Getting into Skydiving Photography with Mark “Trunk” Kirschenbaum
Industry News | May 03, 2024
Getting into Skydiving Photography with Mark “Trunk” Kirschenbaum

USPA Staff

The opinions expressed here and in the webinar are Kirchenbaum’s own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of USPA.   

View the webinar to venture into the exhilarating realm of skydiving photography alongside the renowned Mark "Trunk" Kirschenbaum, the visionary behind Hypoxic Electronics! From camera rigging to perfecting those crucial settings for that ideal shot, Kirschenbaum serves as your mentor, generously sharing his wealth of knowledge and addressing your most pressing inquiries. 

Below is a comprehensive list of all the resources Kirschenbaum highlighted during the “Getting Into Skydiving Photography” webinar. He also graciously answered member questions that he didn’t have time to cover during the live session. 

Follow Trunk on Instagram  and check out Hypoxic's website.  

Trunk’s List of Skydiving Photography Resources 

GoPro HERO12/HERO11 Settings for Skydiving  

Filming Formation Skydives  

Etiquette of Sharing Skydiving Photos  

Sony Alpha Settings Guide  

GoPro HERO10/HER9 Settings for Skydiving   

Byrd’s Eye Studio— Full Camera Helmet Build  

AXIS Flight School—Using a Ringsight   

Hypoxic—2016 Helmet Build  

ChutingStar YouTube Channel  

FrickFlyers Camera Flying YouTube Playlist  



Trunk’s List of Aftermarket Mount Manufacturers  

(Not an endorsement and listed alphabetically)  
Most manufacturers will ship worldwide. 

Adrenaline Workshop (Florida, USA) 
Bonehead Composites (CA, USA) 
Cookie Helmets (Utah, USA & Australia) 
Flying Plastic (NJ, USA) 
GetHypoxic / Schumacher Precision Research (Arizona, USA) 
HB-Mount (UK) 
Invision Lab (USA) 
JW Skyprints (Portugal) 
Loop 3D (Unknown) 
Modern Camera Solutions 
Project Cutaway Mounts (Dubai) 
Schier Concepts (NC, USA) 
Schwarttzy Mounts 
Skycustom3d (Mixed reviews) 
SkydiveParts (UK) 
Tape2 (Germany) / Simon Huntridge (EU) 
Tonfly (Slovakia) 
Vmag Mount (Denmark) 
X-shut (Germany) (USA) 
X-Pro (EU/Argentina) 
Zkulls (Spain) 


Answers to the questions remaining in the chat: 

In addition to the camera/helmet setup, can you briefly chat about the suit/camera wings and how and when you use them? (Jason K) 
I'm finding every camera flyer has their own personal preference. With that being said, wings are a tool that give you a ton of range. What took me a while to realize is that pants are also very important, especially on the hill. If you are shooting an RW team and you plan on leading, booties are recommended in case you are a tad early and track up the hill. If you get a chance to fly your wings in a tunnel, that is super helpful as you can determine the body position for max lift. For instance, on my wings I've found I push forward and down for max lift. The tunnel also allows you to experiment with the attachment point without having to put a bunch of jumps on the wings. I believe both SkyVenture XP and SkyVenture Arizona allow rigs (with diapers) and wings to be worn.  

I'm curious if Trunk has a preference on full helmet vs open-face. Also, is he using a GoPro Mini for his 4k backup camera? (Jason K) 
The truth is, almost every camera flyer would rather be wearing a full-face helmet. Unfortunately, RELIABLE, COMPLETE helmet cutaway solutions that will not seize up under tension do not exist. If you want a still camera, an open-face or custom solution is necessary due to needing a cutaway system. If you are shooting with two POV cameras (such as the GoPro) there are many awesome snag-resistant solutions available. In addition, open-face helmets have a chin cup or chin support that is beneficial for stable video and crisp stills. I personally wear a one-size-smaller, full-face helmet if I'm shooting video.  

Has he had any issues with GoPro freezing in cold altitudes and how did he solve that? (Jason K) 
I have had issues with cold at altitude, and it was all my fault due to not understanding lithium ion batteries.  
   1. If using a GoPro, use the Enduro batteries and keep them above 50%. 
   2. Keep the camera away from the cold draft of the door and, if necessary, put it inside of your jumpsuit 
   3. Turn the camera on to standby early so the processor warms up the battery. 
   4. If it's mission critical, you can always start recording early, to really warm up the battery. Just cut it in post.  

Trunk: Just wanted to say, “Thanks for everything you do.” I’ve been shooting camera now for over 20 years, and every helmet setup I’ve created has had Hypoxic gear on it that I have RELIED on to create amazing photos and videos! (Gary F) 
Thank You! 

