Friday, April 18, 2008

On Friday Mike Busada gave me a ring and in a really disjointed (but excited) message mentioned a helicopter, a lacrosse game, and Annapolis. I quickly returned the phone call to get more details.

It turns out that Mike's son used to play for St. Mary's (a high school in Annapolis that has a strong lacrosse program) and Mike still keeps in contact with somebody currently affiliated with the team (a coach or perhaps another father). This contact has a brother in law named Jerry who has a helicopter, and wanted to know if Mike could shoot some aerial shots of the St. Mary's game this evening against regional rival Loyola. Mike couldn't do it due to a wedding commitment so he gave me a call.

"Of course I want to do it!" I told him. "Just let me ask Julie first..." I put Mike on hold and called Julie. No luck - nobody home. After several calls I finally got a hold of my wife and she gave the green light for an exciting aerial photographic shoot. I was so excited!

I had to meet the helicopter pilot at Lee Airport in Edgewater MD. I knew exactly where the airport is because my employer (Eric Newton) lives just a mile or so from the end of the runway. I headed down there and met up with Jerry and he gave me a tour of the helicopter and walked me through some "do's" and "don'ts". One of the things he really focused on was: "DON'T drop anything." He also said I would have to wear the strap on my camera. I didn't think that would be a big deal but I obliged.

Jerry wasn't familiar with Annapolis so we reviewed a street map he brought along. I'm very familiar with Annapolis having worked at Zenoss for a year and a half now and having flown into BWI about a million times over my life. I told him we'd have no problem finding the school.

Prior to walking out onto the grassy ramp I went through a mental checklist of lenses and cameras to bring. I accidentally left my D3 battery on my charger last night but I had 2 spares from my D2H. I neglected to realize that the plastic clip that locks the battery in place changed slightly between the D2H and the D3. Fortunately the battery kind of sticks in the camera though.

I unloaded my backpack of it's regular 2 laptop compliment from my day job and transformed it into my go-back for a shoot. 70-200, check. 14-24, check. D200, check. 17-55 DX, check. 24-70 check. Extra memory cards, check. Battery, lens caps and hoods, check. D3 on my shoulder, check. All set.

As we orbited around the field at St. Mary's high school I changed my first lens at around 500 feet. I swapped my 24-70 for a 70-200 while Jerry orbited us. I forgot to mention - I had no door on my side of the helicopter. I was pretty uncomfortable changing lenses while the helicopter was in a slight bank doing 40-50 knots and no door next to me. I think there was only one other time in my life where I was more focused than I was up in that cockpit.

It will be interesting to see how this experience alters my sense of fear regarding my equipment. You can drop a lens 2 feet, or even drop it in the water. All that'll happen is that you may need to buy a new lens. But if you drop it out of a helicopter over a suburban area where everyone is watching you orbit 2 things will definitely happen: the pilot will probably lose his license, and you'll probably never be asked back up into a helicopter again. And oh ya, the lens might kill someone if it lands on or near them.

The flight was a great experience and I'm thankful that Mike gave me the opportunity to take advantage of it. If the chance arises again I'll definitely jump on it!


  1. Peyton said...
    Where are the photos? You gotta share!
    Christopher Blunck said...
    Sorry about that - I thought I included the link. Guess not!

    My aerial photos of the St. Mary's vs Loyola lacrosse game can be found on my Flickr page.

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