified aluminum angle 1/8" x 2" cut to 1/4" on the other angle. Drill a 3/8" hole and bolt a "S" hook between the two sides. Close the eyes of the "S" hook so it can't release the bolt or tension strap. You can sit cross-legged under the horse.

Tie your self in with enough slack to look ahead to see where you want to go and when to turn on camera. An intercom is helpful. Have magazines, meters and batteries handy. A wood tray for magazines is worthwhile.

You can swing a camera out the rear with very wide angles seeing the horizon under the tail. I will not describe how as YOU need the knowledge and proper FAA clearance for any rigs that is made like this. My rig swung out to shoot and in to load and travel. Shots can be reversed in postproduction for a forward move. A polascreen is handy. If you put a camera in the slipstream, make sure everything is very well attached.

The best plane to shoot out of is a Helioporter with a 50-foot wing span. I shot another plane with a 50 to 500 mm lens from this plane. The seat rails are different from the Cessna and you need custom tie downs. I made them on a mill with a keyway cutter. This plane costs more to rent, but will fly at about 30 mph. It has a minivan type sliding side door.

If you have to shoot out of the front passenger window, many Cessna high wing windows will open in flight. Look at "The Horse Collar" for one type of stabilization. A Kenyon Gyro will help for small cameras. If working at altitude, be prepared for difficult reloading in the cold. Have warm clothes and thin gloves. Carry some overnight stuff if you don't return home and venture into new areas.

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