Aerial Photography - With a Camera Phone!

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

Working digitally has changed my work as a photographer forever, mostly for the better. It takes a while to put together a good workflow, which will include captioning the photographs within the metadata of the image and tweaking the white balance of the Raw files. I pretty much only touch Adobe Photoshop Lightroom for this kind of thing now, making sure everything is backed up at least three times. I use various Raid drives and then archive gold DVD's and Blue-ray disks for this.

Years ago on film, and before GPS was available so cheaply, I was changing camera backs and rolls of film every ten minutes or so and making detailed notes of everywhere we flew over and shot. Once back at my office I would then have to decipher my shaky handwriting and sort through maps to caption the images. Now with GPS and DSLR's this is all automated. I love the way you can embed the coordinates in the EXIF data of the RAW files, but sometimes after sitting at my Mac for hours colour correcting images I do think back to the days when once you'd sent the film to the E6 lab your job was finished.

Aerial Photography - With a Camera Phone!

I also now do a lot of night photography, in fact my latest three books London, Las Vegas and New York have all been shot at night. This involves a lot of work using mounts to cancel the vibration of the helicopter. It took a long time to sort out the right balance of mounts / cameras and lenses and even with these it's a very long-winded process but the results can be amazing.

Aerial Photography - With a Camera Phone!

I tested out the Nokia N8 on a flight over London, and my first thoughts were that we really needed some pretty large and impressive locations around the UK to shoot. The N8's Carl Zeiss lens is surprisingly good but fixed at 28mm which is fairly wide so I looked through my archive of locations and came up with places such as The Shard and 2012 site in London, Chesil Beach, St Michaels Mount and Longships Lighthouse in the South West and the huge Emily Moor Mast, Jodrell Bank Observatory and even the offshore Wind farm at Thanet, all places I knew we could get really dramatic images of.

Aerial Photography - With a Camera Phone!

The whole campaign was shot in March and thankfully we had some terrific weather. Combining that with some great pilots and a twin engined helicopter for safety the whole shoot went really well. Digital photography has moved on so far in the last few years. The idea of shooting aerial stills using just a phone really should be ridiculous but after downloading the images at the end of every day and doing initial edits I was really impressed with the results.

Jason Hawkes photographed the UK¹s most stunning locations using a Nokia N8 smartphone for the HD Horizons project.

Entry Tags

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

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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

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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