Lifestar helicopter photos

Here’s another series of helicopter photos showing a model BK117 run by Lifestar Chicago making an on-scene pickup of a person injured in a motor vehicle accident. This incident in Elmhurst (IL) involved a semi that rolled over resulting in an extended extrication of the driver. The helicopter landed on a local expressway with a Bensenville fire engine standing by.

As I mentioned in previous posts, I use a single center weighted focus point that stays on the helicopter all the time that I’m looking through the viewfinder.  I use a fast shutter and big aperture for shallow depth of field and keeping the helicopter in focus, but too fast of a shutter speed stops the rotors which isn’t as dramatic.

Lifestar Chicago BK117 medical helicopter landing on a highway
As the helicopter lands on the highway, the powerful rotor wash circulates all types of particles and creates a difficult environment to remain steady while shooting. Larry Shapiro photo

Being able to create an image that tells more of the story is always advantageous. Here I chose a position that filled several aspects of what I wanted to capture. First of all, I was slightly shielded from the rotor wash standing partially behind the engine. More importantly, having the engine in the frame tied the fire department into the record of the incident, and the angle of the squad couldn’t have been better if I’d orchestrated the entire scene. The direction forces the viewer’s eye into the center of the frame where the main subject is. This is amplified further by the turned wheel. In quick succession, I took shots altering the field of view in terms of focus. With the aperture wide open, I shot with the helicopter in focus and then with the fire engine in focus. The second shot highlights the engine for the fire department making it the main subject while showing the dramatic scene behind it out of focus.

BK117 medical helicopter lifts off from a highway
Given the time and access to plan out the shot, I was in position to capture the helicopter lifting off with the engine to one side of the frame. Larry Shapiro photo
BK117 helicopter lifting off
Bracing myself for the strong wind still coming off the rotors, I continued to shoot until the helicopter left the area making a +2/3 exposure adjustment to compensate for the strong backlighting. Larry Shapiro photo