HOW LOW CAN YOU GO?
The first time I ever flew aerials for my paper, he was the pilot. I was assigned to get crowds at the ocean front beaches on a hot 4th of July. This was the first time I had ever met the man, although I had heard of his reputation from other photographers who had flown with him.
We went through what was to become our usual pre-flight ritual. I told him what the assignment was.
"How low do you want to get?"
"As low as you can. You're the driver."
He made sure that I was strapped into the rear seat of the two seater Cub, and off we went. When we got over Jones Beach, he lowered the side panel so that I could take my shots, unobstructed. He told me to tap him on the shoulder when I was ready to shoot so that he could throttle back, and also lift the starboard wing so that it wouldn't appear in my shot.
We made a few passes over the beach shooting the crowds out towards the ocean. I shot the crowded parking lots as well. Then I suggested a shot from about 100 yards off the beach, showing the bathers in the surf line and looking up to the hoards of blankets and bodies dotting the sand. But, I told him that we really had to get low over the water in order to get the perspective that I had in mind.
He said, "No problem. We'll be over water, so I can get as low as you want."
So we made our pass up the beach. I was busy looking out the side, through my view finder. I saw spray flying past and it wasn't until later that I realized that we were flying so low that the propeller wash was kicking up spray. I was waiting until all the elements lined up and then I started to shoot. I had shot a half dozen frames, or so (no motor drives, back then) when I happened to look up and out the front wind screen. We were skimming the water and right up ahead was a life guard on one of those surf boards that they use. Bob was looking out the starboard side trying to line me up for the best angles, and he didn't see the guy. The hapless life guard was waving his arms frantically as we bore down on him. I had pictures in my mind of our propeller grinding his head off, as I tapped Bob on the shoulder and pointed, wordlessly out the front window. Bob looked up and jerked back on the control stick and we popped up over the frightened life guard just as he dove into the water.
I got some really neat crowded beach shots, that day. And Bob earned another of many wrist slaps from the FAA for flying too low over populated areas.
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