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San Francisco photographer Jon Hope specializes in location portraits and aerial photography.

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I was near Fresno on a client shoot last week, and not surprisingly saw a lot of  vineyards, fields and orchards from the air. The Central Valley is massive and covers 22,500 square miles, much of which is farmland.

This colorful field caught my eye. I’ll have to make another trip just for stills to get some more. There is a lot of potential for cool abstract shots in the central valley.

Flying in a restored Huey

EMU 309 at KHWD

It’s a sunny Sunday morning and a loud womp-womp-womp sound is coming from outside a hanger at Hayward Executive Airport. A sound that is immediately recognizable to anyone who served in the Vietnam War or lived in South East Asia during that time.

EMU Inc., a non-profit in Hayward California painstakingly restored Vietnam-era Huey to flying condition. A couple of weekends ago, I got to meet the founders and volunteers that keep this part of American history alive.

Geoff Carr and Peter Olesko served as crew chiefs and door gunners in the 135th AHC. In Vietnam the 135th was unusual as a joint Royal Australian Navy and US army unit. The unit motto, “Get the Bloody Job Done“ has a very Australian ring to it.

Get the bloody job done

Peter and Geoff where both Crew Chiefs for the “EMU 309” during their tour in Vietnam. The 309 was a special helicopter because it was the longest serving slick* in the unit with 2724 flight hours. The average flight time for the unit was 830 hours before a Huey was sent away for major repairs or damaged beyond repair.

Geoff Carr sitting in the door gunners seat

Geoff Carr in the Crew Chief/Gunners seat

So the EMU crew bought a similar aged Huey (not the original EMU 309) from the Sacramento Police Department and completely refurbished it. Using this helicopter, they recreated the EMU 309 in every detail. Now it’s a flying museum and tribute to their old unit and other Air Assault Units. The actual EMU 309 did make it back to the US but I don’t know that history of it after that.

Detail of EMU 309

EMU is part living history, part healing tool. At the Hayward Air Show I watched a Vietnam Vet get very emotional at being able to go up and sit inside. It would be hard not to relive some memories when sitting in something that took you in and out of the battlefield.

Of course, keeping a helicopter this age in perfect order doesn’t come cheap. The fuel alone for one hour’s flight is around $600. Donations are always needed to keep her going. Check out hueyvets.com for more information on the history of EMU309 and the 135th AHC, events, donations and membership.


Preflighting a Huey

Pilots Peter Olesko and Croy Pelletier preflight EMU 309

Peter and Croy flying

Peter and Croy flying southeast of Hayward

Pushing the Huey back into the hanger after the flight

Pushing back to the hanger after the flight


*A UH-1 helicopter used for transporting troops in tactical air assault operations. The helicopter did not have protruding armaments and was, therefore, “slick”. From: http://www2.iath.virginia.edu/sixties/HTML_docs/Resources/Glossary/Sixties_Term_Gloss_Q_T.html


I’m a nominee for the 7th Annual Black & White Spider Awards

My aerial shot of the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco was a nominee in the Professional Architecture Catagory :) 

It’s becoming quite a prestigious annual photography competition with the judges from the Tate Gallery in London, National Geographic, Bonhams Auction house, and more.

http://www.thespiderawards.com/gallery/7th/gallery.php?g=&x=p&cid=105&fid=95273

I was also a nominee back in 2006 in the Professional Sports Category for my portrait of Tochiazuma the number 2 ranking sumo wrestler at the time I shot him in Japan.

Happy 75th birthday Golden Gate Bridge ! Here’s another tilt-shift shot of one of the worlds most iconic bridges.

Here’s my video testimonial for the ipad case I use on aerial shoots. The shoot was a lot of fun, I got some great new shots of San Francisco including some new tilt-shift shots.

I used a WFT-E4 IIA wifi grip on a Canon 5D Mk2 to send low resolution jpeg images to shuttersnitch on the iPad. It was a great way to review images while still in the air !

Who knew that Alcatraz had loads of solar panels on the roof of the cell block? The National Park Service is using renewable energy in some of it’s over parks too.

Here’s a view looking straight down on to the exercise yard.

I was going to shoot some tilt shift shots of Alcatraz Island, but one building or water tower is covered in scaffolding and protective covering at the moment, so the island doesn’t look great from the air :(

Looking straight down on a junk yard in Hayward, CA. I love that they’ve laid the cars out in a herringbone pattern.

Salt ponds near the Dumbarton Bridge, San Francisco Bay.

These ponds can range in color from pale green to bright red depending on the salinity of the pond.

I’ll have to spend some more time shooting the vibrant colors and the abstract shapes these salt ponds make. I want to go back again for another shoot when they are bright red !

Last Thursday was a perfect day for an aerial shoot. Speck (who make the awesome ipad case I use) filmed me for a video testimonial for their web site. 

I’ve added another San Francisco land mark to my Tilt-Shift Series :-)

I’ll have quite a few more images and some video to post soon. Stay tuned!

Today is the 30th anniversary of my first published photograph. It also happened to be my first ride in a helicopter, and my first attempt at aerial photography.

My school had visit from a military helicopter and gave a few students a short ride around the surrounding area. I lived near the school, so there was just enough time to run home, grab my camera, a roll of film and try to catch the last ride of the day.

I was lucky. One of the helicopter crew saw my camera and suggested I wear the winchman’s harness. So for my first helicopter flight I sat on the floor with my legs dangling out while we flew around the town. I was more excited than scared. What really worried me was losing my shoes somewhere over the town, and how angry my mum would be if I lost them.

My aerial was published in The Wellington Weekly News. I think I got paid £2, which is about $3 for my first published shot. It was on page 7. Score!

It’s funny how life goes full circle. I had no idea I would end up shooting a lot more aerials. 

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