Dear Fellow Photographers
First of all, the information on this page is not technical, I could get in to many different technical topics, but it would be difficult to give you complete information in any of them. Instead, I wanted to share with you the essence photography.
If you have a specific question please send me an e-mail, and I will be glad to answer it as best as I can. I will also give you advice after viewing a sample of your work.
The essence of this page is to pass on what I have learned, it is an important key to successful skydiving photography, the kind of photography not limited to skydivers but one that everyone can appreciate.
Through artistic expression of our sport, we can help it grow with admiration. I hope you will find this information useful and that after applying these concepts, you will pass on what you learned to others.
You are a very important link between the sport you love and the world that perceives from outside of it. As exciting as it is, skydiving happens miles away from the viewer, only through your images may spectators view this sport. Even for those who experience it through tandem jumping, their video is the only link to that jump, it is the only tool to share their experience with their friends. For this reason, your work becomes a critical interpretation of skydiving.
Whether you are a professional or jump with a camera just for fun, only through your work the sport of skydiving and it’s special beauty is displayed.
The enclosed document is a vehicle to share some photography views and techniques that have worked for me, I hope this will help you take your photography to a level that helps you express how you feel about skydiving through the images you capture.
Tips For Better Photography
Photography in general, whether it is done with a video, still, or movie camera, is no different than any other activity. The key element for mastering it is practice. The more you practice, the more familiar and automatic the process of shooting will become, when it becomes second nature, there is room for creativity and awareness beyond what you imagine.
In skydiving photography, you are combining two important elements that you must master before you can allow yourself to be creative, one is skydiving, the other photography itself. If you are a novice jumper, the aerial perspectives along with the speed with which things happen and the attention to safety elements, become a distraction. You find yourself thinking of how to accomplish getting from point A to point B, instead of just doing it. You are not yet comfortable with the fact that the ground is approaching at 120 to 200mph. These elements are important. They make you aware of your skydiving situation and this awareness keeps you healthy. In time, you will become more comfortable and the fear and anxiety will stay behind in the airplane. At this point, your priority will shift from survival to the beauty of human flight. Once you achieve this level, you will find different ways to challenge yourself and your flying. This is what makes the sport so unique and interesting. You actually fly.
If you do freestyle, you are concentrating your attention on the routines or the discovery of new moves and in feeling the wind as your environment. You are no longer thinking of the fall, the opening of the parachute or other safety elements. At least not for the period of freefall. Slowly you become better at the freestyle itself and more comfortable at skydiving in general. Your attention is in the new flight challenge.
It is no different with skydiving photography. Photography is merely a challenge you have taken on, over and above skydiving itself. Your success is directly related to your comfort level in skydiving and safety. This does not mean that you must become a master at skydiving to do photography. In fact, no matter how good you are at skydiving, you can improve your skills through the practice of photography. What it means, is that your photography will bloom only to the extent in which you feel comfortable with skydiving. Only when you don’t have to think of how to fly to where you want to be, will you be able to see where the shot is!
“Where the shot is” you may wonder. “What does he mean.” “Is there really a place where the shot lives?” “A specific angle?” “A specific camera setting?”
Shots are everywhere. There is no perfect place to be and no one camera setting that works for everything. There is one thing for certain, to find an angle which feels better than another, or an angle that delivers a special image, requires sensitivity. It requires the same sensitivity you have for your flying when you become a comfortable skydiver.
Just as your photography will improve once you become comfortable with skydiving, I suggest that learning more about cameras will help your photography bloom. The camera is more than an instrument you set to automatic and wave around like a paint brush. Each setting, each film type, each sun angle and all the other elements combine to create a different result.
When you become more familiar with the different camera settings and are more comfortable in the photography environment, your mind will be ready for another challenge: Creativity. This is where you will find the masterpiece, the magic moment, the photo that represents our sport. In the moment that you step further than anyone else, you are rewarded with beauty and love in the form of a special image. There alone is where the magical and mysterious images fly, waiting for you to capture them.
Unless you are linked with your instrument (in this case a camera), all that happens is accidental snap shots. It is like a musician playing without a feel for the instrument. You must become one with your instrument in order to create!
Your first priority as an exercise, to become familiar with your equipment, read the manual again. Read a photography book or take a course. Even if you think you have not learned anything new, the fact that you have made an attempt to understand your instrument will give you added awareness of it as an extension of you. This will allow you to go further and challenge yourself to the creative level.
I am often approached by other photographers who ask, “What setting do you use in your camera?” my answer is “all of them”. Would you ask an experienced jumper what the best emergency procedure is? This question does not have one simple answer. There are many variables that must be considered before making a decision. There is not one solution. Awareness is your best chance of coming up with a good solution under a given set of circumstances!
In photography there is no such thing as the perfect setting. It all depends on, what you are after in an image, the conditions, time of day, etc. Realizing this will give you the awareness to find the right combination for each set of circumstances. It will give you the awareness to guess properly when you must guess. This guessing comes with connection and awareness of yourself and your environment, that is when you have a better chance at making the right decisions.
Photography is like any other challenge. When you started skydiving the challenge may have been stability, then 4 way, then more points of 4 way, then more difficult formations or faster 4 way, then maybe freefly or freestyle.
Photography is like anything else. Simply wearing a camera or shooting pictures, will eventually become routine and boring unless you add a challenge. Within photography there are many challenges. Better photography is just one of them. The more you challenge yourself the deeper you will go and the more magic you will find as you connect with your subjects and your surroundings when you know exactly where to go before your mind even has a chance to tell you, you will be full of answers, not questions. The results of that state of mind will be very rewarding. I promise you!
Is skydiving photography the only place to find this? Absolutely not! it is simply one vehicle. Any time you challenge yourself to the intensity, you will be rewarded. I am simply addressing photography because that is where I spend my time and because that is what I offered when you inquired about this specialty. Try this attitude for a while!
Your second exercise is skydiving with a different frame of mind. I want you to go out there leaving your preconceived photography thoughts behind. Listen to your surroundings! the light, the clouds, the subject, the ground. Keep both eyes open and experiment with your peripheral vision. Forget about your ring sight. That is why I do not recommend an electronic viewfinder, it only lets you see a framed image, missing the surroundings. It is two dimensional, most important, it is the past you see in there! Let go. See what you discover. Take up the challenge of discovering and capturing the magic and mystery of flight.