From the Skies to the Lens: Photographing Glasgow's Hospital Helipad

March 14, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

From the Skies to the Lens: Photographing Glasgow's Hospital Helipad

 

First Helicopter lands on New South Glasgow Hospital's Helipad.First Helicopter lands on New South Glasgow Hospital's Helipad.Image by Guy Hinks.Kathryn Simpson, Paramedic Team leader, Andy Rooney, Senior Pilot Scotland Bond Air Service, Dave Philp, Paramedic and Dr Phil Munro Consultant in Emergency Medicine for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.First Helicopter lands on New South Glasgow Hospital's Helipad. See Press Release dated 26 March from the Press Office at NHSGG&C or call Emma Edwards on 01412014429. Fire fighters are from the NHSGG&C Helipad Fire Response Team. Heli-Hi-Jinks by Guy Hinks 

As some of you may know, I'm a skydiver, and as such I am no stranger to heights (and falling therefrom).  

 

And since the mid 1990s I have been throwing myself willingly out of the proverbial "perfectly serviceable aeroplane".

 

thumbnail_GPTempDownloadthumbnail_GPTempDownload

 

Above - me over Skydive Northwest in Cumbria at Sunset.

 

So I was delighted when, a few years back, a very good client of mine contacted me to shoot the very first test-landing on the new Helipad on the multi-million pound flagship NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Hospital: the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.

 

This hospital is visible from the major east/west Motorway in Scotland, the M8, and it always drew my eye. I tried desperately for my focus not to be taken away from the road to the helipad hundreds of feet above ground.....I thought "wouldn't it be interesting to have a look up there.."

 

Then the phone rang.

 

It was my client - "any chance you're free next week to shoot the first helicopter landing on the hospital....?"

 

After about three and half nano-seconds to consider, I replied: "ehhh....yes'. 😀

 

Before I go any further I thought I should take a moment to put things into perspective. Both the Hospital and the Air Crews do a fabulous job in helping those in need: the importance of this service cannot be overstated. I have known, personally, folk who have been airlifted to hospital, so appreciate fully, the professionalism, and skills brought to bear. The emphasis, of course, of this blog is photography, however clearly the main importance of this service is the life changing effect it brings. 

 

Back to the blog. 

 

Fast forward to the day and I was relieved. The weather was decent although a bit cloudy. There was no rain which, in the West of Scotland, is considered "tropical..."

 

This for me was a tremendous privilege - shooting a helicopter landing for the first time on the new helipad which I had been watching for months....(I clearly need to get out more often/find friends 😂)

 

So I thought this would be a good Blog - it's a set of photographs I love going over in a 121 meeting (I hope the other person in the 121 meeting does too 😂) - and its fairly unique! We, as photographers, get an "access all areas" pass to a lot of events and this is something which brings a lot of joy to the job - a privileged, front row, perspective. 

 

It also allows me the opportunity to explain, in brief, some of the thought-process that goes into a photo shoot, from page layout considerations to kit.

 

Photo Limitations and Helicopter Hurdles

 

I was on the roof of the building with a film crew, from the BBC I recall, and another Press Photographer from the Herald and Evening Times.

 

Typically, though, things were not to be straightforward - they rarely are!

 

We were advised that the helicopter:-

 

1. Might not do more than touch down, then go: and

2. If it shuts down the crew probably won't leave the aircraft; and

3. If the crew leaves the aircraft, they won't pose; and

4. We had to remain, for Health and Safety, at the bottom of a ramp; so a fair distance away from the landing area. 

 

Oh and on top of that the view was South facing, in other words into the sun: not good.

 

And despite all the foregoing I was to capture pictures that would pass muster with the Picture Editor of a decent paper......😂.

 

So I bagged what I could before the helicopter was approaching. I had, after all, no idea what I was going to get. Or how the weather might change. Or if the aircraft required to be diverted to a live call-out. 

 

I spoke to the Fire Crew and invited them to pose for me. They were awesome - helping out and getting right into the spirit of it.

 

I wanted to show off the height of the building so I walked onto the helipad and demonstrated to the Fire Crew how I wanted them to stand. Then I moved back to my position and shot away.

