First things first, when shooting New York in the winter, or any cold place for that matter, I always make sure to be prepared. From layered clothing to packing extra memory cards and making sure all of my batteries are charged up. Last thing I ever want to worry about is not having enough storage or battery on my camera, especially when fighting through snow to get to certain locations or up in the air via helicopter. I also like to pack light. It could be so tempting to carry multiple lenses, but I find it not helpful when having to carry a heavy bag during unpleasant weather conditions. The primary lens I use during my aerial flights is the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II, mainly because of how versatile it is. The lens is as wide as I’d like it to be, with options of zooming in for closeup shots, and works extremely well in low lighting situations. It’s important to determine what type of shots you are looking to capture, and which lens can help you get it. Once decided, you can now focus on composition, lighting and settings, comfortably.
Aerial photography is one of my biggest passions in life. I get to combine two of my favorite things: photography and an open door helicopter. As much as I love the adrenaline rush from shooting thousands of feet above the sky, it could be brutal sometimes — especially taking off all doors during the coldest time of the year. It’s hard to focus when you literally can’t feel your face and tears are running down your eyes because of how cold it is. Sometimes, when I’m in the air — I question why I even fly during the winter (“Why am I doing this to myself?! WHY!!!!?!"). Then the reasons all come flooding back to me once I take a look at the images. I completely fall in love with the process all over again. It’s a beautiful thing to accomplish, especially when you see your hard work come to life in gorgeous large prints. It makes me smile knowing that friends, family and fans of my work get to enjoy this adrenaline rush experience in the comfort of their own homes.
When in the sky, the first thing I do is adjust my manual settings. Depending on how fast the helicopter is going, I try to use a shutter speed of 1/250th of a second and adjust my ISO and aperture accordingly — keeping in mind that I want the ISO to be as low as possible, avoiding any unwanted grain/noise added to the images. Once I have my settings, I immediately take a few test shots. As exciting it is to be and the air and as bad as I want to take as many pictures as possible, it’s important to take a few seconds or minutes if needed, to zoom in and really make sure the images are sharp and clear. I tend to do this multiple times during the duration of the flight.
As breathtaking as it is to see New York City from a helicopter during the winter, it is also just as beautiful from the ground. When it snows, I am out from morning til dusk shooting. I decide where I start my journey first, then get lost with the wind and see where the day takes me, with a few hot chocolate breaks in between. It is a guarantee that I will come across other photographers shooting the beautiful white scene as well. Since I know I will be out for majority of the day, I like to take no more than two lenses with me. The 24-70mm f/2.8L II (always my go-to), and one of my prime lenses - the EF 35mm f/1.4L. I absolutely love the way images turn out when using a prime lens while it snows. The image is so sharp, you can literally see snowflakes.
No matter the season, location or equipment, have fun, go out and take memorable photos that will last a lifetime.
Want to learn more from Natalie online? Check out her Canon Online Learning class, "On Location in NYC: Improving your Travel Photography."
Want to get your own amazing NYC skyline images? Join Canon on an EOS Destination Workshop not to be missed: "New York City Tilt-Shift Architecture & Street Photography."