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The men who made it all possible

I cannot tell you about Aerial Experts without first telling you about my family, those heroes and mentors, who set this whole thing into motion.  They didn’t go out and shoot pictures for our clients, but they laid the entire foundation upon which Aerial Experts now stands. (through their guidance and support)

Frenchy Bennett, our biggest supporter

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1966  Col. Frenchy D. Bennett (left), USAF Strategic Air

Command, SR71 test program director, Edwards AFB

 Frenchy’s unforgettable advice:

“Don’t settle for just being number one, if you can be ten times better than your top competitor. Only then will you have lived up to your full potential.”

I grew up under the wing of a giant of a man and surrogate dad, who was admired as a national treasure throughout our community. This man, Frenchy Bennett was the ultimate aerial photographer. He built and ran the SR 71 blackbird test program, which was not even his greatest achievement. He inspired me from an early age to study my world around me, appreciate the strategic importance of good photography and to find ways to bring home my visual flying experiences to share with others. Frenchy instilled in me the love of flight, which has dominated my life for 40 years. Becoming a pilot was just the beginning. Photography has been in my blood for 50 years, so the combination was a natural fit. From my first photo taken from my airplane, I knew I would be no ordinary aerial photographer. Frenchy taught me how to reinvent aerial photography and transform it into something capable of changing how people visualize their world around them.

Frenchy Bennett was the kind of friend and hero that made everyone he knew feel like they were his favorite person to be with. He had many qualities that made a person want to be more like him. If you like what you are seeing in our unique style of photography, we cannot take all the credit. Our best work is merely a reflection of a man who’s inspiration and guidance set it all into motion.

Humble beginnings

My first aerial photo missions consisted of a video camera attached to my homemade flying lawn chair, directed and guided by the world’s greatest aerial photographer.  He was the man who solved the formidable problems of the SR 71 spy planes and their camera systems.  He then went on to be recognized by the president for preparing the US and our allies to avoid and deter nuclear Armageddon, an accomplishment of national and international importance.

Frenchy had cancer at the time I flew the flying lawn chair missions in an effort to film ranch and neighborhood videos for him.  He was too ill to drive around his ranch or  watch regular TV programs.  His last moments of happiness were spent watching those crude airborne video flights of his ranch and neighboring properties.  Those are the most gratifying videos I’ve ever made.

  My Father, Dr. Howard Joham

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To dad, there was no such thing as a problem too big to solve. As head of the Texas A&M plant sciences department, he and his colleagues transformed world food productivity from the looming threat of famine due to overpopulation, into a world of plenty.

Back in World War 2, dad was a communications officer, known for his skills with freehand drawings, cameras and movie equipment. As a world renowned scientist, dad worked with some of the most complex photographic equipment in the world. As far back as I can remember, he was teaching me the importance of communicating through cameras and movies when making presentations.  After taking us to the movies, he would explain to me how they did all the trick shots.  I could never get enough of that.  . Now we invent our own camera platforms to re-create the same visual sensation you would get if you were there in person.  One of dad’s favorite quotes:  “Don’t waste your breath talking when a picture is worth a thousand words.  People don’t want you to tell them, they want you to show them”

Tom “Einstein” Fisher

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Tom was closer than a brother to me.  He designed all the circuitry for the 2004 Mars rovers.  He almost singlehandedly modernized the entire Texas A&M nuclear reactor and its control systems. 

He built the complex circuits required for our airborne and ground fly-through camera platforms and then taught me enough to build them myself.  We all called him Einstein because he really was that smart.  No matter how difficult the electronic circuitry project, he always made it work.   Without Tom’s genius, there would be no Aerial Experts.  With Tom on the team, we began to feel like it was possible to be ten times better than the best aerial and fly-through photographers in the world.   We lost Tom to cancer in 2010, but he lives on through his circuitry in our camera platforms and the Mars rover brains that are still capable of functioning to this very day.  Ten years later, the dream is alive and well.  There’s no-one out there even attempting to do the kinds of videography that Aerial Experts does, thanks to Tom 

Our favorite quote from Tom:  “I don’t like trial and error.  I prefer trial and success”

The next generation

The first time I laid eyes on a camera was 60 years ago. I wanted to be behind that camera, not in front of it. Yeah, that’s me, plotting to heist dad’s camera right there in broad daylight. 

