3,000 Feet Above Chicago

An Adventure In The Sky, 3,000 Feet Above Chicago

3,000 Feet Above Chicago.

Chicago, Illinois  •  Elevation: 3,000 Feet

4 years ago I moved from S.C. to Chicago, at the age of 25. It was by far the biggest change of my life. This move not only provided me opportunities to experience its ever changing skyline, but to also experience the change in myself and to discover a passion I always knew was there but never explored fully. The city of Chicago, with its beautiful architecture helped spark a passion that has placed me in some of the most unique situations, with some of the most unique views I have ever seen.

With that said a majority of my day to day now consist of me wondering the city in hopes of finding that perfect shot at that perfect moment. Scaling buildings and climbing to the tops of buildings has satiated that desire and had for a long time but I had often thought what will be my next big goal to reach in my photography of the architectural wonders of the city of Chicago.

I had often thought about the possibility of going up in a helicopter and was sure that it would yield great results but just didn’t have the pocket money to take on a adventure of the sort. Helicopter rides are not necessarily a cheap thing so that was the issue at hand.

Much to my surprise during one of my more recent trips to Washington State I was relaxing at my aunts cabin in the woods cruising the net trying to plan my next big day out and happened to find my photo being used in a promotional spot on Facebook with out my permission.

At first I thought that the Facebook feed was just messing up, but after a quick restart I headed back and sure enough there it was. It was promoting a helicopter company in the city. I sent a message through Facebook asking about the use of the photo and luckily they were very apologetic and assured me that they had no idea that the photo was lifted and in return wanted to take me up in the helicopter.

The Flight.

Chicago, Illinois  •  Elevation: 3,000 Feet

Considering that I was already looking into the ways to get up in a helicopter I agreed right away and set up a day that I would be going up in the helicopter. Naturally the photographer in me wanted to make sure we go up when the light would be perfect so I set up my flight to happen right at dusk. I was a little nervous about the flight considering I had never been in a helicopter before and did not know what to expect from the adventure, nor had I ever shot photos from a moving object of the sort and wasn’t sure what kind of challenges I would face with getting the shot I wanted.

Wanting to be sure I got the best shots possible I not only brought along my gear a “Canon EOS M” with a “Sigma 10-20mm Lens” but additionally rented a “Canon 7D” with a really nice wide angle zoom lens made by “Tamron“. Having all my gear ready I set out to meet with the pilot and talk a bit before we went up. Luckily he was a photographer as well, just not as focused on it as I was but had a ton of valuable information on settings I might want to consider when up in the chopper and shooting.

If you have never been up in a helicopter then I strongly encourage you take a chance at it and go for it. Helicopters all together confuse me and I don’t really get the thrust part and how it keeps the helicopter in the air… but I tried not to freak myself out while up in the air and in all honesty had my face in the view finder almost the whole entire time. We went up at the perfect time, but the light was low and I was worried none of my shots were coming out, but I just kept on shooting in hopes that when we got back on the ground I would find that I got some good ones. We flew all around the downtown area and as I mentioned before the pilot was amazing and would literally put me right next to each building and hover in place for a bit to allow for me to get my shot.

Flying High

Chicago, Illinois  •  Elevation: 3,000 Feet

We flew by Solider Field, and then went up Lakeshore Drive and then made a circle around the Hancock building. After a bit of that we headed north up towards Wriggly Field and made a circle around it as well. Lastly we headed back towards the downtown area. By this time it was almost dark and the city had started to light up and become the vibrant night life that Chicago has. As we approached the Sears Tower for the first time during the flight I had to lower my camera and just take it in for a moment. After I got what I wanted from the moment i raised my camera back up and started taking as many shots from the different angle the pilot was giving me.

He really was such a valuable. asset to have during the experience and its almost as if he knew what spot I was wanting him to be in with out me telling him myself. Coincidentally after we circled the Sears tower the pilot was instructed to head back to Midway Airport to land as air space was starting to become limited. I had just filled both of my memory cards up and was out of space to continue shooting so for the rest of the trip I kinda just sat back and tried to enjoy the experience through my eyes and not the cameras view finder. That was a really interesting part of the trip to me.

At the start the pilot had handed me a head set with a microphone attached to it so that we could communicate during the flight. Additional to being able to talk back and forth during the flight you could hear the pilots communication with flight control back on the ground. Its like the pilot and ground control were speaking a whole new language consisting of long intricate numbers and location references all in order to make sure there were no in air problems with commercial flights coming into the city. I found myself really fascinated by the level of involvement that each factor plays in allowing helicopter flights around the tightly restricted air space of downtown Chicago.

Navy Pier Light Show

3,000 Feet Above Chicago, by Brandon Sharpe

Night Crawler

Chicago, Illinois  •  Elevation: 3,000 Feet

Every so often you are presented with an opportunity in your life that is not only new and exciting, but also a new challenge that takes you outside of a comfort zone. Last night was just that kinda of opportunity.

I can’t thank @nick_ulivieri enough for inviting me and @kbucklandphoto up in a helicopter to try and capture some photos of the beautiful city of Chicago last night.

With the doors off and bundled up to combat the freezing temps, we set out to the loop and had some real fun. The pilot was amazing and @rotorzenhelicoptersdoes it right. At certain points we were doing amazing turns and maneuvers almost directly above some of Chicago’s most known landmarks.

At times it felt like I could reach out and grab one of the antennas of the Sears Tower as we turned towards and around it transferring all those Gs on to us as we dangled out the side of the helicopter.

At one point we did the same over The Hancock building and after taking 2 or 3 shots, I put the camera down for a moment and just yelled at the city as loud as I could. It felt great to release all of that in such an amazing and memorable way. A much needed release and a moment I’ll never forget. #explorechicago


Chicago’s Lighthouse

3,000 Feet Above Chicago, by Brandon Sharpe