Desert Little Bird

The MD530G helicopter is an impressive piece of machinery. Known for its agility, speed, and versatility, this helicopter is a favorite among military and law enforcement agencies worldwide. In my flying career I feel exceedingly fortunate to have spent several thousand hours piloting the amazing and capable MD530F, (an earlier and similar incarnation of the 'G'), as well as several of its relatives in the iconic MD Helicopter line.

But what made this particular shoot a unique opportunity was the dual weapon systems that had been installed, taking the MD530G’s mission capabilities to a whole new level. And at the conclusion of the photo sortie, I was then given an opportunity to fly this little bird which is a story for another day.

Anyway, the weapon systems aboard the MD530G consisted of rocket pods and a .50 caliber machine gun mounted outboard on two stub-wings. This configuration was intended to showcase the MD530G's capacity to perform a wide range of military missions, from air support and reconnaissance to combat operations. This prototype was a testament to cutting-edge engineering and innovation, and capturing it on camera was a thrilling experience.

For this particular shoot I chose early morning, hoping to capture the helicopter flying low and fast across rugged desert terrain, hoping to evoke a sense of surprise of the little bird emerging from the darkness.

I envisioned a background of deep shadows with low rays of sunlight raking across the terrain, illuminating primarily just the aircraft and the spinning ‘high-visibility’ rotor blades. .

Even under the best conditions, when flying up at altitude, air to air photography requires skill and coordination between the pilot and the photographer, as maintaining a safe distance while capturing dynamic shots is critical. But doing so with helicopters flying low and fast among rugged desert terrain presents a unique set of challenges for photographers and pilots/air crews alike.

Mother Nature and both of the pilots, (from MD Helicopters), were total pros and made sure I was given the opportunities to capture what I was hoping for. We found some sweet locations where the shadows and sunlight converged to create the dramatic ambiance that made this endeavor truly worthwhile.