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

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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. 

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

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 !

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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.

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The Bay Bridge on Flickr.

Transamerica Black and White on Flickr.

I really like how this shot of the Transamercia Pyramid came out. The square crop makes it feel like I shot it on my Hasselblad, and the black and white image gives the early 70’s building it’s retro look.

New and Old on Flickr.

 The new east span of Bay Bridge is coming along.

Bay Bridge Toll Plaza on Flickr.

More shots from yesterdays shoot over San Francisco.

Storage Lockers on Flickr.

I love how the doors jump out. Who knew storage facilities could look cool.

The clear conditions this morning, can’t get much better than this.

Bay Bridge Tilt Shift on Flickr.

This one is for real, no photoshop trickery. Shot with the Canon TS-E 45mm lens, with lots of movement applied.

Here’s some video of us getting in position before photographing Oakmont Country Club for WGT. Cherokee Walker was our excellent pilot. You can find him at cherokeehelicopter.com