Photos by Brianne Thompson.
In honor of USPA’s 75th anniversary, Niklas Daniel, D-28906, of AXIS Fight School captured the striking photo that is the centerspread of this issue of Parachutist. Daniel’s photo provides an interactive comparison between “then” and “now,” documenting the evolution of our sport in a single image. It also prompts the reader to ask the question: What next?
The subject of the photo, David Robinson, D-33346, started jumping at Skydive Cincinnati in Waynesville, Ohio, in 1976. After 36 jumps in his first couple of years, he decided to hang up his parachute, not picking it up again until February 2011. He revived his jumping career at Skydive Arizona in Eloy, where he has made 1,800 jumps, earning Skydiver Resurrection Award #11868. He’s also earned his PRO rating, participates in Parachutists Over Phorty, Skydivers Over Sixty and Jumpers Over Seventy events and has several POPS, SOS and JOS big-way records—state, national and world—under his belt. Robinson was the perfect subject for this photo, having jumped during two vastly different eras of skydiving ... and it didn’t hurt that he still held on to his first set of gear.
But it wasn’t all Daniel and Robinson—several people at Skydive Arizona came together to help. Brianne Thompson assisted with setting up the shooting location and time management. Kandace Rawling, the DZ’s head mechanic, moved and positioned the aircraft (a Twin Otter and a Twin Beech) into the right locations. Robinson’s wife, Kay, helped with setting up the location and the wardrobe change—including dying her husband’s beard. William Smith operated a water truck that was able to deliver many gallons over a short period of time, creating the mirror effect on the tarmac.
To put it into the simplest terms, Daniel took two separate photos and then merged them to create the final product. Though some photoshop magic was used in post-production, the team overcame most of their challenges practically, before and between the shots. The prep work included sweeping the tarmac to rid it of small rocks, dust and debris, as well as removing distracting background items, such as cones and flags. The time of day was crucial to the success of the reflection effect, and glare was an issue. The team was constantly replenishing the water on the tarmac, fighting the Arizona sun that was working hard to evaporate the reflective pool. Even the winds needed to be calm, so as not to create ripples on the water’s surface.
And while all of that sounds incredibly difficult, there was more: Once the team captured the perfect shot, they also needed to pull away one airplane, pull in the other (with identical positioning), and do it all again. That meant using ground markers and referencing previous images in the camera’s view finder. The time between shots—when all of this was executed—was only 27 minutes, and that was mainly due to the wardrobe switch.
Daniel envisioned an image that both showed Robinson’s past and present—artistically using the water to reflect two very different times with regard to equipment and aircraft. Capturing reflections in water can be tricky and is best done while in manual mode to control all aspects of the exposure. Daniel used a tripod set to a low shooting angle (keeping in mind that the final product would have Robinson’s reflection closer to the camera than Robinson) and used a wide depth of field to keep both halves of the image in focus. With a fast shutter speed, small aperture and a higher ISO (to compensate for the low-exposure settings), Daniel was able to capture an iconic centerspread photo for this month’s Parachutist.
CAMERA GEAR AND SETTINGS
Sony Alpha 7R
Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 FE GM
Focal Length: 33mm
F Number: f/16
Exposure time: 1/250
Postproduction: Adobe Light Room and Photoshop
Readers can see more of Daniel’s work at niklasdaniel.photography