Third time we pay a visit to Zermatt, I definitely love this area. In two days I could pack a bike tour, an helicopter tour and a small hike.

On the photography side, I spent a ridiculous amount of time deciding which lens to carry and ended using a sony a7c with the kit lens (28-60mm) all the time. Conclusion; I own too many lenses.

Taking pictures from an helicopter

Some notes for those planning to take pictures from an helicopter. Use a standard zoom lens, like a 24-70mm. I had a 28-60mm and would have liked a slightly wider lens, I guess 24mm would do. No need for ultra wide zoom, like 16-35mm. Most of the landscapes, in my case mountains, are far away and most likely than not, the inside of the helicopter will be in the frame with a UWA. Even with a 28mm, I had to keep the camera as close as possible to the windows. No need for a telephoto (70-200mm) either. There is little to no time to frame and compose for narrow compositions. Changing lenses is not an option and carrying two cameras is a no go, as there is very little space within an helicopter (unless it’s a dedicated flight for photoshooting). Also, a fast lens, the better.

On a helicopter, it’s impossible to stay steady, framing and composition are difficult because the helicopter is (obviously) not only moving but also leaning one side or the other, rendering the horizon everything but horizontal. Using the camera electronic level is really helpful.

Use a very high shutter speed, less all the pictures be blurry. It’s an advice I learned from Yann Arthus Bertrand, a famous French photograph (“La Terre vu du Ciel”). He explained that high shutter speeds (above 1/1000s) where necessary to avoid blur while shooting from an helicopter or plane. Of course, the higher the shutter speed, the higher the ISO. That is why a fast lens (2.8 will do) is recommanded, because most likely than not, you’ll be shooting wide open to keep the ISO low.

Also, use a polarized filter with caution. I used one as it was very cloudy and I wanted to get as much contrast as I could. But that slowed the shutter speed (or increased the ISO). On a sunny day, high in the mountains, the contrast is already harsh, specially when there is snow. Also, it’s impossible to fine tune the polarized filter during the flight. Keep in mind that you’ll be shooting through a window which already blocks some of the light.

And last but not least: have your camera ready before the flight. You won’t have time fiddling with the settings while on flight (or you’ll miss a lot of the landscape). As I also wanted to take a video of the flight, I had someone else handling the gopro, which was ready to record as well.

Day 1

Only sunny day out of the three.

A bike ride only to discover this gorgerous scenery.
I didn’t trust the rental bike at all, thus I remained on easy roads.
I would have spent the night here, if not the family waiting.

Day 2

Bad weather was forcast. We booked the helicopter ride for the morning but it was already very cloudy.

Hiking part of the day

And the video (private link):