When we made PetaPixel’s documentary about Blair Bunting’s U2 photoshoot at the edge of space (which you should definitely watch now if you haven’t already), we decided not to focus on the camera equipment. But we love talking cameras and lenses, so the night before his epic shoot, Chris sat down with Blair to discuss the equipment he planned to bring on a U2 spy plane.

Blair spent months testing hundreds of camera and lens combinations before settling on his final kit. Check out the video above for all the details, but here’s the lowdown on Blair’s carefully chosen gear. Blair Bunting in full gear takes a photo of the Earth with his Voigtlander 10mm lens.

What cameras did he take with him?

For his main cameras, Blair used a pair of 61-megapixel Sony a7R V mirrorless bodies. These cameras have the highest resolution currently available in full-frame mirrorless cameras, but also have excellent dynamic range. One had a battery grip attached to it to ensure the battery lasted the entire flight. The other had a camera strap attached, which unfortunately was wrapped around the ejector lever!

The Sony A7RV together with the G-Master 24-70 f/2.8 creates a powerful kit.

Blair also brought a Nikon Z7 II 42-megapixel mirrorless camera with firmware specifically designed for flight. There were specific requirements that the cameras have all communications disabled and Nikon was able to accommodate this. A Nikon Z9/8 was considered, but Blair wanted a mechanical shutter to ensure the camera worked, as well as the best possible dynamic range.

Wanting to bring his father’s Nikkor 50mm lens, Blair paired it with the modern Z7 II.

To capture the flight, there were several GoPro HERO11 Black cameras in the cockpit, powered by external power supplies. These ran custom firmware, eliminating the need for batteries in the camera body. This firmware prevented overheating in the two main camera angles.

Which lenses were included?

When selecting lenses for the Sony bodies, the priority was to find something compact that still offered top-notch image quality. For his breathtaking photos of Earth, Blair used a Voigtlander 10mm f/5.6. This lens is extremely small but sharp and well corrected. To photograph the second U2 spy plane, Blair chose the incredibly sharp but still compact Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM II.

The view from a U2 Dragon Lady spy plane, photographed by commercial photographer Blair Bunting. The image is part of the series “Photoshoot at the Edge of Space,” in which Bunting did a photoshoot above 70,000 feet in a spacesuit.

Blair decided to bring a third camera so he could take some photos with his father’s vintage Nikkor AI 50mm f/1.4 lens. This required the use of the Nikon FTZ II adapter to mount to the Z7 II mirrorless body. While Blair says he “didn’t do it to make art,” the images captured by this 50-year-old lens are truly impressive.

This stunning image of the curvature of the Earth was captured with the Voigtlander 10mm f/5.6.

Blair used a breakthrough polarizer as a filter. The reflections of the earth below and the empty space above combined with the glass of the cockpit created the fascinating light reflection patterns that Blair used to enhance his compositions.

How did it go?

As Blair recounts in the full documentary, one of the Sony a7R Vs’ rear LCD failed at 65,000 feet. The EVF was obviously unavailable as the space helmet kept Blair’s eyes several inches from the eyecup. Luckily, Blair felt the shutter fire to confirm the camera was ready, remembered his previous settings, and was able to both blind expose and frame the shots.

Blair took this shot of U2 in formation with the Sony A7RV and the G-Master 24-70 f/2.8.

We were able to speak with Blair a week ago for the latest PetaPixel podcast to answer some questions that have come up since the documentary’s release. I asked Blair if he would have done anything differently if he had done it again. I was surprised by his answer that he wouldn’t change anything. He went up expecting to take about a dozen good pictures of the flight and returned with over a dozen that he was proud of.

A little piece of Bunting family history venturing to the edge of space.

The success of Blair’s filming is a testament to the value of planning and testing your tools before an important project. Blair’s hard work is largely responsible for earning him a reputation for taking iconic shots in difficult situations, and the U2 project is his best example to date.

Source : petapixel.com

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