The Story Behind the Photo: Aerial Panorama of Na Pali, Kauai

September 27, 2016  •  Leave a Comment


One of our favorite panoramas is one that was one of the most difficult panoramas to shoot and to make.  It is an aerial panorama of the Na Pali Coastline, Kauai.  There are many good and even great aerial photos of the Na Pali coastline, but there almost no panoramas.  Do a google search if you don't believe us.




The panorama above was taken several years ago while flying with Wings Over Kauai as a passenger in their Cessna using an open window.  Open window airplane photography is hard.  Photos are taken with the camera held in hand outside the open window (wind speed about 100 mph), while the plane bucks, pitches, and yaws, and that is in good weather.  The focus has to be preset, the aperture preset, and a very fast shutter speed (preferably with stabilization) used.  A lot can go wrong: focus can be lost, and the wings or wheels can get in the frame from the constant bouncing from the plane flying through the air, or the motion can overcome the stabilization resulting in loss of sharpness.  To get a panorama, the pilot must execute a slow, consistent bank to raise the wing out of the frame.


We were happily taking single frames on the flight when we noticed that a panorama might be spectacular.  We asked the pilot to execute a long, slow bank, while we shot frames with a lot of overlap.  Later, when we post-processed, there were some alignment errors (due to the plane changing position) that we was able to manually address in Photoshop.  We loved the result: The color is outstanding, and the panorama ended up being one of our all-time favorites.


We rarely do aerial photography due to the cost (often over $500 for an hour).  We target charter services running about $200-$250 per hour.  We can count the number of locations that we have done on three fingers: Kauai, the Adirondack Mountains in New York, and Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario.  In Kauai, we used Wings Over Kauai a few times.  In the Adirondacks, we used Adirondack Flying Service in Lake Placid.  In Ontario, we used Northern Air Solutions at the Muskoka Airport.  All three come highly recommended.


Jeff and Kathy


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