Photography port window...

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DarylP

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Mar 22, 2010
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CO
Hi all :)
One of my loves other than planes is photography, and so it stands to reason that being able to marry the two is something that would appeal to me. I personally do not like shooting through the windshield, so therefore one of my priorities in purchasing an aircraft kit is the ability to shoot unobstructed. I also like STOL aircraft with two of my favorite kits being the Zenith CH750 or the Highlander. Both have their merits, but for now my focus is the flexibility as a photography platform. The highlander has a double door configuration that allows it to be opened in flight, while the CH750 has to remain closed. That being said, I got to wondering if a person could make a small port or hatch that you could open and close easily. It would not have to be very large, just large enough for the lens. Of course the airspeed would determine if the lens could be pushed out the opening, but more than likely it would not to be anyway. So how hard would it be to make such a cut on the CH750? The CH750 already has a small round vent, and so I guess that I could call them and see if that could be omitted. That way it would be a combination air vent and lens opening. Any thought on this? Also...would that type of modification be allowed? Of course with the Highlander it would not be needed, but if this would work I would lean toward the CH750.

Darylp
 

djschwartz

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Jun 21, 2008
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Portland, Oregon
Having done a lot of air to air photography, including one Sport Aviation cover, I would advise against the small port. It will be exceedingly difficult to keep the camera lined up with the port and it will restrict your angle of view. Even with very experienced formation flying pilots the cameraman will need to be able to follow the subject around the sky as the two of you maneuver for favorable position and lighting. My favorite camera planes were a Cessna 182 with a jump door and an A36 Bonanza with the rear doors removed. I could sit sideways in the open door, with a harness and 'chute of course, with the camera just out of the slip stream and a wide open field of view so I could concentrate on the subject. The camera plane needs to be reasonably well matched to the performance range of the subject for best results. Look at the arrangement of any struts or wires to see that they do not impinge on your field of view. One problem I had that you won't today is reloading the camera. That was where the jump door was really nice. I could close it for reloading whenever I needed to. With today's digital cameras and multi gigabyte memory cards that just isn't a problem anymore.

Also, it is almost impossible, and can be downright dangerous, to fly and shoot at the same time. If you're going to be the photographer you want a plane that has room and performance with two aboard and which other trusted friends can fly for you.
 

Dana

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It's nearly impossible to get a good picture through a plexiglass window. Serious photographers sometimes install an optically flat glass window to shoot through.

When I had the T-Craft, I used to unlink the side window (it had top hinged windows like a Cessna, but you could unhook the bottom and it would fold up flat against the wing and stay there). This wasn't bad for photography if you could manage to frame the picture without the wing or strut in the way.

I'm sure it's not remotely what you're interested in, but possibly the best machine for single pilot photography is a powered parachute. It's dead stable, and flight controls are your feet, so both hands are completely free to work a camera, and on most machines there's no structure in the way whatsoever. Of course you're limited by weather conditions and the need for all takeoffs and landings to be directly into the wind.

-Dana

Computers make very fast, very accurate mistakes.
 

Bart

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Apr 13, 2007
Messages
299
Hand-held camera stabilizes it and does not transmit aircraft vibrations. Open the window and shoot through that--no plexiglass glare problems, and positioning of aircraft is much easier. Take pix at ~10am and ~2pm so sunlight gives good depth. Mornings better due to smoother air. Generally, it's cheaper to hire a plane with pilot on tourist joyride basis than to rent it and fly yourself. Around here, ~$75 gets you 45 mins. piloted joyride in a C172, so you can take along a couple of kids, too.
 

DarylP

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Mar 22, 2010
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352
Location
CO
Also, it is almost impossible, and can be downright dangerous, to fly and shoot at the same time. If you're going to be the photographer you want a plane that has room and performance with two aboard and which other trusted friends can fly for you.
I would be shooting distant scenery, mountains and the such, so I cannot see how that would be a problem. Now shooting other aircraft or when flying close to the ground then my copilot would take over. Good point though..

When I had the T-Craft, I used to unlink the side window (it had top hinged windows like a Cessna, but you could unhook the bottom and it would fold up flat against the wing and stay there). This wasn't bad for photography if you could manage to frame the picture without the wing or strut in the way.

I'm sure it's not remotely what you're interested in, but possibly the best machine for single pilot photography is a powered parachute. It's dead stable, and flight controls are your feet, so both hands are completely free to work a camera, and on most machines there's no structure in the way whatsoever. Of course you're limited by weather conditions and the need for all takeoffs and landings to be directly into the wind.
-Dana
I don't know much about powered parachutes, but I think that mountain flying in them could be risky. But yeah...they are a rock solid platform.

