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Water Landing: Photographing Planes and Models
By Daniel Botelho, October 14, 2014 @ 06:00 AM (EST)

Editor’s Note: Daniel Botelho’s images aren’t what you’d call ordinary. See the example below, where he captured split shots of planes buzzing over the head of a snorkeling model for the Boeing Company. We caught up with Daniel to find out how these stunning images came to be.

After seeing countless classic images of Maho Beach in St. Martin (the ones where planes seem to give a buzz cut to beachgoers as they land) I had a novel thought: Why not use an over-under composition to give a twist to a classic image?

As it turned out, the challenges of the assignment were many. First, I really didn’t know what to expect locally, as this was my first visit to St. Martin and didn’t want to ask for too much help to ruin the “surprise factor” of the shoot. Another big deal was to have all variables working together, as good sea conditions in terms of limited waves and good visibility were a must to capture the image on a shallow, crowded beachfront.

As it turned out, the biggest challenge was synchronizing the model with the plane’s arrival. I found the places on the beach where I could have the positioning I wanted to capture the planes as they landed. Of course, I had to keep the arrival schedule in mind to know the exact time each plane would land. The planes come in surprisingly fast (200 mph) and I wanted the model to be swimming at the same time—so getting both in the frame was tiring and tough.

Finally, it took quite a bit of diplomacy to convince the tourists on the beach not to wade into the background of my shot. Otherwise, I would have ended up with a lot of extra (unwanted) legs in the photos.

Technically speaking, I used small apertures in order to have enough depth of field to have model and airplane in good enough focus. Needless to say, having the plane coming in for a landing required the same high shutter speeds as stopping the motion of Formula 1 race cars. Average settings for the images were roughly f/13 at 1/1250s, using a boosted ISO (800) to add natural light back into the image.

Intrigued by Daniel’s unique assignment? You might also like his trek with narwhals or swimming out of the cage with massive great white sharks.



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