So here’s a quick post that has something to do with neither motorcycles nor food, unless you count lunch at Chicken Nuevo*, my guilty little secret, located conveniently close to the airport.
I had my first “Air-to-Air” photography gig last weekend!** For you and me, that means shooting, er, I mean photographing, airplanes in the air from – yes! – another airplane.
Let me begin by reminding you that I’m in no way a professional photographer***. No, I’m not even a rabid amateur one. I don’t even own a decent camera. If fact, every time I’m ready to buy a decent camera, some disaster happens, like my car self destructing, or my beagle needing high dollar surgery, or, most recently, my former tenants trashing my house. Evidently the universe is telling me, quite loudly, that I should really stop camera shopping. So I was, despite being friendly with a few pilots, a teensy bit surprised to have this activity come my way. “Really??? Yeeeeahhh!”
A real aerial photographer would insist that the doors be removed from the platform aircraft, and wear a special safety harness, such that she (or he) not fall out of the bumping and rolling formation flying aircraft. Said real aerial photographer might even be able to hang out of said platform aircraft to optimize angles and such, which sounds wickedly fun. I want to be a real aerial photographer! Not having a harness, I opted for the more conservative doors-on configuration. The blue tinted, scratched, light reflecting windows were a challenge that marred, oh, say 90% of the photos beyond repair. A good 9% of those remaining were ruined by the simple fact that I don’t really know what I’m doing.
|Camera vs. microphone made communication with pilots in both aircraft difficult. Higher! No! Lower! Say again?|
But the pilots did know what they were doing, thank goodness, because formation flying requires adept communication and piloting skills. Our “photo mission”, as it was reported to Air Traffic Control, consisted of our platform aircraft (Cessna 205), and five subject aircraft (two Cessna Citation Jets, one Beechcraft/Raytheon Premier Jet, a Beechcraft King Air, and a Beechcraft Baron, if you care about such things.) It helps if your platform aircraft is as fast as or faster than the subjects, but we made do.
Even light turbulence presents a challenge, it turns out. A real aerial photographer would have an awesome and gyroscopically stabilized camera, and the biceps to hold all that gear up for hours. Instead, my borrowed camera and I just bumped around a lot, as we twisted ourselves into various contorted forms. And since the photos were requested, you know, NOW, I had to cull and edit on the fly. (Hah!) Delicate lap top mousing is also difficult even in light turbulence, as it turns out. I even got a little queasy staring at the screen too long.
|High speed editing… on the fly.|
It was all wildly fun, and surprisingly exhausting. Here’s a sampling of my, no, our,**** work over the two or three hours we spent in the air.
|Citation Jet No. 1. Meh.|
|Twin engine prop planes are far more photogenic. (Beechcraft Baron)|
|Beechcraft/Raytheon Premier Jet|
|Beechcraft King Air|
|Citation Jet Number Two|
|Bye, Bye, Citation Number Two!|
Three pilots, one photographer, six planes, hundreds of gallons of fuel… it was not a day to be proud of my carbon footprint.
* Don’t let the fast food atmosphere fool you. It’s actually… good!
***Evidently someone on the ground mistook me for a well known (in the field, anyway) aerial photographer, not by my photos, to be sure, but by the combination of my appearance, I guess, and the fact there was a camera hanging around my neck.
****Not your usual landscape photography, it was a team sport to be sure.