The blending of aviation and photography has, for me at least, been a marriage made in heaven. I started out as a photographer at roughly the age of 14 when there were still lots of the old piston-engined airliners plying the skies. Sad to say, I never really had the chance to shoot very many of those wonderfully atmospheric aircraft in their natural environment – the air. Oh to have had a Hasselblad loaded with some colour transparency film with a B.O.A.C. Lockheed Constellation or a Pan American Boeing Stratocruiser alongside me in the late fifties! I have, however, had other spectacular air to air shoots during the last 35 years or so.
Air-to-air photography is very much a team effort. The photographer really must have the photographs in his mind before anyone gets into an aircraft. At the very least you need two competent pilots, two serviceable aircraft and a photographer all ready to go. With a large formation you might have multiple pilots, aircrew and aircraft; the Canberra shoot involved approximately twenty people with five aircraft. Weather has to be checked, Air Traffic Control will need to be briefed and their co-operation sought, if operating from a controlled airfield. The briefing for the pilots must include everything pertinent to the flight; runway in use; who is going to take off first; area of operations; altitude and airspeed to fly in formation; hand signals in event of radio failure (they are easier most of the time anyway); formation change procedures; who is formation leader? (this is absolutely vital!); emergency procedures.
Everyone has their responsibilities and must pay close attention at the briefing and in the air. Air-to-air photography does have its risks. If you have a bump in your car you just get dented bodywork; a bump between two aircraft can mean that you don’t get to go home for dinner that day.
The images seen here are but a few of those I have shot over the years…