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Plane Crazy – by Mel Lewis

Sitting in a very small twin engine aeroplane where one side of it is against your shoulder and the door an arm’s length away is not everyone’s idea of a fun afternoon. I say “the door” but in fact there is no door which means you are able to look at the ground 2000 feet below with nothing in between.

“Don’t worry about that” shouts the helmeted madman next to me with two cameras around his neck, “the G-force will keep you in the plane – although I did fall out of a helicopter once!” It’s ok for him, I have a little seatbelt between me and oblivion; he is bolted to the bulkhead on a body harness.

The “helmeted madman” is Ian Hay of Above All Images and author of over twenty aerial photography books. Ian kindly invited me on a little trip that took us over a fair proportion of the south of the country to take photographs for clients and also for storage in a massive photo library.

Despite being jovial, the air (and there’s a lot of it – remember there’s no door) is one of complete professionalism. The pilot and co-pilot work regularly with Ian Hay on photographic projects and know how to manoeuvre the aircraft into the best position. At every stage the local air traffic control is informed of our whereabouts and that of our rather worryingly named “Target”.

Just as I am considering the nature of our Target, the co-pilot comes over the head-phones in a crackly voice – “Two minutes to target”. The target in this case is the Cheltenham Gold Cup. In a flurry of activity, Ian gets himself ready and equipped with the chosen camera. Mistakes are expensive in this industry.

Ian ensures that he is firmly fixed to the bulkhead of the plane and then instructs the pilot to bank sharply to the left. Now begins the white knuckle ride – the ground is now below me and looks rather close. “Steady, tighter turn please, steady – level up NOW” the pilot lurches the plane into a level position while Ian snaps away. To describe the feeling a “tighter turn” means the pilot banks even more and throttles up making any normal person’s stomach go into an unrecoverable dive.

We circle the Cheltenham Gold Cup in this fashion for five minutes or so before moving onto our next “target” giving us twenty minutes of peace looking out of the window (the doorway is too scary)and discussing the finer points of photography with Ian. This is a man with a passion for flying and also for photography and he has combined these passions into a successful business, I begin to realise that perhaps he is not such a madman after all!

In all about ten projects were completed in the space of three hours then it’s back to the airfield. The work doesn’t stop there. Ahead are hours of work to make sure the images are good enough for the clients. Then copying and uploading.

Above All Images are set to grow to great heights both in terms of flying and photographic excellence. I certainly look forward to another trip. Door, who needs a door!