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Photograph Kauai from a Helicopter

Lihue, Hawaii


Added by Alyssa Gregory

Over 80% of Kauai is inaccessible by road, so a helicopter tour is an incredible way to see the Garden Isle in a way you never otherwise would.

There are a lot of different companies offering helicopter tours of Kauai and the other Hawaiian islands. We settled on Safari Helicopters which I fully recommend, but I also looked into Blue Hawaiian, Jack Harter, Mauna Loa Helicopter Tours, Island Helicopters, and Sunshine Helicopters. Some of these companies (and others) also offer doors-off helicopter tours for better photographic opportunities. Flight time is usually about 1 hour, however some companies offer longer tours that will drop you off in special places (like at Jurassic Falls).

We did a doors-on tour and paid a little extra to sit in the front seat so that we would have unobstructed views. I contacted Blue Hawaiian, Island Helicopters, and Safari Helicopters about reserving the front seat, and Safari was the only company that would let me reserve it, which was why I picked them. After riding in the helicopter, I am very glad we did this - The people in the back were able to see and the pilot did a good job of rotating the helicopter so everyone could get the important views, however I'm sure that our heads were in all of their pictures as they were not much higher up than us, and even I was getting edges of the windows in my shots from the front seat. They didn't seem to mind as they were mostly just capturing the view with their eyes. Also FYI, they won't let you bring anything that doesn't fit in your pockets on the helicopter, so you'll be leaving most things in the car except for your keys, camera/phone, and maybe your wallet.

If you are nervous about riding in a helicopter, don't be - I was nervous and took a Dramamine beforehand, however it was even smoother than driving in a car and I never felt sick. Our pilot, Paka, was former military and a true professional. Most of the time I couldn't even feel that we were moving; it felt like I was just watching a movie on the glass in front of me. Of course, the Jurassic Park-esque music playing through the headphones may have added to this illusion :) We were very happy with our flight and will definitely return next time we're in Kauai!

Tips for photographing from a helicopter:

-Wear dark clothes (navy or black) with NO logos or writing of any kind on them. Your idea outfit is a plain long-sleeved black shirt and plain black pants, but it's warm so a plain black/navy t-shirt and shorts work too. This will minimize reflections in the glass.

-Get a circular polarizing filter for your lens that you'll use on the flight. This is invaluable as it will greatly reduce the reflections coming off the glass. Once you get into the helicopter and get your seat belts and headsets on, look through your camera and rotate your polarizing filter until the reflections mostly disappear. Live the filter int his position for the whole flight. However, note that if you go to take a photo vertically, the filter will be in the wrong position, so try to stick to shooting in one orientation.

-Set your settings beforehand and don't tinker with them in flight. You don't want to miss a shot or miss seeing something because you're adjusting your aperture.

-Don't touch your lens to the glass - The vibrations will cause your photos to come out blurry.

-This is somewhat personal preference, but I used a wide-angle lens so that I could get as much as possible into all of my shots. You won't want to shoot with too much zoom anyway as your photos will come out blurry if you zoom in too far since you're in a moving helicopter.

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