The forecast for the day of the Amazon lift was not ideal. It was going to be cold and rainy. Just what you want for photographing something and even better when the helicopter you are most interested in is grey! Oh well, what can you do? Things were scheduled to kick off at 7am so I headed up to Arlington early to be ready.
Naturally, like many things aviation related, it didn’t start on time. I suspect there were other things that they had as part of the plan, but we weren’t privy to that so were just waiting for a helicopter to lift off. It was not very cold, but it was definitely cold enough and damp. I should have dressed warmer and trying to get shots at a low shutter speed when you are shivering is not ideal.
One advantage of a crummy weather day is that you can roll the shutter speed right down and not have silly apertures. That means less need for dust spotting later! On the 100-400, I would have just used a polarizer, but I don’t have one for the 500 so was okay with shooting that at the speeds I wanted to try for.
The Astar was the first to lift. The initial lifts were very slow, but things improved a little as the crews on the roof got into the groove. The Astar was obviously doing the smaller lifts, but it still has significant capabilities and was taking up some big pieces of equipment. Watching it bucking around in the turbulence over the roof as the wind picked up was quite eye opening. I got stills but, since the conditions were not great, I instead went with a bunch of videos. The stills just won’t be that exciting, but video gives you more context.
It was quite a while before the S-61 started up. We had a few false starts when the Astar appeared to land but it was just swapping out lifting lines. Finally, the S-61 got airborne and it started lifting the heavier loads. We had heard that about 50 lifts were planned for the S-61 and 30 for the Astar. After getting some shots and footage, I headed to a few different locations to see whether they had a better angle on things. You never know which bit of the roof will be the site of the next load so a location might be good for a bit and then too far away and obscured. More importantly, I was getting pretty bloody cold. If conditions had been nicer, I would probably have been inclined to hang around a lot longer, but I just couldn’t be bothered. I figured I had enough, and it was time to head home and get warm. I think they extended the NOTAM so things must have taken longer than intended but I was long gone by the time that they finished.