 

This is a good point to introduce a bit of photographers' thinking during a shoot.

 

I had no idea what space or style a Picture Editor would want so the key is to offer choice of photographs - so with that in mind I shot a variety of images and here are three options from the one "pic" to illustrate this service.

 

The first below is a horizontal format picture (in case that's the space that's free for a photo in the layout of the paper) and I have quite a bit of space on the left of the photo for, say, some words/copy/logo. The background of the image is slightly blurred out to emphasise the firefighter and the isolation.

 

First Helicopter lands on New South Glasgow Hospital's Helipad.First Helicopter lands on New South Glasgow Hospital's Helipad.Image by Guy Hinks.First Helicopter lands on New South Glasgow Hospital's Helipad. See Press Release dated 26 March from the Press Office at NHSGG&C or call Emma Edwards on 01412014429. Fire fighters are from the NHSGG&C Helipad Fire Response Team.

 

Then you will see, below, I have zoomed in closer. Maybe the Picture Editor prefers this? Who knows. There is less background distraction. And I have been able to blur out the background more. 

 

First Helicopter lands on New South Glasgow Hospital's Helipad.First Helicopter lands on New South Glasgow Hospital's Helipad.Image by Guy Hinks.First Helicopter lands on New South Glasgow Hospital's Helipad. See Press Release dated 26 March from the Press Office at NHSGG&C or call Emma Edwards on 01412014429. Fire fighters are from the NHSGG&C Helipad Fire Response Team.

 

The blur is a deliberate choice - to achieve that you choose a wide Aperture (maybe f2.8 or 4) and the more you zoom in, the more exaggerated the blurred effect becomes. You want to leave some info in the background - so no overkill with the blur.


And below, a vertical picture was provided which reveals more of a suggestion of height. I asked the firefighter to look down so that he draws the viewers eyes down too. 

Again the thinking here is page layout - maybe this is the only space that the paper has available; and you don't want barriers getting in the way of your client's images being used. 

 

First Helicopter lands on New South Glasgow Hospital's Helipad.First Helicopter lands on New South Glasgow Hospital's Helipad.Image by Guy Hinks.First Helicopter lands on New South Glasgow Hospital's Helipad. See Press Release dated 26 March from the Press Office at NHSGG&C or call Emma Edwards on 01412014429. Fire fighters are from the NHSGG&C Helipad Fire Response Team.

 

I also had the firefighters walk towards me, at an angle, as if casually leaving the helipad. See below. 

 

First Helicopter lands on New South Glasgow Hospital's Helipad.First Helicopter lands on New South Glasgow Hospital's Helipad.Image by Guy Hinks.First Helicopter lands on New South Glasgow Hospital's Helipad. See Press Release dated 26 March from the Press Office at NHSGG&C or call Emma Edwards on 01412014429. Fire fighters are from the NHSGG&C Helipad Fire Response Team.

In summary,  knowledge of your equipment (and kit selection) is key in a dynamic, fast-moving environment like this; you can't faff about! 😁
 

So thats a bit of an explanation of what might go on in a PR, or indeed, any shoot - leaving the client with options. And shooting what they need, not what yo want (although sometimes you can achieve both..✅)

A Bit about Photo Kit 

I had two cameras in use - one with a zoom lens and one with a wide angled lens; so I could crop in tight with one camera, and get a wider view with the other. Both memory cards were empty and the batteries fully charged. 

Each camera has two memory card slots, recording the same image twice: I set one to save RAW images (the purest form, but heavy in terms of space and processing time) as my main image - and as a backup, a large JPG. 

This is the lens that was used. Its a Canon 70-200 lens - with an aperture of 2.8 (very good for blurring background as discussed above) and is an L-Series lens, so its the Canon Pro-Series top of the range lens. If my client is paying to achieve the best, these details count. 
 

IMG_4283IMG_4283

Then as I mentioned I had to contend with fairly strong light coming straight into the lens - so I used the Neutral Density Grad Filter (a Lee filter - again, top notch stuff - when clean 😂) on the front of the wide angled lens.