Do you recommend starting to film in super-wide view and working toward linear? As a newer camera flyer, I sometimes cut off some of the group. (Jennifer G) 
Well, Definitely start with a center-mark on your visor and do FOV (Field of View) drills on the ground. You can surely cheat with shooting in 4K wide and crop it in post, but you're cheating yourself. If you're truly trying to learn how to film, I would start with linear and make it a mission not to crop them. Knowing the dive flow and having subjects that stay together also helps. Linear may not be a great FOV for shooting tandems, though, as it's difficult to get the exit shot depending on where you set up in the door.  

Hey Trunk, have you ever thought about making some type of side covers for cameras or camera helmets of most types? That way lines or risers can ricochet off the side of the helmet/camera wall mount/side cover? (Dean N)  
Thank You! I've personally found it difficult to match the contour of some of these helmets to make fillers. That is why I suggest using some Thermal "TPU" beads to make custom filler blocks. It's much easier than modeling the helmet and getting the geometry right. Search for "Moldable Plastic Thermoplastic Beads" and you'll find what I'm talking about.  

What are your thoughts/policies on putting your own logo or signature on your stills? Is it different for certain types of paid gigs? (Laurel P) 
Back in the day, videographers used to recoup some of their costs of expensive equipment by selling prints and boogie videos. Those days are long gone. Now all we have is our personal brand that we promote to get more paid gigs, sponsorships, etc. Therefore, we're always marketing ourselves in today's social-media-focused world. That is why I try to watermark all my artwork and remind participants please to not remove them. At paid events, I will add the event's logo alongside my own. Obviously, if they don't want my name anywhere, they will have to pay me photographer-for-hire day rates. I generally work out part of the contract to include unwatermarked photos for them to use in print advertisements, but request they use the watermarked photos or at least give me credit for social media posts. I wrote a whole post about the etiquette of sharing photos many moons ago, but it's still relevant today. 

Do you think your full-frame is well worth the extra size/weight versus a smaller sensor? Have you played around with shooting video using your Sony? (Laurel P) 
Absolutely, but to what end?  

Is it worth you ruining your neck for a tandem video? No.  

Is it worth it for shooting a world record or big-way camp? Yes . 

Full-frame cameras, much like shooting a RED camera, have their place. You may get published in Parachutist more, but is an extra $800 a year and some industry clout worth your neck?  

Generally, when you're shooting a full-frame camera, you're also shooting better glass, so that is where most of the weight increase comes from on my setup. If you do choose to shoot a full-frame, make sure it is centered on the crown of your head and you have super nice, consistent openings.  

I have not shot much video using my full-frame in freefall. The stabilization is not the best, so you'll see it mainly for slow motion, shallow-depth-of-field shots. Luckily, the added weight tends to dampen some shake, but it's very noticeable in comparison to the stabilization on GoPros, etc. 

It feels like one of biggest reoccurring issues is missing the field of focus on my subject. Any tips for nailing focus consistently? (Jordan M) 
You can always increase the f-stop so the depth is increased and manually set your focus from the min to max distance you'll be flying. However, I personally find using your bite/tongue/etc. switch, try to recreate the situation on the ground where you are having issues, change your settings to get it to focus and fire the best. Changing the focus mode and continuous shooting speed will also help (High-speed continuous will not focus well between shots). There is a focus/shutter priority setting, too, on that camera that you may want to change. I believe face/smile detection affects the focusing speed of us skydivers. Also, the issue can be your lens if it's too slow to adjust focus.  

When's the best/safest time to pause or stop video after freefall? (Bridget W) 
I stop my video pretty much before my slider is even down (if my deployment was good). If not, I leave it on for the cutaway.  

During really crowded landings, I'll start recording around 1,500ft, as a blackbox.  

I'd love to hear any experiences with entanglements Trunk has had and how he dealt with them? (Bridget W) 

As far as entanglements, I’ve had my slider entangle on my dual GoPros, as there was a gap between the two. I was able to release it by reaching up and slowly pulling it out. I was willing to cut away the helmet if I needed, too. 

I had my ringsight entangle my risers at 400 feet on a hook turn and was able to break off the ringsight. This is why I remind people to put their ringsight up, not out! 

Do you have any tips for people who want to move into filming more than tandems; i.e., commercials, events, etc.? (Bradley M) 
The sad truth is I probably spent close to a decade not getting paid for my boogie/big-way work. Unfortunately, for events, it's a difficult industry to make money in, as there is always someone new looking to cut their teeth and a DZO trying to save money. However, like any skill, you have to show that you can do the work, and get published, before someone is willing to hire you. So that means if you want to shoot big-ways, start shooting bigger and bigger formations, possibly for free, to make a portfolio. Same goes with events when starting out.  

