Forums: Skydiving Disciplines: Photography and Video:
How many jumps before I put on my camera?


drosenberg  (B License)

Mar 22, 2001, 6:14 AM
Post #1 of 24 (3709 views)
How many jumps before I put on my camera? Can't Post

I bought a used Hawkeye helmet and I have a sony PC3, after how many jumps would you say it's OK to start jumping with the camera?

I have 50 jumps and I am pretty good in the air.

Blue skies


BarrettJ99  (D 24173)

Mar 22, 2001, 6:50 PM
Post #2 of 24 (3657 views)
Re: How many jumps before I put on my camera? [In reply to] Can't Post

I'd suggest talking to some of the camera fliers at your DZ. They know your skill level better than us. One question that I would pose is: How comfortable are you in dealing with the additional emergency procedures that may be necessary with the camera? The camera adds the possibility of getting lines caught during deployment. Also, what type of canopy are you flying? How hard does it open? Will you get injured in the case of a hard opening with the weight of the camera on your helmet? I would get together with the camera fliers at your DZ. Good luck making your decision, and be safe out there.

Blue skies


Mar 25, 2001, 9:54 AM
Post #3 of 24 (3628 views)
Re: How many jumps before I put on my camera? [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't have a strong opinion on this, but just for information, in the UK, the BPA demands a minimum of 200 jumps before jumping camera.



Mar 25, 2001, 10:26 AM
Post #4 of 24 (3627 views)
Re: How many jumps before I put on my camera? [In reply to] Can't Post

You might be interested in the following which was just posted to rec.skydiving

There are definitely serious additional dangers in jumping camera.

March 24, 2001

Fatality at Carolina Sky Sports, Louisburg, NC

Richard Lancaster
USPA membership 143136
Total number of jumps 323

A four-way and videographer exited a twin otter from 13000 feet. The
videographer filmed the 4 way and everything about the skydive was normal at
break-off. The pre-arranged pull altitude for the videographer was 4000
feet. Members of the 4 way observed the videographer at 2500 feet with the
main bag-locked.

At the scene it was observed that the main suspension lines were wrapped
around the eye piece of his camera helmet. The reserve pilot chute was
entangled in the main and the last stow of the reserve was out. The reserve
ripcord was pulled and not found at the scene. The cutaway release was
found near the hand of the deceased.

The deceased had repacked the main prior to the jump and the reserve had
been repacked on February 21, 2001.

While he was visiting from New Hampshire, he had made 55 jumps in the last
month -- most of them had been camera jumps. He was very current and during
the month he jumped at Carolina Sky Sports was observed to always follow
very safe skydiving practices.

Morten Berger Pedersen
Manager Carolina Sky Sports

Iflyme  (B 4421)

Mar 25, 2001, 4:47 PM
Post #5 of 24 (3621 views)
Re: How many jumps before I put on my camera? [In reply to] Can't Post

CSPA recommends a C licence to fly camera.


skydognz  (B License)

Apr 6, 2001, 5:08 AM
Post #6 of 24 (3519 views)
Re: How many jumps before I put on my camera? [In reply to] Can't Post

Though a New Zealand skydiver, the New Zealand Parachute Federation is based on the same rules and regulations as the PIA and USPA, but we state here in New Zealand, that a jumper have at least 200 jumps, and be C licenced. Point being dude, get some experience. It sucks I know, but I want to fly camera, but need experience - I'm only A licence myself, therefore... Get jumping!

Stitch. New Zealand.

VisionAir  (D 23627)

Apr 6, 2001, 8:43 AM
Post #7 of 24 (3513 views)
Re: How many jumps before I put on my camera? [In reply to] Can't Post

I had between 100 and 150 jumps when I started jumping a camera. Start off with solos and small ways and work your way up. You may even have to do a few tandem videos for free to prove yourself when you are ready. Although don't expect to be doing tandem videos until your TM has complete confidence in your flying skills.
Alex Manly
VisionAir Productions

gravityman  (D 3219)

Apr 18, 2001, 6:36 AM
Post #8 of 24 (3443 views)
Re: How many jumps before I put on my camera? [In reply to] Can't Post

  hi david,
i have about 300 jumps and i am about to start jumping with a camera.this is not a decision i am rushing into, and neither should you.infact rather than putting it straight on my head i`ve just been taken landing shots while i get totally familiar with my new camera(an canon eos300).while i`m very anxious to start jumping it, i understand the extra potential complications that could arise.therefore at the moment i`m doing `dummy` camera pretending i have a camera on my head while i try to get where i would want to be for a good shot etc.also i`m wearing wings which take a bit of getting used to......will you be using wings??
anyway, good luck for the future.i suggest you talk to as many experienced cameraflyers as possible, as i have about the extra potential dangers isn`t worth rushing into if you will be compromising safety.

