Mike Kelley's BTS Episode 3: How to Photograph From a Helicopter

The third episode of Mike Kelley's Behind the Scenes series from his architectural tutorial is now live. In this episode, Mike shows you how you can turn an overcast day into a sunny afternoon, how to photograph a resort from a helicopter, and also teaches you an effective way to make a hotel lobby look more inviting. You can also watch as the Fstoppers crew goes night diving with massive manta rays off the coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. 

In the previous episodes from Where Art Meets Architecture III's behind the scenes series, Mike has been sharing everything he knows about shooting hotel rooms, conference centers, out door amenities, and on-site restaurants. In this episode Mike, tackles two of the more difficult photographs most resort clients need: the aerial photograph and an image of the lobby. In many cases the aerial photograph can be accomplished by using a small drone like the DJI Phantom, but since drones are banned from this particular resort, Mike had to book a helicopter in order to capture the beautiful Mauna Lani Resort from the sky. If you follow Mike Kelly's Instagram then you know he is a huge aviation fanatic, and has even published a book on aerials over Los Angels. Needless to say, it was an unbelievable experience to fly up the western coast of the Big Island of Hawaii and watch Mike direct the pilot to each of the pre planned shots of the resort. The before and after shots below aren't as crazy as most of Mike's composite work, but the planning required to get up in the air at the perfect time of day with favorable weather is an art in and of itself. 

One of the more dramatic images Mike teaches in this tutorial is how to make a gray, overcast sky look like a beautiful warm sunset. This lesson was taught using an expensive luxury private bungalow just north of the main resort. Not only did Mike have to work through a horizontal tilt shift stitch for this image to work, he also had to artificially create warm sunlight streaming through the bedroom's sliding doors. By placing a Profoto D1 light outside and directly in frame, Mike was able to replicate the soft orange light that a setting sun would cast into the room. With a few interior bounce lights acting as fill and some subtle light painting. This final bungalow image turned out to be one of my favorite images from the entire tutorial. 

Another tricky shot Mike always has to shoot for resorts is the hotel lobby. This image can be extremely difficult because so many guests are checking in and departing throughout the day. Also, unlike many of the bedroom and suite photos, the lobby usually benefits from the human element so it's important to have staff on hand to capture the friendly hospitality you will receive during check in. Even though this photograph wasn't the most technically challenging image from the tutorial, it did prove to be fairly time consuming. 

This episode marks the completion of the Mauna Lani Resort section of this tutorial, but before we left the Big Island of Hawaii, we decided to explore under the sea with an amazing manta ray night feed excursion. If you ever find yourself in Hawaii, I can't recommend the manta ray dive or the dolphin swim excursion enough. It's absolutely amazing to see these creatures in their natural habitat and all in all they were two of the coolest experiences I have ever had in and on the water. 

Enjoy these behind the scenes episodes?  Make sure you subscribe to the Fstoppers YouTube Channel and follow Mike's BTS Playlist Here for future episodes. 

For more information about this entire tutorial and to learn all of Mike Kelley's photography techniques, check out the promo video below. This tutorial is the third installment of Where Art Meets Architecture and this educational series specifically focuses on how to photograph hotels, resorts, and the business of architectural photography. If you are interested in learning more about Mike's real estate photography or how to photograph for architectural clients, check out Mike's other photography tutorials found in the Fstoppers Store.

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Ben Bezuidenhout's picture

The main thing is to hold on tight.

Patrick Hall's picture

Whoops! I've been doing it wrong the whole time! https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=vJtf7R_oVaw