Today marks the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion. One of the biggest allied operations or WWII which lead to the downfall of Germany’s Occupation of Europe. Thousands of men, aircraft, machines, supplies, and more went into making the operation a success. Today you can watch as a special memorial is taking place over the skies of France as over a dozen C-47’s are taking part in a flight over Normandy.
One of the premier aviation events in the world is EAA Airventure better known as Oshkosh, due to it being held in Oshkosh, Wi. Every year thousands of planes and people arrive to see what’s new and what’s still going. I’ve had the pleasure of going in past years and the photography has always been amazing. At Oshkosh you never known what will show up and getting there to see all the different, or in this case similar, planes arrive is a ton of fun. If you’re an aviation enthusiast then July means Oshkosh.
Today marks the first fight of the Douglas DC-3. This is one of the most iconic aircraft made during the 1930’s and saw major service during WWII as it was converted to fulfill many other roles under the designations of C-47 and C-53. The DC-3 was always the commercial version made for Airlines like TWA but later grew to many others. While it’s first flight was in 1935, it has been flying around the world under multiple owners, governments, and airlines, to the present day. The history of this one aircraft can not be summed up in a single post. It extends just too far.
If there is one thing that I have learned shooting airplanes is that the sun while able to create some of the most beautiful light, can also be one of the best backgrounds. Everyone has seen an image with a starburst in it. It was a very popular trend for a while, then it died away and no it was come back. That little pop of light peaking through some corner of the image usually behind some object. Well between the shots of the light hitting the subjects and the starbursts, come the backlit subjects in which the sun is just a glow. With the power of programs like Adobe Camera Raw, being able to photograph a subject that is silhouetted against the sun, can easily have the shadows brought up to see all the details. These three images, all shot with the D4 and 24-70 AF-S, are great examples of backlit subjects with the fuselages brought out with just one slider. Easy finishing technique to make a big impact.
Seventy years ago today, one of the greatest and deadliest military feats of WWII occurred which shaped the rest of the war as we knew it. Over four hundred thousand men took part of the Normandy invasion as part of Operation Overlord. This was the first major offensive that the United States took part in for the liberation of Europe. It was a massive endeavor that required months of training, planning and victories in order to pull off. The biggest was having air superiority over Europe. At the time of the landings the Allies had complete air superiority over the skies to the point where no German fighters appeared over the skies during the invasion. It took years to accomplish this feat and many lives were lost in the process.
The dropping of allied airborne infantry was a major part of the invasion as thousands of men were dropped into occupied territory over miles of landscape. The skies were filled with C-53’s as the chutes opened below. The invasion led the way for every major offensive in the European theatre. Many brave men died in this offensive and many more went on to fight from France to Germany.
The one thing that I see all the time is that photographers only look at the front of the aircraft as they walk around and never go around the whole plane. I never understood why this is because quite often the best background is actually when you’re looking at the tail. The day we were at Fantasy of Flight for Precon we had great skies everywhere we looked. The way the plane was parked we had the brown hangers in the background. Well I don’t like the brown hangers and with those great skies I had to do something about it. By getting low and using the wings as cover most of the hangers disappeared and with a little help in post, the plane now looks like it’s on a English base.
One of the reasons the tail looks so good is because it gives the allusion that the plane is going out somewhere. The last thing anyone sees of a plane as it goes off is the tail. This brings to life the mystery of the mission, where the plane has been, where is it going? All questions that make you scratch your head. The more mystery you bring to your images the more time someone spends looking at them trying to figure them out.
In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D3, AF-S 24-70 f/2.8, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film
One of the new acquirement’s made by Kermit at Fantasy of Flight is this C-47 Skytrain. This plane has been called many different things over it’s years in service; Gooney Bird, Dakota, Skytrain, C-53 which is the cargo version and of course the DC-3 which was used as an airliner. This particular C-47 is a true veteran having flown during the invasion of Normandy and dropped paratroopers in France. It also dropped troops in during Market Garden. We were lucky to have this beautiful aircraft out on the grass for us to photograph. The clouds behaved perfectly creating that look of 1940 England; grass strips and cloudy skies.
At one point a Stearman that was selling rides flew overhead and punched a couple more holes in the clouds for us.
In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D3, 24-70 AF-S f/2.8, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film
I realize this is a bit belated but it’s amazing the things you remember and the things you don’t. Although I am getting better about important historical dates, there are times when ones escape my little brain. In this case, yesterday was the 68th anniversary of D-Day, the US Allied invasion of Normandy. For some it was the long anticipated day after months of training. For all it was a day that changed thousands of lives. A lot of the brave boys that went that day, jumped out of planes like this one. This is a C-53 Skytrain a modified C-47 for more cargo space and easier access. Hard to imagine jumping out of a perfectly good airplane. We honor their bravery.
Since this past Sunday we have had nothing but grey skies. Normally that’s not bad a thing because it is usually followed with lots of snow. Some days that was true others not so much. However, snow or not, grey skies get can get old real fast. Although nothing forced me to get out the camera, I did get me thinking.
Not the most radical of ideas but the necessity of clouds is instrumental. Take for instance working with any plane in a blue sky, without the clouds it’s just boring as sin. Both of these planes, the top a Tigermoth and the bottom a C-53 Skytrain, have a much more interesting story due to the clouds around them. What that story is depends on how far your imagination goes.
One of the biggest challenges of working at an Airshow is capturing those great static shots. There isn’t always an opportunity to pull a plane out to where you want it, and in the case of this last weekend the background was mostly hangers anyways. A big factor that I found for the Cable Airport was that in the mornings when the sun came up over the hangers, the hangers cast a shadow over the parked planes. This made morning shooting difficult, but not impossible.
This F4F Wildcat from the Comemorative Air Force was one of my favorite subjects to work with. It made a nice subject along with the SBD from planes of Fame. The one thing that still confuses is me, is the paint job. I can’t figure out that scheme.
The Pilatus Porter PC-6 was a very interesting plane. The man flying it was known other than Clay Lacy, a true legend in the field of aviation, with over 50,000 hours under his belt. He had an amazing performance at the show, and that plane of his does a spectacular job. It turns on a dime and takes off in a very short distance. As I said earlier this is about making those static shots shine. Well in all of my shots down the runway there was an annoying set of power lines and building crane. Both of these were quick fixes in CS5. But there was one other tool I used on these planes to make them shine.
Now one of my favorite lenses for working with static planes is the 200-400 VR. Not only does this lens allow me to be far away from the subject so I don’t get in anyone else way but also it compacts the subject and the background. When you got a lot of background clutter you don’t want in your photograph then it’s a good way to go. The Wildcat was shot with a 70-200, much closer, much tighter shot. Now the last element that i used on these shots which makes a big difference is Color Efex Pro’s Detail Extractor. This tool is absolutely amazing when working with planes. It brings out so much detail especially in the shadows under the wing that it’s almost a most. One thing to be careful with is that it does bring up noise, so it’s best to not apply this to the sky.
In the Bag
Nikon D3, 200-400 VRII, 70-200 VRII, Lexar UDMA Digital Film