ditch9276  (A 9489)

Apr 24, 2001, 1:08 AM
Post #9 of 24 (3391 views)
Re: How many jumps before I put on my camera? [In reply to] Can't Post

hi drosenberg,

there┤re many skydivers out there they┤ve started camera jumping very early (about 70 jumps), i can┤t tell you when you┤can start jumping with your camera helmet, the best way is to go to a seminar, a lot of great dz offers seminars for camera flyer, just ask them. but don┤t forget to be safe allways, what┤s about cutaway on your helmet, you┤ve one??? and when you start cameraflying do it with tandems or students cause they┤ll pull higher than a 4-way or 8-way formation, and if somethings will happen you┤ve more time for your cutaway procedere, first the helmet, than the main and then pull the reserve.

be safe, good luck and allways blue skies ditch 9276

kevin922  (D 26500)

Apr 24, 2001, 8:08 PM
Post #10 of 24 (3371 views)
Re: How many jumps before I put on my camera? [In reply to] Can't Post

I've started doing camera jumping at a low # of jumps (around 70). I don't agree with the comment on start with tandems and students. I think due to the high unpredictibility of tandems as well as students they are the last you need to practice videoing with. You definately need to start with solos, and small ways - that is what i'm currently working on.

Furthermore, I feel with the developments of smaller cameras - the need for large #'s of jumps in order to safely do camera flying has been reduced. Yes, there is still a large amount of safety concerns when having any camera gear on your head - but still, i feel if you are confident in your abilities and you know you're safe then go for it.

Just my 2 cents.

airann  (A 165593)

Apr 28, 2001, 7:06 AM
Post #11 of 24 (3335 views)
Re: How many jumps before I put on my camera? [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you for the question and the answers. This topic has been of interest to me lately. I would love to wear a camera, but am concerned about the extra danger upon opening and etc. If I do go for it I want an extremely low profile camera that is completely housed. Reducing the snag factor, if possible.

freeflyguy  (D 24207)

May 14, 2001, 1:12 PM
Post #12 of 24 (3268 views)
Re: How many jumps before I put on my camera? [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't fly camera, but am concerned about the issues with them. Especially when I see people with what looks like elk horn protusions on their head

I like the one post that tells you to be willing to cut away your helmet/camera. Sounds responsible to me.


May 14, 2001, 3:11 PM
Post #13 of 24 (3265 views)
Re: How many jumps before I put on my camera? [In reply to] Can't Post

Seems to me there are two "types" of camera flying:

1) Those that just have it attached to their helmet to get a video record of their skydive (like the Bonehead mounts).
2) Those that film for other people (tandems, RW).

Seems like lower numbner jumpers could probably do the first type, since you're not really concentrating on keeping something "in frame" like you would if you were doing it professionally. Plus you're not wearing quite as much gear, so there's less to snag.

Still, we've had two fatalities in a row this year involving camera equipment, so it's definitely something to be concerned about. And, yes, you have to be absolutely willing to dump the camera and helmet *fast* in the event of a main entaglement.

I'd like to do it someday, but I've got so many other things to work on first. Wink

Blue Skies!


flyboy62000  (D 29937)

May 14, 2001, 4:32 PM
Post #14 of 24 (3259 views)
Re: How many jumps before I put on my camera? [In reply to] Can't Post

If you are going to jump a camera make sure your RSL is disconnected. Reserve entaglements with camera helmets has killed quite a few camera flyers. You want to be able to be stable when you pull that reserve for this purpose. If you have a spinning malfunction and your RSL fires your reserve it could easily entangle with your camera. Just a suggestion that was passed on to me by videographers at my home DZ.

