Sun N Fun Shooting

Yesterday kicked off Sun N Fun International Fly-in & Expo in Lakeland, Fl which happens to be one of the largest gatherings in the airshow circuit. Each Spring is marked by the event and while each year thousands of spectators attend the event, I personally never have. After all of these years working with aircraft, Sun N Fun is still one of those venues I haven’t been to. But that doesn’t mean I can’t pass on some useful trivia from other events.

One of the biggest things I hear from other photographers is how do you get that shot with so many other people around? Well often times I try and include the people because they are as much apart of the event as the planes are. But to get those shots that aren’t as busy you have to spend a bit of time watching the flow of people around the aircraft. There are times throughout the day that are busier and slower and finding the slower ones will help with those shots. Another useful tool is quite honestly post processing. If you really want that clean static shot then going a step further in your post processing will help you get it.

Now whether it’s Sun N Fun or any other aviation event always remember to be looking for those shots that are different from everyone else’s. Go at different times, try different angles, use a different approach to make something unique happen. Why? Because planes travel a lot and are seen at a lot of places throughout the years. To make your images stand above the rest you got think a little outside of the box.

So Many Planes So Hard To Do Air To Air

The two times that I have come to EAA Airventure, Oshkosh I have been fortunate enough to do an air to air photo mission. You would think with the surplus amount of planes that come to the Airshow that it would be easy to do more but in reality it is very difficult to do. First off finding the subject plane is easy. In reality it’s not hard to start talking with a pilot, make a friend, and then want to go flying. Finding a photo platform isn’t that hard either. Since so many people fly in to camp under the wings of their planes, finding the right GA plane like a Bonanza isn’t too hard. The challenges start after that.



The first major one is getting into the sky. The air space around Oshkosh is very busy with traffic making it difficult to do a scheduled early morning or late evening shoot. Then there is the background. Most of the area is surrounded by houses or towns so getting a clean background without spending lots of time in post is also tough. Now none of this means that it isn’t possible. Every year many articles are published with images taken at Oshkosh. My best advice for doing an air to air at Oshkosh is talk to the pilots. They know more about the ins and outs of what is happening then anyone else. Also study the maps. While most go over the lake that isn’t far from Osh, really know they area nearby so you can plan out your trip thoroughly. Also talk to the tower beforehand. Make sure they know what you are planning so that you can get the go ahead. At the end of the day bear in mind that it’s just a photograph. If you don’t get it the world will keep spinning.

Printing is Your Friend

Like any other business networking is a big part of photography and making friends is just as important as keeping relationships alive. I was taught early on that giving prints is a great way to keep those relationships going because everyone has something meaningful to them but they might not always be able to see or photograph it themselves. Prints are a great way for everyone to remember the good times.


The first time I went to EAA Airventure, Oshkosh was in 2011. I had never been there before but I got to see another part of the aviation community and met a lot of nice people there. The Bergen’s, the owners of this L5, were among those people I met and worked with on an assignment. We quickly became fast friends and to this day every time I talk with them they mention the print of their L5 hanging on there wall.


My good friend Alex is constantly coming up with new adventures, especially when it comes to fishing. Every time yields new funny stories and some photographs. However, each time he goes back to this one image because it is his favorite hanging on his wall. Nowadays it’s getting even more affordable to do printing especially with the release of Epson’s new Surecolor series like the P400. It seems like such a simple thing but in this business the more you give the more you get and in the end that’s how the best stories are created.

The Stinson L-5 Sentinel

There are thousands of aircraft that have been built over the years in order to perform certain tasks. Some of the planes have become famous by them men and women that have flown them. Others remain famous only amongst the true diehard aviation crowd. The Stinson L-5 Sentinel is one of those aircraft that served a very important role during WWII but like so many others is often overlooked due to it’s lack of being either a bomber or a fighter. It’s no surprise that the bomber boys and fighter jockeys got so much more attention. Publicity at the time was a crucial factor in keeping the American spirit alive and willing to participate in the fight. That often came at the expense of fantastic stories of bravery and courage amongst those fighting. This little plane has just such a story and it’s one I never get tired of.


