Monday, September 18, 2017

Night flight with Leica over New York

This past week, after many flight cancellations and re-bookings, I finally departed hurricane devastated Florida for a New York City to direct a Workshop for Leica USA on how to take night photos of the city from a helicopter. As you can see from the photos below, we lucked out with the weather in New York. We hadn't been so lucky in Miami a week prior to this when we had to postpone our Miami night aerial Workshop due to the approaching hurricane. That flight workshop is now re-scheduled for Feb 2018, should anyone be interested in joining us.

This is the second time I have presented this New York Workshop for Leica. After some time spent going over my techniques for achieving the best results with night photos of the city, we take off for a half hour flight over the city timing the flight for the best light to balance both the ambient and artificial light with hand-held cameras. Leica supplied the participants with the gear of their choice to try out on the flight. After my discussion, we all went over the Leica equipment carefully so there would be no surprises in the air.

Flying on a week night instead of the weekend meant that there were more lights on in the office buildings and quite a bit of traffic in the streets and the harbor resulting in more interesting photos. Night photography done around the time of the change over for daylight savings time usually helps even more because the building and traffic lights are also most intense around this time.

Workshop participants have their choice of Leica equipment to try on the flights. On this trip, I settled on a single Leica M10 with a 24mm f/1.4 Summilux lens. Having only one camera and a prime lens gave me plenty of time to pay attention to the flight plan, while the choice of a 24mm was because I wanted to see the scenes with this focal length I knew most of the Workshop participants were using on their zooms. The 24mm enabled me to visually set up the best photo distances from the subjects for everyone in the Workshop.

One of the beauties of the M10 was its extended dynamic range, so important in this type of shooting. Even with super fast prime lenses, like the Summilux I used, I often hit what I consider my critical ISO rating of 6400 in order to maintain a shutter speed to compensate for the high vibration of a helicopter platform. I have done similar flights over New York many times. I noticed this time that I had a much easier time dealing with the high ISO's in post processing, and have to attribute that to the M10's revamped sensor and Maestro II processing engine.

We flew with two helicopters. I was in the lead helicopter to direct the operation when I took this photo of lower Manhattan. 

Lower Manhattan from the Brooklyn side of the East River. 

There was a lot of boat traffic in the rivers and harbor this evening making for more interesting photos. 

One of my favorite views of NYC in the background with the Jersey City financial district on the left behind the Statue of Liberty.  For this shot, we brought the helicopters down to eye level with the statue. 

Looking south towards the World Trade Center from the Flatiron Building and Madison Square Park.

Mid-town Manhattan with Broadway lights and the Empire State Building

Lower Manhattan with the World Trade Center seen from Jersey City across the Hudson River.

View of lower Manhattan from Brooklyn with the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges crossing the East River

Lower Manhattan and the World Trade Center with the Hudson River to the right and East River in the background left.


  1. Nice photos! So what do you think of the M10?

  2. Ron, I added another paragraph to the post in answer to your question. Thanks for that!

  3. Lovely photos, as always form you. Your skillset and knowledge always amaze me, and i've been a pro photog for 35 years.

    One really troubling quality of life issue in NYC -- the number of helicopters and the racket they create. It really is out of control.