In early August Rusty and I finally planned a shoot together that involved putting a battery powered strobe in a helicopter.

For the last year or so, Rusty Malinoski and I have talked about some pretty big ideas for a photo shoot. Rusty is a professional wakeboarder and one of the most motivated guys in the sport when it comes to getting the best photos. Always willing to hit an extra double up, ride first thing in the morning, or whatever else it may take to get the best photos published. Rusty and I hadn’t caught up and shot photos at all in 2012 so we decided that when we did it had to be something unique. In early August Rusty and I finally planned a shoot together that involved putting a battery powered strobe in a helicopter. Basically the helicopter would be the ultimate light stand, following the rider and being able to light him at any angle. It turns out friend and old wakeboard photographer Mike Isler had tried this years before with mixed results. Undeterred though I called Mike for advice. The idea hadn’t quite worked out for Mike but he knew the problem shortly after the end of the shoot. Mike, who also happens to be one of the best photo assistants in the world, offered some great tips on rigging the wireless triggering device and some other issues to watch out for.

Rusty and I found a few days we had free and decided it was time to make a move on lining up a helicopter. Renting a helicopter and not shooting from it seems like kind of a waste of resources but I knew we could get some unique results as long as the strobes fired. We needed a place to do the shoot and decided on a rock quarry, SunWest, on the gulf coast that was owned by a friend. After getting in touch with him and getting the green light we found the day with the best window for weather.

Storms roll in almost every afternoon from the Gulf at this spot in Florida so it was tough to really pick a day that would have great weather. Nonetheless we picked a Thursday in early August and went out to the quarry with a solid crew. We had the helicopter for two hours of fly time to get the shot we were going for. While the sun was high and were waiting for evening to set in, Rusty decided to take a a warm up ride and I decided to jump in the helicopter for a few shots. Our pilot Dirk was new to this kind of aerial photography but quickly learned how close he needed to be for us to get the shot. The light was still too high to shoot so we all decided to wait till the sun dropped to the horizon. Anxiously we all waited as storms passed and the hour grew nearer. I kept entertained by wandering around the unique property shooting everything from horses to a camouflage limousine (a camosine). At about 7pm we made the call to fire up the boat and helicopter again. Rusty rode like a man possessed, hitting double up after double up, getting almost 20 feet of air almost every time. The strobe in the helicopter didn’t fire every time as planned but it did fire enough times to get the shots we wanted. With all that went into the shoot, everyone was relieved and psyched that we were able to make it work. A huge thanks goes out to all those involved in the shoot including Gary Grubbs, Sean Dishman, Kevin Michaels, Kyle Rattray, Zachary Scheffer, and Cullen Traverso. Pick up the Photo Annual Issue of Alliance Wake to see some these select photos printed big!


  1. Norma Soderlind

    The camosine reminds me of Ken’s War Wagon….Vietnam Era….I never know what to expect on your photo shoots! It’s always greatly anticipated & appreciated

  2. Lighting a Wakeboarder Using a Battery-Powered, Helicopter-Mounted Strobe

    [...] lighting the action from the air using a battery-powered strobe placed in a helicopter. Soderlind writes that a helicopter “would be the ultimate light stand, following the rider and being able to [...]

  3. Michael

    D A M N

  4. Malc

    Absolutely fantastic photos and it looks like everyone had a lot of fun putting the shoot together