It is 4 a.m. and I have just finished packing my car with camera gear. I’m driving to Readington, NJ, the location of the annual QuickChek Festival of Ballooning. Each year for three days hundreds of hot air balloons soar through the sky while spectators by the tens of thousands watch the amazing display. Although I am driving to the festival, hot air balloons are not my focus, because this year Red Bull is an event sponsor and the Red Bull Air Force Team is going to be putting on their own show.
By 5 a.m. the sun is still not up yet and I am wandering around a large field, coffee in hand, trying to find the Air Force Team for our scheduled pre-jump meeting. I finally meet up with the group, as well as Keith, the Red Bull event coordinator for the New Jersey area. After introductions, we go over the flight schedule and scheduled jump times for the day. I’ve been skydiving before, but this is the first time I will photograph skydiving, BASE-jumping and proxy flying (although I am not permitted to jump). The Air Force Team heads off to grab their parachutes as Keith and I go over the shot list he needs for the day. I’m told I will be joining the team in the plane and I will need to climb out onto the wing to photograph the jumpers as they exit the plane. I look at him with a blank stare and he simply looks at me with half smile and says,“Hey man, you’re shooting for Red Bull now. Don’t worry, those guys know what they are doing—and they have a parachute for you in case you fall off the wing.”