Saturday, November 7, 2015

FUJIFILM GOES FLYING (part 1) : AIR to AIR PHOTOGRAPHY with the XT-1 and XF 18-135 lens

Photography and Aviation are undoubtedly my two passions in life; hard to say which one comes first, but whenever I can combine both, I know I'm in for a great day!

1938 Tipsy Trainer (foreground) and Piper J-3 Cub

Last week, I invited photography friend and fellow Fujifilm shooter, Giel Sweertvaegher, for an afternoon of Air to Air photography while I was over in Belgium.  After contacting a few vintage aircraft owners, we scheduled a few flights where I flew our 1954 Piper Super Cub as the "photo-ship" in close formation with a 1938 Tipsy Trainer, 1944 Piper J-3 Cub and Stampe SV-4. The main objective of the shoot was trying to capture these beautiful birds with the great Autumn colours in the background!

1938 Tipsy Trainer

Sometimes confused with Aerial photography, Air to Air (often abbreviated as Air2Air or A2A) photography, is photographing all kind of aircraft in-flight; up where they belong!

Even though, I didn't shoot Air to Air images myself that afternoon, I thoroughly enjoyed flying the photo-ship, working with the photographer in the backseat and coordinating with the other pilots in the formation; it felt a bit like being a film producer on a shoot.

1951 Stampe SV-4B
It definitively helps if the pilot of photo-ship aircraft (normally the lead aircraft) is also a photographer, as this cuts down significantly on the communications between the photographer, pilot of the photo-ship and other pilots in the formation. A combined pilot/photographer tends to see straight away if the position of the surrounding aircraft needs to be corrected with regards to the background and position of the sun.

Typically in Aviation, SAFETY is written with capital letters; it is therefore essential that a detailed preflight briefing is given to all pilots and photographer(s). As most Air to Air photography is done through open windows and open/removed doors, it is vital that the photographer does remove all loose items such as lens hoods/caps, spare  batteries, etc... Needless to say, that these can quickly spoil the day if they end up in the propeller(s)/engine(s) of the aircraft in formation.

Piper Super Cub "Photo-ship"
One of the main challenges of shooting propeller aircraft versus jets is the fact that the shutter speed need to be brought down to about 1/125s or slower to avoid the propeller being stopped in-flight; a stopped prop is not desirably as a pilot but neither as a photographer! Good prop blur is always a winner!

Giel recently also left the camera brand starting with a "N", and switched to Fujifilm for all of his Air to Air photography. Something he does since a very young age as part of the Aviation Photocrew; a very respected Belgian group of Air to Air photographers who are shooting lots of high profile military and civil aircraft. To check out some of Giel's work with the Aviation Photocrew, click here

If you are interested in taking up Air to Air photography, I can recommend the eBook "A Guide to Aviation Photography".  Also, while you are there, check out Giel's blog at

A few of my own Air to Air shots can be found below:

Max Holste MH.1521 C Broussard
Piper Super Cub PA-18

BRM Aero XL8 Bristell 
Stampe SV-4 formation
Pitts Special S2B

Today, both Giel and myself are using the Fujifilm X-T1 with the Fujinon XF 18-135 lens for the majority of our Air to Air photography; a great combination, especially when shooting from smaller photo-ships like the Piper Super Cub. 

Yours truly in action with the Fujfilm X-T1 and 18-135 lens
I will be blogging about another great use of the 18-135 lens, Aerial photography, in a separate post over the coming week(s). 


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