The L-5 Sentinel was a liaison aircraft stationed in multiple theaters. It served not only as a liaison but also as a trainer, a spotter, a transporter and even as a ground attacker in rare instances. The L-5 came after a long line of other observation based platforms were needed by the US Army Air Corps. The L-1 Vigilant for example, as seen above, was built in 1938 in competition for the US Air Corps observation platform request to compete with the German Fieseler Storch which was shown at the Cleveland Air Races. While the L-1 and L-5 were both built by Stinson there were radical differences in fuselage design, engine capabilities and cargo capacity. One of the few similarities is that both planes were designed solely during WWII for military purposes and neither had civilian counterparts. Currently only five L-1’s exist today with the only flight worthy example being at Fantasy of Flight in Polk City, FL


After Stinson became a subsidiary of Vultee the original HW-75 model, the predecessor of the L-5, was tested as an observation platform. The plane was upgraded from its 75 horsepower engine to an 80 horsepower four cylinder design in 1940 and was redesignated the Model 105 “Voyager.” Six examples were built for the military under the designation YO-54 but failed to meet the necessary performance standards required by the military at that time. The plane was completely redesigned for more rigorous testing. A prototype, model V-76, was built and passed the requirements. It was accepted in December 1942, as the O-62, with a pilot and an observer in tandem seating, which was considered ideal for the observation platform. In 1943 the Liaison category was created and the O-62 was again redesignated the L-5. The planes primary purpose was to courier communications, artillery spotting and medical evacuation. With the ability to take off in short distances, cargo capacity of 250lbs and able to hold a third person if necessary, the L-5 quickly got a new affectionate nickname of the “Flying Jeep.” Between December of 1942 and September 1945, 3,590 were built with the improved six cylinder 190 horsepower Lycoming O-435 engine. It was the second most built observation platform of the war behind the Piper L-4 Cub.


The L-5 became a standard work horse between the front line guys and the behind the scene operators. L-5s would bring medical supplies to forward areas and then return with wounded men. It would observe forward positions and radio them back to artillery positions or to the GI’s about to come under enemy fire. Generals and other high brass officials liked the plane as a transport between bases. The USAAF, US Marines and US Navy used the L-5 in the European, Pacific and Far East theaters in WWII. It was also used in Korea during the Korean War. The roles of this little plane seemed to be endless and thus also was the courage of the pilots who had to constantly fly them. These planes had no guns, had no advantage in a dogfight, they couldn’t fly at high altitude or at high speed. They were constantly under enemy ground fire. Needless to say while the L-5 had an important job it was not an easy job.


In 2011 at EAA Airventure Oshkosh, WI, I had the great fortune of meeting Chris and Jerri Bergen, the owners of Lady Satan, a beautifully restored L-5 that had an amazing history behind it. At the time I was working for Warbird Digest and was covering a story on the plane without any real knowledge of it’s history. After initially finding the plane parked outside Warbird Alley behind the reenactors area, I spent much time talking with Chris and Jerry and learned the amazing story of the plane and the pilot. This particular plane was flown by a then 93 year old veteran named Tom Rozga. He flew Lady Satan during the invasion of the island of Iwo Jima as a forward observer. Not only did the plane receive fire but the patches can still be seen on the plane today. Chris and Jerri also have the original logbooks that show Tom’s signature along with the date and type of mission flown. Tom was at Oshkosh that year as an honored veteran on the panel. His whole family was there in attendance which prompted a photo shoot with everyone. There was 42 members of the immediate and extended family present for Tom. It was truly an impressive sight. This one little gem in the aviation world is merely a taste of the history that endures today. While not the fanciest, not the fastest, and certainly not the biggest; the importance of what this plane did and what Tom did is unbelievable.

Images Captured with Nikon D3, 24-70 AF-S f/2.8, 70-200 VRII, SB 900 Flash, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

My 1000th Blog Post!

You know it’s funny how fast time goes by. You start one project never knowing just how far it will go or how long you keep it going and before you know it, a few years have gone by and you’re left wondering where all that time went. Back in 2008 when I first started this blog I didn’t know what I was getting into except that it would be a good thing to boost my photography skills. I can honestly say that it has been a lot of hard work, even to the point where I didn’t want to even think about this site. But it did exactly what it was supposed to. It might made me better.


My Dad was the one who got me started with this whole blogging thing believing that it would be so critical of a business tool in years to come…. I hate it when he’s right. That’s what kids are for though. Spending time in my own backyard photographing whatever local subjects I could helped tremendously to improve and to force myself to blog. Like this Sage Thrasher at Mono Lake in the Spring. Dad and I spent a lot of time chasing those guys around the tufa’s. But local wasn’t enough.


The greatest part of photography has always been the freedom to go where you want to and capture the world when you do go. I have spent a lot of time around Grizzly Bears. With over 10,000 images of Grizzlies alone they are by far one of my favorite critters. Their behavior is so fascinating and yet so simple that one trip is never enough. After spending five days at McNeil River watching a dozen bears at once fish for salmon, I still want to go back for more. Once the trip was over however, the stories ended up here, where they could be relived over and over.


Everyday we are stuck in an office at one point or another and often the best escape is just a short drive away. Having an outlet where you can vent your thoughts and tell your stories from these excursions is probably the greatest mental test when it comes to this game. Having to constantly come up with new content is always a challenge as life inevitably gets busier. However, if it were not for that challenge then we wouldn’t be photographers.


