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


Posts tagged helicopter

A trip to the museum ( The Helicopter Museum)

Back in January on a trip to the UK, I was looking for a fun afternoon escape from the dreary winter rain. The Helicopter Museum near my parent’s place in Somerset was well worth the visit, especially at a mere £6.50.

The museum has the largest collection of helicopters in the world. Two hangars are crammed full of an incredible assortment of models. It was hard a little hard to appreciate the size of the helicopters as they were so closely placed, but you will get to see helicopters that you wouldn’t see anywhere else.

The visit was part history lesson, part trip down memory lane. I got to see a Westland Dragonfly, a helicopter that my dad flew around in sometime in the early 50’s. I also saw a Westland Whirlwind in which I took one of my first helicopter flights when I was 16 or 17, only few months before they where retired from service with the RAF.


Westland Dragonfly

The museum also has a good collection of Russian helicopters including the massive Mil Mi-8, which holds 24 passengers, 3 crew, and clocks in at 60 feet in length. Not to be outdone, the infamous Mil Mi-24 holds only 8 troops, but has staggering array of weapons. I really wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of either.


Mil Mi-24 Hind

The Kamov Ka-26 is one of the strangest looking helicopters. In the photo below, you can see two sets of rotor blades that run in opposite directions. And it features an optional passenger pods that can be detached (preferable not mid-flight.)


Kamov Ka-26

It was also good to see one of the US helicopters on display is a Hiller UH-12C, built in Palo Alto, California near my home in the Bay Area. When you are visiting Northern California, check out the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos, CA. They have some fun stuff too.

Two things really stood out for me.

Scale. I‘ve flown in a Robinson R22 and at the size of a smart car this is one of the smallest helicopters in the world. For contrast, this was placed next to a huge old French helicopter, Sud Aviation’s SA321F Super Frelon (Super Hornet) which carried around 35 passengers, and was used by an inter island airline in Greece.

Variety. The Helicopter Museum has around 80 helicopters, with a few repeats. As a museum that started as a private collection, this is a real mish-mash of models, from the menacing to the silly. Honestly, I am amazed some of these ever flew. But my visit was definitely a fun day out. 


Robinson R22 (foreground ) and a Sud Aviation’s SA321F Super Frelon

Icelandic Roads from the air

I only had time for a quick shoot during my Iceland trip but the landscape near Reykjavik changes pretty dramatically in only 15 minutes of flying.

Bláfjallavegur Road looked amazing curving through the snow covered lava fields near the Thrihnukagigur Volcano. The lava fields had some interesting patterns so I spent a little time trying to get some more abstract views with a hint of road for scale. 



Colourful apartment buildings in Reykjavik, Iceland

Scandinavian houses use a lot of colour for the exteriors. I’m not sure why, but it makes for some great photos. It’s good to see that the tradition also applies to larger buildings such as these blocks of flats ( apartments ) in Reykjavik. 


Last minute aerial shoot in Iceland

I had a great last minute aerial shoot on my short trip to Iceland. Reykjavik Helicopters made it happen with almost no notice on a cold but clear morning only a couple of hours before my flight back to London. Thanks guys - it was the highlight of my trip.

It was pretty windy, check out the horizontal windsock !


I concentrated on mostly new abstract landscapes as the really dramatic scenery was too far away to fly to and make it back in time for my UK flight this trip. Stayed tuned for some shots from the shoot.

It’s turned into a bit of a tradition for each aerial shoot to take a shot of the back of the helicopter from my position sitting out of the door on each trip. I call them my tail rotor shots, and I’m getting quite a collection. This one is over the bay bridge in San Francisco from an earlier blog post.

These two tail rotor shots from Iceland are maybe 10 minutes apart, and you can see how dramatically the landscape changes.



The ultimate ipad accessory might well be a helicopter, but I’ll have to settle for a good case for an ipad to use when I’m shooting from one.

I spent a while looking for the right case to use on aerial shoots and the Speck HandyShell for the ipad 2 is perfect.

The case holds my ipad nice and securely. The red handle is handy for attaching a climbing sling and carabineer to to my harness or an anchor point in the chopper.

Thanks to my good friend, artist Kurt Stoekel for telling me about the case.

The observer is checking for ground clearance as we fly near the cliff tops. He’s wearing a harness to stop him from falling out. I wear one too on my aerial shoots !

Another shot from my flight with 771 Naval Air Squadron. We’re only a few feet above the sea here.

You can just make out the winchman hanging below the helicopter as they came to pick me up.

A Westland Wessex from 771 NAS practicing winching in Cornwall.

Back in college I was lucky enough to arrange to fly with a Royal Navy Search and Rescue Helicopter from RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall as a photography project. On a rainy September morning I went up with the crew on a flight exercise.

They practiced hovering close to the cliffs. And I mean really close to the cliffs – the blades were maybe 20 feet away from the rocks. Because the instruments can’t tell you what is beside you, only your altitude from the ground below, the observer had to look out of the side door to tell the pilot how many yards away the rotor blades were from hitting the cliff. This was the only guidance the pilot had. These guys were really good.

I wanted to get some shots of the helicopter hovering over a rocky outcrop. So they dropped me off in a field. Later, after I had finished my shots they retrieved me by winching me back in, dangling outside the helicopter door. This was a bit unnerving to say the least.

The last part of the morning flight was to simulate a total engine failure a few times and land with no power. This was my first experience of autorotations, and a crewmember kindly suggested I unplugged my headset in case I threw up as the sound would annoy everyone. Happily, I didn’t get sick. 
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