Last year I wrote about making aerial photography of a 10,000 acre Montana ranch property from an airplane. It, however, is also feasible to look at big sites from a helicopter. I was contracted by a California marketing consultant working with the marketing department of the Suncadia Resort, in Cle Elem WA for this project, which was perfect for a helicopter platform.
The Suncadia Resort is a 6,000 acre planned resort community in Central Washington, essentially along I-90 just over Snoqualmie Pass to the east of Seattle. The client wanted an aerial overview of the property and a closer look at the recreational elements of the development — the Suncadia Lodge, two golf courses, housing communities, potential development sites, the Cle Elum River – to use for marketing and planning.
I recommended a helicopter for this project because I knew I wanted to move low and slow to take a close-up look at the lodge and the other elements, plus a wider and higher overview of Suncadia Resort. In this wide scope view looking west, the town of Cle Elem is on the right; I-90 freeway is on the left; Cle Elem Lake and the Cascade Mountains are in the distance. The 6,000 acres of the resort extend from the curved road in the foreground, back to the vicinity of the lake.
Unlike the approach that was necessary to photograph the Montana ranch (which was a 1250 mile round trip and involved a 13 hour round trip in an airplane) the Suncadia Resort project is only 70 miles away; thus, easily within range of a helicopter from Seattle. I chose to use a Robinson R-44 helicopter flying with my favorite pilot, Daiichi Tackeuchi.
We were able to get right down on the resort. The keystone of this destination resort is the Suncadia Lodge. Here is one view of the lodge.
The lodge sits on a steep bluff overlooking the Cle Elum River. The view from the opposite side of the lodge serendipitously afforded an opportunity to make a panoramic composite using these two photos.
Here is the result of the panorama construction, stitched together in digital post production.
There is a lot of development on the site, including the Swiftwater Cellars Winery.
There are two golf courses at Suncadia Resort. This low altitude aerial view looks at one of the club houses and some fairways near the main lodge.
This is the swimming and fitness center facility adjacent to the lodge.
The Tumble Creek Community golf course on the western end of the resort, referring back to the Suncadia Lodge to the east, is displayed to advantage by a view from the air. This view is a good illustration showing how aerial photography can give a sense of scale referencing proximity to key elements of a property.
Here is another broad-scale view of the Tumble Creek Community housing, retail center, and the golf course, dramatizing the physical setting in relation to Cle Elem Lake, the Cle Elem River, and the Cascade Mountains.
Suncadia is a destination recreational resort. A big attraction is the opportunity to play in the countryside. This is the Cle Elem River. Fishing, anyone?
Aerial work from a helicopter platform is an effective way to look closely at property and also back away to see an overall scope. This sort of scale couldn’t possibly be accomplished effectively with a balloon or a drone. It was possible to provide a reasonably economical value for the client, as well as a profitable aerial photography venture.
Our total flight time was 2.2 hours. Just as a note of interest, I currently have several hundred hours of helicopter aerial photography time, all but one handful of hours actually flying with the doors in place. This was a 140 mile round trip, with the door removed, through the mountains on a beautiful day. Absolutely, without question, the most fun aspect of what I do!