Kate Upton Floats Weightless for 2014 SI Swimsuit Issue
The 2014 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue released today features the most stunning pictures ever shot on our plane. Model Kate Upton did a fabulous job and is the high point of the much-anticipated issue. The photos and videos were shot in weightlessness aboard Zero G’s 727 aircraft during a recent flight and are not an effect created with wires or green screens or even in the non-existent "Zero Gravity Chamber" as at least one article claimed. (I have no malice towards the author though, I too thought there was a 'Zero Gravity Chamber' when I first arrived at Space Camp as a teenager, but was laughed at for thinking that and so quickly learned...).
I was very impressed that Sports Illustrated not only has the photos available online at http://swimsuit.si.com/swimsuit but they also have three amazing behind the scenes videos. You can see my colleague Art Scheuermann in the green pilot headset acting as the Flight Director, and our amazing Zero G photographer and videographer Steve Boxall in the scrum of photographers (he has dark hair and heavy rimmed glasses). I have included some of the photos here, but you really have to go to the SI website to see the rest plus the amazing video footage (it's not embeddable in this back-end and they deserve the traffic as a thank you for putting together this awesome shot. While you are at it, you should probably go buy the issue too ;) I am a subscriber, so I am currently waiting for mine to hit the mailbox.)
Everyone on the plane floats free for about 25 seconds at a time. So you only have a little bit of time to get your shot set up and to capture the magic of the moment. The commercial aircraft is the same one used for NASA research flights, to train astronauts and that is available to the general public from Zero Gravity Corp., based in Alexandria, Virginia (though we fly out of cities across the United States).
During the flight Kate Upton managed to get in at least three costume changes for this shoot! She has a gold metallic one-piece, a one-shouldered baking tube top, and my favorite a small bikini with plenty of tassels everywhere to show off the microgravity. (That is not even counting the ruffled bikini and second gold one piece she is wearing outside the plane). Balls and droplets of water are also injected into the cabin for extra zero g effect.
In the past the plane has been used to film footage for the Biggest Loser, Rebel Billionaire, The Apprentice, The Martha Stewart Show, Good Morning America, Jimmy Kimmel Live and most notably to offer famed physicist and gravity expert Stephen Hawking a once in a lifetime chance to float free of his wheelchair. Lenovo and 7 UP have also used footage from the plane in advertising campaigns. (There are just the shoots I can remember off the top of my head).