If you saw the title and were wondering how a photographer could look down into a fighter plane that can fly up to 1,875 mph, it isn’t because he levitated himself there.
The explanation is actually more mundane although the timing was more down to luck as it was from skill.
Fifty-year-old Rob Maclennan hiked up a 700-foot mountain in Machynlleth, Wales in order to snap photos of fighter jets as they screamed past the terrain below and in fact managed to take shots of three of them.
As to why the jets were flying close enough to the ground that someone on top of the mountain could look down on them, that is actually par for the course for fighter aircraft especially those that specialize in ground attack like the F-15 Strike Eagle that Maclennan managed to photograph.
The reason is that when striking well-defended targets deep in enemy territory, attacking aircraft fly “nap of the earth” in order to use the terrain to avoid detection from radar as long as possible. Of course, flying so fast in a place that can easily turn your plane into a pancake at the slightest mistake requires lots of practice.
And that’s what the USAF F-15 was doing, probably in conjunction with the Royal Air Force. In the US, one of the more famous locations for these types of flight training is Rainbow Canyon in California, more popularly known as Star Wars Canyon because the combination of gray, pink, and red material that dot the canyon floor and walls resembles the fictional planet of Tatooine.
Lots of photographers congregate there in order to take close snapshots of military aircraft flying low and the National Park Service is even thinking of turning Star Wars Canyon an official attraction because of how many visitors it attracts.
And the place Maclennan took the photo at probably holds a similar distinction in the UK.
Most of his pictures were actually blurry but one managed to stand out and in photography, usually one is all it takes.
It showed the Weapon Systems Officer, who is sitting behind the pilot, looking up straight at the camera as if he knew the exact moment to look up.
Maclennan said, “I climbed up the mountain, plotted up there and waited – the jet came by at 500ft below me during a fly-by.
“They were United States Airforce. The guy you can see looking up in the back is known as a Weapon Systems Officer.
“The area is a series of valleys, all you can see below is the odd road – it took me about 400 shots before I could snap it.
“They have to contact air traffic control before to let them know what they’re going to do – it’s all one way – there’s just a few of them.
“They’ve been doing it since the sixties – back then there were hundreds.
“There’s less demand now with the use of stealth planes.”
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