Ellenville Aero-Photoshoot

So there’s a photo I’ve been wanting to get for a long, long time… and I decided the clouds and trees and everything looked just right to try for it today.  To get the shot, I’d need to fly with my nose-boom camera mount and my Panasonic GH2 (GoPro image quality doesn’t even come close!).

As with all good plans, things didn’t go quite as I saw then playing out.  First, I forgot the second battery to the GH2 at home- where I had put it on the charger to top it off just to make sure it was absolutely full.  No biggie, I’ll use the battery that’s in there, it’s showing it’s half full still.

Then I put the nose boom mount together, which is two pieces that sleeve together and a pin/safety ring secures the one inside the other.  Well I couldn’t for the life of me get the pin through the hole I usually use, so in my frustration I used a different one (more on this later).

After changing nose-cones on the glider (nose boom requires a hole to exit the sail), installing the nose boom with the safety string that runs through it and secures it to the inside of the keel, I aimed the camera and installed my RF remote shutter.  I go to take a test shot and it doesn’t fire.  Try again.  Oh, I didn’t turn it on!  Turn it on… test shot… nada.  Dead battery in the shutter receiver.  DOH!  No prob, I guess I’ll just shoot video instead.  The GH2 shoots amazing vid, and the lens system is so good even though they’re less megapixels than a GoPro the color and image quality is superb.


I launch and begin climbing my way up.  Now the shot I want is of me, at the top of a loop, with the horizon level and Ellenville launch in the background.  To get this with a nose-boom I’ll need to fly out in front of launch, turn around, and then loop towards the mountain… with enough room to exit the maneuver and not hit the hill of course.  The tricky part… besides looping in active conditions towards a mountain with a camera boom and 5-lb weight on the keel… was that I need to be at roughly launch level in order to get that in the background about at the apex of the maneuver.  Now before everyone flips out about low aerobatics, being in front of launch a ways gets me decent vertical clearance.

Anyway, I go out and do one maneuver.  I don’t say “loop” because I wasn’t quite wings level at the top, which meant my exit heading didn’t match my entry, which means it’s a great climbover but not a loop.  Anyways, I climb back up and do it again, this one I hit some nasty turbulence and bailed on the loop, doing a climbing rollover to expend the built up energy of the dive.  Climb up again.  I go out for round 3 and I’m lined up perfect!  Things feel good, I dive… wind noise building… let the pitch out very slowly and smoothly and as I climb I’m looking up and focusing on keeping it wings-level.  At the apex I can see launch just past my nose-cone and I know I NAILED IT (if I do say so myself).  And as I’m diving through the exit I hit a nasty bump and all I see is my camera coming towards me.  I knew immediately what had happened…

When I used that other hole to assemble the mount, that left the hole(s) I usually use (two holes about 45 degrees off so I can mount it with the bend straight or going off to one side) on the outside of the oversleeved portion.  To keep weight down it’s pretty thin aluminum (not aircraft grade or anything nice READ: expensive).  It broke at those exposed holes.  No biggie, because I always tie a spectra safety line onto the camera, run it through the inside of the boom, and attach it to the glider inside the keel.  So now 1/2 my boom is hanging from that string.  I guess I won’t be doing anymore aerobatics on this flight!

I debate flying around a while more… but I’m envisioning the safety line rubbing against the broken tubing and slowly cutting away.  I’m worried about losing my camera, but more importantly I’m worried about it falling and hitting another pilot, someone on the ground, a car, whatever.  Slim chance?  Not risking it more than I have to… head out to land.

Uneventful landing.  I packed up and and laughed the rest of the daylight away with the great Ellenville pilot community.  When I was done packing up I tried to check out my footage but the camera battery was dead.  I get home and excitedly download the video.  It’s only about 14 mins?!  I guess that 1/2 charged battery wasn’t very “fresh” after all.  DOH!


On the up side, I got some really nice shots of launch and the surrounding area, and I got the first of the three attempts at “the shot”… and I have to say, I’m pretty satisfied.  I may have to revisit this idea when the remote shutter release is working, and grab a 16MP sharp-as-hell image now that I know just where to be on the way over the top… but until then, a great day and “mission accomplished” (mostly).  Never boring!