Russ Heinl - Aerial Photographer
Russ Heinls’ professional photography career began in Toronto where he made a name for himself photographing famous rock stars. It eventually became apparent that his creativity was being stifled by the confines of studio work. In 1990 an overpowering urge to fully explore and indulge his creativity lured him to British Columbia. Here, he fulfilled a lifelong desire to be surrounded by snowcapped mountains and the Pacific Ocean. His new studio and source of inspiration then became that of the great outdoors of the west coast.
To better understand his new environment on Vancouver Island, a number of small aircraft where chartered for sightseeing purposes. So impressed was he with the magnificent scenery he saw on these flights, that he instantly knew that the only way to effectively share his vision of this Pacific jewel with the world was through the eyes of an aerial photographer. Hence the " Eagle " took flight.
"The Home Coming", Pacific Rim, Vancouver Island, BC.
Three years later, Heinls’ first aerial coffee table book "Where the Eagle Soars" was released and became a top ten regional best seller. Using only helicopters to shoot from, the book shares with the viewer his vision of stunning coastal seascapes as well as powerful, dramatic close up aerials of Victoria's charming architecture.
The success of his first book quickly lead to other aerial projects. The 1996 release of his second book, "Over Beautiful British Columbia" received critical acclaim as another regional best seller and was a nominee for The Bill Duthie Booksellers’ Choice award. This book was shot as a companion to an equally successful one hour television special of the same title, filmed by the world renowned aerial film crew at KCTS-9 Seattle Washington.
The following year saw the release of two more critically acclaimed aerial books, "High Above the Canadian Rockies" and "Portugal , An Adventure of Discovery". The Portugal project saw Russ once again shooting along side the same KCTS-9 film crew that he worked with on "Over Beautiful British Columbia".
More recently "Over Canada" the aerial picture book (and a one hour television special filmed by KCTS-9 Seattle) was completed. The release of "Over Canada" coincides with Russ’s sixth and seventh books, "Vancouver from the Air" and "Vancouver Island from the Air". Russ Heinls’ work has been in constant demand by high profile international clients as well as various publishers. Aerial projects now take him to Europe across Canada and through out North America. He is especially proud to have been under contract for over six years as the aerial photographer to Canada’s world famous air demonstration squadron "The Snowbirds".
Aerial digital videography has now become a vital part of his aerial adventures. Recent developments in digital video cameras and customized, gyro stabilized mounting systems has allowed him to provide his clients with high quality, silky smooth aerial imagery at a fraction of the price previously associated with such endeavors. During the summer and fall of last year, Associated Aerial Adventures (jointly owned by Russ Heinl and Jim Wiltshire) completed production and post production on five aerial videos shot over British Columbia and Alaska. These programs are of broadcast quality and are now being represented through out North America and world wide to both home video distributors as well as TV broadcasters and cable providers.
Heinl photographs with customized Nikon still and Canon video gyro stabilized camera systems and uses only helicopters as his choice of aerial platforms. Armed with an artist's keen eye for detail and composition, and a master photographers sense of color and precision, aerial picture books and videos have become the vehicle for his inspired vision. He has produced a considerable body of work including 10 aerial picture books and 5 aerial video programs.
"Winter Solstice"Vancouver Island, BC
"The Grand Prismatic"Yellowstone National Park
"Freud"Alberta Tar Sands
Metallic Foil fine art prints, custom created by "burning" the images on to a 20" X 30" metallic foil paper. The images represent the true state-of-the-art in leading edge fine art prints. The metallic foil lends a luminescent quality to the images that allows them to appear to "float" above the media. A 3 dimensional effect. To fully appreciate their extraordinary qualities and nuances, they must be viewed first hand.
The 2 people who really worked with me and who encouraged and support me are Robert Bateman (Bob wrote the foreward to my first book "Where the Eagle Soars" and the other fellow is Ted Grant. In case you do not know Ted, he is one of Canada's pre-eminent photographers and photojournalists. There is even a "Ted Grant Award". Ted has covered everything from war stories to many Canadian teams at the Olympics to the Russian nuclear meltdown at Chernoble.
When I moved here in 1990 from Toronto I was able to talk my way into Ted's place to show him my portfolio and ask for his suggestions and guidance. I was nervous and worried he wouldn't like my portfolio. After spending a few hours with him, and he usually only gives 20 minutes of his time for this I asked him what he thought. I'll never forget his words as they changed my life and gave me the strength to go forth an be an aerial photographer. Ted said these exact words, "My son, you've got a natural talent here and you just don't know it yet". After that Ted often reviewed my latest aerial work and gave me helpful suggestions and encouragement. But I can say in all honesty that Ted Grant gave me the confidence to do what I have done. It is also remarkable when you stop to consider that my entire body of aerial photography has all been done in 10 years.
Another great influence was Robert Bateman, the internationall renowned nature artist. It started when I first called his office asking to show him my work. We do not live far apart so they sent over Alex (a wonderful young lady), Bob's assistant, and Alex was impressed enough to tell Bob he ought to see the work. This was followed by an invitation to take my portfolio and the rough draft of the book "Where the Eagle Soars" to the Bateman residence. Bob and I got along great and he too left me with a wonderful statement when I asked him what he thought of my work. Bob said "If I was a photographer I wish I could photograph like you". We have been good friends since then I have on numerous occasions been invited back for slide shows and or just a visit. Robert Bateman gave me an incredible lift and confidence too. Plus his endorsement helped verify my work in the art community.
Another influence is my love of helicopters and aviation. I just have to be up in the air to be able to enjoy myself. But that is part of the "rush" with me. The more demanding and hostile the environment the more determined I am to get "that shot". Please understand that I often work in dangerous situations at high altitudes with the doors off in sub zero temperatures and sometimes in heavy turbulence. It is truly challenging.
Future goals are to expand on my aerial filming abilities. Not every "still" photographer can make a successful transition from "still" to "motion picture or film". The discipline is different but they share many of the same principles such as composition. For the record, I have many 1,000s of hours helicopter time on me, as a photographer, I do not fly. One of the basics of good aerial photography, "still or motion" is an excellent working knowledge of the aerial platform, the helicopter. You must understand that particular machine, what it can do and it's limits, what to expect from it in difficult situations and how to translate your mental images into commands so the pilot will put you where you see yourself being.
I have done a number of cross country promotional public relations to support my books, most notably "Over Canada'. In doing so I have been interviewed on many radio shows, live TV including "Canada AM" and also participated in autograph sessions.
Russ Heinl’s aerial work includes:
AERIAL PICTURE BOOKS PUBLISHED
"Where The Eagle Soars"
"Over Beautiful British Columbia"
"Portugal - An Adventure of Discovery"
"High Above The Canadian Rockies"
"Vancouver from the Air"
"Vancouver Island from the Air"
"Above the Atlantic Provinces"
"Portland from the Air"
"Seattle from the Air" (releases fall of 2002)
AERIAL FILMS SHOT
"Russ Heinl’s Alaska & The Inside Passage"
"Russ Heinl’s Vancouver to Whistler"
"Russ Heinl’s Victoria & Vancouver Island"
"Russ Heinl’s Canada’s Eden"
"Russ Heinl’s Queen Charlotte Islands"
DOCUMENTARY FILM PROJECT
"Messerschmitt Me262 Luftwaffe Pilot Check-Out Film"
"Soothing Surf at The Wickaninnish Inn"
"Sunrise Over The Aeris"
To view more of Heinl's incredible work or find out more about his aerial work please visit his website by clicking here