Hawaii by Helicopter

One of the more popular ways to tour and see Hawaii these days is by helicopter tour.  There are tour operators on most of the islands and there are a variety of tours you can take.

I was able to tour the West Maui Mountains and the Molokai coast by air and it was quite a sight.

The views you get and the locations you can see are something you cannot experience any other way.

I am far from an expert on photographing from the air or for that matter any moving object.  I usually work on a tripod and take pictures of rocks and trees.  I joke I take pictures of rocks since they move in geologic time.  :-)

Now I was going to be photographing from a moving object that has natural vibration and through a plexiglass windscreen.  This was going to also require me to be hand holding the camera.

Here was the setup I went with:  One camera with just one lens.  I only had one camera (the Sony A7S) and used the wide view of the Nikon 20mm f/4 I have adapted for it.  This is a small and easy to use combo.  I like a wide view so I thought I would go with it.

For camera settings, I set it on Shutter Priority which had me set the shutter and then it do the rest.  Now since the Nikon is a manual focus and manual aperture lens, I set the aperture, the focus to infinity and then it left the camera with one adjustment to make- ISO.  It was just point and shoot and let the camera do the work.

Shutter to 1/1000 in Shutter Priority

Aperture of f/8 to maximize depth of field, sharpness, and speed

ISO set to Auto ISO

So I had a fixed shutter speed of 1/1000 and a fixed aperture of f/8 which meant the camera would adjust the ISO for each shot.  

This worked great with well exposed images.  The ISO would vary from about 400 up to about 3200.  On some cameras ISO 3200 might make you cringe but on the A7S they all looked as good as ISO 100.

I also set the camera for burst firing.  This allowed the camera to fire off a burst of images which can also help sharpness.  Since you are always moving it also means each also had a slightly different composition.

BTW, no polariser when shooting through a window as the plexiglass messes it up.

So over the approximately one hour flight we flew up to see waterfalls in the West Maui Mountains.  We flew over to Molokai and saw Elephant Rock along the way.  We went along the Molokai sea cliffs which they say are the tallest sea cliffs in the world (Molokai split in half millions of years ago with part of the island sliding into the sea and now rubble spread across the bottom of the North Pacific).  We went over to the coral reefs on the other side of the island and then back over to Maui where we crossed over into the upper Iao.
Valley.  Finally back to the Maui heliport.

The views were amazing and the images turned out surprisingly well.  I was not sure this would work or I would get anything.  I was very impressed with the results and the sights too.  The camera did great and my settings allowed me to just take pictures and let the camera do the rest.

Although the entire trip was incredibly scenic, I think my personal favorite part was the views of the Molokai sea cliffs and could have easily just gone up and down that area for hours.

An excellent way to end the trip.


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