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“Connecting With…. ” Jason Hawkes Aerial Photographer & Photo Library

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Name: Jason Hawkes
Photo Library: Jason Hawkes Aerial Photography
Position: Owner
Location: Oxfordshire
Jason has specialized in aerial photography since 1991, is based just outside London in the UK, and works worldwide. He has produced over 35 aerial photographic books for publishers such as the BBC, Random House and Harper Collins. Jason’s clients include brands such as Nike, HSBC, NatWest, Ford, American Airlines, Rolex, Toyota, Smirnoff, Mitsubishi and BP.
Jason has a catalogue of over 100,000 images by location or generic keywords available as RM stock.

Introduce your photo library in one sentence.
Aerial library, shot over the last 20 years encompassing 1000’s of graphic generic aerial views.

When did you start in the picture library business?
Back in 1996, everything was on film and nobody even had email.
What were you doing before that?
I had been working as an aerial photographer since 1991.
What stock are you shooting this month?
I’ve shot images over London, and more graphic work particularly concentrating on roads.
How much free time do you get to shoot stock?
I shoot around 2 – 5 books per year and whilst working on these shoot an awful lot of stock, so I suppose 40% of my flying will be for stock.
What’s the next commission shoot?
I’ve just finished a quote for a lot of work in Germany, so hoping that will be signed off shortly.
How many full time picture people work on your library?
Just one other person who will spend most of their time captioning.
Are you the only contributing photographer to the library?
Yes. I used to have a few others, but it’s very difficult to get work of a high calibre. I can only think of five other aerial photographers whose work I like, and they are all signed with Getty / Corbis.
How do you prepare for a day’s aerial stock shoot?
As little as possible. The images I find work the best, and can sell again and again tend to be views you just happen to come across. So I’d rather just go flying around an interesting area with as little flight planning as possible and just see what we can find. Its the most expensive way to work, but it gets the best results.
What is the cost to rent a helicopter and pilot for a London night shoot?
I use the Eurocopter AS355. Its around &pound1200 an hour and you have to take into account positioning time to get into and out of the city which is around 20 minutes, assuming you don’t get held up by air traffic.
How long are you in the air?
Over London it’s between 1.5 and 2.5 hours, out of the cities you are looking at around 4 hours in a normal day.
Do you use a fixed camera attached to the aircraft or are you shooting ‘free’?
I have a range of mounts when shooting at night, some are fixed some are hand held. In the daytime everything is hand held. You shoot out of the side of the helicopter having removed the door. Obviously you are wearing a harness, and headset to talk to the pilot. On the camera I have various GPS units and sometimes shoot tethered to a MacBook Pro. What with the noise and vibration, and also using mounts at night its not the easiest environment to shoot from, but its great fun and the views you sometimes see are breathtaking.
What camera format and lens are best for shooting an aerial city scape at night?
I only use Nikon. I shoot with the D3, D3X and D3S. Lens wise either a 14-24 or a 70-200 mm. The Nikon equipment is fantastic. I recently shot a book of New York at night entirely on the D3S which has the most amazing low light capability.
Does the ad agency creative or client accompany you in the helicopter on a commission shoot?
Most of the ad work I’ve done in the last six months has been from stock, which whilst its great for my bank balance, if I was honest I’d rather shoot it from scratch. I’d say about 50% of the time the art director will come on the flight and pretty much everyone Ive taken up has loved it. Although there was one art director who sat right on the side seat with no door attached who was obviously not enjoying the ride.
Any scary moments?
I had a very very near miss in South Carolina a few years back. We were on finals to land at a tiny aerodrome when a light aircraft came within 40 feet. He was not even aware he was flying in restricted space and never even saw us, it was quite hairy.
Do you use general stock shots for your books?
I had my first book published back in 1992 when I was in my early twenties and all but a couple have been commissioned and shot from scratch.
How many books have you published?
It’s around 40.
Any more books planned?
I’ve got a couple of ideas but nothing signed off at the moment.
Describe the first hour of a typical day in the office.
Make double expresso on my Delonghi coffee machine ( best &pound500 you can spend in my opinion ), read photo blogs, reply to a few of emails.
How involved are you in every day stock picture sales decisions?
Very involved in everything. My library only has my work in nowadays, and I try to get in touch with every art buyer, designer that signs up to my site offering to help in the searches and sending them any new work that we have not got online yet.
Are you scanning anything at the moment?
My poor Imacon scanner gets very little use these days.
Which picture library web site has caught your eye recently?
Its not a library as such as software. I’m thinking about changing the back end software of my library. I used to run it with Digital Railroad who had a great service. Unfortunately for 1000’s of very small stock libraries they decided to change their business model and compete with Getty. Within a year or so they went under. I had my own software written but am now looking at Photoshelter and a new service still in Beta called Photodeck.
Which newspapers and magazines do you subscribe to?
I read the Guardian, Times, Macuser and the fantastic new BJP in print.
What are you doing when you are not thinking about aerial images?
I spend most of my free time shouting at my three children, or so they tell me.
Best shoot to date?
I did some really interesting branding work for Hydro about five years ago. Very open brief and amazing locations.
Dream shoot location?
I’m still hoping to get to Dubai.
Cinema or Pub?
Ideal Sunday afternoon?
Just hanging out with my family and a few friends, ideally in the sunshine.
What one piece of advice would you give to a budding aerial photographer?
Flying is expensive, there is no getting around it. The cheapest flying you can do is in a microlight, that’s how I started. So join a local microlight club.
Jason is a Photo Archive News subscriber
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