The Wall of Pyro » Michael Clark Pictures

On a latest project photographing the 2023 Pink Bull Aerial Camp, I used to be tasked with masking a big selection of sky divers, wingsuit skydivers, paragliders and extra. On one night, the crew bought the thought to arrange some pyrotechnics for the crew to swoop via when coming in for a touchdown. This isn’t an uncommon concept as I’ve photographed comparable conditions earlier than with the Pink Bull Air Pressure — and the day earlier than the crew was swooping via a large wall of coloured smoke.

For these not accustomed to the time period “swooping” because it pertains to sky divers, when coming in for a touchdown superior sky divers will pull down on their cover and fly at excessive speeds horizontally simply earlier than touching down and sliding to a cease. At this second the sky divers can nonetheless be flying at velocity in extra of 60 mph (96 Kph). Therefore, the time period swooping is used to explain this dynamic maneuver.

On this occasion, the crew had been organising the Pyro alongside a shallow pond proper at sundown. The crew went up on the final bounce airplane simply earlier than it began to get darkish. Having photographed this type of state of affairs earlier than (extra on that later) I arrange on the other facet of the pyro and made positive we had been effectively lit so the sky divers may see us as they got here via. I had an assistant maintain a number of brilliant headlamps proper the place we had been positioned. The pyro was arrange so it wasn’t a dense wall however in order that the sky divers may really see via it. However simply earlier than Sean MacCormac got here via a couple of further pyrotechnics went off thereby making a wall of smoke and brilliant white pyro, which made it very tough to see something on the otherside.

As a result of it was already fairly darkish, I opted to make use of a 50mm f/1.2 lens, which meant being nearer to the pyro than I actually needed to be with the oncoming sky divers swooping via. Three of us bunched collectively and crouched right down to make ourselves as small as potential. The primary a number of skydivers got here via simply positive–and had been capable of see us as a result of there have been gaps within the flying sparks. However when the extra pyro turned on and created a wall of white sparks and smoke Sean couldn’t see something. The picture above, on the prime of this weblog submit was captured simply as he blasted via the wall of sparks. As might be seen within the collection of photos under–captured at 20 frames per second–he got here proper at us.

From expertise, I knew the most suitable choice was to remain put so I didn’t transfer. Sean, together with his unbelievable reflexes pulled his legs to at least one facet on the final millisecond so he didn’t hit me squarely besides he nonetheless clipped my digicam, which collapsed the lens hood over the entrance of the lens barrel, after which scraped the facet of my face. Behind me the 2 different folks dropped to the bottom and fortunately didn’t get hit. My digicam was positive, the lens hood was shattered however getting a brand new lens hood will not be costly. Sean took an even bigger hit than I did as a result of the lens hood impacted his decrease leg fairly onerous. He had an enormous bruise on his shin. As a result of my face was bleeding I bought patched up by the EMTs on website and checked for concussion. Sean bought checked out as effectively and so they used a stress wrap to maintain his leg from swelling. We each felt horrible concerning the incident and apologized profusely to one another, however I used to be actually mad at myself for even placing myself (and two others) in that place as I ought to have identified higher and did know higher.

A couple of years earlier, on an project for the Spotlight Skydiving crew I used to be in an identical state of affairs. As proven within the picture under, the sky divers had been swooping via a wall of fireplace. On this occasion, I used to be taking pictures with a 70-200 lens and stood fairly a methods again from the flame anticipating the sky divers not with the ability to see us on the opposite facet. This was additionally at daybreak, so it wasn’t full on brilliant daylight but it surely wasn’t darkish both.

A lot of the sky divers got here via and flew by our place simply however one got here via and really narrowly missed my head by just some inches whereas transferring at over 60 mph. She moved her legs on the final second to keep away from hitting us. I didn’t transfer however felt her go by figuring out it was fairly shut. A couple of folks standing about twenty ft behind had been filming the entire thing and captured the close to miss on video. I heard them exhale loudly proper when it occurred, which let me realize it was nearer than I noticed. Upon watching their video I noticed it was fairly dang shut and each myself and the skydiver may have been critically injured. Fortunately, it was solely a close to miss. I swore to myself I might by no means put myself in that place once more. Therefore, for this reason I used to be so mad at myself after the accident with Sean MacCormac.

After the accident with Sean, I didn’t test my digicam or the photographs till after getting checked out by the EMTs. I used to be maybe nonetheless a bit dazed by the accident and everybody rushed over to test on us–and seeing blood on my face rushed me over to the EMTs. They did a complete job checking me out and patching up my face. It was solely in spite of everything of that after I checked the digicam to see if we had captured something and I noticed the picture on the prime of this weblog submit. I used to be floored by the picture because it occurred so quick I simply mashed the shutter launch down and blasted away. I used to be additionally amazed that the picture was in focus, particularly since I used to be taking pictures at f/1.2 in close to whole darkness. That is positively the most effective picture of the complete project.

My honest apologies to Sean for lining up in a nasty spot. I’m so glad that everybody, particularly Sean, got here away comparatively unscathed. It was a blast to hang around with all the athletes and the crew supporting them. And it was particularly cool to satisfy and work with the worldwide athletes that I had not met previous to this aerial camp. Beneath is a photograph of all of the athletes lined up on one facet of the pond.