One Skid Over The Edge, Sweet Jesus!

277 miles long, 18 miles wide, 6000’ deep

helicopterYou’re zipping along just a few hundred feet above the tree line…

grand canyonThen suddenly you’re not. In the blink of an eye it plunges over 6000’ feet to the river below!

grand canyon aerial view

An Amateur’s First Attempt At Aerial Photography

‘Learning from experience’ is a nice platitude but of course the nasty hidden assumption is that you’re going to fail a bunch of times first.

Nevertheless . . . the night before I tried to anticipate and practice (as a photographer) what it would be like jerking along in a helicopter thousands of feet above the Grand Canyon.

Some problems, I knew, were beyond my control and might well be insurmountable.

1. Seating & The Luck of the Draw

When you are at the front counter signing away your life and paying your fare, you are also standing on a scale flush with the floor that records your weight.

Then you get assigned a non-negotiable seat based on load requirements and overall aircraft balancing needs.

There are two passenger seats up front on the right and four seats in the back. Luckily, I got the back window on the right and the spot next to me on my left was vacant.

2. Quality of Light

The best shots might be looking straight into the sun, or even just happen to be on the left side when I was stuck on the right side.

Arizona, incidentally, refuses to go on Daylight Savings Time, and the sun in May peeks up over the horizon around five o’clock in the morning. Which means that even at 9:00am the light is as bright and harsh and non-photogenic as if it were high noon.

3. Camera Shake

In a small helicopter the chances were great that we would be knocked around by gusty winds, and even the fastest shutter speeds may or may not counteract the dreaded camera-shake.

Object movement, incidentally, would not be a problem because even though the ground below was moving, the camera would be panning along with it at the same relative speed.

4. Still Images or Video

I am first and foremost a still photographer, and I think almost exclusively in those terms. But my camera also has HD capability and no way can I pass up the chance to record some moving images.

Switching from still to video requires several crucial programming steps and you have to instantly put yourself into a new mindset.

A still picture shutter speed of, say, 1250th of a second must drop radically to @ 1/60th of a second when you start recording video at 24 or 29 frames per second.

Still Images

aerial view of grand canyonaerial view of grand canyon

aerial view of grand canyon

grand canyon from above


🙂 🙂 🙂

2 Replies to “One Skid Over The Edge, Sweet Jesus!”

  1. Lovely stuff, what a thrill though your voice doesn’t give that away, figure you added sound in a room on terra firma . Great challenge for a photographer indeed. Saw less than this treat several times on cross country trips, yes , astounding. Thanks for this, like being there. Watched Thelma & Louise about a week ago. Death stupid but great road trip. All the green you got in your photographs surprised me. I don’t remember ANY cliffside growth and it’s beautiful.


    1. Yes, my narration was dry & clinical – and your artist’s sensibility wonderfully picked up on that! I’m thinking of re-doing it a la someone like Robin Williams 🙂 Thanks for your visits and perceptive comments. I’m a fan of your expressionist art, incidentally!


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