Scenic flight – Top photography tips

If you know me, you will know your girl loves a scenic flight. There is no finer sight than seeing mountains, lakes, and rivers from the sky. I don’t know why I love it so much, well I do, I am just obsessed with the mountains and seeing places that humans may never have set foot. Here in New Zealand, especially the South Island and around Fiordland there are plenty of hidden alpine lakes, mountain vistas, and valleys that still lay untouched, adding to that mystery and beauty of this land.

I have been lucky enough to fly with Glenorchy Air a few times and every single flight has been ultimately magical. From Milford, to Mount Cook, to sunrise flights over the mountains, I just can’t get enough. Every time I post to my Instagram feed the questions come rolling in. So, on this fine Tuesday afternoon on a gloomy Winters day in Queenstown, I thought I would share my ultimate top tips for shooting out of a plane window on a scenic flight.

Below are my top tips for shooting great aerial shots when on a scenic flight.

Wear black, dark colours & avoid logos

First things first, your clothing matters. Wear black or dark colours and avoid anything that has a logo on the front. These can show up in the reflections on the glass sometimes and you might only see this when editing. To avoid being disappointed just wear black, it eliminates the chances of getting the unwanted slogan in your shots. Ladies, tie your hair up. You will most probably have to wear a headset, that combined with a seat belt and life jacket is a recipe for getting tangled. Just get your hair out of the way and you won’t have to worry.

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Remove your camera strap

You’re not leaving your seat so remove the strap. Most camera straps have a logo on, again you don’t want that showing up in your shots. It is also one less thing to worry about as you move your camera around the plane and glass. The plane moves quickly, so you don’t want to miss getting a banger of a shot because you’re tangled all up in your gear.

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Get as close to the glass as possible

I often get asked if I use filters. I don’t, but that’s just because I don’t have any. If you are a filter kinda guy then go for it. I avoid getting reflections by pushing my lens up to the glass as close as I possibly can. You don’t have to have the lens glued there the whole time but the closer you are, the clearer the shot.

 

Choose your seat wisely

This is if you get the chance and it depends on the plane, weight, and size. But, when flying with Glenorchy Air, either ask for the front seat or the back seat. If you are lucky enough to have a spare seat on your plane then ask for the back, that way you can shoot through both sides of the plane, the back, and the front. Dream.

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Shoot backwards

One thing I always tell people is to shoot backwards. As you pass a scene and you are right on top of it, it might look totally epic but then don’t just disregard It once you have flown on by. Lean forward in your seat and turn your body, shoot backward through the window, pressing your camera up to the glass at an angle. You never know, it might be the shot of the flight.

 

Battery & memory card

Make sure your memory cards are empty and your batteries are fully charged. Bring spares, always bring spares. Just have them in your pocket or close in your bag so you can swap them out as and when you need too.

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Know your gear

Know your gear before you go. You will want to set up your camera the best you can before you depart. This, for most people, will mean using whichever camera mode you are fastest in, be sure to bump the ISO to avoid motion shake. Remember though, you are in a moving vehicle and you are moving faster than you think. To get those uber clear shots you will have to compromise a little. Fast shutter speeds, high(ish) ISO, and the right balance between that and your F-Stop will be key. There is no recipe and it all depends on your conditions but as you take off and the land starts to disappear get practicing there, check your shots and make sure you are ready for the landscapes in coming.

 

Use a wide-angle lens for interior & zoom to get the details

On scenic flights, I take both. I normally stick to the 24-120mm I have, as then I don’t have to switch a lens out mid-flight. However, you can do this. If you have both, take both such as a 70-200mm or ultra-wide on a 16-35 should do the trick. Bonus tip, having the stabilization feature on your lens itself will be handy in these settings. If your camera offers it, use it.

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Take a small carry on that you can easily reach

Most planes will allow for a small bag that you can pop between your legs. Helicopters are sometimes a different story. BUT, leave the big ol’ camera bag at home and bring something small that is easily accessible. You might need to quickly grab a fresh memory card, battery, or swap out that lens. I also suggest bringing a little cloth, you might need to wipe the window and the windows around you.

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Put your camera down

Last but not least, put your camera down. You are experiencing something that others may never see in their lifetime and although you want to capture everything to remember, there is nothing like capturing a mental picture of what is happening right before you. Don’t spend your whole flight behind your camera viewfinder. You need to experience the magic through your very own eyes.

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Scenic flights are amazing, captivating, and addictive. The process of going up in a plane and finding new perspectives on our world below is an amazing life experience and one I urge everyone to do at least once in their life. If you take on board some of the tips I have given you today then I am positive that you will capture some amazing images.

As always, thank you to the legends at Glenorchy Air, some of my finest memories are from being in the sky with you.

If you want to explore the flights I have experienced with Glenorchy air you can here, here and here

You can also click through to their website and explore more options here.

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Full-time​ adventure seeker, based in Queenstown NZ. Obsessed with everything outdoors. My blog is filled with all our adventures and weekly happenings, feel free to get in touch. I love meeting new people!

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