Behind the camera – Vertical Challenge 2008

Hello everyone.  Warm weather and blue skies can only mean one thing; it’s airshow season once again.  And here in the Bay Area, the first major airshow of the year is Vertical Challenge at the Hiller Aviation Museum.  The largest all helicopter airshow in the United States bring some serious rotor power with it each year.  This years headline act was the Red Bull BO-105 CBS helicopter, flown by the incredible Chuck Aaron.  The only FAA licensed person to perform acrobatics in a helicopter, Chuck wows the crowds with his loops, rolls, and Cuban 8’s in an amazing display of precision and control.  And I had a chance to be one of the small handful of people to actually go inverted in a helicopter, and survive! 🙂

Today’s post is the first in a new series of entries entitled “Behind The Camera”, which will break down the anatomy of a particular shot.  This shot just happened to land on the cover of the upcoming issue of In Flight USA.


Here is an excerpt from the article of the same title.

In Flight USA Associate editor, Sagar Pathak, got a chance to do something only a small handful of people in the world have gotten to do: fly upside down in a helicopter! Red Bull gave Pathak and opportunity at this years Vertical Challenge 2008 Airshow, the largest helicopter airshow in the United States, to go for the ride of a lifetime in their Eurocopter BO-105 CBS. Pilot Chuck Aaron holds the distinction as the only pilot licensed in the United States to fly aerobatics in a helicopter, and took Pathak over the Santa Cruz Mountains for some loops and rolls Red Bull style! With the helicopter pulling positive 3.1 Gs and negative 1.0 Gs, it made capturing a dynamic image that much more of a challenge. The cover shot was taken with a Canon 40D with an EF-S 10-22mm f/2.5-4.5 lens at 10mm (giving you a 107 degree field of view) and a 550EX external flash. In order to capture the perfect exposure, a flash fill technique was employed. The camera was put in Manual mode with an exposure of 1/250 sec at f/10 to properly expose for scenery outside of the helicopter. The external flash then provided the necessary illumination to light up Chuck and the cockpit, thus properly balancing the inside and outside exposure. Now do that while looping and rolling; factor in the G forces (at 3.1 Gs, your 3 pound camera becomes a very heavy 9.3 pounds) and centripetal forces pulling the 9 pound camera away from your body, and you have a challenging shot. But with hours of doing acrobatics while taking pictures in his logbook, Pathak was able to pull off this amazing cover shot.



For the rest of the images from Vertical Challenge 2008, click here:

3 Replies to “Behind the camera – Vertical Challenge 2008”

  1. 3 Gs, same as Space Shuttle near MECO. Besides heavy camera, how does the body feel? Or is the brain in overload while being inverted in a helicopter? How did you get this ride opportunity? I imagine more of a rush than the B-25! Thanks for sharing camera techniques.

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