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Looking Forward to the Past

A Parachutist Pictorial

Features | June 2020
Monday, June 1, 2020

It’s safe to say that skydivers in the U.S. and around the world could use a little pick-me-up right now. But with practically no skydiving occurring anywhere on the globe in April (when the June issue comes together), the Parachutist staff had to get creative, and we turned to our longtime photography contributors for help. We asked 16 camera flyers—those who have consistently contributed dazzling images to this magazine over the years—to send us one photo that speaks to what skydiving means to them and that would inspire our readers upon their return to the sport they love. As you’ll see in the following pages, their submissions are breathtaking.

The following photographers contributed to this very special pictorial:


Photo by Raymond Adams

Spencer Labunski stands atop a hybrid he organized (and manifested as “the Effing EPIC hybrid”) at the 2017 Independence Boogie at Chicagoland Skydiving Center in Rochelle Illinois.

“It has always pained me that this picture has never been published, as it could very well be my favorite skydive ever. I have been so fortunate with opportunities to go to some amazing places and jump with the best skydivers in the world. From time to time you get that one. This is that one. It was absolutely incredible watching it come together right before my eyes. I was wondering how Spencer would approach and mount. He did it like it was nothing. He just flew right over and stood on top. Then, as the rest moved into their slots and took their grips, I was literally screaming with excitement. I got one shot then took off, carving a tight circle around the formation before breakoff.”


Photo by Laszlo Andacs

In October 2009, Marius Ivascu practices a style set at Skydive the Ranch in Gardiner, New York, in anticipation of competing in the event at the USPA Nationals.

“There are many reasons I selected this photo. First of all, Marius Ivascu was a very close friend of mine who passed away in 2014 in a tragic plane crash. Marius was the most energetic and ambitious skydiver I ever met. When he immigrated from Romania, he had a few hundred jumps, mostly classic accuracy and style. Once he was in the U.S., he got ratings from tandem to AFF and then became an instructor examiner. He also became a rigger, commercial pilot and aircraft mechanic, as well as a member of the U.S. Style and Accuracy Team. I’m very proud to have been able to help and influence such a high achiever in our sport, while he had lot of positive influence on me. Marius became a rock star in the world’s skydiving community. Everybody around the globe loved him, and it was a shock when we learned of his tragic accident. I hope that this photo commemorating Marius Ivascu will bring nice memories to all of us. I also picked this photo because of its pure technical quality (light, sharpness, colors, etc.) combined with the very rare skydiving subject of classic style.


Photo by Bruno Brokken

Jumpers with Canopy Formation Specialists make a demonstration skydive into an airshow in Laiwu, China, in September, 2011.

“I chose this photo—taken with a Canon 5D Mk2 and a 24-105mm lens (at 105)—because it is unusual. For me, the whole picture—including Dave Hillebrandt smiling in the top right corner—makes it special.”


Photo by Elliot Byrd

Matthew Fry flies his Performance Designs Valkyrie into the sun during the February 2020 Vertical Sequential Challenge at Skydive Sebastian in Florida.

“We spend 60 seconds in the air with some of our closest friends, holding hands, creating memories, sharing smiles and—most importantly—moments of genuine human emotion. It’s what we live for as skydivers. We are then abruptly forced apart to open our parachutes and make our descents back to the ground in solitude. Though we have been forced into isolation, we are all flying toward a safe landing so we can once again get back to the friends and experiences that make our lives whole. This picture embodies that concept for me: how alone we feel right now but embracing the solitude with the knowledge that there is light at the end of it all.”


Photo by Gustavo Cabana

Luis Prinetto expresses his excitement during breakoff from a jump with a top group of flyers at an April 2019 Fly4Life Camp at Skydive DeLand in Florida.

“I chose this shot because Luis is expressing so much in the moment. I owe so much to him and his Fly4Life team! I did my first-ever camp with them as a participant in April 2013. Now I never miss one. I’ve done 15 in total: learning to fly in the first ones and then as a camera flyer. They’ve given me the chance to learn so much and take so many images.”


Photo by Randy Forbes

Jan Works holds a rose that longtime friend Barbara Swovelin handed to her after landing with tandem instructor Scott Smith after the ash dive for her husband, author and skydiving legend Pat Works, at Skydive Perris in California on March 4, 2017.

“Jan’s expression—a combination of inner peace and joy from being in the air again with her sky brothers and sisters, tempered with the sadness of the loss of her husband—says it all. It (in my opinion) transcends skydiving. It may very well be the best photograph I’ve ever taken, skydiving or otherwise.”

From Jan Works:

“When I was an active jumper, I thought, ‘Why would I ever want to make a tandem skydive?’ But as the years went by, I knew I would when it came time to release Pat to the blue skies he loved. The day was a difficult one for me, grateful as I was for the presence of so many longtime friends who came to Skydive Perris to celebrate our friendship and his life. Randy Forbes captured me in dazed contemplation of a bittersweet but successful mission and the promise of celebration to come in the company of so many friends. As Pat often wrote: ‘No man is the whole of himself; his friends are the rest of him.’”

