Gotham 7.5K: A Rare High Altitude Night Flight Above NYC -

By: Vincent Laforet |

A Rare High Altitude Night Flight Above NYC

Imagine leaning out of an open door of a helicopter 7,500 feet over New York City on a very dark and chilly night...

And seeing this:

It is both exhilarating and terrifying all at once...

Let's just start off by saying this was the scariest helicopter "photo mission" of my career...

And the most beautiful

I've flown on "aerial missions" over The Big Apple more than 50 times over the past decade and a half, and I've flown several hundred hours of photo flights around the world... And this was by far the most frightening flight of all.

And nothing "eventful" whatsoever happened.

My cameras & I were safely harnessed in at all times. The pilot was top notch. The wind was ... Well it was a factor.

But the real scary part was that there's just simply nothing quite like leaning out of that chopper over the sea of darkness and light, held in only by a full body harness...There is no chance that you will fall - the harness is tried and true. But you DO think about the fall.

And you think about it again ... And again ... And how long you would have to think things over from that height all the way down to the ground below.

And then you start to think about the helicopter, and how it's not exactly the most aerodynamically stable aircraft up there in the first place .... But I digress.

Back to the Pictures! (That's what I kept telling myself in case you were wondering...)

I was recently on assignment for Men's Health Magazine and I proposed shooting the city from an unusually high altitude so that we could capture the lines that are formed by the streets of New York at night. It was an article about psychology and I've always thought that from a high altitude the streets looked like brain "synapses" - at least to me.

These are pictures I've wanted to make since I was in my teens, but the cameras simply have not been capable of capturing aerial images from a helicopter at night until very recently.

Helicopters vibrate pretty significantly and you have to be able to shoot at a relatively high shutter speed (even with tools like a gyroscope) and that makes it incredibly difficult to shoot post sunset.

Armed with cameras such as the Canon 1DX and the Mamiya Leaf Credo 50 MP back- both capable of shooting relatively clean files at 3200 & 6400 ISO and a series of f2.8 to f1.2 lenses including a few tilt-shift lenses (see image above.)

I was finally able to capture some of the images that I've dreamed of capturing for decades.

The complexity of this city is even more impressive from above than it is from closeup on the ground as your can truly appreciate its incredible scale.


Ultimately this is a flight I will never forget. These are some of the most unique images that I have ever photographed of New York City in nearly two decades... And I'm not sure if, and, or when I'll ever go back up that high above Gotham...

To see more of these and other images please visit:


News: 01.20.2015