What kind of equipment, in your opinion, is a pre-requisite for newcomers in the field of aviation photography?
For aviation photography, find the camera with the fastest fps (frames per sec), and the minimum zoom on the lens should be 400mm. The 300mm is an ok lens since the frame is filled when the performers show up near you or take centre stage - the 400mm makes up by extending the reach more, giving you more flexibility. Lots of CF/SD cards since they can get used up a lot, especially if you are just starting out. I for one like to distribute the pictures of the day over a couple or more CF - don’t want to put all apples in one basket - since if anything happens to one big fat CF, then all the day's shoot is blown away.
With HD videos on DSLRs, have you thought of taking up aviation film-making?
I don’t have much of an attention span post-processing videos - just because of the amount of time it takes to create a decent movie - I might gather clips and all, but don’t feel like diving into that world, as of now - though my mind is open and things can change.
What was your encounter with Tejas at the Aero India Show 2011 like?
Well word was out that day that the Tejas will fly twice - and I was excited to see it after seeing it in 2009. I was more interested to see what modifications they had done to her display profile since 2009. While I was trying to sort out my pass for the event at Brigade Road, my mind was more focused on being at Yelahanka where the show was being held. Finally we made it out to the field, and just about in time - I heard the familiar noise of a jet engine spooling up - it was the engine of the Tejas and after a short while it taxied out. When I first saw it thundering down the runway, my eyes lit up - they had added the Smoke winders - smoke generators on the wingtips that generate smoke and add to the visual treat.
Apart from photographing Tejas, what is your opinion on how the Tejas programme has contributed as a whole to India's capability in terms of design and development of fighter aircraft?
I think that there is tremendous scope of stimulating aerospace and allied industries in our country. The Tejas programme has spurred a lot of big corporates as well as small time but, specialized companies in developing and mass producing aerospace components.
How different is photographing Tejas as compared to other contemporary aircraft?
The Tejas is a much more compact and small sized aircraft as compared to the others and that makes it very difficult to track. Add to that if the weather is not cooperative - sky is grey - then it does not help the camera in tracking it, since there is no contrast. That I think is the biggest difference in snapping Tejas compared to other aircraft.
Given your love for photographing different fighter aircraft, do you feel a sense of pride when you see Tejas?
Of course! I had been taking pictures of US and other aircraft for quite some years. So when I heard the IAF is going to be in town for the Red Flag exercises I jumped at the opportunity. It is a natural feeling of pride that one gets when he/she is taking pictures of aircraft flown in their country's colours. To top it, it is a great feeling to take pictures of something that your nation has produced. Part of photographing indigenous aircraft is one appreciates the time, effort and energy put into this by the individuals who have worked on this aircraft. It’s all the systems and wires, and mechanical parts that come together acting as a system to put the aircraft in the air.
Which is your favourite Tejas photo and why?
I love all of them - but a couple are my favourites. One is of the Tejas rocketing skywards with the afterburner lit - the rings of the engines are partially seen in that shot - feels like "Touch the Sky with Glory". And the second one is of a roll caught at the right time - looking at it almost feels like the Tejas is rolling in for a simulated ground attack and stops just short of rockets and guns blazing.
You have taken up flying yourself. Which aircrafts have you flown till date?
I first flew in a Primorets Glider in Nashik and soloed in it in 1994. After that fast forward 11 years to 2005, when I flew the Cessna 152 in my first flight with my instructor, but then decided to go with the Cessna 172 Skyhawk for the remainder of the training, and that is what I fly today.
What has your own experience of flying been like?
Flying for me is like trying to find a new world, within. It acts as a de-stressor from the problems of the world I live in. It gives one a different perspective on the mundane things he/she does in normal life. It is something special, not ordinary. If I haven’t done flying lately, the mind itches to get back in the air. Again, it is refreshing, awesome, and an unforgiving experience - one needs to be ahead of the aircraft; otherwise it leads you, not the other way round. When I am up there; it’s only flying, instruments, ATC communications, and the view that is on my mind - nothing else matters.