And yet it still amazes me the path that we end up down in life, never knowing where that path would lead. It wasn’t long after I started this blog that I started in aviation and the joys that have come from that venture have been endless. Not to mention the amount of blog posts that have come out of all that. Every plane has a story and there are never enough pages to cover them all.


In the end though it all comes down to the people. The people that help make every trip possible. The people that need the images for their business to continue. The people who fought for our freedom and the people who fight to honor those men and women. The people who are touched just to have their picture taken and that moment of their lives remembered forever. And of course, the people who read this blog. We all strive to capture more than just a moment in time. We strive to create something with those captures that tells a story that needs to be to told. A blog can achieve that goal for everyone.

I’m going Back to Oshkosh!

That’s right I’m heading to Oshkosh next week! I’m so excited to be going back this year after going in 2011 and missing last year. It is just so much fun with so many different planes and people you never know what to expect. Photographically it is a challenge, not because of the lack of subjects but for having to many subjects to choose from! It’s like a smorgasbord of planes, there’s something for everybody! I can’t wait!


Now for those of you wondering I will be camping all week but not to worry the blog will still be going!

In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D3, 24-70 AF-S f/2.8, 70-200 VRII, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

It’s all on You!

This past week I received an email from a nice man that wanted to talk computer settings and processing. He had a lot of questions all to common I’m afraid. He was looking for the answers that are often argued and given bad info on. Well towards the end the inevitable happened, he went into his system of how he does his processing trying to prove to me that it’s right and works. To which my only response was, I’m glad you have a system that works for you.”

That is a crucial point that gets lost. Everything that is talked about on the web, in print, in a workshop is useful information to be brought into YOUR workflow. That doesn’t mean yours is wrong most commonly it means that there is a new technique that is faster. What works for me doesn’t work for everyone else. Take my wildlife images for example. The shot above has never seen post except to put that white background on it. Others may not share that point of view but you know what that’s fine. As long as you have a system that works for you, that’s what matters. As time changes technology improves and efficiencies are made to make life easier. Taking advantage of the trial and errors others have made available to you is key. This is a community of different opinions but also of helping one another to better the photography world.

A Favorite Amongst Shoots

One of my all time favorite shoots was this past Summer and it was with a great little aircraft. The L5 Sentinel which was used primarily as an observation platform mostly is a favorite amongst collectors. The whole L series in fact are just fun little aircraft. Rather low maintenance with a sturdy construction makes for a great time. I had the opportunity to work with the owners of this particular L5 at Oshkosh. This particular plane has a rather unique history to it having in WWII during the invasion of Iowa Jima.

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L5 Sentinel

In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D3, 70-200 VRII, TC-17e, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

The Multiple Looks of the L5

One of the biggest highs that we had at Oshkosh was working with this L5/OY1 along with it’s owners the Bergens, and a WWII Veteran that flew the plane. Well I have been working on a lot of the images from that shoot for various projects and one series of images i wanted to show to everyone. For quite some time I wasn’t sure if i was even going to put this on the blog but it occurred to me that this might be a good time to show another variant of the black and white process.

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Now when I first saw this plane I honestly didn’t think much of it. I mean it wasn’t a fighter like a mustang, even though it did have three bazookas mounted under each wing. It is an observation plane and has a rather subtle look to it. Well I photographed the plane many different ways while at Oshkosh, including going inside and photographing the cockpit. The inside is actually sweeter than the outside. It still has the turnakit and med supplies in the back. I wanted to make sure that i had every image i would need for the projects i had in mind. Now that being said I wasn’t sure how well anything would look in black and white. That’s where I started playing.

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Now this is the only image out of the series that i converted into black and white. That day we didn’t have any great clouds, it was a bright mourning, with relatively uninteresting skies. So why did i convert? Well the one element that i loved while working with this plane is the reenactment tents in the back. Those tents were a perfect background for the plane. It totally gives the feel of being in an old army base ready to fly. With that in mind i knew exactly what image i wanted. That was this next one.

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This is the image I had in mind, without the antique plate. I didn’t know at first to use this tool, but after seeing what black and white did I wasn’t impressed. While in SilverEfex Pro I clicked on Antique Plate, which isn’t something i use often, it’s more artsy fartsy to me. But because i wanted that old active base feel it seemed appropriate. I haven’t used it on any other plane nor do i know in what possible future i would use this image for except the blog but that affect did capture exactly what i was looking for with he L5. Knowing the subject and it’s history is still crucial for the post processing to be successful.

Images Captured with Nikon D3, AF-S 24-70, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

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