The Final Reunion for the Doolittle Raiders

Seven years ago I had the privilege of meeting the last four remaining Doolittle Raiders and the aircraft that they flew on their dangerous mission over Japan on April 18th, 1942. Last week the last remaining Doolittle Raider, Lt. Colonel Dick Cole, passed away at 103 years in age. After many years, all the raiders are together again.

Today marks the 77th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid in which 16 planes took off from the carrier USS Hornet and bombed Japan. While it was not a mission out of revenge, it was designed to send a message that Japan was not untouchable. The planes would fly on to various countries in Asia where all but one crashed. The men had to find their own way home. While the history of the mission is important, it is the bravery, ingenuity, and determination of all involved that really matters.

Spitfires on Malta

Spitfires were used all over the world throughout WWII making it one of the most versatile aircraft used during the war. Among the battlefronts it served with, was on the small island of Malta. Civilization on Malta has been around for centuries and every since it began there has been constant fighting over the island due to its strategic position in the Mediterranean Sea. Control over northern Africa has always been fought for and during WWII it was paramount for the Axis powers. Well, the battle for Malta lasted for two years and with the help of Spitfires, the Allies were able to maintain control of the island.

On March 7th, 1942, 16 Supermarine Spitfires MkV’s were delivered via USS Eagle to the island, along with nine more from USS Eagle. 47 more were delivered on April 13th, 1942. All of this was part of Operation Spotter which gave priority to reinforcing the island in order to help hold Africa. Unfortunately, the majority of those aircraft were destroyed on the ground throughout March and April. Despite the loses, the island held and the Axis powers paid dearly in men and machines trying to take the island. Many of those reserves were needed in the Africa campaign but would never get there.

This particular Spitfire is part of the Historic Aircraft Collection, in Duxford, England. It happens to be an MkVb painted in honor of the RAF Polish 315 and 317 squadrons.

Images captured with Nikon D5, 70-300 VRII, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

The Widowmaker

The B-26 was known as many names but was best known as the widowmaker due to so many accidents in the early models during takeoffs and landings. This medium bomber was used in the Pacific and the European theatres throughout WWII with devastating effect. While originally the plane was not popular the Martin company bomber proved vital in its roles in New Guinea and then in Europe leading up to and following the D-Day invasion.

While the B-26 served throughout many theatres it certainly had an important and less well-known role during the fight against Germany. The planes were used with the 8th Air Force and later the 9th Air Force starting in early 1943. Just like the B-25, the B-26 was used as an attack bomber against small targets like bridges, rail yards, and even submarine pens. They performed these operations so well that by the end of the war in 1945, the 9th Air Force gave the B-26 the highest rating for accuracy at medium altitude. Even after D-Day the men on the ground would call in for tactical support and B-26’s would be one of the planes used to support the troops. It was fast, rugged and the men depended on it.

Not your Average Valentine’s Day

This might not be the most cheery of Valentine Day posts but frankly I couldn’t find a photograph of something that was really cheery and this day does mark an important day in aviation history. The F4U Corsair was one of the fiercest Allied aircraft during WWII but it didn’t have an auspicious start. If you’re into aviation or a bit of a history buff then you’ve probably have heard of all the trouble that Vought had getting this plane from the blueprints to Carrier decks. But once it was there, pilots swore by it.

Today marks the first combat action of the F4U, from Marine units based on Guadalcanal in 1943. On a mission to Kahili Field in Southern Bougainville, fifty alerted Zero’s were ready for the American bombers and their escort of fighters. Two P-40’s, two PB4Y’s, four P-38’s and two Corsairs were shot down during the raid. Only three Zero’s were shot down during the attack. It was a devastating blow to the men stationed at Guadalcanal and was hence dubbed the St. Valentines Day Massacre.

A Week of Remembrance

This has been a week of remembrance indeed. Firstly, former President George H. W. Bush was laid to rest after his passing last Friday. Then, today, we mark the seventieth seventh anniversary of Pearl Harbor. The events that took place day changed everything for this country, for the world and for the former President who eventually flew TBM Avengers in the Pacific. It is important that we remember and honor these people and days as we continue forward in life.

A Splash of Color Goes a Long Way

When it comes to a photograph we tend to put a lot of emphasis on the size of subjects and the amount of negative space around that subject. It’s really important to remember that subjects don’t always have to be big. They can take up a very small amount of space in the overall composition if all the elements around it support it. This P-51 Mustang is a great example as it’s belly is painted a bright orange and with a dark background it pops even if it’s small.

Let the Races Begin!

It’s that of the year again for the National Championship Air Races to return to Stead Field outside Reno, NV. Every year dozens of competitors take to the sky to compete to see who’s the fastest. It’s basically like NASCAR in the air. For those that go every year then you already know the amount of fun to be had at the races. For those that haven’t gone then you don’t know what you’re missing out on. Photographically it’s a hoot! This is just one example from many years back but the challenges and rewards from this event are vast.

One Lens For It All?

Of course you can! Many an airshow I have spent walking around with the 200-400 VR slung around my shoulder looking for those moments worth capturing both on the ground and in the air. In some cases that’s just too much lens so the question is is there a lens that can do it all or can YOU do it all with one lens? It really comes down to the event. Each airshow and flyin has it’s own restrictions as far how close you can get to the flight line. Flyins tend to be a little less restrictive but that relies on YOU being safe around the aircraft. Remember no photograph is worth getting yourself or anyone else hurt. Now this flyin I was able to get pretty close to the subjects so I had no problem using the 70-200 VRII for a lot of my shooting. From people, to statics, to flight shots you just have to practice and really look for those hidden moments where everything comes together but it can be done.

How Do You Work With Planes in Harsh Light?

Well it’s a simple enough question that demands a good answer because anyone that has been to an airshow can tell you that there is a lot going on throughout the day and the majority is happening when there is harsh light. Most people fly airplanes when there is a lot more light out, we photographers are kind of picky and only want the best light in the early morning and evening. But the rest of the crowd tends to sleep in and get there later in the day. So how do you cope? For starters you can’t be afraid to go out in the harsh light. Be smart and picky with your subjects, don’t just blast away. No one needs a hardrive full of bad images trying to find that one.

Next up, watch your backgrounds. Try to minimize the amount of background by not shooting real wide or angling up. If you can look for clean background with colors that aren’t in the blue gamut range you’ll make your life a whole lot easier. It’s real easy to have washed out blues in the middle of the day.

Always remember that under exposing in the camera is your best friend and finally be smart with your finishing. Thanks to the tools in Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom, like the shadow slider, shooting in the middle of the day is a whole lot easier. These are just a few things that I have noticed from my time on the tarmac but there is always more if you go out and play.

Images Captured with Nikon D5, 70-200 VRII on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

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