Heath Bennett, half of the Chattanooga, Tenn.-based wedding photography duo Jac and Heath Photography, is an absolutely avid film shooter. Recently he shared some work he shot while visiting friends and family in Alaska, much of which was photographed while flying high above the landscape in a helicopter. He was kind enough to sit down for a brief interview and supply the images to us before jetting off to Australia for his and Jac's next adventure.
Bennett and his wife found themselves up in Alaska visiting friends and family in mid-September of 2014. "My mother in law (Janell) lives there part-time with her partner, who is a local. She pushed for the visit after hearing we had a wedding booked in Seattle. A few other family members flew up there from L.A. and we had a week fishing, hiking, and whale watching. It’s amazing having a local’s knowledge, and good luck with the weather helps loads too."
He goes on to describe the previous day's tedious trek. "We had hiked for six hours that day to see the ice caves of Mendenhall Glacier. We took a wrong turn and missed out (weeks later I saw a photo of the ice caves and they are insanely beautiful). It was getting late in the day when we got back, and I mentioned how good the weather was for a helicopter we’d spotted. The family pulled a bunch of strings (another reason knowing a local is awesome) and we took the last ride up of the day. My mother-in-law never let me pay her back, and I have no idea what it cost. It’s one of those families where you always have to fight for the check."
Heath talked a bit about the technical challenges of shooting while in a helicopter. "You have to shoot out of a small open window to bypass the glass, which can restrict framing. Hovering created a lot of vibration, so slow flying was the best trade-off to keep the camera as still as possible. You feel like a god being able to choose exactly where to go with no limitations. It’s the ultimate photographic accessory."
As for the gear, Heath shot with a pocket-sized Leica and a Pentax 67II, neither of which are particularly quick cameras. "The little Leica CL (hybrid Minolta) was used a bit throughout the trip because it’s so easy to stuff into a pocket. It belongs to my wife Jac’s grandfather who bought in new in the early 60s and still uses it. I fed it cheap Fuji 200. The Pentax 67II had more rolls through it. I put about six rolls through it in the 30 minute chopper ride alone; I’ve never loaded it faster or with more adrenaline! Shamefully I only had one roll of 220 left at the time, so I had to load every 10 shots after using that roll. I use Portra exclusively in medium format, a mix of 400 and 160 in this case, 400 being particularly useful to keep the shutter speed high. I kept the 400 for the later moments of the flight when it got darker."
Below are the rest of the images from the trip he shared: