How to get amazing photos out of your Queenstown Heli Wedding

So, you’re thinking about doing a Queenstown Heli Wedding, or even Heli Photo Flight on your wedding day?  But you know absolutely nothing about helicopters and how this whole Heli Wedding thing works.  If I’m right, read on.  If not…well, maybe go and search for cute kitten videos on Youtube or something .

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HOW DOES THIS WHOLE HELI WEDDING THING WORK?

Helicopters can fly in pretty bad weather but if it’s a Heli Wedding or Wedding Heli Photo Flight and the weather is pretty rough the helicopter company may recommend that you cancel or postpone/bring forward your flight.

Usually the helicopter company will take your credit card details as a deposit on your booking, however because the flight is weather dependent if you are unable to fly on your wedding day they will give you a full refund.  Note: if you change your mind about the heli flight and cancel at short notice you may be liable to pay some/all of the heli costs.  Check the cancellation/refund policy with whichever helicopter company you choose.

The two most popular types of helicopters in Queenstown are Squirrels and Robinson R44s or similar.  The Squirrels seat 6 plus pilot, the smaller machines typically seat 4 plust the pilot.  The costs vary based on the size of the machine so you can save yourself some $ by booking the smaller machine if you don’t need to fit a bridal party in it. Remember, you need 2 witnesses if you are planning a heli wedding but the photographer and pilot can act as witnesses if you have no guests.

The two most popular locations for heli wedding ceremonies in Queenstown are Remarkable’s Ridge and The Ledge on Cecil Peak.  They are the most popular because they offer stunning views and are also both a very short flight time from Queenstown airport (where all the helicopter companies are based).  The Ledge is one particular spot on Cecil Peak that is hugely popular so if you want photos that are unique or at least a bit different consider asking your pilot to land on a different part of Cecil Peak or fly to a completely different mountain.  In winter the Remarkables Ridge is more likely to have snow on it than The Ledge, but there is no guarantee of a snow landing at either.  To 100% guarantee a snow landing most heli companies will recommend landing on a glacier.  Which means a longer flight time which means higher helicopter expenses.

 

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SO HOW DOES THIS WHOLE HELICOPTER THING WORK?

  • Helicopters can fly in pretty bad weather but if it’s a Heli Wedding or Wedding Heli Photo Flight and the weather is pretty rough the helicopter company will most likely recommend that you cancel or postpone/bring forward your flight.
  • Usually the helicopter company will take your credit card details as a deposit on your booking, however because the flight is weather dependent if you are unable to fly on your wedding day they will give you a full refund.  Note: if you change your mind about the heli flight and cancel at short notice yoy may be liable to pay some/all of the heli costs.
  • The two most popular types of helicopters in Queenstown are Squirrels and Robinson R44s or similar.  The Squirrels seat 6 plus pilot, the smaller machines typically seat 4 plust the pilot.  The costs vary based on the size of the machine so you can save yourself some $ by booking the smaller machine if you don’t need to fit a bridal party in it. Remember you need 2 witnesses if you are planning a heli wedding.  But the photographer and pilot can act as witnesses if you have no guests.
  • The two most popular locations for wedding ceremonies in Queenstown are Remarkable’s Ridge and The Ledge on Cecil Peak.  They are the most popular because they offer stunning views and they are both also a very short flight time from Queenstown airport (where all the helicopter companies are based).  The Ledge in particular is hugely popular so if you want photos that are unique consider asking your pilot to land on a different part of Cecil Peak or fly to a completely different location.  In winter the Remarkables Ridge is more likely to have snow on it than The Ledge, but there is no guarantee of a snow landing at either.  To 100% guarantee a snow landing most heli companies will recommend landing on a glacier.  Which means a longer flight time which means higher helicopter expenses.
  • The major helicopter companies here in Queenstown are Glacier Southern Lakes, Heliworks Queenstown, Heli Tours, Over The Top & The Helicopter Line.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO MAXIMISE YOUR CHANCES OF AWESOME HELI PHOTOS?

