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Fascinating Behind the Scenes Look at Aviation Photography and Cinematography

Wolfe Air is a company with a very specific niche. It specializes in producing aerial footage for big-budget movie productions, airlines, private commercial clients as well as the military.  They recently released their updated promotional video, which is very impressive. One has to see it to appreciate the polished finished product that this company delivers. Once you view the video and the fabulous aerial sequences, you will likely wonder how these shots are taken.

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cathay pacific cargo  aviation photography

Obviously, another aircraft with a camera does the shooting, which is usually referred to as the camera platform. That plane could be a retrofitted Cessna 172 or an aircraft a bit more sophisticated like an F-16 fighter jet. Wolfe Air uses a special Learjet for their purposes, which actually makes a pretty a perfect platform for the kinds of planes that they shoot. It can cruise for the slower shots but also hold its own when faster planes crank it up.

wolfe air fighter jet aviation photography

atlas air aviation photography

To shoot outside and not through one of its windows, they purposely built and installed camera pods that are mounted to the belly, nose, or wings of the aircraft. These have cameras on a gimbal and gyroscopic system, with the gimbal allowing the camera to rotate unhindered, following its subject like a hawk.  This is one of Wolfe Air’s secret weapons that allow those marvelous shots to be captured, even while moving in excess of 300mph at 10,000 feet elevation.

landing wheels  aviation photography

plane landing  aviation photography

Planning the shots and having extremely competent pilots is the next part of the equation. The cost of aviation fuel does not leave much room for error, as production costs could soar, so having perfect execution is paramount. All sorts of tools which facilitate a perfect shoot are used, from stick models to flight simulators, not to mention the collective wealth of experience of the team.  Once they get going it is a perfectly orchestrated effort, with millions worth of aircraft and hardware moving as one symphony. This is how Wolfe Air works, described in very broad strokes, to get those magnificent aerial shots we take for granted whenever we see them.

us air force  aviation photography

air force one  aviation photography

Go on over to Wolfe Air’s website to learn more about this elaborate and exact process.

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Patricia Ramos the author

I am a freelance photographer who is no stranger to smudged lenses, long hours in front of the computer, heavy camera bags (and the back aches that ensued) and missing lens caps. If you know what I'm talking about, you probably have as much love and passion for photography as I do.

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