Glen Coates | Photographer
The challenges of taking aerial panoramas
“For most people, buzzing around in a helicopter is an exciting prospect, but from a photographer’s perspective, it can be a rather hair-raising experience. For a starter there is no door on the chopper and it’s usually freezing cold because the clearest conditions are early morning after a frost when the air is cold and dry. Once up there the strong down-draft adds to the chill. It may be 10 or 20 minutes to your desired location. Then, as you search for the perfect position it’s costing you $20.00 a minute. Before long you can’t feel your fingers on the camera and it’s as noisy as hell. When it comes to taking your shot(s) it’s seat-of-the-pants stuff on a moving platform - the pilot holds the craft in a hover as you guide him through a slow half-rotation. With a little luck you manage to press the shutter at exactly the right moments.
Once back on the ground you still don’t know if you got the shot. It’s not so bad now with digital cameras because you can check the frames and there’s no limit to how many you take. But in the days of film it wasn’t much fun if you ran out of loaded film-backs and had to thread a new spool in the chopper.
But I have to say, it was quite a buzz on those occasions when you did get the shot and you saw it for the first time stitched to perfection!”
The journey in brief and the significance of "Kahu"
In my younger days I was always captivated by panoramic images that took in the horizon just beyond the peripheral vision of the human eye. In the early 1990s, before the advent of the panoramic camera, I began learning to capture that effect on film. The first images were published in card and poster form through our new business Kahu Publishing.
Back then in 1993 our home was in Kahu Road, Christchurch. When we learned that "Kahu" was Maori for the Harrier Hawk we quickly took "Kahu" as a distinctive name and logo for our publishing company. A bird that can soar effortlessly on rising air was an inspiring symbol, and the hawk’s superb vision from high in the sky had a certain parallel with our own quest to capture detail on film from high ground. As fate would have it, eventually I took to the air myself, taking my panoramas from helicopter. It seemed the best way to get the views I was looking for and it turned out to be a breakthrough. My photography went in a whole new direction. It was some time later I suddenly realised the symbolism of the Kahu was now complete.
Today my portfolio of high-resolution panoramas includes most of the national parks and many popular destinations around NZ. It has been rewarding to see the longevity of my images and the wide range of products that appeal to Kiwis and visitors alike. It has also been very exciting to see some of my 150MB images printed at super large sizes, up to 7 metres in length.