To answer a few of your points.
1) I did not use a tripod. The camera was held down on the "rail" on vultures row. No way could someone hold a camera in their hand for 30 seconds and get a clear photo.
In these two shots, it was quite rough.
I would have to say these two are a combination of both the pitching deck and the pilot trying to stay on glide path. Chances are he could be higher or lower than what he should be.
The guy in the 2nd photo looked to have caught the 1 wire, although, I do not know for sure.
In this photo, the sea state was much more calm. Now, it looked to me like he got on the glide path and pretty well stuck to it.
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Photo © Chad Thomas
I am by no means an expert, I just enjoy taking these shots.