Aerial Photography - With a Camera Phone!

May 17, 2011 | Mark Goldstein | Photography Techniques | 29 Comments | |
Aerial Photography - With a Camera Phone! Image

Some of you may have been up in a helicopter before but for those of you that have not, you're harnessed to the inside of the helicopter and wear headsets in order to talk and direct the pilot. You also might have the camera tethered to a laptop and also a GPS. Given a decent pilot and an interesting location it's not a difficult task to shoot some great images.

The only real problem is the comparatively small time frame you get to archive the shots. Flying in London for instance in a Eurocopter AS355 can be very costly if you're not efficient with your time, especially when you consider the positioning time to get you to your location. Offshore it can be even more expensive - on one particular job in Norway we burned through £13,000 of expenses in no time at all flying Supa Pumas. 

Aerial Photography - With a Camera Phone!

I've been working as an aerial photographer since 1991, in fact I started working as one only six months after leaving art college, after a brief stint assisting studio photographers. It wasn't long ago that the whole idea of even shooting digitally from the air went against all my ideals but the fact I can now do it on a camera phone is a miracle. I was initially highly dubious about the HD Horizons project when Nokia approached me because the biggest challenge is finding a fast enough shutter speed and most camera phones do not have a camera remotely good enough to pick up the detail. However, the N8 goes to 1/1,000th sec and has a 12-megapixel camera on the back of it, which is amazing when you consider I normally shoot on Nikon D3s which cost £4,000-plus for the bodies and £2,000 per lens.

Aerial Photography - With a Camera Phone!

My main attraction to this project was they always say the best camera you have is the camera you have on you all the time. I've shot with pretty much every make of camera there is over the years, but now use Nikon D3S and D3X with lenses from 14mm up to 300mm. I don't normally carry around my kit, it is very big and bulky, but I always carry a phone. So for the past few weeks I've swapped my regular kit for a Nokia N8 and whilst the shoot had its difficulties the end results were pretty cool.

Aerial Photography - With a Camera Phone!

To overcome the vibration of the helicopter you normally shoot with a very high shutter speed using the lowest ISO you can get away with. This was my first thought when asked about the N8 but doing a quick search I found the shutter speed can go up as high as 1/1000th sec.

Entry Tags

photos, photo, photography, photographer, nokia, aerial, air, nokia n8, jason hawkes, helicopter, horizons, above, n8, sky

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29 Comments | Newest Oldest First | Post a Comment

#1 Thorny Dragon

Well, technically the word ‘only’ doesn’t fit here, the N8 doesn’t have a regular camera-phone’s camera, it has a pretty hefty cam to begin with.

Now I know that Nokia’s out of hype, but honestly, in terms of signal-to noise ratio, sensor size (I know these two correlate positively) & resolution is exceptional amongst its peers.

Give it a QHD screen, a Tegra 2 SOC, & Fennec as a browser & you’ll get something epic.

But in the end, a good photographer is all what a good picture needs.

11:51 am - Tuesday, May 17, 2011

#2 Pep

I don’t get what the big deal is. It’s a camera with which you take photos of whatever you want. That’s it. Duh.

4:37 pm - Tuesday, May 17, 2011

#3 Marrie

After crashing my Nikon Coolpix 7900 two years ago, I went over to make photo’s with my mobile phone. Since last year that was a SonyEricsson Xperia X10 mini, which is very small so I always carry it with me. And with good lighting it makes nice photo’s, even some nice macro photo’s. I still use it for snapshots. I had never owned a DSLR, but I’m very glad I was able to buy myself a D7000 two weaks ago :P Huge difference!

4:58 pm - Tuesday, May 17, 2011

#4 Galvin

Impressive… I can’t believe it was done by camera phone…

7:59 pm - Tuesday, May 17, 2011

#5 Armel AERTS

This is a very impressive and fun camera phone series. Very well taken.

5:17 pm - Wednesday, May 18, 2011

#6 marciton

it’s possible to have the pictures(specialy the first one) with the real size to use it as a wallpaper ?

5:45 pm - Wednesday, May 18, 2011

#7 kombizz

Nice captures - I wonder how much you paid for your mobile contract.
Have you ever try to captures with new Iphone4?

