Working in the Sun

The sun can be a powerful element when included in a photograph. Some avoid it because it can be too overpowering but when used in the right way it can be an element of intrigue. When I’m working with critters I rarely have the sun directly in my photographs because I want the softer natural light to be on the critter and not seen in the background. With aviation it’s quite different. Due to the natural graphic elements of aircraft the direct sun can be quite interesting. These two images are good examples of that.


This first image is of a modified T6 Texan part of the Tora! Tora! Tora! performing group as a Zero. What initially caught my attention was the flag waving form the canopy. Now this is obviously a backlit shot and there is a bit of lens flare but with the help of ACR it wasn’t a distraction. The morning I shot this we had some great cloud cover which helped to mask the bright sun so it wasn’t a glaring white ball.


The second image, a TBM Avenger, has no clouds but more color and it is that color that makes for an interesting sky. Both of those subtle details help to make the sun less overpowering. Now with aviation I said there was a graphic element and there is and in both of these cases it’s the plane’s shadow. It’s not something you generally think about but when you can combine the sun, plane and shadow into a unique composition then you have something truly interesting. When it comes to working the ramps and looking at multiple aircraft and having to work around people, noticing these elements and knowing how to work them is important.

An important day in naval history

Today is an important day in Naval History that not everyone knows about. On October 23, 1944 the beginning of the largest naval battle in WWII and arguably in history began, in what is known as the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Combined Allied forces invaded the island of Leyte in order to cut off Japan from occupied territories in Southeast Asia. The Japanesse launched nearly all of it’s remaining strength to stop the invasion. From the 23rd-26th, a fierce naval battle ensued that cost both sides heavy losses. This was also the first battle in which organized groups of kamikazes attacked US ships.


Two of the aircraft that participated in the battle were the TBM Avenger and the SB2C Helldiver. Both planes were designed to drop torpedoes and bombs on enemy ships. These planes played a pivotal role in destroying one of the largest battleships ever built, the Yamato Class Musashi. On October 24th, the 72,000 ton warship saw it’s last battle in the Sibuyan Sea when it was attacked by Helldivers, Avengers and Hellcats from the carriers Intrepid, Essex, Lexington, Franklin and Cabot. It took 19 bombs and 17 torpedoes to sink the mighty ship.

In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D3, 200-400 VRII, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

The Big Boys are in the Sky

I love how much thought goes into all the different routines and acts that are incorporated in the airshow. One of my favorite was on Friday when “FIFI” the only B-29 Superfortress flying in the world right now flew overhead with three B-25 Mitchell bombers and two TBM Avengers. It flew after the Tora! Tora! Tora! display which in itself is a great performance! The bombers flew in support of the bombing effort of WWII


It was great to see FIFI flying over the field. After she took off she started to make a high orbit and for a moment it looked like she was going to stay that way. Thankfully she lined up on runway 36 and made a slow northward pass. Afterward she did an orbit with the other planes that were going to be in the formation and came in overhead in a arrowhead formation. I actually had to switch to the 70-200 to get the shot of all the planes together they were flying so close overhead and in such a tight formation. Then again that B-29 is one big ass plane.

In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D3, 200-400 VR, 70-200 VRII, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Working the Static Line

This year at Oshkosh was a bit different than previous ones, not just because we spent all week there but Dad and I spent a lot more time in Warbird Alley. Warbird Alley for those that aren’t familiar with Oshkosh, is the main area where all the warbirds are parked, including bleacher seats for veteran panels. Everyday the main staging area, which is a cement patch maybe 150ft by 200ft wide, changes so that a different selection of warbirds are present for people to walk around and enjoy. Behind the whole staging area is the grass static where the planes remain static before heading up in air.


One evening while we were waiting down there, waiting for some of our friends to get back from a flight, I poked around with some of the symmetry going between the aircraft. That is one of the great things about airplanes is that there is always a great symmetry going on somewhere. In this case it was the stackup of the F4U-4 Corsair and the TBM Avenger behind it. Nice evening light making a simple click.

In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D3, 70-200 VRII, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Incoming Torpedeo!

I love this plane. The TBM Avenger is just a bad ass looking plane. One of the most advanced torpedo bombers of WWII it sure made an impact on accurate bombings in naval engagements. Not only was it faster and more accurate than previous torpedo planes but it was also tougher with a heavier thicker exterior. I was fortunate to be able to photograph two of these planes during the Chino Airshow this past May.



The Avenger

Another one of my favorite planes that i never get to see enough of is the TBM Avenger. Entering service in 1942 the Avenger first saw action during the Battle of Midway where five of the six planes went down. It went on to become one of the most depended upon torpedo bombers of the war. The plane played an important role during the Solomon Campaign where it saw lots of action in Iron Bottom Sound. The plane was used by both marine and navy units both on land and in carrier operations. This plane held three people, pilot, navigator/bombardier/gunner, and a second gunner. The rear gunner was in a bubble like gun turret mounted in the otherwise tube shaped plane. On the cold Sunday morning at the Planes of Fame Airshow, two survivors of this very important and historic aircraft are on display. The clouds and cool temp add a perfect backdrop for where these planes would have been stationed and flying in.

In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D3, AF-S 24-70 f/2.8, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

The slow but mighty Grumman

Dad and I made a rather fast and painful run to the Planes of Fame Museum to photograph a rare and truly awesome looking plane, the Grumman TBM Avenger. We saw the plane at the museum at the beginning of summer in a hanger and wanted to see it fly but it was nothing like what we thought. This plane was designed for offshore bombing along with ship to ship bombing. It could carry a number of arsenals including bombs and torpedoes. For such duty, it’s wings folded up and down for transport on carriers. This plane has a lot of history to it, more than i have knowledge of and it was great to hear the stories that some of these pilots carried with them.

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Saturday morning when we got to the museum the skies were the usual grey that southern California brought with it, nothing great but not too bad. Didn’t stop us in the least, we photographed that plane in as many ways on the ground as we could. A little before 11 Dad got his Iphone out and said the sky will clear up, i looked behind me at the grey mess and said sure. At noon we had blue skies, i hate when he does that. I swear he has a blue sky button on there. I won’t complain the planes always look better with blue skies and i couldn’t wait to see the wings unfolded. I was excited about that plane, but was shocked to see how slow it flew across the sky. It makes sense considering it is a bomber but still. We didn’t get much time with it since it only made 4 passes but that was all it took to get a few a good shots. It was big, loud, and great to photograph.

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Images captured with D3, top 70-300 AF-S VR, bottom 200-400 VR, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

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