  1. Increase your chances of flying at all by giving yourself as many windows of opportunity to fly as possible.  If you are in Queenstown for a few days before and/or after the wedding and you are willing to consider getting all dressed up and your hair and makeup done again, then you’ve got the best of both worlds.  If the weather is good on your wedding day job done, if not you can fly on a different day when the weather is perfect (or at least better).  Also, if you’re not flying on your wedding day you have the option of flying much earlier or later in the day than a typical wedding timeline would allow.  Which means if the weather is good you should be able to get some epic “magic hour” morning or afternoon light.  Note: because helicopter pilots typically fly by sight there are civil aviation rules that prevent them from flying at/before dawn or at/after dusk.  Talk to your friendly helicopter company to learn more about when and where you can/can’t fly.  If you can only fly on your wedding day you can still increase your chances of flying by having more windows to fly in.  Eg if you can get your hair and makeup done and get dressed early enough to be able and willing to fly before the ceremony, let your heli company know in case there is a sudden break in the weather before your booked flight time.  This of course will depend upon the helicopter company’s availability of machines and pilots.
  2. Do what you can to make it easier to fit the heli flight and transport to/from the heliport into your no doubt already busy timeline.  Eg ask the helicopter companies if they have access to any landing spots closer to the ceremony/reception locations to save time.  (Some will be able to do this, some won’t and each will have access to different landing spots) . In my experience lack of time to fit it in is as big a reason for not booking a heli flight as budget.  Keep in mind you will need enough time to drive from the ceremony location to the heliport, pay check in and do a safety briefing, fly to your heli location, shoot, then fly back to the heliport then drive from the heliport to your reception location.  Especially if you are driving through the BP roundabout at Frankton around 5pm traffic can also slow you down quite a bit.  Even if the travel time to the new heli landing spot is the same as driving to the heliport, you will still save time because there is no check in and the safety briefing is short and sweet when it’s just you and the pilot standing in a paddock.
  3. Trust your photographer and your pilot to pick a heli location that (a) looks amazing and (b) is safe.  Don’t worry too much about which of the many heli locations to choose as it can change on the day anyway due to wind.  Eg The Ledge is too windy but maybe somewhere around the corner but still on Cecil Peak – like Garden Spur – is a lot more sheltered.  In my opinion the secret to finding awesome heli locations is pretty simple.  #1 Don’t worry so much about which mountain you land on, but rather which part of the mountain you land on.  For me having features/structure in the landscape right where we are landing/shooting is key.  Thinks like cliffs or rock spires always give your photographer more options photographically.  #2 (And this is why I quite like landing in spots I’ve never photographed before) try not to go to the same spot that a million other wedding photos have been taken.  If you go to the super popular spots, not only have those photos been done a million times before, but also your photographer has probably shot there a ot and might have lost the ability to see it with fresh eyes and therefore come up with fresh angles.
  4. Pay attention to how much “time on the ground” each helicopter company gives you with their quote.  The more time on the ground you have generally speaking the better yoru photos will be and the more relaxed and enjoyable your heli experience.  And sometimes it’s worth paying a bit more for that.  It’s like flying to the UK, if you’re paying all that money to go all that way from NZ you may as well spend more, take a bit longer and check out Europe while you’re there!  On the other hand, you may not have enough time in your day to stay on the mountain longer.  In fact, it’s not unheard of for couples to fly back to base earlier than they need to so as not to arrive late at the reception.
  5. For both the girls and the boys take a warm jacket as it is almost always windier up high than in the valley.  Girls, it’s also a good idea to take some flat shoes (or at least heel stoppers).  For the bride in particular, if her wedding dress hides her feet and she’s not worried about the height difference heels give her, just leave flat soled shoes on as long as possible for both safety and comfort.
  6. Think carefully about having your hair down/wearing a veil.  A little bit of wind flicking your hair and veil about can be awesome for photos, but too much can be a nightmare, especially if you are planning a Heli Wedding.

Right, that’s about all I can think of for now.  If have any more brainwaves I will add them later.

Patrick