As I’m sitting watching the international news right now, with California burning in the heat and wind of the dry climate, I was reminded of my visit there in 2015. I travelled there to meet up with Ron Chapple of Aerial Film Works. Ron’s one of the stellar aerial filming specialists in the world and he operates out of his hangar at Hawthorne airport, a few minutes flight time by helicopter from downtown Los Angeles.
If you’ve ever seen any of the BBC’s Natural History series, you’ll have seen Ron’s trademark style of rock steady cinematography with a super smooth style that reveals the subject to the viewer in true cinematic fashion. Take a look at this clip from his Vimeo channel as he films in Patagonia for the BBC.
Aerial cinematography is a fascinating art form and even though the rise of drones has made aerials cheaper to obtain, when the budget permits, there’s nothing like a long range pull back reveal shot in a Canon lens. That’s the geek in me breaking surface.
We were hoping to embark on a project that would see us bringing Cineflex or Shotover systems to the UK, though sadly the project never came good in the end.
I do, however, have happy memories of hanging out in Ron’s hangar in the January sunshine, 23 degrees C, a California sunset lighting up the white hangar walls and that glossy white floor made the European winter seem a long way away. It was pretty cool to meet Mark Gerasimenko too. He’s the aerial DoP behind the superb shots you’ll see of you’re an Hawaii 50 viewer. Check out Marks’ instagram feed in the link.
A few days later, we were flying out of Van Nuys airport with the guys from Shotover to demo their system aboard an AS350. Flying single engined over the built up LA city streets was truly remarkable for someone used to the restrictions of UK VFR flying.
And don’t even ask about the part where we flew between the skyscrapers.
Ron was a superb host and guide to Los Angeles yet we found ourselves gravitating back to his hangar at Hawthorn, generally around meal times, when we’d head around to Eureka cafe, housed in the Jet Center FBO and the place where the Space X and Tesla research people hang out for lunch.
It’s sad to see the area surrounding Los Angeles in such danger from wild fires right now. I hope to return to LA some time. If you’re into film making and flying, it’s a superb place to be.