AIR TO AIR SHOOT WITH THE SU-27

There are only a handful of jet types I still wish to see flying next to me and the Sukhoi 27 has been on that list for a very long time. But last September, as a member of the Aviation Photocrew, I finally got my opportunity to photograph this big jet!

Since the opportunity arose during the Sanicole project, we were flying with all our members as well as 10 other photographers. When the plane is full I usually go in the copilot seat, but that seat was taken by another Sukhoi pilot who was there to translate  in case it was necessary (in the end there weren’t any problems, but better safe than sorry!). This left us with too many people, but for this special opportunity we packed ourselves behind the paying photographers and all got a go at shooting the mighty Su-27.

The flight was a little crazy because everybody seemed to be going into primal survival mode and just started firing away ignoring the other photographers. There’s always a little of that during a shoot, but with the Sukhoi on our six it was every man for himself.

In the end it didn’t really matter because the jet was flying behind and next to us for almost half an hour, giving every photographer enough opportunities to snap some good photos. We were also treated with sunny conditions on this blue painted plane.

Standing all the way in the back and not being the tallest, I didn’t focus on getting the classic head on. I did manage to snap some shots of course, but focussed on getting some making offs. I couldn’t stop but noticing how fucking big this jet is. I’ve seen dozens of F-16’s and Rafales before and when I first saw an F-18 or F-15 I was surprised by the size of these jets. But they are nothing compared to the Sukhoi! I’m happy with the pictures I got but they’re not the best photos. I’m much more happy with the ones I got from the afterburner break.

I waited for it to come to our wing to take some side-on photos through the windows. People who haven’t flown in a Skyvan before can not imagine how hectic it can be for the people who are standing. Those sitting just have to sit and wait until the plane is in view. It’s actually quite ‘relaxed’. But standing also offers the opportunity to shoot through the windows and this involves walking around in the cabin. And god damn it, it was hectic.

Even though I’m happy with the results, these are basic air to air shots. I like the photos from the afterburner break way more!

Most of the time I was too slow to capture the jet going from one side to the other, but then it made an afterburner acceleration and a break. I just fired away, standing about half a meter from the small window, hoping that I would capture something useable. To my surprise I did capture the break, but I was disappointed with the original image. It was too wide and had bits and pieces of the Skyvan in frame and a lot of reflections.

I usually don’t crop my images much. I Just straighten things out and perfect the composition, but for these images I needed to crop way more. I don’t know why I didn’t do these heavy crops before, but this opened my eyes to the possibilities.

After cropping I used my ‘Hverir’ preset which gives the images a very blue look that I really like because it matches the plane and it contrasts with the orange afterburner. All it needed was some adjustment in the brightness and some cloning in Photoshop to get rid of reflections.

In the end I’m very happy with the results. They’re definitely among my favorite aviation photos from this year.

Make sure to check out the Aviation PhotoCrew website for more air to air work and check out the ‘Fly with us’ tab if you want to book a flight with us.

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