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Tag Archives: Helicopter


So I get a call…  “Need you to shoot the SABLE unit tomorrow, the original photog had to cancel due to emergency.”  SABLE stands for  Southeastern NC Airborne Law Enforcement, it’s primary purpose is to support and increase the effectiveness of officers in the field through aerial observation and communication.  The SABLE program is a multi-agency effort, shared between the Wilmington Police Department, New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office, Leland Police Department, and the Pender County Sheriff Department.

At first I was plenty excited, I mean who doesn’t want to photograph helicopters… but that feeling soon waned.  They wanted a group shot and some aerials for submission to a law enforcement magazine.  The problem was, they had scheduled the shoot for 4:30 in the afternoon… in June.  Midday sun is not a photographer’s friend,  nor mid-ninety temps in the humidity of southeastern North Carolina for that matter.

With such short notice, I didn’t have a chance to scout the location until a couple of hours before the scheduled start time.  Fortunately, there was plenty of space inside the hangar… while I was not able to exert influence over the shoot time; I now had a location where I had total control of the light.

The copter is stored on wheeled dollies, which makes it easy to position. So rather than have the crew outdoors squinting into the harsh sun, I positioned them inside where I could use strobes and control the look.  The officers arrived thinking someone with a camera would be taking a few snapshots, so its safe to say they weren’t highly enthused from the start.  But once they saw the setup and the first images out of the camera, they suddenly had a change of attitude and were rushing to a mirror to primp themselves!


As I mentioned, the purpose of the shoot was to generate publicity for the program and show off the thermal imaging camera (FLIR). So after shooting the group and individuals, the pilots took to the air for some working shots.


The SABLE program actually has two helicopters – Army Bell OH-58C Kiowas. Both aircraft were acquired through the Government 1033 Program, at no cost to the City. This program allows agencies whose primary function is law enforcement to acquire surplus military equipment.


Here you get a good view of the advanced Multi-mission FLIR Ultra 8500 forward looking infrared camera and the Nightsun SX16 Searchlight.  The lieutenant in charge of the unit was extremely pleased with the images and I scored a couple of free rides in the copter.   More creative shoots are planned for the future.