EAAAirVenture OshkoshShopJoin

Aviation Photography (specifically air to air)

Posted By:
Sheldon Heatherington
#1 Posted: 1/26/2011 22:50:05

Just wanted to see if there were any fellow photographers out there, and if anyone has done an air to air. Also, If someone wants an air to air of their aircraft/rotorcraft, and they live within 300 nm, I would love to have the opprotunity. I have been wanting to find others that have the same passions, flying and taking pictures, and who would be willing to share their experiences.

Jerry Rosie
Young Eagles Pilot or Volunteer
#2 Posted: 1/27/2011 09:27:27

Within 300 Nm of where, Sheldon?

Cheers, Jerry NC22375 out of 07N
Gregory Cardinal
Homebuilder or Craftsman
#3 Posted: 1/27/2011 20:52:26

Having a safety pilot / observer is prudent. A preflight briefing is required if you will be flying in formation.

With some planning, coordination and a little luck you can produce some fantastic photos.


Greg Cardinal

September Morning.jpg

Paul Valenstein
Young Eagles Pilot or Volunteer
#4 Posted: 1/27/2011 23:16:20

I've been looking to get into some air-to-air photography, but I haven't had the opportunity yet. Hopefully this summer I can maybe plan something with my dad, now that I have my license.

Timothy O'Connor
Homebuilder or Craftsman
#5 Posted: 1/28/2011 14:23:56

Connie Flying SkyBoy 6a.jpgI love A-2-A photography.


If you are flying around Southern Ohio let me know!



"Rotors, the only way to FLY" Commercial Rotorcraft Pilot, CFI, AGI, SP-FW
Adam Smith
Young Eagles Pilot or VolunteerHomebuilder or Craftsman
#6 Posted: 1/28/2011 17:28:42

Jim Koepnick wrote a nice article for Sport Aviation on air-to-air photography last year - worth a read if you missed it. 


Isaac Adler
#7 Posted: 1/28/2011 20:02:21 Modified: 1/28/2011 20:03:41

Sheldon Heatherington
#8 Posted: 1/29/2011 11:33:45

300nm of Pensacola, FL. Sorry 'bout that.

Sheldon Heatherington
#9 Posted: 1/29/2011 11:40:30

I have done two shoots, (air to air) one of a stearman, and the other of two Citabrias. My dad flies, while I am strapped in with a rock-climbing harness.

1. http://www.flickr.com/photos/photographyunleashed/sets/72157625339163072/ (stearman)

2. http://www.flickr.com/photos/photographyunleashed/sets/72157624201733381/ (Citabrias

Stearman B-w-1.jpg


Sheldon Heatherington
#10 Posted: 1/29/2011 11:42:48

I got that month's issue. I also did the webinar with him. That was some great info.

Jo Hunter
#11 Posted: 2/2/2011 12:43:24



I have been lucky enough to do some air to air over the last few years. One thing that is true, is that every flight teaches you a huge amount. I am not an expert or a pro, simply a lucky sod, but I offer you some things I have learned.


Formation trained pilots are the ideal. You really want to be flying with folks who are happy and skilled in formation. As the gentleman said above, a flight briefing is essential. Plan out what you are going to do, where you are going to do it and how far apart you intend to fly.


Your choice of camera gear relates to this; a lot of the pros use relatively wide angle lenses (50-120mm) an get the aircraft pretty close together. This obviously requires experienced pilots and calm air. If you're just flying with a friend from point A to point B, you might get some photos en route, but you don't want to fly so close together. A longer lens will allow some distance between you. A 70-200mm lens is great. Longer than this and you'll run into issues of being able to point it out of the aircraft and keep your head inside! You can plan for the desired separation on the ground by standing near the subject aircraft with your camera and seeing how far back you need to be for your lens focal length(s).


Open cockpit aircraft are great to shoot from, but often are biplanes with wing struts and wires that get in the way. A T-6 or Chipmunk with a sliding canopy is pretty cool. Opening windows in the cockpit can work well if they're in the right place. Don't hold your camera in the slipstream, you cannot hold it steady against a 100+kt wind. Perspex is usable but subject to reflections. If you have to shoot through perspex then wear dark clothing and use a rubber lens hood so you don't scratch the canopy. If you have a removable door (Bonanzas do) then shoot through the door; it's fabulous, but do use a harness! And make sure you secure the harness to a solid mount point. A seat will not do.


The ultimate best place to shoot from is the back end of a B-25 with the tailcone removed
biggrin That sort of thing allows you to get those lovely head-on shots, although it is expensive. However most GA aircraft will allow for great side and 3/4 shots.




Calm air and lighting conditions are best at sunrise and sunset. If you can plan a shoot around these times, you'll get some great pictures, and the calm air means you won't get jiggled about too much. This also means you can lower the shutter speed to get nice blurred props - you want to shoot at 1/250 or less to achive this; preferably around 1/100 although this does take practise, so take some faster shots first to make sure you have some in the bag. You should be flying at the same speed as the subject aircraft, so motion blur comes less from the aircraft speed (like if you were shooting a fats moving plane at an airshow) and more from the vibrations in the immediate environment.


If the purpose of the flight is just for a photoshoot, then find an area that is not too populated so you don't annoy too many folks, and this should also give you cleaner backgrounds (think forests or lakes). Fly a racetrack pattern in this area for a while to take advantage of the changing angle of light.




Good communication aloft is essential. The subject aircraft should fly on the photo ship and never take their eyes off that lead. The photographer can use hand signals to the subject pilot to move him around, however these signals should be worked out in the pre-flight briefing and then adhered to, to avoid misunderstandings.


Also brief for a lost-sight event; if one of you loses sight of the other for any reason, you need to have a procedure in place for who flies where to regain sight. Likewise if some other eventuality occurs (bird strike, engine failure etc), be prepared for whichever aircraft is involved to break off.


I hope this is useful info...

Have fun :-)  Nothing beats the buzz of a successful air to air shoot!


You might also think about joining ISAP , the International Society of Aviation Photographers. Great bunch of folks.



Jay Beckman
#12 Posted: 2/2/2011 20:33:02 Modified: 2/2/2011 20:34:04

Well Said All Around Jo...


Spit Check Six .. Reply To Jo Post.jpg

Thunder On The Mountain.jpg


Sheldon Heatherington
#13 Posted: 2/3/2011 16:50:34

Thanks for the post. I have the good fortune to have my dad as my photo pilot, and he is a great formation pilot. I joined the ISAP a few months ago. It is a great organization. I shoot out of a Cherokee 140, and other than being a low wing, it works great. Your right about the harness. I bought one that connects to the brackets for the seat belts. Another thing to think about is moving around in the plane. I have to sit in the back of the 140, then move forward (while still strapped in of course). if you wear glasses, make sure that you have a way to keep them on your head. if you get your head in the slipstream, even just a little, they will do like mine and fly off your head (thankfully mine went into the back of the plane).