Grabbing the Light
My first air-to-air photo shoot was nearly 20 years ago, and I learned something important: make things happen or they may not happen again.
I showed up at MD Helicopters with gear in hand, ready for an hour or so of late afternoon light in the air. Trouble was, the aircraft was still being prepped. When we were supposed to be launching, they were instead running ground tests and then taking it out for some track and balance work. The sun was falling toward the horizon and, so far, they had paid for me to chat with the ground crew.
Finally, the ship returned but, being so late in the day, they suggested we reschedule for the morrow. Well, this might have been my first air-to-air, but it wasn't my first time photographing helicopters — you never know when a chip light or some other minor annoyance will scrap the mission. I suggested, enthusiastically as I recall, that we launch and get what we could right then. "The light's fading fast," the pilot observed. "Then let's go now!" I urged. (I know I put those statements in quote marks, like I remember exactly, but…)
So we went! The light was fading fast, but there's a great, scenic background just a few short miles from MDHI, iconic Red Mountain (see below), and we made a beeline for it. A couple times around and the sun dipped below the horizon. I shot, maybe, two rolls — and thank goodness, for the next day the aircraft was grounded with a mechanical issue. Very soon after it was repaired, they packed it up and shipped it to the purchaser in Canada.
If I hadn't pushed that little bit, the chance — and the images that resulted — would have been lost.
– Mark Bennett
"Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working."
— Pablo Picasso
Keywords: Arizona, Mountain, Red, action, advice, air-to-air, initiative, photography, professional, quality
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