Jumping Ship

No, it’s not a disaster. It’s a world record.

(Brian Buckland)

At first glance, the scene—people and airplanes falling out of the sky—looks like something from a Hollywood movie. But what appears to be chaos is actually a highly coordinated effort to set a skydiving world record.

On July 30, 2009, after four days of effort, 108 skydivers flying out of Chicago set a new record for the most people linked in a freeflying, head-down dive. (The previous record, set in 2007, was made up of 69 skydivers.)

Photographer and skydiver Brian Buckland was asked to document the attempt. Click on the gallery below to see more of his photographs from the recording-setting attempt and read excerpts from our interview. Or watch his video here:

Looking Up

(Brian Buckland)

Buckland uses a Canon 5D Mark II, with a 24-mm lens, and employs a bite switch to release the shutter in order to leave his hands free. (The camera is attached to his helmet.) For this particular record attempt, Buckland was in a sitting position, almost lying on his back while looking up at the rest of the group. “I’m trying to frame them,” he recalls, “and make sure I’m the right distance away, because it’s not like regular photography where you can just zoom in or out a little bit. To zoom in or out, I have to fly my body ten feet closer or ten feet away. You have to make sure your head is at the right angle, so that you’re not cutting off part of the formation. When it gets that big, it’s very easy to cut off the bottom edge or the top edge and not realize it.”

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