Great title right? it seemed appropriate considering the subject matter. It seems like every event I go to I always hear about other photographers trying to get closer to the subject in order to fill the frame. I always wonder about this. Yea it’s great to get that portrait shot that fills the frame but it seems to leave a lot on the table when trying to cover the whole story. Take this F8F Bearcat for example. It was a high a performance fighter used during land and carrier operations in the Pacific during WWII. It’s known for not only being really fast but also being tough. That’s the attitude that has to be conveyed. Although I couldn’t get physically any closer and using the 200-400 VR, there wasn’t much else that could’ve been done but thanks to the clouds behind it and leaving a little space for the plane to travel through the image, the mind instantly puts the speed and power to the plane. Bigger in the frame might be more esthetically pleasing but not necessary.
It’s been one heck of a week here in Houston but it’s coming to an end. I’m heading home today after a great week of shooting planes. The Wings over Houston Airshow was great. Only being two days long I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the airshow was crammed pack with warbirds. Being on Ellington Field has a couple of other perks, NASA is across the way and the Texas Flying Legends Museum is based at the field. The combination of everything made for six days of fun.
To say that Sunday was a wet day is an understatement. It poured that morning and the evidence was all over the field as puddles lined the tarmac. We ended up sitting in a hangar watching the storm role by and afterword we headed out for a little shooting. I heard some grumbling from other photographers about the weather but I liked it. Besides having clouds that were moving through we had these puddles with reflections in them. As if it isn’t cool enough to see one warbird but having two at the same time is just awesome. Historically the the rain added another factor in that made the shooting great. We had a number of Navy Carrier based aircraft at the show which all flew over water during their careers. Take for example these F8F Bearcats, both planes were Carrier and island based fighters that fought in the Pacific Theater. Usually these planes are on boring asphalt but the water just brings the planes to life.
Last year at the races I was able to work with some really great people and some great aircraft. The CAF SoCal out of Camarillo, CA has some great aircraft and for the last couple of years they have brought a large portion of their fleet to the air races. This year they brought their Mustang, Bearcat, Hellcat, Spitfire and Zero for rides, opening ceremony and simulated dogfight. Having worked with the wing previously I knew that they would always want more images. The second morning I was there, Dad had already set up a great morning static shoot with the aircraft from the wing, minus the mustang. Now we had been having great clouds that whole and thankfully they lasted a little too much towards the end as Saturday rolled in with a massively heavy storm. It poured. Nevertheless the Thursday morning shoot was great!
Of particular interest to us was the A6M3 Zero, an original Vet from the Solomon and one of only five flying originals left in the world. We parked it separate from the others in order to get more time with it and more detail shots. One of the benefits of working a subject for the second time is knowing what images you already had and what ones to work on. In this case having previously worked with the Bearcat, Hellcat and Spitfire, quite successfully I might add, my attention was on the Zero.
Same plane, different photos. The first morning I got to Stead Airport, my Dad told me that there was a Bearcat down at the end of the runway worth photographing. So we get up and drive down in our borrowed golf cart and there at the end of the runway was the Navy Blue Angel Bearcat. Now there was a number of rumors as to why it was there that week and how many hands it changed during the process of it trying to race. The only thing I know for certain is that it did not qualify. Which is sad because it’s a beautiful plane. That being said it still made for a great subject.
I imagine it’s pretty easy to tell what the difference between these images is. The top one is a straight shot and the bottom is a seven frame HDR. Why did I do both and post both? Well, i like them both. Simple as that. I love finding backgrounds that i can get good silhouettes with and that usually works the best by getting low and having an unobstructed background. At the same time the plane has so much character that i wanted it to show. The only solution was to shoot the plane both ways.
Despite the rather stubby appearance of the Bearcat’s fuselage this particular fighter is one very fast machine. While other planes were doing banana peals around us, this guy was just hauling ass as he went by. The Bearcat’s came out to late for WWII but did see action in the French Indochina War all the way up to Vietnam in 1959 when they were retired and replaced with other aircraft. The most popular use for these planes was air racing. The first ever Reno air Races was won in 1964 by a Bearcat, known today as “Rare Bear.”
Lately I have been busy getting images ready and out to people, trying to get as much work done as possible so i can go do what i love to do which is taking pictures. This next week I’ll be at the Reno Air Races, an event that i look forward to every year since i started going to them a couple years ago. Why am I telling you all of this? Well lately I haven’t spent a whole lot of time behind the camera coming up with new content so i thought this would be a good time to add another plane to the hanger.
This is the Grumman F8F Bearcat. It’s design was partially based of off back engineering the FW190 Fockewulf. It was meant to a successor to the Hellcat in which it would be an interceptor. It was made to takeoff and land on the smallest of carriers. It was lighter, faster and more maneuverable than the Hellcat but fell in speed to the F4U Corsair. It still had an edge on the A6M5 Zero. Even though it came out later in “43” is provided a pivotal role in the Pacific Theater.
Images Captured with Nikon D3, AF-S 200-400 VR, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film
Yet again the week long event of following up on the races is over. Sure there are more images to share but never enough time too. The stories we came back with were great, as they always are. The people are awesome, the planes are even better. Nothing so far gets the addrenaline pumping pumping faster than watching those planes buzz over my head. With that i share a few of my favorite planes.
“Rare Bear,” F8F Bearcat
Lady Jo, TF-51D Mustang
Lou IV, P-51D Mustang
What Da Fockewulf, FW-190 which showed a bit more of the other side of history.
Finally the F7F-3 Tigercat and P-38 Lightning. They flew away toward the distant future awaiting what history will have in store for them as does us all.