I have been very fortunate over my years and this past weekend proved to be another sign of that good fortune. This past November Dad and Richard Vandermuelen started the Air2Air workshop with the first location in Phoenix, AZ at the Commemorative Air Force Museum. It was a great event with the climax being the photo shoot with the B17, two mustangs and spitfire. This past weekend we started the second Air2Air workshop. It was great being with the planes and the people again. It was just as exciting this time as it was the first time seeing that beautiful B17 sitting in the tarmac. We arrived very early Friday morning, got a few hours sleep then headed over to the Museum to say hello. Just getting a feel for the place again. Saturday morning kicked off the event and it was one spectacular morning!
Always love those 5:20 wake ups to go out shooting before sunrise, but that’s what it takes to get those great shots. Saturday morning we had as i said a spectacular sunrise! The skies were just lit up as far as the eye could see. Sentimental Journey was pulled out in front of the hanger shinning like it would never stop. It’s a beautiful bird that CAF does a remarkable job keeping it looking so good. Especially since most of the people at CAF are volunteers who truly love the planes and the history. A little bit later on in the morning, after the drama had subsided a bit, i found myself parked on the tarmac looking up at the B25 that had an interesting cloud and feint glow behind it. Yes that’s right, laying down on that dirty, oily asphalt. Why do this you might ask? Well partly to condense the background and foreground giving a cleaner look which is important when dealing with airports. The other reason is now one is looking up at the plane, not down, making it appear bigger and sexier.
With the cloud cover we had that morning, once the sun rose it wasn’t able to pop through the clouds. It tried really hard to be seen but there wasn’t much romantic light, it disappeared fast leaving flat light. This wasn’t a bad thing, it’s still workable, the planes just don’t look as good. Light is essential with everything in this business and with planes the light bounces like crazy. The planes are made of aluminum so any light source will bounce of the sides painted or polished. As you can see with the one above and below with overcast skies the light is kinda boring. What seems to work well when that happens is too exaggerate it a bit more than it was to give a gloomy, whats going to happen look. I suppose that’s a personal taste but in a lot cases it works. This plane is the Shrike Commander, a great plane belonging to Bob Odegard who was kind enough to let us photograph it along with a couple other of his planes.
This plane just a great look. A curved belly, twin engines, and the almost 180 degree tail make for some dynamic shooting. Close up or wide the plane looks good. I have always liked vertical nose to tail shots they remind me of photographing birds of prey when they are starring right at you. Just that same powerful stare. With the skies being what they were at this point i didn’t go vertical, i preferred to eliminate the sky until a whole opened up. Which so happened it did.
A nice little patch of blue opened up behind the B25 out towards the mountains so it was time to switch focus again to that great bird. This time it was closeups with the 70-200 getting the symmetrical shots of the tails, props and the nose. That’s the great thing about planes symmetry is easily achieved and can really make for great shots. Of course if the ground isn’t level where the plane is parked then you might have to be careful about what degree you’re holding the camera body. Easy thing to fix in post nowadays but i always try to get it right in the camera.
The morning was winding down, light wasn’t too great at that point and our stomachs were starting to rumble. With a few last pics of the B25 i started to head in. Off to breakfast than back to the hanger for classroom time with the instructors and pilots. Classroom consisted of photographing the planes, compositions and what to look for when doing Air2Air. Richard who has years of experience in this field explained in great detail things to expect and things to try to achieve. Doug Rosendaal our formation pilot went into the safety issues that are presented when doing and Air2Air shoot and what the photographer needs to know in order to help the pilots. It was a great combination of knowledge that was essential for everyone to hear in order to get better and be safe. Whoow my head hurts time to go back to shooting!
We got our camera gear, harnesses and tethers, then headed back to the hanger for the preflight briefing. I’m gonna stop here because i don’t wanna give away the next part it’s just so good you’re just gonna have to wait till tomorrow to see what happened. I will say that this was the last look back before i got into the Shorts Skyvan ready to fly yet again with that beautiful bomber.
Images Captured with Nikon D3, 24-70, 70-200 VrII, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film