How does shooting from a small plane compare to shooting from a helicopter?
I started using a small plane because I’m a pilot and I had friends who would fly along. I live in New York, so I started doing the New York airports and then I wanted to do the city. You can’t really fly over New York in a small plane, there are lots of restrictions. I shouldn’t say can’t, you can do it, but you have to be high. When we shot New York we were like a mile and a half up, which gets you a different kind of picture, which is also very cool. It looks like a computer board or something. It’s a much different kind of view. So when I wanted to get close up to buildings, I had to do a helicopter. I started shooting with a helicopter and found I really liked it. It was easier – it goes slower, you can take the door off, get in close to places I couldn’t do with the plane.
Have you considered using a drone?
I haven’t used a drone. I think about it from time to time, but it’s a whole other thing to get involved in. Some people are getting good shots [with drones], and certainly, it would be an option, but I’m pretty happy with what I’m getting the way I’m doing it.
And my pictures are very high resolution because my end is to make really large gallery prints, so to get the kind of camera you need for that you would have to get a really big commercial drone and put a $50,000 camera on it, and that has certain complications, a learning curve, and drones are limited to line of sight and 400 feet, legally.
What first inspired you to take aerial shots of cities?
[I’m] just a kid who grew up in LA loving LA and a private pilot. I used to go out to the airport when I was a kid and I just learned to fly because I loved it. I got my license on my 17th birthday. I have some 8mm film from the ‘60s with some grainy pictures. I wasn’t doing it then as an art photography thing, I just love flying and taking pictures. I have a picture of me getting a lesson when I was 16.