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Old Jun 13, 2005, 7:21 PM   #1
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My son and his wife gave us a gift certificate for a half hour charter around the San Juan Islands in northern Puget Sound. This is a beautiful area with wonderful views of forests, islands and beaches. The flight will take off from Anacortes, WA, so we will be right there... no transition time.

I'm looking for advice on which lens to carry with me. It's a small airplane (4 seater). I have an EOS 20D and the following lenses...

EF-S 17-85IS
EF 70-200 f/4L (with a Tamron 1.4TC)
EF 50 II

I don't think there will be room or time to swap lenses. The question is which lens to use? Use the IS if I take the EF-S, or turn it off. I'm sure there will be vibration in the cabin, so IS might be useful. I plan on leaving the UV filter at home and taking the polarizer if it's sunny (always an outside chance up here).

How about settings? I generally shoot in Apature Priority Mode, but am not locked into anything. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I don't want to screw it up.
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Old Jun 21, 2005, 7:34 PM   #2
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I have more experience with small aircraft than cameras. As far as the vibration-there should be only minor. You may need to make nice with the pilot to see if he will spend some time to clean the windows and if he is willing to take requests for some positioning for optimal shots. Another question to ask them is if there is some nuisance vibration - would they mind resetting the engine rpm a little higher/lower too. Post up the good ones.:-)
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Old Jun 22, 2005, 2:40 AM   #3
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I'd take the 17-85.

Having had a few flights in light aircraft I don't think the 70mm end of the 70-200 would be wide enough.
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Old Jun 22, 2005, 8:33 AM   #4
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I recently went up to take photos of Mount St Helens, using a 70-200 f/2.8 and a 17-40 f/4 and can share a little of my experience. This was my first time taking photos from a plane.¬* It was a small Cessna with 2 front seats and a single bench rear seat. It also had overhead wings (hard to take photos if the wings are right below your window). I chose to sit in the back so I would have access to the windows on either side (cleaned them first). This was a good choice because the 70-200 is long and I would have been hard pressed to take any photos without getting in the way of the pilot. From the rear seat I could shoot far away objects as long as they were not at too sharp an angle below the plane. The pilot was nice enough to tip the wing if I needed a better view.
The 17-40 was much easier to deal with since I had so much more room to maneuver. I put a circular polarizer on it, which helped cut down haze. With the wide angle , I was able to get a lot of landscape shots which would include the wing...or not.
There was a lot of plane vibration, but it didn't seem to affect the photos. I made sure to keep my upper body and the camera/lens from making any contact with the plane.

So, to answer your questions more directly:
If you are going to be trapped in 1 of the seats with 3 other people, you will want a short lens.¬*
If you have the entire back seat(s), the long lens will¬*work, but limit some shots you might want to take due to the angle.
I saw no diff between my IS lens and non IS lens, but had the IS on.
Use a lens hood to avoid lens flare from light coming off all the windows.The polarizer will also help with this.¬* Also be aware of where the sun is and the effect on reflections in the window you are shooting from. I got a couple of photos with me in them
I took all shots in AV mode @ f/4 - f/8 and almost every shot was good/usable. I took almost 300 shots.
30 minutes is not much time. It'll be over before you know it.¬* Take every storage card you have and just start shooting.¬*
Be sure to check your histogram frequently as the lighting will be changing continuously.

Here's a link to some of my Mount St Helens photos. The first 2 were taken with the 70-200 and the last one with the 17-40.


I hope this helps...
I'm also sorry this is such a messy post. The forums have not been playing nice for me the last week or so...
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Old Jun 22, 2005, 10:17 AM   #5
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Thanks for the responses... Mactek's Mt. St. Helens shots are really impressive. I'll probably just take along the EF-S 17-85 IS with the polarizer as I'll probably be shooting through the windows.

I used to be a Navy Helicopter Pilot and took tons of pictures with an ancient film camera. Always shot through open windows or cargo hatches. One memorable trip I was sent to get photos of a Soviet Bloc ship carrying cargo into Haiphong. The cargo was covered with canvas, so I moved in and blew the covers off with my rotor wash, revealing a load of fire trucks. Good pictures, bad response from higher-ups.
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