Gaining the elusive air-to-air photo mission seems to be the quest of every aviation photographer. The question is, how do you make it happen? My flight with the amazing, gorgeous and one of a kind, Boeing 40 took me three years! Others I’ve done were never planned and happen spur of the moment. In either case, first and foremost understand many, many photographers have lost their lives or been severely injured in air-to-air photo missions. Safety is way more important than photography and that has to be the number one agenda. This means you need to know the pilot, not just fly with someone who says they will take you up. I understand the temptation but I’m here to tell you, I’ve have not flown with every pilot that has offered me a ride. How do you know if a pilot and/or plane is safe when they are really all new to you?
Getting to know a pilot comes from YOUR photography! You want to learn all you can BEFORE you ever go into the skiesb This means that while on the ground, you photograph statics to learn how light, color, and gesture which will make or break your photographs. Then you start lookin at applying what you learned from shooting statics to a plane in the skies. Backgrounds is a very important lesson. Then when you know the plane you want to do an air-to-air with, you create that good image and from that, the great print. The print, you present to the pilot. And in that entire process, you will meet and get to know the pilot and that will tell you Sooooo much as to whether you want to fly with them. You have to remember the safety factor, then the photographic factor and then remember what an old editor once told me. “You are only as good as your last image published.” In other words, if you go up in the air and you don’t come back with “The” photograph, it will be your last photo mission. It’s a small world and I sadly know a few photographers who this has happened to. Just keep in mind that if I can do it, all of you can do it. Cause there is no greater thrill than the elusive air-to-air!