Getting the Shot… At 10K Feet in 14 Degree Weather

This is a guest post by Pascal Depuhl.

The highest place that I filmed in Afghanistan, come to think of it, the highest place I have ever been at in my life, is Kret. It is in the Wakhan Valley, in the far eastern end of Afghanistan, right by the Chinese border. The valley floor lies at 10,200 feet above sea level and if you think about the fact, that I live at 7 feet over sea level when things are normal … well you get the point – it’s high. The mountains around these valleys tower over you at 22,000 feet and the valleys are so narrow that we actually had to fly through Tajikistan to get to our destination, you’ll see why they make for some spectacular footage like this one that everybody asks me about:

Photos by Photography by Depuhl © 2013

It’s an awesome shot, you can see the mountain range, the Kodiak and Mark flying. Totally cool. And quite impossible. First of all you’re not allowed to attach anything to the airfoil of a plane, especially at the leading edge of the wing, since it will alter the aerodynamic properties of the wing. And that’s seldom a good thing. So the guys actually had to get permission from the government agency, that approves this kind of stuff, before we were able to use it in flight. I don’t know how they pulled that off, but about a day after we talked about getting this shot, they had the official permission. So far so good. Secondly is he fact that it cold. Really cold (-10°C) on the valley floor and much colder at 15,000 feet where this shot is gonna happen. The scene that’s in the documentary (the above screen capture) is really a fortunate accident. I had planned on these shots for an extra POV on the landing and take off shots, we did not think that we could keep the cameras attached to the plane at cruising speeds and I really did not want to have one of the GoPro camera fall of during flight.
GoPro makes a suction cup, but I had not been able to test it and had my concerns about it holding – actually I did not want to risk it. So Daniel and I designed a custom mount (that would get the government approval) which had the GoPro screwed and glued to an aluminum plate, that is getting screwed into the planes wing. Pretty cool, if you ask me.

Photos by Photography by Depuhl © 2013


If you look closely, you can see the battery pak on the back of the GoPro. That gives me about a 3 hour runtime, believe me, you don’t want to run out of power on once in a lifetime filming like this. After we landed in Kret, Mark and I attached the camera to the mount and let it run during the time we spend filming take offs and landings. We took it back of before we left for Kabul. It was only later when I looked back through the footage, while I was logging it in Miami (7 feet above sea level, remember) that I found this in flight footage, showing the beautiful mountains we got to fly through.

I actually did loose a GoPro Hero 2 camera, with a LCD screen and a suction cup, that had been mounted to the fender of a truck to get a cut away shot of the tire on a Kabul street – really happy that we flew the cameras on a custom mount in Kret and in Lal, where I had filmed a few days prior.

And that’s how I got the shot.

We will be premiering “On Wings of Hope” in April, at a live premiere which will be really cool, since we have the King Air parked next to the screen in the hangar that the movie will be playing. Just in case you did not understand that: If you come to the premiere you’re gonna be able to see the actual plane that I flew in and filmed for the documentary. Plus you can meet Daniel, that is one of the pilots, who tells the story in the movie (he’s also the guy that made the custom mount) – how cool is that. Check out a Sneak Peak of “On Wings of Hope”, share it with your online friends and see how you can join us at the premiere!

To join us at the premiere of On Wings of Hope click here.

Pascal Depuhl is a South Florida based professional photographer and commercial cinematographer. You can read more information about his projects on his blog about photography, cinematography and technology.