Does aerial photographer Jason Hawkes have the best job in the world? Quite possibly. Last night, CR took to the skies in an AS355 helicopter to accompany Hawkes as he shot the almost-completed Shard, the BT tower, and the Olympic Park. Not a trip for the faint of heart, as he flies with one door open.
Jason Hawkes has been working as an aerial photographer for the last twenty years, starting out taking pictures from a microlight, and progressing to helicopters. He invited CR to join him on a trip over London just as the sun set and the city lights came on. Above you can see the AS355, or Twin Squirrel, helicopter we made our trip in. We took off from Redhill aerodrome in Surrey, and after a few minutes setting up, strapping ourselves in, and making sure all our headsets were working, we set off across the Surrey countryside and into London.
The whole trip was carefully orchestrated between the pilot and air traffic control, to make sure no two helicopters were heading for the same area. Helicopter pilots over London also have to be aware of the movements of police helicopters, and once it’s nightfall, pilots must maintain a distance of at least 3 miles from all other helicopters. Once into London we flew between heights of 500 and 1,200 feet, close enough to see the kitchen fittings in the penthouse at the top of the Shard, which looked especially striking as it caught the last rays of the sun. We also flew across the Thames near Tower Bridge, and you can just make out the Olympic rings in the middle of the bridge in the photo above.
To shoot his photographs, Hawkes opens the door of the helicopter and leans out, which makes for an interesting experience if you’re on the same side as him. The shoot requires constant work between Hawkes and the pilot, to adjust the height and angle that the helicopter hovers at.
We also flew over and around the O2 arena – you can see the newly installed Olympic walkway, which will allow visitors to climb to the middle of the O2 for views across London.
And finally we flew over the Olympic stadium, which had its giant screens turned on, and what looked like the initial set up of the opening ceremony – a giant map of London – in the middle of the arena. You can see more of Jason Hawkes’ work on his website, and follow him on Twitter.
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