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Aerial Experts began 28 years ago with a flying lawn chair, a video camera and some duct tape. This humble adventure would have gone nowhere, had it not been for the inspiration and support of some of the most accomplished people in the world. (One’s accomplishments were actually out of this world)

A Different Approach

Aerial Experts is a team of highly skilled and creative craftsmen, pilots and professionals dedicated to custom building and operating aerial and fly-through camera equipment that is a giant leap above the entire video production industry.
From the beginning, we were not satisfied with the quality of work being performed by other aerial photographers. There was a large gap between what they were offering and what they should have been doing. With the advent of drones and digital technology, that gap has become even wider.

The very limited capabilities of drones, combined with a huge crop of inexperienced operators, has saturated the market with amateurs expecting to get rich quick at the expense of their clients. Technology accelerated while operator skills and efforts decreased relative to what that new technology has made possible.

Years Ahead of Our Time

For 28 years Aerial Experts has been custom building and operating aerial photography camera stabilizers and lifting platforms for manned aircraft, low altitude and ground applications. We built our own drones, balloons and portable tower cams 20 years before drones came to the market. You’d be amazed at all the things our drones can do that others can’t. 

Thinking Bigger Than Everyone Else

Aerial Experts founders were raised in an environment of big thinkers. We had more sources for inspiration than most people see in a lifetime
With a father who led a team that profoundly changed agriculture across the world, a surrogate dad who ran the SR 71 test program and a “brother“ who designed the circuitry for the Mars Lander and Rover, we couldn’t help but think big. We didn’t know any other way. 

All of the 5 original team members at Aerial Experts are pilots and have these critical characteristics in common:  Each of us have a burning desire to photographically tell a more compelling and effective story. Plus, we were all influenced at an early age by family members who literally changed the world for the better. They were our heroes and mentors, inspiring all of us to take visual communication to a whole new level.

Journey Into a Multi-Dimensional World

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My business partner, Thom Davidson has a background in psychology, photography and optometric sciences. From the time we first became friends 27 years ago, he and I, as pilots took a great interest in how people perceive their world through flight, photography and video presentations. This quickly led to a strong desire to duplicate the same visual sensation one receives when being there in person. 

We knew in the early 90s that camera aim stabilization in all 3 dimensions was an important first step. Step 2 was precisely controlling the flight path of the camera. (another 3 dimensions to conquer.)  Step 3 was understanding viewer psychology and exactly what the viewer wanted and expected to see. (more dimensions)
Step 4 was learning how to measure and maximize the desired effect on the viewer to compel them to take the desired action. Our many years in the aerial photography business formed the perfect foundation for these goals.

Bringing it all together

In the early days, we built crude devices to give us short bursts of rock steady camera aiming and exact flight paths, controlling all six dimensions.  We then applied viewer psychology to our best camera work.  When we put everything together, we discovered that the results had the effect of immersing the viewer’s mind into the video world on his screen. Memory retention was almost as vivid as if the viewer had been there in person.  To us, this was a revelation. For the next 20 years we used all of our powers and all of our skills to perfect our equipment and shot making techniques. Meanwhile, technology marched steadily forward and we’ve been leveraging it to make giant leaps above what the rest of the video production world has to offer.  

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Speaking your language

No world class visual communication team would be complete without a marketing expert.  That’s where my wife, Jeanne comes in.  She’s a Texas A&M marketing grad with an MBA specializing in marketing. She’s been a pilot for 26 years and our business office manager for 37 years.  Jeanne’s expertise and experience insures that Aerial Experts understands the marketing and public relations needs of our clients.

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