John started making camera mounts for hang gliders in 1981. Since those early basic brackets John has made many sophisticated camera mounts and shot hundreds of still, movie and video shots for TV shows, documentary films, commercials, magazines, and various photo-consumers. John is considered to be the premier hang gliding photographer and builder of hang glider camera mounts in the World.
The picture at the top of this page illustrates John's ingenunity. The camera was mounted on his retractable tail boom to achieve this shot. The boom pivots upward for take-off and landing, and extends downward for making exposures during flight. It is actuated by a string that runs through a pulley on the king post, and down to the controlbar. The actuation system is hidden from view.
|This is the retractable tail boom mount. It takes about ten pounds of counter-weight at the nose to balance the camera and boom in such a far out position. The weights are on a bracket that holds them above the wing and out of "sight" of the camera. The retracting string routes from the rear of the boom through pulleys at the top of the vertical strut, through a pulley at the top of the king-post, and down to the control bar.|
It is possible to loop with this camera boom. In normal flight gravity holds the camera boom in position. During a loop or rollover, G-force must hold the camera in position. John knows from experience that the boom will begin to retract if he does not carry sufficient G-factor throughout the maneuver. Several of John's calendar contributions over the years are inverted shots made with this boom.
John strives to keep all mounting gear out of view in the frame of the photo. He feels that it distracts the viewer from the full enjoyment of the scene, and detracts from the purity of the image if there are invasive clues as to how the photograph was taken.
A well-done mounted photo should allow the viewer to slip into the fantasy of being in the position of the camera and enjoy the wonder of the grand view.
John's most challenging camera job involved developing a system for mounting a small(40pounds!) IMAX camera on a hang glider and making three flights with it in the Owens Valley. The camera is a special, one-of-a-kind mount-camera custom-built by Jim Williams and Jack Tankard for MacGillivray Freeman Films. The complete story of that adventure can be found on the "articles" page under "SpaceCam Invasion".
John is always thinking about the next new idea for a never-been-done "mounted" hang gliding photo. According to John, "The best is yet to come".
(John does build custom camera mounts for professionals.)