Jon wanted to get out of the city and relax on a beach somewhere for his 30th birthday. Having been to Kauai just two years ago and having fallen in love the island, we decided that going back to relive the experience would be a great way to unwind and celebrate. We stayed at the same resort, ate much of the same food, and drank the same lava flows. It was certainly more of a relaxing trip than a photo excursion. It was comfortable, familiar, and awesome. That said, I did sneak in something we had never done before that happened to also be a unique picture-taking opportunity: a helicopter tour! The hour-long, doors-off adventure was an exhilarating surprise for Jon's birthday. I went in having done a lot of research on the best lens to take and camera settings to use in order to come back with the best images.
In terms of camera equipment, I took my D600, 16-35mm f/4, 24-120mm f/4, 70-200mm f/2.8, and 2x teleconverter. I brought a tripod to get sunrise photos on the beach but ended up leaving a critical part at home by accident (oops!), so I had to settle with high ISO and vibration reduction when I was out before the sun was up. In the helicopter, I used the 16-35 with a polarizer. Most shots were all the way out to 16mm and I kept the shutter speed at 1/1000th to reduce blur due to the helicopter motion. ISOs were high, but the images from the full frame D600 still had a lot of detail and relatively low noise. Our unforgettable tour was chartered by Jack Harter Helicopter in Lihue.
See my blog post for more tips on shooting from a helicopter.