Blue Skies,

skygeek  (D License)

May 29, 2001, 2:35 PM
Post #15 of 24 (3199 views)
Re: How many jumps before I put on my camera? [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey I have 150 jumps and have been jumping my camera for about 15 jumps now. It has been quite an expirence. I have a set of wings but did not start jumping them untill I had jumped the camera about 10 times and felt safe with it. When I got my wings I did about 15 jumps with no camera just to learn to fly the suit without the added danger of two new pieces of equipment. I did have the good luck of having an exprienced camera flyer to ask advice from and get tips. If anything talk to your local camera dude. Good luck Great pics.

lewmonst  (D 24575)

Jun 4, 2001, 9:13 AM
Post #16 of 24 (3168 views)
Re: How many jumps before I put on my camera? [In reply to] Can't Post

i'd definately agree that you should NOT start by videoing student and tandems. the 2 most dangerous skydives are a tandem and a video. start in situations where you put yourself and others in the least amount of danger, that is, be in the sky with people who know how to fly. I have 257 jumps, which i think is still very very low, and i started flying a pc5 in a dbox on a bonehead about 30 jumps ago. So far everything has been going well. I talked to probably 10 different camera flyers at 3 different dz's before i got started though. That's where you'll learn the most, pick up tips about disconnecting your RSL, getting a helmet cutaway, extra importance of stable deployment, opening shock, riser interference, always jumping with an accessible strong hook knife and knowing how to use it, pulling high and awareness of other opening altitudes... Talk to experienced camera flyers. The thing about skydiving, is at 50 jumps, you starting to actually fly into formations and feel confidence that you can do what you want in the air, but there's just SOOOOO much more to learn. as with anything, the more you learn about it, the more you realize how little you know. can you truly fly youself anywhere anytime relative to anyone in the air? and are your emergency procedures instinctive for every possible scenario? have you thought carefully about every possible malfunction and added that to the complexity of the gear on your head? jsut some things to think about.

i also know that at my dz, if you jumped a camera helmet at 50 jumps, you would lose a lot of respect from other jumpers. safety is number one, and when skydivers think you're doing something naive, they won't want to jump with you. I don't know what your dz is like, and how well you can fly, but i suggest you take that into consideration as well.

some people will tell you no, don't jump camera until you have 500 jumps... some people will tell you if you're comfortable at 50 jumps, try it... you can see that in march 2 camera flyers died due to entaglements with their gear. one had a few hundred jumps, the other several thousand jumps. anything can happen. all you can do, is get as much information and advice that you can to minimize the added risks. and decide when you're ready to take that risk and responsibility for yourself and anyone you might jump with.

blue skies, pull high, good luck


Jun 4, 2001, 1:21 PM
Post #17 of 24 (3164 views)
Re: How many jumps before I put on my camera? [In reply to] Can't Post

I had a thought as I've been digesting all this (**BURP**).

As with almost everything else in skydiving, wouldn't it be a good idea to "ease in" to camera flying? Seems like agood approach, especially if you're a low timer like me (61 jumps), would be to learn how to fly like a camera flier before ever strapping on a camera helmet.

I have a little group of about 6-7 low-medium timers that do RW. We don't have a camera guy. I'd eventually like to do camera. So the thought occurred to me... couldn't I get on the camera platform and shadow, without a camera, like a camera flier?

Seems this might be good from a couple of perspectives.

First, it would allow me to practice camera flying (positioning, fallrates, etc) without having to worry about the camera helmet and it's issues. By the time I got around to actually strapping one on, the flight mechanics would be second nature.

Second, our group always laments that we don't have feedback on exits, backsliding, etc. If I'm flying a camera slot and observing, I might be able to provide some feedback on the ground.

Any thoughts on this? Is even doing something like this too early?

Blue Skies!


Ramjet11  (D 23693)

Jun 12, 2001, 1:32 PM
Post #18 of 24 (3113 views)
Re: How many jumps before I put on my camera? [In reply to] Can't Post

I started flying camera with 200 jumps or so and have done about 170 camera jumps since. I've been to a lot of different dropzones since I travel a lot, and I never fail to ask questions of the experienced camera flyers I meet. Here's some of the suggestions I have gotten...start with video only...worry about stills when you get better, make sure the helmet is clean...a topmount dbox is probably the best...catching lines and such is a very bad thing, be totally ready to cut the helmet away, start with experienced jumpers in small groups, don't be afraid to tell people that you are in the beginning stages of camera flying...everyone has to learn sometime, and experienced jumpers are usually pretty cool about it, and is numero uno!

Premier quade  (D 22635)
Jun 12, 2001, 3:49 PM
Post #19 of 24 (3102 views)
Re: How many jumps before I put on my camera? [In reply to] Can't Post

At 61 jumps, unless you're an absolutely amazing skydiver, you -probably- don't have the flying skills to stay -safely- over a formation. It's REALLY bad form (not to mention incredibly dangerous) to fall on top of them.

