This Aerial Video of a "Typical" San Francisco Morning is Anything But

Toby Harriman, founder of the creative collective Planet Unicorn and good friend of mine, just finished a beautiful aerial video featuring my hometown, San Francisco. In just two, one hour flights, Toby was able to masterfully capture the beautiful pink sunrise and signature San Francisco fog out the door of a helicopter. It reminds me how much I love this city.

Toby took to the skies using his Canon 6D and a Kenyon Gyro rented from LensRentals, my personal go-to handheld gyro for helicopter shots. Though not well known outside of the helicopter shooter world, the Kenyon gyro is possibly the best hand-held stabilizer for tight situations without a lot of wiggle room. It helps keep your hand steady for shots you likely won't get a second chance to nail.

I was on a real estate job getting stills, but the weather was so spectacular that I had to finally shoot video for once.

Looking at the video, you would be hard pressed to tell that Toby primarily shoot stills. "Because I don't shoot much video, I think just keeping my hand steady [was the most difficult part]. Especially using a gyro for the first time, the added weight added a little learning curve. Trying to get the shots smooth with no bumps.... There are definitely some shots I would want to re-shoot and get down, but with conditions like I got, I dont think I would be able to see the exact same situation more than once."

That's the tough part about putting together shoots like this. You're at the mercy of the weather and the helicopter avilability. There are a lot of variables, so often if you miss a shot the first time... well, you miss the shot. Having shot out of a helicopter myself, keeping shots steady even with a gyro is incredibly difficult. You're fighting wind, momentum, the counterbalance of the gyro and the continually moving helicopter all while trying to maintain smooth footage of whatever subject you decide to lock on to. The fact that Toby managed to get this kind of excellent footage his first attempt doing video from a helicopter is nothing short of phenominal. 

Video like this, as well as some of the amazing stills Toby managed to capture, is impossible to reproduce using the ubiquitous quadcopter. The shots can be better framed from higher angles over greater distances than could ever be achieved using something like a DJI Phantom and a GoPro. For me, the jump in quality is night and day here. 


To see more of Toby's work, check out his website. For more great projects from timlapsers, filmmakers and photographers, make sure you check out Planet Unicorn

All images used with permission.

Jaron Schneider's picture

Jaron Schneider is an Fstoppers Contributor and an internationally published writer and cinematographer from San Francisco, California. His clients include Maurice Lacroix, HD Supply, SmugMug, the USAF Thunderbirds and a host of industry professionals.

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I'm glad this wasn't drone footage - I think they're cool but I'm really afraid of the day when amateurs will be flying drones around without any regard to the safety of the people below (never mind the noise).

That said - I thought these shots were beautiful!

Already quickly becoming the case...

Amateurs with no understanding of commercial or general aviation rules are already a problem. Let alone piloting skills. Computers fail and when they do you have to fly them manually.

There just seems to be a lack of common sense these days with multirotor use. I love flying and want everyone to enjoy that as well but within the safety limits with your fellow blue dot denizens.

Very Cool TOBY!!!!!!

Just beautiful! I agree, that is incredibly impressive for a first time shooting video in a helicopter. The stills are phenomenal too.