There’s nothing quite like flying over a major city in a tiny helicopter, barely bigger than a Mini Cooper, while hanging out a half-open window. You should really try it one day…
Shoulder to shoulder with the pilot, there’s a quick briefing and then we take to the skies. The thrill I experience every time I fly is like no other. Flying at 1000′, we head towards the river and await instructions from the air controllers. In the distance I can see a jumbo jet that looks like it’s flying over the Big O. It’s tiny in the sky and I know it’s really far far away, but I still look over at my pilot to see if he is concerned. He’s not. How odd…
While we head to our first destination, I snap photos of suburban backyards and whatever else catches my eye. From this distance, the houses look like they belong in a Monopoly game. I am amazed by how many people have pools in their backyards. The controller interrupts my observations and gives us the go-ahead to cross towards downtown. Bridges, marinas, parking lots, city streets and local landmarks all have a different quality from this perspective. There are no street signs at this altitude and finding your subject can sometimes be a challenge, but we persevere and it’s time to go to work. Circling the area a few times looking for the ideal location, until we stop and hover while I snap away, working to get the best possible shots. Now it’s time for the direct overhead photo, a moment which requires the pilot to tip the helicopter and try to make me fall out the open window. Not for the faint of heart. No time to be concerned, there are other locations to be photographed, and off we go.
Five minutes turns into an hour, and it’s time to head back. Sadness starts to set in as I realize that this experience is coming to an end. There’s so much more I’d like to photograph, but it will have to wait until next time.
More photos after the break…
Thanks for tuning in.
My first aerial shoot over Montreal. I took the opportunity to shoot some footage and incorporate some personal shots.
I flew out of St-Hubert with my pilot (Philippe Landes) in a Hughes 300 CBi helicopter. The cockpit is very small – imagine the front of a compact car, minus the dash board, and the glass in front going all the way to your feet. A great view! I had originally been told that they would remove my whole door so that I could take my photos. I have to admit, that freaked me out a little, so I was very relieved to find out that, instead of this, my door featured a large zippered window which allowed me pretty much full access from which to shoot.
After a 10 minute safety briefing from my pilot, which included emergency procedures that I would need to complete if ever he was indisposed (huh?!!?), we took off and flew into Montreal via the Jacques Cartier Bridge. Airspace is very controlled. We were either under control from the St-Hubert or Dorval control towers. We arrived at our first shooting location, only to be told a few minutes later that we needed to clear the airspace for a while. They sent us to the north end of the mountain, and allowed us to return about 10 minutes later. We circled each location several times at the minimum 1000′ altitude, flying at approx 30 knots, allowing me to capture many images as we went around the sites. The best (scariest) part was when I told my pilot that I needed a direct overhead view of the site. He completely caught me off guard when he tipped the helicopter onto its side, allowing me to shoot almost straight down!
All in all, we were flying for about an hour. It seemed like only a few minutes! What a blast. I highly recommend trying it one day if you get the opportunity.
Taking Off from Mario C Melillo on Vimeo.
Last week, MCMPHOTO’s business finally took off! Literally! (Please excuse the ban pun…I couldn’t resist)
I got a call from a longtime client in need of my services. A little different this time…it involved renting a helicopter and taking photos over downtown Montreal.
What a blast! I highly recommend it if you get the chance!
Here are some of the outakes from the shoot.
View from the Dawson float. What a beautiful day!