Camera flying, especially for RW is a very underestimated skill. Most people think, "how hard can it be?" Well, lemme tell you, I have about 500 camera jumps, almost all of them 4-way and, in my own opinion, I still suck.

Do NOT attempt anything even approaching flying above a formation unless you have the flying skills to get you away from them when things go bad.



Jun 12, 2001, 6:05 PM
Post #20 of 24 (3097 views)
Re: How many jumps before I put on my camera? [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks, this is the kind of input I was looking for.

How would you recommend working into it? What skills can I work on now to ease the transition? Any drills or exercises you can think of?

Blue Skies!


Premier quade  (D 22635)
Jun 13, 2001, 12:04 PM
Post #21 of 24 (3086 views)
Re: How many jumps before I put on my camera? [In reply to] Can't Post

Drill #1

Lurk a 4-way team ON LEVEL.

Wear wings for this if you have them. Baby wings, ones that don't go over the harness, are ok, but full sized wings would be better.

Find a 4-way team (at least slightly experienced is preferred) that will allow you to "lurk" their skydive. Explain that you -won't- actually be shooting camera on this skydive. Explain that you'll be up the line of flight about 20 feet and will break off, turn and track before they do. You'll be out of their way as much as humanly possible.

Watch their dirt dive and try to get into the rhythm of the team.

Out of a Twin Otter, climb out on the camera step and get as far back away from the door as practical.

Watch their exit count and exit the plane AFTER they exit. We'll call this a "trailing exit." Your goal should be to follow them down the hill about 20 feet behind them. Do NOT attempt to exit before they do since there is a high probability of you mistiming the exit and impacting the formation.

During the rest of the skydive try to stay on the exact heading you came off the plane in relationship to the formation and ON LEVEL with the formation. You'll do this by picking a spot on the horizon and keeping the center of the formation between it and you. Your goal should be to forward, backward and side slide as the formation does while keeping ON LEVEL.

This is going to be enormously difficult. The reason it's difficult (and most people don't understand this until they try it) is that you're not in direct contact with the rest of the formation. You're off in the distance trying to almost predict what it's going to do. Same deal with the exit. The rest of the 4-way is in direct contact and maybe can even hear the exit count -- you're back on the step and have to sort of "feel the force."

Most people have a tendency to orbit the formation while back sliding away and changing levels. Don't do that.

Pick a specific mountain top or whatever and keep it in line with the center of the formation. From your point of view, the formation should appear glued to the spot on the horizon. You should not focus on one individual in the formation, since he's probably going to be moving around quite a bit. Instead, focus on the imaginary center of the formation.

After doing this for a couple of jumps successfully, slowly make your way toward the formation. As you get closer to the formation, things will become progressively more difficult.

As the formation turns points, it will have a tendency to slide around in the sky. You'll have to slide around with it to maintain it's relationship to the reference spot on the horizon.

Progressively get closer until the formation fills your goggles. You should almost be touching it as they turn points This might take 10 skydives and would be a good use of a weekend.

Write a DETAILED log of each jump and evaluate your performance with respect to heading control and closeness to the formation.

Drill #2

The next weekend, and still without a camera, you'll do the same thing but from 20 feet above the formation and 20 feet off to the side. Slowly work your way toward the center while staying 20 feet above the formation. Your goal that weekend will be to get over the feet of the formation and 20 feet up.

You're NOT going to have the horizon to look at anymore, so pick a spot on the ground (a road works well) and keep the center of the formation and you lined up with it.

Since you're ABOVE the formation, watch out for things creeping out of rigs; pilot chutes, bridles, ect. If ANYTHING starts flopping around, back the hell off so if there's an inadvertent deployment it won't kill you. Yes, you're there to be in a slot, but don't get yourself dead.

Also, you're going to have a different break off procedure. Tell the 4-way that you're NOT going to track away. You'll take the center and pull at 4,000 feet. No matter what they're doing (turning points, flipping you the bird, whatever) YOU are going to take the center and pull AT 4,000. Make sure they understand that and they get the hell out of there. Start bitching at them if they don't. If you have a bag lock, you'll get stood up and accelerate into them. If you have a cutaway, you need clear airspace.

You'll notice that you're going to have a much more difficult time staying on heading as you get closer and steeper on the formation.

