Sunday, August 22, 2010

Air to Air Photography in Sonoma, CA - From an AT-6 to a Boeing PT-17 Stearman

Once a year, our friends from Target come in from Minneapolis for the Indy car race at Infineon Raceway. And...along with all the fast racing and ecitement at the track, we always mix in some fun in the Napa region. Before checking out some great wineries, we made our now traditional stop at the Vintage Aircraft Company in Sonoma, CA. It was time to put Ryan and Michael to the test!

To try something different, I decided that I would shoot images of them from another plane to get some air-to-air shots of their experience. So...I strapped into the backseat of an AT-6, spun it around so that I was facing backwards and off we went!

Ryan's flight started off nice and easy, allowing him to experience the beauty of the region.

And then it was time to test his courage (and his stomach). The skilled pilots at VAC took him for a great ride and did an awesome job of keeping me within site to capture these images.

Many people get a little disoriented in Napa, but not usually like this! :)

From a photography point of view, these shots were VERY difficult to get. Trying to track another plane (pretty far in the distance) with a 400mm lens, fighting the wind trying to blow the camera and lens out of my hands, sitting backwards in a plane while the pilot is maneuvering to get me into position, bumping all over the place, and trying to keep the focus on the other plane. Whoa! That is tough!!!

As you can see form Ryan's expression, the trip was well worth it and he loved the experience.

Now it was time to throw Michael into the front seat of the Stearman and see how we could handle the challenge.

Again...a nice leisurely start to the flight...

And then the fun began.

This is one of my favorite shots, with the Stearman inverted above the vineyards.

And another shot of them heading back towards the vineyards after performing another roll.

Ahhh - back on the ground! I made sure to have my pilot (Chris) land first so that I could take photos of Michael triumphant return to earth. (Note: one of the challenges with photographing these older propeller planes is to slow the shutter speed to show the movement of the prop. Otherwise you freeze the prop in place and it does not look very good. This makes for better images but also makes it tougher to get your subject perfectly in focus.)

If the smile does not say it all...

...the high five sure does!

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