Question On Air To Air Photos

Tue Dec 04, 2001 5:14 am

This is a question for anyone who has done air to air photos. I am scheduled to maybe shoot a learjet air to air next year along with some Beech 18s. Does anyone use a gyro when shooting? Or do you just take the photos as you would on the ground? This will be my first time doing it, so any imput from experienced people would help. Thanks

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RE: Question On Air To Air Photos

Tue Dec 04, 2001 7:20 pm


A well executed air-to-air trip is not a trivial matter and needs more than a simple reply to do it justice, particularly where high-speed jets are concerned.

You don't say what your camera platform will be... Obviously, a Learjet is a pretty slick airplane so you'll need a reasonably quick platform airplane. In general, I prefer to shoot through an open door or window, though speed and altitude may make that not be possible. Professional air-to-air photography involves shooting through a plane window that has been specially installed with optically flat glass to ensure that there's no distortion. If you can't shoot through an opening or through optically flat windows, you could have a problem with the quality of the results. If you have an open window or door, firstly make sure eveything is well tied down, and DO NOT put the lens out into the airflow, as the results will be shaken however fast your shutter speed.

Yes, in an ideal world you'd need a gyro stabalised camera, but reality says you might not get it.

The main issues are:

(a) Come up with a plan BEFORE you depart so that the camera ship and the subject will be positioned correctly for as long as possible (remember you want the sun behind you for the most part), particularly if their speeds are different, as this may mean the subject repositioning / formating on the camera ship on a number of occasions, and airspace restrictions may mean you have limitations on manouevering room. You need to agree angles, positioning etc, so the pilots handling the subject know where you want them, at what angles of bank, etc.
(b) Come up with an agreement BEFORE you depart regarding how the camera ship and the subject are going to communicate with each other - if you're doing this seriously, you will need those conversations.
(c) Have a thorough briefing with BOTH sets of pilots, who should be familiar with fairly close formation flying, so that you and all the pilots understand what the plan is, what is expected of them, and what to do if any problems arise. Planning a safe air-to-air trip is NOT a trivial matter and needs time and a lot of forethought, particularly with high-speed airplanes like a LearJet.

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RE: Question On Air To Air Photos

Tue Dec 04, 2001 7:30 pm

Andy, what kind of lenses do you normally need for air-to-air pictures? Is 300mm enough?

Regards, Andi

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RE: Question On Air To Air Photos

Tue Dec 04, 2001 8:33 pm

Having sat in on an air to air briefing I can go along with Andy's points its all about preparation.

You need to have everything planned in advance what type of picture your looking for how you want the aircraft to be posed in the pictures and what you actually want out of the shoot. Formation flying is never easy and takes a lot of planning in itself and when your talking about something fast like a Lear the safty margins are even greater. The last detail has to be gone through and your be amazed at what you need to discuss in the planning stages.

Its all about communication both on the ground prior to the sortie and in the air. As Andy points out you need to be in contact with all pilots and they need to hear you too.

Good luck and i hope your not paying the bill!



RE: Question On Air To Air Photos

Wed Dec 05, 2001 2:17 am

Hi Andy. My photo platform will be a T-28 so we could probably fly with the back of the canopy open. I appreciate your input a lot. Thanks

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RE: Question On Air To Air Photos

Wed Dec 05, 2001 2:32 am


Yes, I've heard of a T-28 being used quite a few times. You need to decide whether the canopy is clean and distortion free enough to shoot through, or go with the canopy open. Open obviously limits you to fairly low levels. If the canopy is open, you'll need a good head set connected to both the intercom system in the T-28 (so that you can hear and speak to your pilot) and connected to the aircraft r/t (to talk to the pilots of the subject). You'll need to check into this respect the aircraft r/t - is a none-radio licenced user allowed to transmit on aviation frequencies (in the UK this would be illegal). As you're in the US, you can look at the possibility of using 123.45 for air-to-air communications (also illegal in the UK!).

Other than that, plan, plan, plan, and allow plenty of time for a thorough briefing including yourself, both sets of pilots. As I said, this brief will need to cover shoot expectations, procedures (particularly safety), communications, positioning. You'll need to consider where the sun is going to be, and the empty airspace you have available. Remember with a Lear you'll be batting along quite a bit, but even with a T-28 you still need to look at the numbers as I'd imagine the Lear will be somewhat faster unless its pilots are pushing the envolope a bit at the bottom end - I may have to accept passes rather than a period in formation.

As to lenses (Andi asked), just think about what sort of lens you'd use on the ground. A Lear isn't that big and if the relative speeds work out more than a few knots different, the pilots won't be getting that near. A long lens is a must, 300mm may do or it may not, and it'd be difficult to make any definitive decision on that until you've had a chance to discuss the trip with the pilots. Whatever you decide on lenses, remember that changing in the air isn't going to be easy in a small rear cockpit with an open canopy.

Good luck!!!  Big grin


RE: Question On Air To Air Photos

Wed Dec 05, 2001 2:54 am


I would check with Jan and Tommy Mogren (I think you know them). They have done a lot of air to air stuff.

BTW, I am jealous. Do you need an assistant?


RE: Question On Air To Air Photos

Wed Dec 05, 2001 4:11 am

Thanks Andi. We will have to wait and see about that assistant.....hey Richard, do you know what flygga is in Swedish? It means - to fly. And I know what you are refering to about it........FLY Golden Gate Airlines.  Smile


RE: Question On Air To Air Photos

Thu Dec 06, 2001 4:45 am

Does it really mean to fly??? If so that is cool.
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RE: Question On Air To Air Photos

Thu Dec 06, 2001 5:56 am

I have to jump in and make a correction, it is spelt "flyga" in Swedish, sorry Richard...  Sad

Does anyone of you guys know what LGB is? It's the brand of those large model trains you can have in the garden, check out

Staffan  Big grin

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