Pesky Fences

The hardest part about photography is getting past the mental and physical fences that block our creativity. No matter how hard you try they always seem to be there. The other kind that tend to always be in the way are the ones that are always seen behind an airplane. I don’t know about the rest of you but I have many images where there is a fence in the background. Sometimes there is no way around it and other times you can remove it in post. Out of those two options, I mostly recommend removing them. Why? Because those barriers give the wrong feeling when it comes to aviation.

Aviation is all about freedom of flight and having any sort of mental barrier come about from having an actual barrier in the photograph ruins that mental picture. I put up this image specifically to make that point. I couldn’t remove it here and the image feels grounded as a result. It’s a little thing but those little things do matter.

74 years Later

April 18th marked the 74th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid. It was the first raid conducted against Japan by USAAF B-25 bombers launched from the carrier USS Hornet. This one act has gone down in history not only for the bravery of the men but also the determination of the mission. Today there are only a couple members left of that historic mission.

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In 2012 at the seventieth anniversary of the Doolittle raid reunion, 20 B-25 bombers took part in an historic flyover out of Grimes Field Urbana over Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, OH. I’ve been to many events since then but this one is still one of my favorites. There’s nothing quite like seeing 20 B-25’s come taxiing towards you. The Texas Flying Legends Museum’s B-25 Bomber Betty’s Dream was the second plane off in the sequence that morning.

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While the coordination in the sky wasn’t quite perfect it still was unbelievable to see that many planes fly overhead.

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Then of course there were the veterans. Sadly in the four short years since this photo was taken many of these great men have already passed away. For me this is a constant reminder of not only the events in the past but also what we must do in the present so that these people are always remembered.

One of the Headliners

Perhaps one of the quickest growing “attractions” in the aviation world is the fleet of aircraft belonging to the Texas Flying Legends Museum. While this great group of historic warbirds, flown by some of the best pilots, do make appearances at airshows around the country, the word attraction barely begins to describe what this museum is truly about. While they do fly a routine at every event showcasing their unique aircraft, the museum and the people behind the planes are constantly working towards achieving their goal of honoring the past and inspiring the future. As a result of the care and devotion to the planes and their craft, the planes of the Texas Flying Legends Museum were one of the headliners at the Los Angeles County Airshow with every person there standing as they flew their routine and many left once they had finished.

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The Los Angeles County Airshow was the debut event for TFLM on the west coast. This year marks the first time that the fleet has been brought west of the Rocky Monutains and for some of these planes it’s the first time that many of them have ever flown over California. The Sptifire for example has never flown over California skies since it was built in 1944. Despite the challenges that the crew faced with bringing the planes from Ellington Field, Tx to Fox Field Lancaster, CA, everyone held their own and delivered a superb performance to the fans delight.

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Their routine consisted of multiple flyovers starting with a formation Vic flyover with all the aircraft. Included in Sundays Performance was the B25 Bomber, P-51 Mustang, P-40 Warhawk, TBM Avenger, FM2P Wildcat, and MkIX Spitfire. After making one lap around the field the Spitfire broke from formation to showcase what made it so iconic. The other aircraft made another lap around before breaking into pairs and then single ship formations all doing laps around the field including bombing runs and straffing runs with pyro. The entire performance lasted 18 minutes but every second was exciting. Not a single person on the ground wanted the performance to end. The next stop for the fleet will be the Planes of Fame Airshow where dozens more warbirds will be seen flying alongside the TFLM Fleet. I can’t wait!

Images Captured with Nikon D4, 200-400 VR, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

The Hard Lessons

Sometimes you have to learn things the hard way in order for them to stick. It’s part of being human that no one can escape. Eventually we all end up learning something through that same process. What’s important is that we learn not to do it again. Being a photographer every second counts. We don’t always get a second shot when we are out in the field. Thankfully this time it was an easy fix.

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Last week I met another pilot that I had previously worked with and didn’t even know it. Not only did he fly at the Reno Air Races for years but he also flew this beautiful B-25J “Old Glory” at the 2012 Doolittle Reunion. After talking a little bit I knew I had to send images but low and behold I hadn’t even finished those ones yet. This is one of the greatest crutch’s when it comes to Aviation Photography, the time it takes to finish all those images. It really is important because you never know when you have to send some out. Luckily I knew exactly where the images were and with the help of ACR they were done in no time. Now if this had been a potential image sale for an editor I might have lost out on it because I wasn’t quick enough. You just never know. That’s why it pays to plan ahead and have it all done.

A Different Morning Static

Over the years I have spent a lot of time shooting statics of aircraft and the one thing that I have learned is that you need to be creative and find different shots. Sure it’s great to get the standard head on portraits and tail shots, then there are the side views and detail shots but most of the time they have similar backgrounds. Finding a static image with something a little more unusual is a challenge. Thankfully, mother nature can help with that.

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The one plane that I have certainly spent my fair share of time around is the B-25 Mitchell Bomber. I just love this plane. It has great history and a great look that even when sitting on the ground it looks mean. Well this particular one is the B-25J Betty’s Dream, owned by the Texas Flying Legends Museum and is one that I have photographed numerous times in the past. Well this morning in North Dakota marked a first and that was the smoke filled sky was so thick that the sun was just a red dot all through sunrise. To be fair we were all a little stumped that morning as to what made the best image as the plane really didn’t light up that much and neither did the clouds. One thing that I played with was the exposure compensation. It was one of the ways you could add drama into the scene in the camera. By underexposing -3.0 I was able to get this image with a little help finishing in ACR. The only other technique that helps add more drama was getting down low and shooting up at the plane making the plane seem smaller.

A Day to Remember and Give Thanks

Today we honor those that participated in the Doolittle Raid. 73 years ago eighty men, flying sixteen B-25 Mitchell bombers took off of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet and bombed major industrial cities, including Tokyo, on Honshu Island in the heart of Japan. After the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th 1941, which launched America into WWII, the country was in need of a morale boost. The mission was a success in creating that boost while demoralizing our enemy.

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Today a memorial, one of many, stands at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio in honor of the Doolittle Raid. In 2012 I was at the 70th reunion of the raiders and had the privilege of meeting some of them. What they did at a time when the mission was conceived as being impossible, is truly remarkable.

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These sterling silver gauntlets were given to the Raiders by the people of Tuscon, AZ. Each one has the name of a crew member engraved both upside down and right side up. When one passes away, the goblet is turned upside down but the name is still legible. In 2013 three of the four remaining raiders opened the bottle of brandy kept with the goblets in a toast to their comrades. As I am writing this only two members of the original eighty are still with us. Today we honor those that survived and those that didn’t.

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