How to Use Flash Photography on a Jet Flying at Over 450 MPH

Do you have a story about your most challenging photo shoot of all time? Every photographer has a horror story about photographing fast-moving children or animals, hard-to-please clients, or dimly-lit venues. But imagine trying to properly light and photograph a jet speeding through the air above you. That’s just the task that stock photographer Yuri Arcurs was faced with:

Lighting a subject as enormous and distant from the camera as a low-flying jet requires a significant amount of power and a high number of strobes. For this shoot, a trunk full of Profoto power packs were utilized in order to achieve 24,000 watts.


Arcurs set up his lighting on an active airport runway, where, between the jet’s low passes, commercial planes were taking off. Through communication with the pilot, he readied himself for each flyover, with assistants tending to his army of battery packs and light stands.


Because the jet was traveling at around 500 kilometers per hour, Arcurs had to time his pictures perfectly to frame the shot just as the aircraft passed through the area lit up by the strobes. To complicate matters, the Hasselblad camera that he uses has a one second shutter delay, so careful planning and timing of the shutter release was crucial. He used a wide angle lens to ensure the jet was in the shot. He also made use of a custom made monopod, the Yuri Arcurs SteadyPod to stabilize the hefty camera and lens.


After many frustrating trials, and with only a few more chances left to get the shot, Arcurs decided to try panning. He focused on the incoming jet and followed along with it before it reached the desired position, pressing the shutter in anticipation of the jet reaching the lighting. This method proved to be successful. He finally got a perfectly framed and lit shot.


At first glance, images like Arcurs’s photo of the flying jet don’t seem particularly complicated. But seeing the logistics that go into such involved shoots give a sense of appreciation for the varying conditions photographers work under to complete their assignments.

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