Hand-held camera stabilizes it and does not transmit aircraft vibrations. Open the window and shoot through that--
The Highlander is sounding better and better, as that sectional window can remain open at any speed. There are external stabilizers (gyros) that will help stabilize the camera even more....except they are big bucks.

Thanks for the input!!
 

addaon

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Feb 24, 2008
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1,686
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San Jose, CA
Also note that the 701 is rated to fly with doors off; the claimed reason for this not being recommended on the 750 is that the baggage compartment is enough bigger (and differently shaped) that you get air loads inside the fuselage in odd places. Might be worth asking Roger if they've figured out a way to permit it yet (like with a mesh screen like we use in convertibles to control flow).
 

djschwartz

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Jun 21, 2008
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Portland, Oregon
I would be shooting distant scenery, mountains and the such, so I cannot see how that would be a problem.
it depends on how serious you want to be as a photographer. Composing a really great scenery shot can take quite a few seconds of concentration, and letting go of flying the aircraft and watching for traffic for even that amount of time is generally not a good idea. Also, you're likely to find that few aircraft really give you the wide open field of view you'd like to have from the pilot's position. At the very least you'll find you want to have a wing up and possibly a bit of a slip to get that really special clear shot.

If you're just shooting for fun and can put flying safety first; then sure, there's no problem flying and shooting for scenery.
 

Dana

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I don't know much about powered parachutes, but I think that mountain flying in them could be risky. But yeah...they are a rock solid platform.
Correct; they're not suited to very turbulent conditions, like you'd get with any breeze in the mountains.

...letting go of flying the aircraft and watching for traffic for even that amount of time is generally not a good idea. Also, you're likely to find that few aircraft really give you the wide open field of view you'd like to have from the pilot's position...
Ha! Flew my UltraStar this morning (which has about as wide open a field of view as you can get short of a PPG). I had a micro video camera clipped to my helmet. It was quite breezy and bumpy, and the camera (which was also attached to a lanyard) came off and started flailing around while I was on downwind in the traffic pattern. The Kolbs are not particularly stable airplanes, and it was all I could do to keep control while needing both hands to unclip and stow the camera. The resultant video, when I viewed it back at home, was... pyschedelic, to say the least.

For a non ultralight, a Breezy would have just as good field of view. Even better perhaps, as even the instruments are located under the clear lexan floorboard.

-Dana

"Hiking is just walking where it's ok to pee.....
Sometimes old people hike on accident....."
 

DarylP

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Mar 22, 2010
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352
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CO
I have been told of another plane that I should look at and I must say that I like it a lot. That would be the Bearhawk Patrol. The fact that it has windows that can remain open while flying is great, but also that it has tandem seating. Tandem seating is great for photography as you can shoot from either side.

I had an elaborate idea with the CH750, where I would mount it inside the fuselage. I had drawn up a mechanism that would allow the camera to electrically lower from the bottom. With the up-swept tail of the 750 it would allow a great shot to the rear, but with a swivel you could shoot 180 degrees. However, the mechanics of this would be very difficult, not to mention that I would need a camera that could be remote controlled from the cabin. Cannon can do that, and there is a great software made for that, but still it would require so much work, and be very expensive. If the camera would lower from the tail section the mechanism would need to be very strong, as the wind buffet would be intense. I had that worked out, but it is a modification that I doubt the FAA would like. The mounts that connect to the wing strut is something that I would not want, as it would create even more drag.
 

DarylP

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Mar 22, 2010
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352
Location
CO
I had a micro video camera clipped to my helmet. It was quite breezy and bumpy, and the camera (which was also attached to a lanyard) came off and started flailing around while I was on downwind in the traffic pattern. The Kolbs are not particularly stable airplanes, and it was all I could do to keep control while needing both hands to unclip and stow the camera. The resultant video, when I viewed it back at home, was... pyschedelic, to say the least.
It was not funny when it happened but I saw crash from using a helmet mounted camera. This guy used duct tape to mount the camera, and was flying a Quicksilver ultralight. I know because it was a rental and I was waiting for my turn to fly when the guy did not come back. He finally came walking into the airport and said that he had an engine out and crashed. When we got there the plane was sitting in a cotton field upside down. The guy had landed it against the rows, which I cannot understand why he chose that way to put it down. I looked at the plane and told the owner that I thought the engine had not gone out, as after looking it over I figured that his helmet hit the kill switch. The kill switch was in the right place, right over his head and behind him. It turned out that I was right, and the owner was able to fly it out. It had a busted axle and let me tell you that dude (the owner) took off and landed that plane and taxied it without dropping that wheel on the ground. We watched the video later, and I must say that we laughed our butts off. :gig: It was really funny watching the video, and we all wondered why he did not pick one of the well manicured roads to land on, instead of landing right in the cotton field....against the rows! :speechles Too bad he didn't know what he had done as all he would have needed to do was flip the switch and restart.

