A couple of days back, I took a ride over the San Francisco Bay Area aboard a Zeppelin. These airships are built in the town of Friedrichshafen in Germany. Currently there are only 3 of them in the world – the other two are in Japan and Germany. A small company named Airship Ventures based out of Moffett Field in Mountain View, California, owns and operates the only Zeppelin airship in the United States. The tours are very professionally run and the staff & crew at Airship Ventures obviously enjoy their work.
Zeppelins are ideal for aerial photography. There is no vibration (unlike a helicopter), it coasts at an easy pace, and engine noise is not an issue. Furthermore, two of the windows in our airship opened out allowing for shooting without any glass barrier. At our cruising altitude of 1000 feet, the 3 Canon lenses I carried – 24-105L, 70-200L f/2.8 IS, and 14L II – were equal to the task.
It was a beautiful day when we took off from the Oakland airport. Unfortunately, our departure was delayed by almost two hours and this meant the sun was already at a high angle by the time we got going – the worst possible conditions from the point of view of photography. The brilliant red of the Golden Gate Bridge, for instance, was obscured for the most part, and many of the other sights were similarly handicapped.
All said and done, we had a delightful time. Perhaps I will take a sunset ride in the coming months at which time the lighting is more conducive to photography. Some tours originating from Moffett Field fly directly over the runways at SFO allowing for views of the planes landing below.