Are Masts or Balloons Viable Options?
Fixed wing aircraft and helicopters serve as the primary sources of transportation when shooting aerial photos or videos. Blimps can serve a similar purpose, but only if you are not in a hurry and the weather cooperates. In almost all cases, however, an aerial photographer will get the very best results when operating from an airplane or a helicopter rather than attempting to control camera equipment from a distance.
Masts and balloons (including blimps) provide two other means by which aerial shots can be taken. Both have their advantages and their drawbacks, and neither lend themselves to the types of activity we are engaged in, especially when there is a need to travel to sites that are some distance away and especially when a sequence of still shots or video is needed to cover a large area.
Masts and Balloons Have Their Place
On a small scale, masts can sometimes be an excellent choice, although the term aerial is a bit of a stretch since the maximum height a photograph or a video can be taken from is not much more than 50 feet before stability becomes a problem. Balloons can go much higher of course, and can take photos and videos covering a wide viewing angle. You can take vertical shots from a balloon, low-level oblique shots, and high-level oblique shots. Controlling the camera so it will cover what you want it to can be a problem of course, although today’s technology allows cameras to be operated and controlled from a distance. One of the major problems encountered when using balloons for aerial photography is the wind. Another is that of keeping the lens pointed to where you want it. A third issue is you may not always know whether your efforts have been successful or not until your camera has been retrieved, since there was no one to peer through the viewfinder.
Masts are fine for close-in shots and local area monitoring purposes. It is seldom practical to attempt to take photos from a fixed wing aircraft from an elevation of 50 feet. Helicopters can go that low of course but tend to kick up a great deal of dust or debris in the process. Masts are limited in terms of their potential uses however, and a helicopter can outperform a balloon on almost every count as far as taking aerial shots is concerned.
It Never Hurts to Ask
Almost every one of the services we provide requires the use of an airplane or a helicopter. Even though masts and balloons are cheaper, using them except for special situations is usually not cost effective. That is not to say that balloons and blimps are useless. There are aerial photography businesses that used them to great effect, but in most cases, those businesses could not compete with us in the types of work we do for our clients, especially if stability is going to be a problem. Shooting from an airplane in rough weather is always a challenge, but attempting to take photos or videos from a balloon in rough weather is even more of a challenge, and often impossible. Since you, as a prospective client, might be open to all options, it will never hurt to ask if using a balloon or a mast to get the images you need would be the best approach. It that appears to be the case, we would tell you so.