Opposite: Sewage treatment plant. Left: Fishermen on sand dunes. Below left: High rise apartment blocks in Hong Kong. Overleaf: Sunbathing holidaymakers in Menorca. All pictures © Jason Hawkes.
Weather man In fact, his work is very dependent on the weather – he avoids windy days altogether, and doesn’t shoot much in winter. It can be extremely cold, so he sometimes puts his battery pack inside his trousers, but he’s given up on gloves. ‘It’s just too difficult to work with them,’ he says. ‘But I always have quite a lot of gear, even in summer. I use stabilisers and I usually shoot on a Nikon D3. When I needed larger files I shoot on Hasselblad, but with the new D3x I can now stick to
Nikon. If the cameras are tethered to a Mac I need an assistant, but usually there’s just no need. Generally, the fewer people flying the better.’ Digital capture, he says, has revolutionised aerial photography. GPS ensures he knows exactly where he was when he took any given shot, meaning he no longer has to take notes on his position (no mean feat when hanging out of a helicopter holding a camera). It’s allowed him to really speed up his work rate, and he estimates he takes five times as
many shots as he did on film. This is important for two reasons – first hiring a helicopter is expensive (about £1200 per hour in London), and second, he needs a lot of images. If he’s shooting a billboard, for example, he needs to provide around 3000 shots in a day. ‘If the ad agency asks you for a very specific shot you have to keep going back, because you’re flying at 60 mph,’ he says. ‘But clients often don’t tell me what to do. We usually keep things pretty fluid – we have a shot list,
but we often abandon it on the day. It just depends on the weather and what you happen to see once you are up.’
Business mind Flying low is more expensive, and you need permission to travel at less than 800ft over London. Fortunately, as Hawkes points out, he has good clients who are able to foot the bill. He’s also savvy about footing the bill for stock shoots – he takes most of his stock images on editorial shoots.
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BRITISH JOURNAL OF PHOTOGRAPHY