 

You can see the filter below - and you can notice the difference - in strong sunlight it will not look so grey - it will generally balance the pic to what the eye sees. 

IMG_4286IMG_4286

Finally I used off-camera Flash. This is where a flash is positioned away from (and separate to) the camera: not on top of it, which is easier but produces a flat, dull outcome. The off-camera flash is triggered remotely and requires more knowledge of light control than the on-camera (very often set on automatic) option.

Here I was using a Canon Flash, on a tripod, to the right of the medic (see photo below of the Medic with a red tunic on) to create shadows and combat the heavy backlighting. 

The Eagle has Landed

The helicopter approached, hovered then landed and shut down - all good - we at least had time to shoot-off some frames.

Then the crew came round to meet the Head of Emergency Medicine of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

As I suspected (who wouldn't want to be shot on top of a building in front of a huge flying machine?) despite our advice to the contrary, the crew stood there for about 5 minutes, taking instructions from me and the other photographer.....😂 You can see that photo at the top of the blog ⬆️

Then it departed and I shot some portraits from the helipad, to show off the location, of the medic mentioned above and a few more posed shots with the Fire Crew. 

 

First Helicopter lands on New South Glasgow Hospital's Helipad.First Helicopter lands on New South Glasgow Hospital's Helipad.Image by Guy Hinks.First Helicopter lands on New South Glasgow Hospital's Helipad. See Press Release dated 26 March from the Press Office at NHSGG&C or call Emma Edwards on 01412014429. Fire fighters are from the NHSGG&C Helipad Fire Response Team.

Loved the lines and sheen here - a dynamic pic with few colours but plenty of lines, light and shade. 

 

First Helicopter lands on New South Glasgow Hospital's Helipad.First Helicopter lands on New South Glasgow Hospital's Helipad.Image by Guy Hinks. Dr Phil Munro Consultant in Emergency Medicine for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.First Helicopter lands on New South Glasgow Hospital's Helipad. See Press Release dated 26 March from the Press Office at NHSGG&C or call Emma Edwards on 01412014429. Fire fighters are from the NHSGG&C Helipad Fire Response Team.

Off-Camera flash used here to fill in the shadow on his face (the sun/dominant light was coming over his shoulder) 

How the Pictures were used in the Press...

 

heli daily record nhs _1HINKSHELI NHS FINALheli daily record nhs _1HINKSHELI NHS FINAL6.3.24 GOLDEN CHARTER

It was an interesting and enjoyable morning out - a lot of fun and there was awesome coverage the next day in the press; so my PR job was well done.

 

Meantime bringing things up to date I have continued my love of all things aerial by shooting video and stills whilst skydiving.

 

I have had many images published in the British Skydiving Magazine and in this year's calendar - and am delighted always to see them being used. 

 

I am pleased, also, to reveal that I received a Bronze Award in the British Institute of Professional Photography's January 2024 Round of the Photographer of the Year Competition with this skydive entry, shot in Seville, Spain in early 2024. 

IMG_3868IMG_3868

 

So if you happen to have a helicopter landing on a new helipad (or indeed perhaps simply your own helicopter that you want photographed 😂) or for that matter know anyone in the airline industry, please pass this on. 

 

And it cannot be overstated the importance what these Crews do, in saving lives, and helping those in need - they fly in all weathers, landing where they can find a slot 'on the hoof" - really skilful people - thank-you. 

 

Thanks also for reading my blog and if you liked it, please have a look at my other blogs

 

And please, if we are not already connected on Linkedin, drop me an invite. 

 

I am an Award-Winning Photographer based in the West of Scotland covering Headshots and all Commercial Imagery - contact me  to have an informal chat on what you may be considering. 

 

Comment below any thoughts you have too and feedback on the blog is always welcome. 

 

Thank-You! 

 

Guy

www.guyhinks.com

 

GUY HINKS HEADSHOT CARK WEEK 2022 CARD 2 5GUY HINKS HEADSHOT CARK WEEK 2022 CARD 2 5DCIM\100GOPRO\G0012860.JPG

 

Me, after a jump at Skydive Northwest. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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