Photo by David Gerstein

Twenty-five jumpers fly their matching Performance Designs Lightning canopies during the Q Boogie—an event held in memory of Paul Quandt—on July 2, 2016 at Jumptown in Orange, Massachusetts.


Photo by George Katsoulis

The base exits during the 2015 Parachutists Over Phorty Society World Record Attempts at Skydive Perris in California.

“I’ve always aspired to produce images that have impact on others, just like some of my heroes’ images had on me. This image represents my journey in the sport: I knew what I wanted; I worked very hard to be where I needed to be; my friends were always willing to help me; and when the opportunity presented itself, I was ready.”


Photo by Norman Kent

Team Fastrax makes a pyrotechnic skydive at sunrise at GoJump Oceanside in California.

“The reason for my selection is that this image represents the beauty of our sport, reminding us of our playground to which we long to return. It is also an image that I designed from scratch. Every time I had the chance to shoot pyrotechnic jumps, it was during the dark of the night. I knew that shooting the same content during sunrise would generate this kind of impact.

“When I was designing the images I would capture during my project 60 Cycles, I knew this one would be at the top of my list. This event, in which I celebrated my 60th birthday by attempting to shoot 60 portraits in freefall all in one day, was the perfect opportunity for it. I invited Team Fastrax to help me celebrate by performing for me and with a little help from mother nature ... voilà!”


Photo by Juan Mayer

At Skydive Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, wingsuit flyers exit from a balloon.

“The reason I chose this photo is because nine jumpers from nine different countries came together to organize this very challenging jump. It really shows the spirit of our sport: That it doesn’t really matter where we are from, our skin color, religion or how much money we have, we get together for the love of skydiving and get amazing things done!”


Photo by Mike McGowan

Tony Hathaway flies his canopy over Skydive Perris in California during the USPA Nationals.

“I really like this photo because it pops out at you, and this view is seldom seen. Also, it shows that the photographer’s job is never finished; if I would have removed myself from filming mode at breakoff, I would have missed this shot. I also like this photo because the subject matter is someone I admire as a very talented artist.”


Photo by Craig O’Brien

Sean McCormac makes a skydive over GoJump Oceanside in California for a promotional campaign for Gatorz Eyewear.

“I chose an image of my favorite type of skydive: 2-ways! Connecting with others one on one in the air is the best. I remember going through AFF with one of my longtime friends and being so excited for the time when just the two of us could jump out of a plane together and let it all hang out. As a photographer, it also a great way to showcase others’ personalities and enjoy the pure excitement of flying and interacting on a level unmatched by any other activity. I’ve been very lucky to have teammates like Tanya (my wife) and Sean MacCormac to take skydiving to its highest levels.”


Photo by Tom Sanders

Members of World Team exit a C-130 at 22,000 feet during the Royal Sky Celebrations in Thailand in 1999, where the team set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale World Record for Largest Formation Skydive with a 282-way.

“I mounted movie and still cameras in all four aircraft to capture the exits. You can see other jumpers entering the frame from the other aircraft. I used a fill flash, but I tried to keep it very subtle. This photo best sums up what skydiving means to me for a couple of reasons. This type of photo takes extra work to capture, and that’s one reason why it is has a special place in my heart. It goes back to my roots. I started filming skydiving in 1978 while I was still a student on static-line jumps. I got permission to mount cameras on the jump aircraft, which changed my life forever because I was able to quit my job as a carpenter and film skydiving full time. Secondly, I love the energetic willing transition from the secure C-130 platform to jumping into the abyss, fully committed and confident that only an experienced skydiver knows the feeling.”


Photo by Michael Tomaselli

Jumpers build a big-way over Florida Skydiving Center in Lake Wales during the 2017 Spring Fling Boogie.

“I chose this photo because it was a special time of day to be in the sky: That last jump of the day, when the air is calm and the sky is showing us all of Mother Nature’s beauty. It doesn’t get any better.”


Photo by Andrey Veselov

Jumpers set the 400-way Fédération Aéronautique Internationale World Record for Largest Formation Skydive in Udon Thani, Thailand on February 8, 2006.

“This is one of my favorite pictures: the 400-way world record. World Team—a highly skilled international team of skydivers from more than 30 countries led by B.J. Worth and his team of captains and support personnel—produced this unbeaten achievement. This year marks the event’s 14th anniversary.”


Photo by Ioannis Vlachiotis

In 2013, student Olga Kalaitzeri makes her first solo jump, as well as the first solo jump of a female student at USPA Foreign Affiliate Skydive Athens in Kopaida, Greece.

“In my eyes, this picture represents most of the common emotions of flying. It brings back memories of the first time you spread your wings to fly solo ... that moment when you exit the plane, the feelings before and after the last step, our beautiful (but always different) playground no matter where you are, the trust in your equipment but mostly yourself, and also the way you feel when you finally touch the ground again.”

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