Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Niche markets can be lucrative, and enterprising photographers can find opportunity and inspiration in the clouds

This Article Features Photo Zoom


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Multiple Airplanes
The complexity of a photo flight increases greatly when there’s more than one subject plane. With more to manage, there’s an increased potential for mistakes. Furthermore, dissimilar aircraft must contend with different airspeeds, maneuverability and fuel capacity. Setting up a shot becomes an exercise in problem-solving for parallax, and what looks like an obvious positioning instruction from the photoship perspective may give a different result than was intended. For example, in a stacked-down formation, directing one airplane “out” (lateral movement) may result in the appearance of that airplane moving forward relative to the other subject airplanes.

Aerobatic aircraft are great subjects for their unusual attitudes, colorful paint schemes and dramatic smoke systems. But shooting from an aerobatic photo platform has its own set of challenges. Most likely, you’ll be shooting through a glass canopy and will have to contend with glare, reflection and possible scratches (especially in military aircraft). You’ll be limited in what equipment you can bring, and you must be sure everything is secure—anything accidentally dropped could potentially jam the flight controls.

Be prepared to pull some G’s! I’ve missed shots simply because I didn’t have the camera prepositioned in front of my face before a positive G maneuver, and I couldn’t raise it during the pull. Negative G’s are exciting, but also a challenge. You need to find a balance between relaxing your muscles (so blood can flow freely) and holding the camera firmly (lest it slam into the canopy above).

A debrief is always a good idea after a formation flight, but it’s particularly useful if you’re going to fly again with the same pilots. Take a few minutes after landing to discuss what worked well and what could be improved upon. The input I receive from others is the best lesson out there, and I always challenge myself to do something a little different (and hopefully better) on each flight.

Jessica Ambats is the editor of Plane & Pilot and an accomplished aerial photographer. See more of her work in Plane & Pilot and at www.jessicaambats.com.


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