No knock against you Dana...I am sure you know what you are doing.
 

DarylP

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Mar 22, 2010
Messages
352
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CO
Yes...and so it this:



But darn cold over the mountains. ;)

Which is why I am leaning toward this....

 
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Derswede

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Jan 6, 2016
Messages
892
Location
Central North Carolina
Our Waco ARE had a sliding window that was plate glass. A strap raised/lowered it. Our particular bird was custom built for the New York Daily News and had special plate glass windows. (NC20953)

Derswede
 

Pops

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I had our company airplane modified as a camera platform. I chose a 1959 Cessna 172 for several reasons, one was the fact that the straight tail has more rudder authority that is needed when the photographer wants the wings swing forward and out of the picture. Another is the smoothness of the 6 cylinder Cont-0-300 engine. Also the low fuel burn for max profit. The C-172 was flown in the Restricted Category with 8"x 10" camera doors in each of the rear windows that hinged down to the inside. Also a camera port in the floor behind the right seat area for shooting straight down. The C-172 was stripped of paint except for the N numbers, no seats except for the pilot , all to save weight. Also had the latest King IFR radio panel with autopilot for the long trips doing jobs. Could also fly with the doors off with quick release pins if required for the shoot. ( Always enjoyed flying with both doors off).
The local FAA office worked with me and did a great job getting all the paper work required and the approval of Cessna engineers for all the mods. The airframe was very light and I had a new, strong Cont- 0-300 engine with a climb prop. Did low level photo work and about 3/4 of the work was at 10-12K . Jobs varied for flying as a private contractor for the Fed government, to photos for engineering and construction companys, inventory photos for different companys, photo's of large cities for advertising, billboards, commercial realstate, camera platform for making movies, etc, etc. Did work over most of the U.S. The government wanted to relocate to the southern border, but turned it down and sold company. Lots of fun flying, I miss it.
 

ironnerd

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Oct 25, 2016
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Smyrna, GA, USA
I actually did this mod to a C-172 when I worked at the FBO. It was basically a removable "inspection plate". No Plexiglas. When the camera was set in the mount, the pilot/photographer removed the inspection plate and snapped pics through the opening using a remote shutter plunger.
 

TFF

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Apr 28, 2010
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Memphis, TN
Saw a C182 recently with the bottom of the fuselage skin removed behind the gear to the back of the cabin. Had some very fancy equipment. Also had the rear window that was removable. There is also a C210 running around here with the rear windows cut low; "spy aircraft".
 

Pops

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My camera hole in the floor of my Cessna was at the rear end of the right seat rails. About 10" wide and 11" long. The outer skin had a hole the same size. Had a removable cover on the outer skin with a hole for the camera lens, and a solid one when not in use. Had several covers with different size lens openings. When not in use a cover plate was over the hole in the cabin floor and outer skin and a carpet cover held down with Velcro. Made a block of foam rubber for the cameras to set in that was shaped to the size of the different cameras for a cushion and isolate any engine vibrations. Used a bubble bouncer on top of the cameras so you could press down on the camera to get a true vertical shot if needed. The largest camera used all the space in the hole in the floor. All was approved by Cessna engineers and the FAA. Worked very good.

When using the large movie cameras in the side window doors, there was so little room between the cameras and cabin ceiling I had to have instructions on how much to lower a wing to get a shot with a large angle to the ground. Needed a higher cabin :)

I don't have an artistic bone in my body so it took me a couple years to up to speed on understanding what the photographer wanted. Worked full time at this for 7 years, hard flying but loved every minute.

Dan
 

Swampyankee

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Earth USA East Coast
Both useful and practical aircraft for the purpose, but I understand no folding-wing versions are available, and fuel costs tend to be beyond the means of most homebuilders. And small countries.
Oh, the one on the left shouldn't be too bad -- current versions have a low-bypass turbofan -- but the one on the right needs two kinds of special fuel: one so it doesn't boil off during flight and one to start up the afterburners. The one on the right also had leaky fuel tanks.

Both were also notoriously difficult to fly, with the one on the left needing a chase car on take-off and landing. The one on the right just needed a tanker.
 
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