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The ‘Flying Dutchman’

07/11/2011 Netherlands-based aerial photographer Izak van Maldegem knows just about all there is to know about hitting the high spots – and those high spots can be anywhere between a couple of hundred feet and eight thousand feet in the air.

Van Maldegem operates in a niche market but since he launched his Sky Pictures company in 1993 he has never looked back.

“I always wanted to be an aerial photographer so I decided I had better get myself a pilot’s licence alongside a camera and a processing lab” he says.

“The licence was just the means to an end for me. The original camera we used was a Linhof Technika. It used to be the perfect piece of equipment for aerial shoots. It was old fashioned but it was very reliable and the 4x5 negatives produced an incredible amount of information.

We stayed with it until 2006 when we first switched to digital with a Hasselblad H2D and then later upgraded to the Hasselblad we still use today – the 39 megapixel H3DII.”

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He adds: “The old Linhof was very heavy but it was simple and reliable. It took us a while to convert to digital because we needed to be absolutely sure that the required quality would be there. Most of our work is shot from a Cessna 172 and the prevailing weather is sometimes a challenge. These days, if we experience a bit of turbulence we can still handle it because the much lighter Hasselblad is fixed to a monopod and very stable. Lens quality of course is key to our success. We tend to use the brilliant 210mm and also a zoom. The sharpness we get from the 210 is nothing short of amazing. Our average print size for clients would be 75cms x 1 metre but we also produce 140cm x 3 metres images, so we must have Hasselblad quality. You can’t even contemplate doing this work on a Nikon or Canon DSLR – you just won’t get the detail.”

The ambitious Dutchman also built his own lab so he could develop and print pretty much all Sky Pictures’ work.

“Our marketplace demands highest quality so we thought the best answer would be to handle all our workflow ourselves – that meant having our own lab,” he says. “In the days of 4x5 film we used an Imacon scanner to create the digital files we needed – and that scanner still gets a bit of use today.”

“I still work with FlexColor software but I am planning to use our low season to get to grips with Phocus software and the latest Hasselblad workflow. And one day we’ll move up to an H4D.”

The ‘Flying Dutchman’ now works with large and medium sized companies that need high quality aerial photography delivered on time and within budget. Shell commissioned Sky Pictures to shoot offshore oil rigs and platforms off the UK east coast and a Dutch salvage company uses the firm to capture rescue scenes in which tugboats are photographed from the air pulling huge container ships off treacherous Dutch estuary sandbanks.

“Salvage companies need accurate records of these events – as do their insurers” says van Maldegem.

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Despite a tough economic situation the Sky Pictures founder remains optimistic about the future.

“For many clients today this type of photography is a luxury so we just have to work harder to stay successful – but we have a long commercial history and a fine record.”

And van Maldegem now also has a new book about to be published: Zeeland vanuit de lucht: (Zeeland from above).

It’s a stunning ‘coffee table –style’, hardbacked photobook with 264 pages of outstanding aerial imagery, mainly shot over the past twelve months but also including material taken by Sky Pictures  back in the Nineties.

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Explains van Maldegem: “I wanted to produce this book based on the twelve provinces in The Netherlands. There was a book produced on this subject over thirty years ago but I wanted to update it. It is a book that should be of interest not just to companies but also to inhabitants who would like to get a glimpse of the area from the air. We have mixed these pictures with shots from nature reserves, the delta area and other interesting subjects. We’ve printed 7,500 copies on the first run and we already have pre-orders from companies for over 5000. Later it will be available from our website: www.skypictures.nl.”

You want to know more about Aerial Photography? Please visit: www.hasselbladaerial.com