High Wing vs. Low Wing Aircraft for Aerial Photography

I got a call from a potential aerial photographer seeking information about shooting from his Beech Sundowner. Lovely airplanes…I have many hours in a similar aircraft, the Warrior. Economical to operate, inexpensive to acquire…in short, it’s a great all round aircraft but it does have a few drawbacks.

aerial photography aircraft

Photos captured by mturnau

1. For oblique aerials (basically shot at an angle out the window) the big drawback is the wing blocks the vast part of the picture. You’re left shooting toward the front or the rear of the wing and you will largely need to decide that.

2. The windows do not open in these airplanes so you’ll need to invest in one or more camera ports that will need to be cut out of your plexiglass. This is obviously done by a qualified individual and can be expensive. Typically you’ll select one for shooting in front of the wing or behind…or I suppose you could opt for both. No matter how you cut it (pun intended) this is not an optimum shooting environment and will set you back the cost of a nice lens.

3. Copilots for this aircraft would ideally be flying from the right seat unless the photographer is left handed. There are probably far few skilled in flying from the right in this aircraft than would be the case with Cessnas. Many insurance companies require the airplane to be flown from the left seat unless a qualified “right seater” is available.

If I had the option of flying for free in a buddy’s low wing plane…for FREE, I would be hard pressed to accept since I have tried this feat from low wing A/C before and it is very, very difficult.

In the high wing Cessna, the window can easily be prepared to open all the way such that it rests on the underside of the wing and is held there by the prop wash at all but the slowest speeds. There is no need to bungee the window open or use any special measures. All that is required is one small Phillips screw be removed from the retaining clip on the left side window and it is set. Even with the strut on most Cessnas, the field of vision is huge by comparison.

In this gentleman’s case, he owns the Sundowner and his costs would be dramatically lower than renting the FBO’s Cessna. It’s a tough call to make but one that most aerial photographers seem to make in favor of the high wing A/C.

About the Author:
David Rodwell teaches aerial photography across the country to aviation and photography enthusiasts. Please visit http://www.aerialphotographyacademy.com.

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One response to “High Wing vs. Low Wing Aircraft for Aerial Photography”

  1. Raghav says:

    Hi,
    Nice read!! Could you please share some info on Remote Controlled quad/helicopters that could be used for aerial photography. It would be more useful for hobby photographers like me(who cant think of aircrafts).
    Thanks,
    Raghav

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