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Flight and Land

Uros Podlogar

“I come from Slovenia, which is quite a small country, and helicopters are rare. When I was younger, I was always intrigued by helicopters and I always wanted to work with them.” 

Years later, Podlogar’s wish came true and he was able to combine photography with his love of helicopters.

uros podlogar sony alpha 7RM3 two helicopters flying low to the beach with mountains behind

© Uros Podlogar | Sony α7R III + FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS | 1/50s @ f/11, ISO 50

Known for his adventure photography where he takes photos of human beings doing extreme sports in extreme terrain, Uros incorporates the same philosophy in his aerial images of helicopters.

“The landscape is one of the most important elements in my shots. It provides the background for the image of the helicopter,” he explains. “Finding something unique and amazing in the landscape is really important as it is what makes the shot stand out”.  Without the landscape, Uros believes the shot is nothing.

uros podlogar son alpha 9 a black helicopter flying through the himalayas in nepal

© Uros Podlogar | Sony α9 + FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS | 1/160s @ f/14, ISO 50

When Uros says “amazing landscape” he isn’t exaggerating. His collaboration with Bell Helicopters has taken him to some of the most iconic places on the planet. “One of the biggest projects I have done was in Nepal, flying around Mount Everest. I’ve also flown around Mount Fuji in Japan, and in South Africa, flying about herds of Zebras.” His most recent trip took him to the amazing coastal landscape of Vietnam.

With each location being very different, a lot of planning goes in to each project. The landscape is researched, so Uros can work out exactly where he needs both himself and the helicopters to be to get the best shot. And, just like any other landscape image, the time of day and direction of the sun is critical, “the light is super important - it makes or breaks the shot,” he enthuses.

uros podlogar sony alpha 7RM3 two helicopters flying low to the beach with the mountains of vietnam behind

© Uros Podlogar | Sony α7R III + FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS | 1/80s @ f/9.0, ISO 50

As one can imagine, flying helicopters isn’t the cheapest thing to do, so it is critical that everything happens precisely and quickly. Uros explains that there are two different styles of helicopter photography - one is air to air shooting from another helicopter, and the other you are on land. “Sometimes the helicopter will drop me somewhere spectacular and then it will take off again so I can get the shots. But most of the time I am shooting from another helicopter,” he says.

uros podlogar sony alpha 7RM3 a helicopter flies high above the sea with boats-in the distant ocean

© Uros Podlogar | Sony α7R III + FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS | 1/80s @ f/8.0, ISO 50

It is these ‘air to air’ images that set Uros’s helicopter images apart from those taken on land looking up at a blank canvas of a blue sky. However, without solid ground beneath your feet, there is the added complexity of shooting a moving object from a moving object and all the vibration from rotors propelling the helicopter forwards.

“You don’t have as much time, so you have to be quite confident. “here are no second chances,” says Uros. He continues, “I rely on the image stabilization of the Sony α7R III, and as the battery life is good, I don’t ever waste time changing batteries in mid-air - I need equipment that I can rely on.”

Usually when you photograph a moving subject you need to use the fastest possible shutter speed to stop the subject from being blurred. However, when photographing a helicopter this can freeze the helicopter rotor blades, causing it to look like the helicopter is merely floating in the sky. So Uros has to find the right balance between a shutter speed that will freeze the flight of the helicopter whilst still allowing the rotor blades to be slightly blurred. It is this hint of motion that makes the images come to life.

uros podlogar sony alpha 7RM3 wideangle shot-of 2 helicopter pilots from inside the cockpit

© Uros Podlogar | Sony α7R III + FE 12-24mm f/4 G | 1/100s @ f/5.6, ISO 160

It isn’t just external shots that benefit from having an incredible landscape. Usually Uros will use either the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM or 70-200mm f/2.8 GM lenses to photograph helicopters, however a trick up his sleeve is the Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G lens.

Uros can use this super wide-angle lens to shoot from inside the cockpit of the helicopter, showing the vast amount of controls needed to fly a helicopter, but more importantly, it shows the incredible landscapes throughout the windshield, just at the pilot would see them. Doing so creates shots that offer the viewer a feeling that they were there and it can also really help emphasize the sheer scale of the incredible landscapes that these helicopters fly through.

Being able to fulfil his dream of flying in and working with helicopters isn’t something that Uros has taken for granted. “I am really proud that I am working in aviation” he says. “With each project I learn something new which I then use in the next project - it means I will always keep improving”.

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"It's not work. It's passion, love actually. Find the thing that keeps you alive and your heart pumping. Then follow it full heartedly."

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