An Evening Above SF

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Aeriel Golden Gate Bridge Sunset


An Evening Above SF

I finally lived a dream of mine and was able to check it off my bucket list! Yesterday I met up with Nick Cahill and his buddy Jeff Scott for a private, no doors, helicopter ride above San Francisco around sunset and blue hour. As you can see from the pictures, the conditions were ideal and the fog was epic. Having low fog, around the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset is perfect, to say the very least. (A bit lower would have been nice though!) Overall it was an incredible experience, but I don’t think the pictures really do anything for me as much as the ride itself! I was running two cameras with different lenses, so I could quickly change my zoom range. The biggest thing I got out of this trip though was learning how not to shoot in these situations. When it comes to photography, I am not perfect at all. And shooting in a moving helicopter during low light situations is not easy. I am so used to a tripod and maybe was a bit to use to panning surfers in Hawaii recently! So a lot of my shots are pretty blurry and unusable. Everything happens so fast that you don’t really take your finger off the trigger, to look and see what you’re getting. My bridge shots were alright as it was brighter over in that area and closer to sunset. But once we got over the city and later into the evening, it became very difficult to get sharp and well-exposed shots. Or because you are moving around certain buildings, like the Transamerica Building for example. You can see that building is in focus but nothing else is. Some cool effects I got, like a tilt-shift effect, but not really what I was going for. Just means I have to do it again 🙂

Flying over Golden Gate 3

Above Downtown San Francisco


Flying Above SF

Above The Golden Gate Bridge

Above the Financial District


Flying over Golden Gate 2

Leaving it Behind

Flying over Golden Gate 4

Flying By Transamerica Pyramid

Flying over Golden Gate

Looking Back 2

Down Market

Different Perspectives of SF

Port of San Francisco

Reflecting Back

The Development Zone

SF Skyline

The Line Up

Unique Perspectives of SF

Above the New Bay Bridge

Oracle Arena

My Mistake and what I would do next time:

I shot in AV mode (yeah kill me!) I started off at around f/8 ISO 500 and my shots were around 1/15 to 1/50 of a second in AV mode. Around the bridge they were alright settings, a little faster shutter would have been better though. As we got over the city I bumped down to f/4 ISO 1250 to 4000.  The issue here is I would get a building in focus around the center of the image but everything else got blurry, this is also because my f-stop was at f/4 and I am focusing on maybe the tip of the skyscraper so I would get some depth of field, but also a slight blur from movement. In the future, I am going to be set on manual. I am going to start off with my fstop around f/8  and bring it up to f/2.8 by the end of the evening. I will have my ISO start off around 640 and bring it up to 6400 or more by the end of the evening. Then set my fstop around f/200 and go up and down to where I feel comfortable. Another setting option I may play with is setting it in AV still and dropping the EV to -2. Keeping the ISO and f/stop the same. Sometimes you just gotta fail first to succeed!

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Here are some photos from my buddy Nick who was on the flight as well. 



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Written by

Professional photographer, social influencer, adventurer and content creator, Toby Harriman has fit more into his few years than most will in a lifetime. A visual explorer whose travels take him from Hawaiian shores to hanging out of helicopter doors, from moonlit desert vistas to the edge of skyscraper rooftops, Toby seeks out creative edges that captivate. Based in San Francisco, his drive to create a high level aesthetic has resulted in his development of a vast social media audience and lead to work around the globe. Toby is a potent force unleashing his unique attitude and style unto the world.

7 thoughts on “An Evening Above SF

  1. Love these shots, Toby – appreciate your eval of what to do next time. Seems since you are moving, important to keep your shutter speed as high as possible and consequently the ISO also as high as your can without a lot of noise. I think that to keep everything focused well, might be useful to know how high your are going to be as you fly over things so you could set focus for hyperfocal distance and thus you could optimize the aperture (open as wide as possible and keep everything in focus)- this would allow fastest shutter speed. Difficult to do on the fly as copter is moving – just a thought.

  2. Toby–I have been following the work and postings you have made possible here on facebook—and they are awesome—and I am happy to here you will be doing the graphics for so many recognized companies to boot…..Keep up the good work…..and quite happy you are apart of my own personal facebook page/
    Like I said to you in the very beginning “welcome aboard”—you surely have been a welcomed addition…and thanks! Howie Gladstone

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