Slowly start going lower with each jump.

Write a DETAILED log of each jump and evaluate your performance with respect to heading control, steepness and closeness to the formation.

When you can stay on heading 10 feet above the formation right at their feet, you'll have most of the flying skills and awareness to add a camera to the mix.

Drill #3

Make some SOLO skydives with your camera helmet. Pull high. If you have a sight (highly recommended) while you're in freefall, center it on a SPECIFIC spot on the ground. You'll compare this to the actual video in your personal debrief and see how far off your sight is. I have tips on setting up a helmet and sight, but that's a different animal than we're talking about right now.

The reason I want you to make some SOLO skydives is that you're going to have some issues to contend with beyond just emergency procedures. The sight is going to limit your ability to scan for traffic and you should get used to that before having to deal with too many people in the air at the same time. Same deal on landing, it's a do-hicky that's in your vision and it's distracting.

Drill #4

Jump camera with the team.

Still making a trailing exit.

Your goal is 10 feet above, over the feet of the formation, on heading. Center the sight on the center of the formation.

By the time you get to the point where you can do this -consistently-, you'll have maybe 100 or so camera jumps.

Go into the video vault and see the video I have of Donnie, Brooks, Griz and Eli to see what you're trying to get as far as on heading, steepness and closeness go. That's a "leading exit" and is quite a bit more difficult to pull off consistently. Do NOT try a leading exit without full sized wings and a little experience in trailing exits first.

Exits are BY FAR the most difficult thing in camera flying.

Well, that should get you started as far as drills goes. At 61 jumps I doubt you'll get past Drill #1 in less than 10 skydives, but who knows, maybe you're a natural at flying your body. Not me, but maybe you.

Lemme know how it goes.



Jun 13, 2001, 1:03 PM
Post #22 of 24 (3083 views)
Re: How many jumps before I put on my camera? [In reply to] Can't Post

Paul, I think I speak for everyone here when I say


This kind of detailed and safety-oriented advice from an experienced jumper is exactly why I come to these forums. Even though I don't plan to do much 4-way and I doubt I'll ever do 4-way video, knowing how it's done is still helpful. Thanks so much for taking the time to post this!!

Blues, Squares,

*insert sub-100 character sig here*


Jun 13, 2001, 1:22 PM
Post #23 of 24 (3081 views)
Re: How many jumps before I put on my camera? [In reply to] Can't Post

Paul - Thanks a million for those drills. You're right, I'll prolly be working drill #1 for scores of jumps before even venturing to #2.

I'm sure I won't get to #3 until my jump numbers are in the hundreds.

Right now I'm obviously still learning how to fly. I want to be competent at RW and freefly, so I'll be working on that as well. So, like I said, I'm sure I won't be putting a camera on for quite some time.

I forget where I read it, but someone said that to be a good camera flier, you really need to be a good freeflyer. Do you agree?

Blue Skies!


Premier quade  (D 22635)
Jun 13, 2001, 3:34 PM
Post #24 of 24 (3077 views)
Re: How many jumps before I put on my camera? [In reply to] Can't Post

Do you need to be a great free flyer to be a great camera flyer?

Hmmm, I guess it all depends on what you're doing.

Certainly anything that allows you to have a greater range of speeds and control is a good thing, but I'd say that it all depends on what type of camera flying you plan on doing.

My focus is good old belly-to-earth RW 4-way. I suppose that free flying might come in handy for chasing funnels and stuff that just sort of happens, but if everything is going the way it should, I don't see why you'd have to be a great free flyer to shoot RW. Shooting belly-to-earth RW, I think, is mostly about precision. Being exactly in your slot and holding it while the pieces turn. It's about flying your body, legs and wings precisely so that the judges can see what the team is doing.

On the other hand, if you decide to shoot some sky surf or free style folks, you're almost definitely going to need some free fly skills. If you're planning on shooting tandems, it might not be a bad idea to at least learn some sit flying. If you plan on shooting a lot of artistic stuff, then you need a wide range of skills.

Obviously free flying skills will add to what you'll be able to do, but I don't see them as being a prerequisite for RW camera flying. Sure Craig O'Brien -IS- a great freeflyer and a great camera flyer, but on the other hand Steve Nowak might not even know what sit flying is -- and why the heck should he? Yet, they're both world champion camera flyers.

So, like I said, I guess it all depends on what you're shooting.


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