On February 25-26, Arizona X-FORCE attended the 2017 Paraclete XP Indoor Championships in Raeford, North Carolina. This was the first competition in VFS history where the discipline was expanded to 10 rounds with the addition of new blocks and randoms (18-22 & O-Q).
4-way VFS Open podium: 1st SDC Core, 2nd Arizona X-FORCE, 3rd Golden Knights VFS.
PICTURE PERFECT: Man takes pictures, 15,000 feet up in the air
“Skydiving, as one can imagine, is dangerous enough, but try to imagine the added element of trying to capture the perfect picture, 12,000 feet up in the air. One photographer does exactly that, as a career.
“As a kid, I’ve always been pretty active, always enjoyed extreme sports, whether it was doing the skateboarding thing or riding bicycles,” said Niklas Daniel. “In this case, this was just another thing I wanted to experiment with.”
One can call Daniel a skydiving expert. To date, Daniel has made more than 10,000 jumps, and counting, and he is now known as one of the best behind the camera, at 12,000 feet.
Daniel’s love for photography began at an early age, and after falling in love with skydiving, he blended his two passions.
“The moment is very fleeting,” said Daniel. “So, if you have a shot in your head that you would like to create, it takes a lot of practice, a lot of training, also a little engineering to try and put that together.”
Daniel also described the difference between photography works that take place on terra firma, and those that take place up in the air.
“If you’re taking a photograph on the ground, depending on the subject, you maybe have the ability to take a test shot, take a look at the settings, and then be able to adjust until you get that right shot,” said Daniel. “Skydiving is more of sport photography, where they’re trying to get that perfect shot and it’s not something that you can recreate necessarily.”
Daniel said in order to be a good aerial photographer, you’d have to be a great skydiver.
“Not is it enough that I have to fly my own body or my parachute for example, but I have to be able to do that without having to think about it that much that I can now focus on the shot,” said Daniel. “In addition to that, I have to be very aware of my closing speeds with other people, the distance I’m away from them and I also have to remain altitude aware. I can’t look at my altimeter constantly, because that would ruin the shot.”
Equipment is also important. Daniel’s helmet works as his rig, and his tripod is his own body.
Over the years, Daniel has documented other people’s jumps, along with the formation of skydiving teams. He has also produced training video. Daniel said some of his favorite pictures to take are during competition with his team.
“I really enjoy the pressure of having to get a specific shot, and then being able to present that to the judges,” said Daniel. “That’s been my expertise, but I also really enjoy the off-the-wall projects, so whether someone wants to light a parachute on fire or something kind of more in that direction. Something you don’t see everyday.”
Besides doing what he loves everyday, Daniel also gets to share his passion with others who might not get the chance to. He and his wife, Brianne, support “Operation Enduring Warrior” by donating their time to help wounded veterans enter the sport of skydiving.
It has been 10 years since I first started experimenting with creating skydive related educational videos. Back in 2006, the internet was a very different place. As connection/download speeds started to improve, and online videos become more prevalent, new platforms of communication started to emerge. One of these was called Expert Village; a site I was introduced to by a friend and co-worker of mine, Patrick Eaves of WingEnvy Paragliding.
At that time, there were only two vertical wind tunnel in the US: Orlando Florida and Perris California. Other wind tunnel designs, like flyaway in Las Vegas were available, but they did not offer the clean, wall-to-wall air flow that the newer Skyventure designs provided. This is what set Skyventure tunnels apart from their competitors, and is what made these tunnels so desirable to skydivers. They better replicated the feel of free fall, and skydivers were able to train with their personal equipment (jumps suits, helmets, and in some cases rigs if covered by a sleeve).
From 2005 – 2007 I was a full time tunnel instructor (IBA certified) and coach at the Perris Skyventure wind tunnel. During the time, many of the worlds best coaches would visit the Perris drop zone and tunnel to hold skills camps and organize events. This was the time and place to be if your goal was to train hard and learn a lot. I was fortunate enough to be able to fly with some of the most respected names in every discipline, and watch them coach for hours each day at close proximity. I quickly realized that each coach had their own personality, values, and way of teaching. I observed not only what they taught, but also how they connected with their students.
Personally, I am a very analytical person and like to pick concepts apart mentally, make predictions, and then test ideas practically. This has always driven my training and coaching style. The online tutorials presented an opportunity to not only market my services, but also forced me to think more critically about the information I was sharing. These early videos were low budget and shot in one afternoon without a real script to speak of. The idea was to make people aware of the newly arising discipline (tunnel flying), and to let people know that professional coaching was available.
Looking back at the 10 year old footage, I have to say that I still agree with most of the information that is being presented. It encapsulated my working knowledge, and what was taught during that time. However, my coaching process has evolved substantially over the years.
Foundations of Flight is a monthly column that AXIS contributes to USPA Parachutist magazine. These how-to videos and articles are not just limited to free fall skills, but have been expanded on to also include canopy skills and much more.
Of course none of the tutorials have ever meant to be a substitute for professional coaching. They are meant to spark curiosity and provide some insight to a training method to jumpers who do not have access to professional coaching. They serve as an educational guideline and a small glimpse into what is out there.
In 2010, AXIS moved its head quarters to Skydive Arizona, which is the perfect training ground for skydivers who want to sharpen their skills and learn at an accelerated pace. This is because the drop zone has great jumping weather year round, a massive fleet of aircraft, and a wind tunnel that is located on the drop zone. For more information about coaching or AXIS Flight School, contact us at Info[at]AXISFlightSchool.com
After the filming of vex 13 000 – skydive art project- https://youtu.be/sQFwrJ8M8jE , I wanted to revisit the concept of painting in freefall. This time though, the focus was on capturing the destructive passage of time. Documenting how it slowly erased the work and images that I created, until they ultimately disappeared. I wanted these designs to also have a connection to time, so I drew up these 3 images:
Rabbit Skull : representing the past – memory of a childhood pet.
Balloon Skull : representing the future – inflated fears & the inevitable. These designs were screen printed onto fabric, hand painted, and sewed into steamers that would inflate in terminal velocity. They were then attached to 30lbs jugs that I held onto while skydiving, which slowly released paint onto the images. The paint continued to spill out with each second of freefall, until it devoured all 13 ft of fabric, leaving nothing left. My white gear also got covered. During the last jump the paint jug imploded and my right arm was covered in black paint.
I created unique wood pieces of the 3 images, along with hand printed (silk screened) & painted, limited edition prints of /30, on paper of each design.
If you are interested in purchasing the unique 48’’ x 36’’ wood panel pieces please email me @ http://www.vexedart.com/contact.html
Special thanks to the following skydivers, videographers and photographers for helping to capture this project.