 I find for events and big-ways, you aren't just someone who produces content, you are part of the team and someone who helps with the promotion of the event. Don't just come in and say you'll shoot video/stills and hand them unedited, unsorted files. The organizer is not going to do anything with that content, and you made their life harder, not easier. Edit and treat select photos, organize and trim the footage. Say you'll help collect all media from other videographers, the disbursement to guests and perhaps create several reels. In this regard, you definitely deserve and should get a paycheck. If the event requires you to be there, you should ask for compensation. If you say you're going to be there, be there. Reliability is paramount.  

 For commercial work, make a demo reel and even invest in creating some promo shots. If you have an idea for a businesses' commercial, perhaps shoot some test footage and approach the company.  

I know Joe Jennings has on several occasions footed the bill for stunts that had no paying customers. These then became large paying gigs. In the end, it's a very difficult industry to break into.  

What is your opinion of the 360-type cameras like insta360 x4? (Jason F)   
They're tools great for some applications but not outside footage. Since they are dealing with so much data, zooming in is not the best. Therefore, I find them good only if you're in the thick of the action. If not, the footage is fairly subpar. If you choose an insta360, definitely get a third-party mounting solution. They're easy to knock off and projectiles. 

 It should be noted to those considering a "deathbar” (extension bar some people use with these cameras): If these setups don't scare you on each jump, you're experiencing the Dunning-Kruger effect. Slow motion some reserve deployments before considering wearing one. I personally would not attach my RSL (old-school or MARD) and definitely have a helmet-cutaway solution. Even so, I hope a reserve entanglement on this camera doesn't break your neck or get entangled and pinch off the reserve.  

Wings or no wings? (Allison I) 
They're tools. For someone like me, 235 out the door with helmet and gear, yes to wings! They give you range and help if you are super early. You can sitfly/standfly with them, too, if you need to go fast.  

Do you bring a tool, batteries and  SD cards, and if so, where do you keep them? (Allison I) 
We actually have a cameraflyer belly band/ fanny pack we are releasing in the next few weeks. I was having trouble keeping all my camera's batteries, cellphone for debriefing in the plane, and cards in my jumpsuit without it affecting my EPs. I specially crafted a belly fanny pack that has a bunch of features, specific for camera flyers. Check our Instagram for more information shortly.   

What brand do you recommend for both top and chin mounts? (Kenneth B) 
I don't have a recommendation on any mounts, as there are so many manufacturers out there at the moment. I included a curated list for completeness. We do not want our cameras to be projectiles. Typically, we jump over unpopulated areas, but there are some people and expensive planes below us. The last thing we want to happen is for us to be responsible for destroying a multi-million-dollar plane or killing a spectator on the ground. That is why any solution that you don't have to actively cut away, is a poor solution. It opens you, the DZ and USPA up to liability. Don't be that guy! 

Have you ever thought about making rectangular sights for video/camera flying? because shooting video/stills for most cameras are shot and exported in a rectangle. (Dean N)       
Unfortunately, the concentric is based upon a grown crystal. Growing crystals done in a rod format, then cut and polished. Therefore, to create a square sight, you would need to grind down all four edges. It dramatically adds to the cost of an already truly expensive design. In addition, at the end of the day, a ringsight just shows center. How far you need to be back for field of view is done by eye.  

For stills - aperture priority or timing priority? Or auto?   (Trystan T
I personally shoot in full manual in RAW and let the ISO adjust. All camera flyers have their own option. It's fairly dependent on your local climate and how quickly the weather, and therefore lighting, changes. 

Hi Trunk!  What canopy do you like for smooth camera-flyer-friendly openings?  We had this conversation once in the bar, but I don't remember what you said. (Jen K)
Most of us have moved onto Valkyrie as they are super reliable and have great openings. Older camera flyers relied on PD Spectre with a Dacron line set. 

With that being said, most newer canopies will open great if you take special care with packing and while deploying. Here are some highlights:  

  • Don't watch your openings.
  • Resist the urge to grab your risers to "help" the canopy open straight. You are adding way too much input. When openings start getting bad, go back to the basics. Tap your toes and look at the horizon, stay square in the harness, then pitch.
  • Have a well maintained lineset.
  • Regularly untwist brake lines. 
  • Don't roll the tail so much it pulls the d-lines forward.
  • Remove slack in lines when flaking. Keep lines under tension for at least the locking stows. 
  • Double-up the locking stows so you don't have bag dump. 
  • Most importantly, proper slider placement, ensuring they never ever move away from the stops!  (Even consider adding plastic snaps to your slider so it doesn't move and cause bottom skin inflation is not a bad idea) 

What style of wing do you recommend? (Dean N)
The one that is best for the job you are performing. I'm not the leading expert on camera wings nor jackets, but also must say, make sure it's manufactured in a way you can never reach in between the wing and attachment point to grab your pilot chute.  

Rate this article:
No rating

Number of views (3783)/Comments (0)

Please login or register to post comments.