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For photographers, helicopters are sky hooks, flying tripods, and the best platform for aerial work in a lot of cases. Light fixed-wing aircraft are more suitable when working from high altitudes, but the helicopter is the best platform for close-up work at lower levels. As an aircraft type, the helicopter is extremely stable and highly manoeuvrable, and can therefore be positioned precisely by its pilot. They also tend to offer more space than fixed-wing aircraft, and often have sliding doors that are convenient to open.

London's Tower Bridge at night

Image by kind permission of Jason Hawkes at www.jasonhawkes.com

Most helicopter pilots ensure that photographers are familiar with all the necessary safety procedures before leaving the ground. It is certainly wise to take heed of the information provided. The safety of a flight is of course the responsibility of the pilot, but a photographer should be careful to observe all safety precautions and make his or her own checks where possible.

The take-off area must be clear of all personal baggage and other items that may be caught in the heavy downdraught. Approach the helicopter in a crouched position and beware of the tail rotor and skids. It is worth weighing you equipment bag prior to departure as the pilot may need to know the weight of your gear. Also ensure that clothing is secured to your body and no item of equipment extends above the level of your head. Seat belts should always be worn and, if any door is left open, the buckle should be secured with gaffer tape. You do not want to fall out while straining to get the right shot. Finally, on uneven ground always exit a helicopter on the downhill side.

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