This has to be one of the most awesome opportunities that could be granted to a photographer. Last fall, Ed Darack was asked to shoot a cover for The Smithsonian's Air & Space Magazine, and decided to show the world how he did it.
The assignment? Shoot a pair of Colorado Air National Guard F-16 fighter jets climbing vertical for the cover of Air & Space Magazine.
Due to the exorbitant cost of making everything happen (according to my research, that's about $6,000 per hour for each F-16, and that's probably way on the low side) and the difficulty factor (it's not often that you're granted a handful of $20 million planes to take pictures of), missing the shot was just not an option. To make sure everything went off without a hitch, Darack took the vision in his head and modeled it on a computer in a 3d CAD program, and showed it to the pilots. This helped to give everyone an idea of what they were attempting before they went up in the air.
After a brief "lesson" on ejection and what to do if something fails at 500mph and 15,000 feet (pray?), Ed set off on his journey to photograph F-16s in flight for Air & Space Magazine.
One last note: don't forget to take into consideration how heavy his camera becomes inside a plane like this due to G-forces. Climbs of 5Gs are not uncommon in a fighter jet, and a five pound camera setup (1d Mark III and 24-70) quickly turns into twenty five. That's before we add in the rolls and disorientation that results.
And you thought your camera was heavy!