Gear Insights:

High End DSLR Imagery and PPG

GoPro Image of the DSLR and 24-70mm lens

DSLR’s are the Only Way to Go Where Bigger Cameras are Concerned

Those of you following this website and blog may know that in a past life I had a limited stint as a commercial photographer. By limited I mean that it wasn’t my full-time job, but I was shooting regularly and had a pretty full schedule. Photography has been something I’ve dearly loved since I was in my teen years and I’ve never really “not” done it per say. The commercial stint was short-lived though, because as they say, don’t turn what you love to do into your job, lol.

Anyhow, before getting into PPG I had longed for my next genre in photography. My bases were pretty much covered in landscape, wildlife, nature, street, black & white, fashion, and portrait photography, and I was looking for something new. Interestingly though, I had never ventured into sports or action photography. Enter PPG.

DSLR - Running into the Sky :)As soon as I started my PPG training I knew there would be some absolutely epic opportunities to capture stunning imagery from this venue… It was only a matter of time. Also I had already known about renowned National Geographic Photographer George Steinmetz, who’s totally stunning imagery was obtained in very large part if not exclusively via powered paragliders. The only obstacle I could foresee for myself in this was the method in which I would haul my bulky pro DSLR equipment up with me. It’s not light stuff. And a full frame magnesium DSLR body isn’t exactly small nor is it inexpensive either – They can range anywhere from $1,700 to $8,000 dollars but the real weight comes from the lenses. Canon’s line of L Series Lenses can weigh in at around a 6 pack or more each for some of the bigger telephoto zooms. So I decided to start with some of their smaller lenses and gradually work my way up to the larger, heavier ones. How am I securing this gear, you might ask? I found a critical part that made all the difference in the world (which I’ll get back to in a minute), but first let me mention another alternative. There are, although I haven’t seen them, small totes about the size and shape of a reserve carrier which can be used to carry cameras airborne. At the time of this writing though I wouldn’t have any idea where to find one, mainly because I found this other alternative first and liked it right off the bat.

DSLR Gear: The Cotton CarrierIt’s called the Cotton Carrier and I did a previous review on it here, so I won’t go into too much detail other than to say that I’m very comfortable with it getting airborne and getting back on the ground – It doesn’t hinder either for me operationally. I was worried about the lenses getting caught on the center harness strap, the one that runs between the spreader bars out in front of the stomach, but this wasn’t nearly the problem I thought it was going to be. One thing that helped with that was the elongated battery compartment on bodies like the Canon 1Dx or the addition of a battery grip on prosumer bodies. This allowed the lenses to be pushed out further from my chest, therefore providing that mid harness strap more room to get ‘settled…’ so to speak. However, I may be adding a spacer made of foam to the front of the lenses to keep them from banging on my stomach and weakening the Cotton Carrier as I’m running for takeoff and/or landing.
DSLR - Sunset Tandem FlightOnce in the air the magic really happens. I can unhook the big unwieldy DSLR from my chest and just set it in my lap for when I need it. Of course there’s a redundant retention system in the form of a strap I wear around my neck which runs underneath the Cotton Carrier strap so it’s not going anywhere – Especially backwards into the prop which could spell disaster… Imagine getting clocked smack dab in the middle of the face with potentially a twelve pack’s weight of camera gear as the neck strap is wrapping around the prop behind you… Not good. Not good at all. Anyhow, the whole system has proven to suit me well and so far it’s turning out some interesting results. I’ve added a new wallpaper page to the site and there’s a link to it below. Have a look and feel free to use some or all of the imagery on your desktop if you like. The first two images (the ones featured on this page) were taken utilizing the new Cotton Carrier system.

Wallpaper Page
DSLR - Tandem FlightOne thing to note about the previous imagery is the ‘sunset’ photo above. The camera RAW file format is an amazing technology, with virtually endless possibilities post production wise. The file isn’t done yet – In other words, YOU complete the image on the software side. This one shot in particular of the sunset wasn’t captured at the ‘actual blaze of glory’ sunset quite yet. It was late in the day yes, but official sunset was still around 20 minutes away – The actual point at which the sun touches the horizon and makes a visual lightshow that’s attune to chocolate for the eyes 🙂 In this particular shot I compensated by tweaking the white balance to very warm in Adobe Lightroom and then turned the dark tones way, way down. These shifts in levels give the impression that there is a blaze of glory Mike and his student are flying into, but the dead give away is that you can still quite clearly see the hills on the other side of the valley, something the real deal would have mostly obscured with golden rays through haze at this angle and in this particular shot 🙂