Besides the dramatic, 27-20 win for the University of Michigan football team, the 2024 Rose Bowl will be remembered forever for a stunning shot of an Air Force B-2 stealth bomber flying over 96,000 fans in Pasadena, Calif., during the pregame rendition of the ”Star-Spangled Banner” on New Year’s Day.
But while the picture lasts forever, aerial photographer Mark Holtzman had just a few heartbeats to capture the bomber and the stadium at the perfect angle in one frame, all while flying at 100 miles per hour in one direction at about 4,500 feet as the B-2 flew about 200 miles per hour in the other at about 3,000 feet.
“It’s a very fluid shoot,” Holtzman told Air & Space Forces Magazine. “Everything’s moving and it’s gone before you can take a breath.”
Holtzman had been up in his Cessna 206 since before dawn that morning to shoot the football game and the preceding Rose Parade, which also featured a B-2 flyover. A 20-year aerial photographer, Holtzman has shot the Rose Bowl 15 times now. Each occasion requires careful planning with the military pilots performing the flyover and the various government agencies overseeing security for the event.
“Everybody is at different altitudes and we’re all on a discrete frequency so there is no interference,” Holtzman said. “It’s very professional.”
Capturing a moving object at just the right spot and angle is a complicated task. If Holtzman gets the angle wrong, his photos will make it look as if the B-2 missed the stadium, or it might block the view of the field or the names of the teams painted in the endzones.
“It’s not just taking a picture of the plane flying by,” he explained. “For me, it’s putting it in context with what they’re flying over. That’s the hard thing.”