One of the things I really enjoy about photography is getting to meet a lot of interesting people that I wouldn’t normally. I was really happy when I was able to feature a fighter pilot with the US Air Force as part of my People of Rapid City project. Now the pilot was initially going to get me onto the flight line to do the shoot which would have been amazing, however, that wasn’t to be unfortunately due to several reasons. Firstly, because I do not hold a US passport it would have been a very complicated and lengthy process to get permission to enter the base and be up close to the aircraft, and secondly, there wasn’t time to do all this paperwork because the pilot was being sent away on active duty the following week. So we had to find a way around it. The pilot flies B1 bombers and luckily there was one parked outside the aviation museum, which was open to the general public.
So we arranged to do the shoot, he had time at mid-day for about 10 minutes! Anyone who is into photography knows that is the absolutely worst time to try to photograph anyone, but hey I like a challenge! I arrived early and had a look around, I really wasn’t at all prepared for how enormous these planes are - I mean the cockpit is about 20 feet into the air! There was also patches of bright snow on the ground and a really ugly car park in the background - not at all the kind of vibe I’d envisioned. You can see in this pull back photo what it really looked like.
So I got into problem solving mode. I asked the pilot to walk forwards towards me, and had him in the end quite far away from the actual plane. This allowed me to make him larger in the image compared with the plane. I also shot upwards (basically involves me lying flat on my back on the ground!) to not only create a heroic feel to the pilot, but it also got the plane into the image and eliminated the ugly background. For lighting I used the harsh sunlight as the main light and used a pop of strobe to fill in shadows a little. All in all it’s one of my favorite images from the project.