Monday, October 1, 2007

The Outlook Is Oblique

As a Florida resident, I have a lot of friends who enjoy golf. While I can see the appeal, I have absolutely zero golf talent and therefore find playing 18 holes a great way to increase my blood pressure and decrease my self esteem at the same time.

While I have shot a few random golf images, they were usually a small part of a larger resort shoot. So, it was a new challenge for us to spend 72 hours in Del Mar, California shooting nothing but tees and greens at sunrise and sunset.

The course at the Grand Del Mar Resort (owned by famed developer PapaDoug Manchester) was designed by Tom Fazio who is known for his dramatic style of landscape architecture.

To a non-golfer like me, the Grand Del Mar course is nothing more than a graphic series of rolling greens with white bunkers shadowed by tall trees. Each of these greens runs along the property's high ridges and low valleys created by California's mountainous landscape.

While we did take some nice shots on the ground, some of the more interesting views are from the air. So, I hired the very skillful Ivor Shier of San Diego-based Corporate Helicopters to help us shoot the course from the perspective of a bird armed with 11.2 megapixels. The copter was a turbine-driven A-Star which offers a smooth, safe ride at low altitudes and is therefore the tool of choice for the film industry. However, at a cost of $1,325/hour, I felt the pressure to land with stunning images for my client.

All aerial photographers know that while some straight-down shots do look interesting, it's the "obliques" that can offer nice multi-layered views. Instead of shooting down, obliques are shot across the landscape, usually at an angle just below the horizon. And, if your shot stretches a mile or more through the mountains, factors like moisture, atmosphere, heat and sun position can produce very interesting effects from one part of the shot to the other.

In order to see over the skids of the copter, Ivor removed the two doors on my side. After I was harnessed in, we took off for a 45-minute flight at the 'magic hour' before sunset. (As a funny coincidence, both my life insurance policy and my accidental death and dismemberment policy came up for renewal just one week prior. I paid both premiums just before leaving to the shoot and made copies for my wife who, incidentally, did not see the humor in it.)

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