It’s strange to say, but everything I do in photography and basically in my free time, is thanks to a helicopter. And all that is now coming to an end.

When I was 8 years old my parents took me to the annual airshow of Koksijde. As soon as I laid eyes on the Seaking helicopter I knew I wanted to become a pilot. It weren’t the loud and fast jets that caught my eye, but an even by then, old helicopter. There is something about the lines of a Seaking that makes it look so good. Just as others like the lines of a Lambo or a Ferrari over that of a Toyota, I preferred the Seaking over anything else. As every 8 year old boy would do, I started to collect everything related to the Seaking and aviation in general. I still have these binders full of articles and photos.

8 years old me in the Seaking helicopter. The moment I knew I wanted to do something with aviation.

In 2007, after doing several airshows, I decided to give photography a chance. I thought it would be fun to photograph airplanes and you never know what might happen. It was also a good reason to get my parents to drive me around the country for events. Coincidentally my first photo was from the Seaking. I shot it almost day to day twelve years ago at an opendoor of my local airfield.

The first time I took a photo with the ambition of becoming an aviation photographer. Shot through the window at my local airfield.

Around the same time I decided to go through with my childhood dream and I entered the qualification tests for the Belgian Air Cadets, only to find out (after passing all tests) that I was colorblind. As soon as I had to read numbers in those colored circles I knew I was fucked. I just randomly started to say numbers, realizing that my childhood dream had reached an abrupt end.

No worries though, I had started photography and decided to go all in on that. If I can’t fly myself, I at least could let others fly me around. I started to contact a lot of people over the internet asking for advice and flights. Somehow most were sympathetic to what this 16 year old kid was asking. This even got me into the Aviation PhotoCrew, but that is another story for another blogpost.

I contacted pilots, photographers, magazine editors, etc. Some became close friends others gave me awesome opportunities but ended up disappearing from my life again. But that is the beauty of the path that photography and failing the Cadets had brought me. I met a lot of great people. One group of photographers in particular I will be forever grateful because they got me a ride in the Seaking, easing the pain of never going to be able to fly a machine like this.

I was still a rookie when I got a flight in the Seaking so I didn’t take that many photos and most weren’t good. Also, sitting in a helicopter where you can’t move around doesn’t make for much interesting photos anyway. But when they opened the cargo door I was able to make a good one. Still an awesome memory though. Just wish I had some better photo opportunities.

Another group I will be forever grateful is the Aviation Photocrew of which I became a member in 2009. Another perk of this hobby and the way things went, is that I visited a lot of great places and I could start doing air to air photography. About 7 years later I had a Seaking on my 6 o’ clock, posing for a photo and 3 years after that, during the Farewell Tour of the King, I had a second opportunity to shoot it air to air.

Seaking21-09-15_4groot (1 of 1)

Now, March 2019, the end has come for this helicopter. I can’t say I’m not saddened by its retirement. I’m actually surprised about how I got attached to a piece of metal. On the other hand this helicopter has put me on a path that has brought me great joy; that has let me meet new people and has let me see new places.

Fitting weather for a ‘farewell’ event. But on the other hand, also matching that the only ray of sunshine is falling on the King.

It is also fitting that this story is coming to an end now. Almost day to day, 12 years after shooting my first photo and in the same period I decided to focus more on photography in general than aviation photography exclusively. I have been photographing my travels since 2015, but it’s only since this year that I have this site and a blog dedicated not to aviation (as my previous blog was), but to my photography and everything that is related to it.

And even though it will be a sad moment tomorrow at the fence of Koksijde airbase, the end of this story and this helicopter is also a new beginning and one that hopefully will let me meet more people and will let me explore more new places.

Thoughts, comments, questions? Let me know in the comment section below!

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