Sunday, 26 May 2013

Riding the air

Now here's a sport that I would love to indulge in - if I dared! Being scared of heights, and always prefering to have my feet planted on firm ground, completely rules it out. But of course one can watch.

I am referring to paragliding - see If I have a preference, I prefer to watch paragliding to hang gliding - see I suppose it must be the slower, more graceful, and photographically more interesting way that paragliders move through the air.

You don't seem to see so much hang gliding done nowadays. That may be due to the less expensive and much lighter equipment needed for paragliding - basically an aerodynamic fabric wing held into shape by cords, with of course a harness, almost always attached to some kind of 'seat'. The key parts of the ensemble can be collapsed into a backpack. Whereas the rigid struts needed for a hang glider mean more bulk and weight, and setup is more of a rigmarole.

Another point would be that hang gliders fly horizontally, face down, and landing safely is trickier. Paragliders can land on their feet. But of course both variations are at the mercy of the wind, and a sudden gust, or an unexpected drop in the wind, can be potentially hazardous. A hang glider, with a wing that can't deform, is more suitable for very strong winds, and can fly higher. All such considerations are irrelevant to me, because there is no chance whatever that I will ever let myself get airbourne by either method. But I like to see others do it, and I admire their skill and fearlessness.

Over the years, I've amassed quite a collection of paragliding shots in various locations, usually taken close to sunset, when the image of the solo high flyer drifting into the setting sun is at its most potent. Here's a selection (from 2002 to 2013) taken from the South Downs and Beachy Head in Sussex, and at Rhosili on the Gower in South Wales:

What a sense of freedom these shots give me.


  1. There you go you see Lucy, I would rather be doing it than taking pictures of others doing it. I seems you have that attitude too? What's preventing you from running off a hill slope clinging on for dear life as you do? Well you've already told us that you would be too scared. In reality though this particular sport never interested me and neither did hang gliding or parachuting though I have done para-ascending and thoroughly enjoyed it enough to do it twice! All are quite dangerous sports to undertake and even those who are experienced get it wrong sometimes to their detriment. The views from up there make it worthwhile but I wouldn't like to tempt providence by doing it again!

    Shirley Anne x

  2. Understandable attraction to such an exhilarating pastime in fabulously scenic locations. One can almost feel the wind and hear the snap of the lines. Great photos Lucy.


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