8:07 am - Thursday, May 19, 2011

#8 kombizz

Nice captures.
Have you tried using IPhone 4 for your Aerial Photography?

8:09 am - Thursday, May 19, 2011

#9 Ebony


4:40 pm - Saturday, May 21, 2011

#10 Muliadi Jeo

Can you share the setting on N8 to capture that nice evening aerial shot above?

2:11 pm - Tuesday, May 24, 2011

#11 LV

This is very impressive! It is a very good camera photo though, great angle and composition!

Fine Art Gallery

4:47 am - Thursday, May 26, 2011

#12 Joelaco

“tan sólo con una cámara de un celular”... el N8 es máquina, pero tengo que reconocer que son estupendas fotografías… tienen un efecto parecido al HDR

3:50 am - Saturday, June 4, 2011

#13 Sue

I often use my camera phone since I unfortunately tend to forget to grab my camera.  What surprises me is the quality of these photos. They are great.  Mine never turn out that good although I am using a Nokia 2.0 mp.

1:35 pm - Monday, June 13, 2011

#14 Fat chance

Explain how you took the HDR shot of the gherkin on a camera phone

12:44 am - Tuesday, June 14, 2011

#15 nish

this is amazing and a huge moral booster… It just proves that you always dont need a high end super cool camera for amazing photographs.. i have just taken up photography… Cant really afford a DSLR at the moment… :) i want to buy a Nikon D90.. and am saving up to by one.. In the meanwhile… shooting away with my phone camera..

2:20 pm - Wednesday, June 15, 2011

#16 Tamil

i nvr knw low iso = low shutter

thanks for the tip

8:33 am - Saturday, July 2, 2011

#17 Bahamas Photographer

Honestly I forgot about the N8 until just now. I know the sensor is crazy big for a phone but the first pic is gorgeous.
I’ve always liked Nokia for their durability. But they just fell way behind with Android and IOS in terms of features, apps and ease of use. I bit the bullet and got a Nexus S last year. I still have fond memories of my nokia E55…RIP *tear*

2:48 am - Sunday, August 28, 2011

#18 Wedding photographer kent

I would have taken something better than a camera phone if I knew I was going up in a helicopter!

Stunning quality!!

8:27 pm - Friday, November 11, 2011

#19 Brent

Great idea, but I rarely break out my iphone mid flight only because I have Nikon gear with me.  I guess I would consider it if I forgot my other cameras!  Check out our work:

12:00 am - Saturday, December 24, 2011

#20 aerial photography

amazing quality for a cameraphone, really stunning - don’t know why but that Heathrow one really grabs me

4:13 pm - Monday, January 9, 2012

#21 canvas prints

now thats what you call a great photo. very good

12:45 pm - Thursday, February 23, 2012

#22 canvas photo

these sots are stunning just goes to show camera phones have come a long way and a great shot comes from the photographer rather than the camera

9:54 am - Tuesday, July 24, 2012

#23 Tony Sale

The quality of the images is amazing, I just wonder what size they could be blown up to?

11:11 am - Sunday, November 11, 2012

#24 Malom

The World’s highest spetial resolution aerial ortho image mosaic aviable:
(by high ground speed aeroplane)

9:31 pm - Tuesday, January 15, 2013

#25 David Blackshaw

Amazing results from a camera phone! These gadgets have improved so much recently I may well be using one for my wedding photography assignments soon.

11:36 am - Friday, May 24, 2013

#26 Zoe Condon

Wonderful photography in camera phone. It’s quality and resolution are are very nice. Thanks for the post.

10:45 am - Tuesday, May 27, 2014

#27 luftbild24

its a very beautiful picture i never seen before you really done an excellent work thanks for posting a great pictures visit my page luftaufnahmen drohne

7:23 am - Thursday, August 6, 2015

#28 Clipping Path

This is really a great article.Thank you for sharing this article.

6:04 pm - Thursday, November 5, 2015

#29 Andy Stonier

Brilliant stuff; just shows it’s not the camera that makes the photograph.

7:57 pm - Thursday, January 28, 2016