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Torgoen Adventurers: Tobias Barth

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Meet Tobias Barth. Tobias is an aviation photographer who specialises in glider air-to-air pictures.  His social media feed is full of amazing photography that captures dreamy landscapes taken from a bird’s eye view, most of them feature gliders that look so serene and elegant, they look almost an organic part of the view.

We asked Tobias a couple of questions about his passion for photography, gliders how did he start and more:

How did you start specialising aviation photography?

The specialisation on aviation photography and the air-to-air photography in particular was a relatively long way. I think pretty much everyone with photography starts to photograph everything and then wonders what do I do with the pictures? Store on your home computer without ever seeing anyone again? I would describe this moment as the turning point in my career as an aerial photographer. I have been actively thinking about my pictures and I came up with the idea-why not combine two passions? I've been glider pilots since I was 13 years old, so what was closer? First, I photographed glider aircraft on national and international competitions on the ground. When I got a phone call from a calendar publisher who was interested in my pictures there was a new thrust. Finally I had the knowledge that my pictures could move people and transport emotions. From then on I invested thousands of hours of photography of gliders in the air.

Tell us about your most memorable photo shoot.

I don't have to think about it for long! I have planned this one remarkable flight over 1 1/2 years in advance. This was necessary because I wanted to photograph a very special plane at a very special time over the north German Wadden Sea. The special thing is the tide, which twice a day ensures high and low water and creates unique light reflections on the ground. So the flight had to be planned a little to an hour. But that's not enough. The aircraft was a Stemme S10-VTX of the Aachen University of Applied Sciences which is otherwise used for measuring tasks and is only stationed on a few days a year on one of the eligible airfields. The flight itself was nerve-wracking. None of the pilots had ever flown such a project before. So I had to sit in the photo airplane not only to give my pilots instructions but also to the photo model. We photographed about an hour. In the last 5 minutes I have taken photos, as I have not seen them anywhere else.

The most important thing to remember when taking photos on an airplane.

The most important thing is a good preparation. Since I often fly myself and at the same time photography, there is no time to think about camera settings, empty batteries and missing memory cards. For this, the human brain simply has too little capacity. That's why I control my equipment in the evening before the flight, and I often take a second camera too.

Any tips for starting aviation photographers?

Oh, there are many. For me one of the most important points is already before the flight to know what the later photo should look like. In which light do I want to photograph, which manoeuvre is to be flown and which statement I want to transport with the picture. Only if I know this before, can I do everything to shoot the right picture. Everything else is random snapshots.

Any exciting shooting projects coming up you'd like to tell us about?

Again, I have to pick out one again. I have a whole list of ideas that I want to implement in the next time. One of the most exciting is the idea of taking pictures of a glider flying the aerobatics in the air. I do not want to stand on the ground but to sit in my glider and make great photos at a distance of just a few meters. The first attempt was made last weekend-without a single usable picture. Sometimes you have to work hard to achieve success.


Flying gliders: could you elaborate a little bit about it?

I get a relatively often asked question: How does a glider fly? Is this possible without the engine? I always answer: If you stop pedalling on a bike, you don't fall directly. This sounds a bit naive, of course, but it's like gliding. Even if I return to airplane after the winter season without a start, it feels like you have never done anything else. But how is that possible? A glider starts either behind a motor airplane connected to the glider with a relatively short rope, or with a winch. This winch is located at the other end of the airfield, usually a kilometre away, and sees a strong engine blowing the glider into the air. After the start you cut the rope and fly without the engine. In order not to have to land again directly, one tries to find upwinds that arise through warm ascending air. For example, larger birds of prey circle there and can be lifted up by the ascending air. Just like a glider, too. This search for upwinding is one of the central elements of gliding. It is simply awesome to see what energy the nature provides, so that you can fly more than 100 kilometers without a motor and stay in the air for hours. That is precisely the reason why I have been fascinated by this kind of sport for more than 25 years now. I don't know anyone who flew with me and wasn't fascinated. A really exciting affair is the landing. Unlike the airplane with motor you have only one chance to land properly. A go-around or flying a bracket is no longer possible under a certain height. There are also certain special rights for the engine less aircrafts.

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