Flight Coffee Table Book (Author Interview)



What inspired you when creating Flight?

In these modern times, it has become so easy to share your photos with anyone located anywhere on the planet. You publish them on your website or social media and thousands of people can enjoy them. But then you just forget about them. I wanted to create something tangible as there is no denying that photos still look best in print. After visiting and flying with 30 different armed forces across four continents and celebrating 20 years in the business of military aviation photography, it was the right time to publish a book with the highlights of my work so far.


Who is your target market for the book?

As a photographer I am interested in all forms of military aviation you can imagine. This is also what sets me apart from most other great photographers in aviation. The majority only work in one or two countries, or they only shoot a specific subject like fighter jets or helicopters. I do it all. I have flown with and photographed attack helicopters in countries like Cyprus and Lebanon, fighter jets over the Arctic Circle and in Brazil, firefighting aircraft in Croatia and Greece, training aircraft in Canada and Turkey, transport helicopters on the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa and between the Swiss Alps… Anyone with as wide an interest in military aviation and a passion for photography, should consider buying this book.


Can you tell us a little about your background?

I have been interested in military aviation from childhood. At the age of 7 I visited my first airshow and I started taking photos of military aircraft with my own camera when I was 16. I gradually started taking that hobby more and more serious. I continuously looked for ways to improve my photography. Many people ask me whether I’m a pilot or working in the military, but I’m just a photographer running my business. My photos ended up in magazines, I got press access to airshows and public events, air forces allowed me to visit them. They then sometimes invited me to fly with them during regular training flights and that ended up in them letting me fly with them and having me instruct the pilots on how they should fly to get the best photos. It is an upward spiral. As you get better, you get better opportunities, better opportunities result in better photos and better photos result in even better opportunities. That process of continuously looking to improve my photos is still going on. It will never stop. Or maybe it will, but then I will quit.


How does a photoshoot come together?
First and foremost, it all depends on the cooperation from a higher level of the armed forces that I want to visit. Writing requests and arranging permissions takes a lot of time, but if it works out and I do get permission, that is more than half the battle won. I then start looking for the pros and cons that every specific aircraft type offers as a photo platform and photo subject, and I work out my ideas for photos that I have in mind. I pre-visualize everything for every shot that I want to take; the position of the aircraft, the location of the sun, backgrounds, etcetera. The plan that I come up with has multiple events which are discussed with some or all of the pilots, adjusted where required and finally briefed to everyone involved before going airborne. Pilots are generally very eager to do whatever they can to get great photos. And the further I’ve come in my career, the more eager they seem to be working with me.


What is your most memorable flight?

There have been so many memorable flights, flying with the military never gets boring. Your first fighter jet ride is always something special, I guess. I got to fly the MiG-21 in Romania and we did a takeoff in formation with another MiG-21 right next to us. The acceleration from the afterburner is quite something, but what I didn’t expect was the feeling when the afterburner turns off. Then engine becomes very quiet and the instant deceleration, or actually the decelerated acceleration because speed is still increasing, made me feel like something was very wrong with the engine. Of course, nothing was wrong. It was an amazing flight.


Did you ever encounter a dangerous situation on one of your flights?

Not really. I do remember a helicopter flight in Spain when oil started leaking from the rotor head along the window. We had to return to base, but we could have landed anywhere in case of a real emergency. I guess it was not that critical. While flying the Tucano turboprop trainer in Brazil we had some hydraulic issues on takeoff. Several warning lights turned on and alarm bells went off, but the pilot remained calm and put his aircraft on the ground. No, the biggest technical failure I have experienced was a camera breaking down by itself while flying the Hawk with the Royal Canadian Air Force. That felt pretty embarrassing. They had put four jets in the air for me and I had to tell them it was all for nothing. Luckily, we had another attempt the next day which turned out one of my favorite flights ever.


Where can readers find out more about your work?

I have my own website www.ridder.aero where you can find a selection of my photos and articles that I write for magazines. When it comes to social media, I am mostly active on Instagram. You can find me at @djderidder.