In Honor of VE Day 73 Years Later

Certainly an anniversary that needs to be honored every year. VE and VJ Day were two very significant days in world history. VE Day stands for Victory Europe when the war in Germany came to an end on May 5th 1945. WWII affected millions of lives and when the conflict ended life didn’t just resume as normal. It took time. Time to remember.

Three years ago I had the great fortune to be at the 70th Anniversary of VE Day as part of the Arsenal of Democracy Flyover in Washington DC. Over thirty thousand people attended the ceremony and over 800 veterans were present at the Reflection Pond. Every head was looking up as the 52 aircraft flew overhead in honor of the different services that participated throughout the war.

You can see what happened through the eyes of the Texas Flying Legends Museum and their fleet of aircraft as they flew over the memorial here.

Remembering Our Veterans

Today we honor all those that have fought for our country. This country was not founded in a day. It took time to build it and to keep it going takes the strength of those willing to fight for it. While it is a holiday for some be sure if you see a veteran of any war or conflict to say thanks to them.

This was two years ago in Washington D.C at the 75th anniversary of VE Day. Over 800 veterans came out in attendance of that flyover.

Airshow Prep

Well it’s finally that time of the year again when the first airshow has arrived. The season officially began with the Cable Airshow in Upland, CA during the beginning of January but for myself the first one is this month with the LA County Airshow. Usually before I go to any event I always go through my checklist of what I need to bring, what will I be shooting, how will it be shot and any other homework regarding the event. These are important lessons for any trip so that you maximize your chances of success before you leave.

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Airshows are a combination of great aircraft and performances brought together to bring amusement to the crowds. The people attend to see the thrills of flight. Thus bringing money into the airshow. People are a very important element to the airshow experience and capturing those people and the joys that they are having is essential when covering these events. But it’s not just about the general public. It’s also the pilots, the mechanics and of course the veterans. Everyone has a story and capturing it all is important. Last May in Washington DC while I was covering the Arsenal of Democracy Flyover for the Texas Flying Legends Museum, the people in the crowd at the WWII Memorial were all amazed when the planes flew overhead. Everyone was looking up taking pictures but of course I was photographing them taking pictures of history in the making. It was a combination of both that made that event so special.

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Back on the ground, there are always subjects to be photographed. At each event there are dozens of aircraft making it a general smorgasbord for photographers to get great images. But you have to be creative a work around the other elements that come with shooting on the ground including people, ropes, chairs, orange cones and other elements that come with an airshow. While I tend to shoot a lot with the 24-70 f/2.8 or the 70-200 VRII I also shoot a lot of statics with the 200-400 VR just to isolate certain elements. I’ve gotten really good at removing elements that detract from the composition in post but whenever you can make the shot happen without the use of post processing it’s always better. For no other reason besides the fact that you save time.

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Then of course there are the acrobatic, aerobatic, flybys, performances and tributes that come with every great airshow. These are the ones that are always the hardest for me because it’s not always easy to get that super engaging shot. You need to have the right background, good light and of course the image has to be sharp. With prop planes that can be a little harder since you also want that prop blurred which means having a slower shutter speed. It takes a bit of practice getting used to the panning involved with this kind of shooting but that’s why you start early in the season before you ever get to the event. All of this comes down to practicing early so that you are ready because if aren’t then chances are you might miss that shot.

The Year In the Sky

When this year started I had decided to start a new column on my blog featuring one aircraft a week and the history of that plane. It’s been one heck of year and while I was unable to make that happen every week, for seven months history has come alive for just a day. When I started in Aviation Photography I never thought that I would get so involved with the history of these planes or these people behind them. When I look back over this year, I am amazed of the the history that was shared.

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Two of the biggest events this year were the celebrations of VE Day and VJ Day. While VJ Day didn’t have nearly the same amount of attention as VE Day, the 70th anniversary of both were marked in this country. I had the pleasure over the years to witness many special events such as the 70th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid in Dayton, OH, air to air with two Super Corsairs, and the VE Day Flyover of our Nations Capitol this year. While the photography brought me to those events, it was the passion for telling the story through the camera that made them special.

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Every year more and more of our vets pass away and this year was no different. We lost many good men and women, some whose stories were written down and others who were not. While it is impossible to tell them all it should be the goal of all to honor those by writing down their stories.

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Each year is filled with discovering new subjects and coming up with new ways to photograph those subjects. As a photographer your main job is to capture those images so that others can learn and be inspired. While easy to think of images as art it’s even harder to wrap your mind around that fact that you are recording history. What you see every time you put your eye to the viewfinder is something you will never see again. It’s an odd feeling but it can drive you to take better images knowing that it will never be the same. It’s the one truth that I have come to learn through aviation.

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On this last day of 2015 I hope everyone can rejoice in what they have accomplished in their photography. Whether big or small in the end we all were able to capture images that told a story for someone else to read. New subjects were found and more or waiting to be discovered. That’s the best part of being a photographer, there is always something else out there.

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