That Mustang can Move!

One of the many things that I still find fascinating about photography is how you can photograph the same subject in different ways and get very different results. Take this Mustang for example. Usually you tend to photograph it while looking up, that’s the most common way to photograph any plane at an airshow. But when you have the opportunity to do an air to air shoot and you get to look at the plane in a whole new way, that photograph changes. When we were doing a first multiple ship formation we had a breif where we planned certain shots with certain planes. This mustang, known as “Little Horse,” part of the Texas Flying Legends fleet, was only needed for the early part of the shoot and what you see here is Mark breaking away and heading back to home base.

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Looking down on the subject is always fun. It’s also not something you see as often. It does provide one of the perspectives that is always desirable, speed. These planes move fast and anyway to show that speed makes for a more dramatic photograph. The greenish, brownish background of Galveston Bay just blurs out as the mustang slides away from the rest of the group. Having a full prop blur doesn’t hurt either. Then again, that’s another part of the story that you can choose to do with as you want.

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

Texas Legends do their reutine at Houston

I got home last night and am still getting through images. It was just a ton of fun photographing planes this past week at Ellington Field. For the warbird enthusiast, Wings over Houston really is a good airshow to go to. It’s just non stop warbirds flying and since it is only a couple days long it makes it really time convenient for other projects. One of the groups that is based on the field is the Texas Flying Legends Museum. Their fleet includes eleven flying aircraft all with amazing histories. They were up doing their routine Saturday and Sunday.


Their performance is amazing. In a fifteen minute show they reenact battles in the Pacific with the Zero, B-25 and P-40. The Corsair then comes in and so do the mustangs in formation. The whole performance is quite amazing with the hardest critiques being done by the pilots. Sunday Warren Pietsch went up and truly showed off nimbleness of the Zero.

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

Another heads West

Those of you in the Aviation world have probably already heard the news that a TF-51 Mustang “Galveston Gal” out of the Lone Star Museum went down between Chocolate and Galveston Bay, sadly killing the pilot and the passenger. The mustang was scheduled to go to the Wings over Houston Airshow this weekend. It is always sad when someone we know goes west but unfortunately it is part of this world we call flight. Our thoughts and condolences are with those that knew the people on that flight.

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

Working with bad light

There was a time when bad light or harsh afternoon light was avoided. Well with ACR these days it’s bloody simple to properly finish images taken in the middle of the day. It’s just two sliders highlights and shadows. It’s really quite simple. With the planes there isn’t always an option of when to shoot, because most planes play in the middle of the day. This Mustang came in just that scenario. This P-51 came in for 2 days did an air to air shoot, and then left. The whole time it stayed parked on the ramp. Well having never seen this plane before I grabbed a couple clicks of it. The light was boring, but the clouds were good and then was all that was needed. Along with a little help in post.

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

A Great Way to End the Week

This was by far one of the great highlights of the week. We have a tendency to capture historic shoots at the races and this year was no different. These three Mustangs were all former racers back in the 70’s. The white on is Race 15 owned by John D Alessandris, the yellow is Ole Yellar owned by John Bagley, and the purple one is Miss Van Nuys owned by Clay Lacy. These three Mustangs haven’t been brought together in decades. Race 15 is currently not flight worthy and lives at Stead Airport while the other two flew in from other parts of the country. The two nights prior to this shoot were nothing but poor weather wind and rain. With the second to last night approaching we had little choice but to continue despite the weather. The owners all gave the green light and the shoot was on. As you can see the weather wasn’t great. Two big squalls came through and it poured! We were soaked, but the planes and the tarmac looked great. We were out for about 90mins and then the wind picked up and that was it. The planes went back inside and the shoot went down as one for the history books.

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

The Rewards of Hard Work

My Dad thought of this post right after we did this shoot but it seemed so important that I thought I would borrow the theme. It’s a really simple concept that gets overlooked to often and that is the best photographs, the best opportunities and the best friends you’ll ever meet all come from hard work. Dave Black even said it during his class at Photoshop World that photography is truly hard work but that’s where the rewards come from. Nothing just happens, nothing is just given away it is all earned. However grand or small your perception of time is, when it comes to the heart photography everything is one more challenge after another with the lessons learned being compounded onto the next one. This lesson was well revealed this past week while at the PRS group photo when another historic plane was brought out, a P-51D Mustang, Race 15, one of the only remaining mustangs left to have been originally built with an Allison engine. We were further blessed when the decision was made to leave the plane out for a sunset photo shoot. That decision was made solely because of the hard work previously put in by providing photographs when needed and asked for.


The afternoon ended with the usual light and good clouds. While we waited, the dozen photographers there were all hoping the clouds would stick and the light would get better.


The dark clouds to the east were a perfect backdrop for this plane. It usually doesn’t work that great but since the plane is white the contrast just makes the plane pop!


It kept getting better as the sun got lower. Until…


After 90 minutes of shooting the photo gods rewarded the hard working and patient ones with one last colorful display over the dark skies. This shot is brand new in my files and I already love it, as well as the time I spent photographing that plane. All of that came from years of hard work and good friends.

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

Back to Ole Yeller

Well as I said earlier I would get back to “Ole Yeller.” I wasn’t sure how the images would turn out considering it was a bright yellow plane in early morning light but I truly can’t complain. When working with an historic subject you really want to do a thorough job because you never know when you might photograph it again. This particular plane is one of Bob Hoover’s planes that he flew doing demonstrations at bases, acrobatics and races. For twenty years it was the pace plane that lead the start of the race for the unlimited class of the Reno Air Races. It was at PRS getting qualified so that it could race again in September. That’s really freakin cool! When it comes to symbolic aircraft, especially mustangs, this one might just take the cake.


This plane has a classic race look both forward and backward. One thing that really stands out on Bob Hoover’s planes is his name. In big green letters across the wings are his name, as well as on the tail. Well you can barely see that detail level with the plane let alone photograph it. The only way to get the shot of the wings is from above. With the help of our tug driver that morning, John, we turned the plane around and got up on a latter so that we could see that detail. Now tail shots seem to be last on the priority list when it comes to photographers but it sure can be a powerful shot when down right. I don’t know what it is about the tail, maybe the symmetry of the plane, but something always sets off the true character of the plane.

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

Precon is Here!

After months of waiting and preparing it’s time for Photoshop World! Having just flown in last night I am totally pumped to be back in Orlando for PSW. Right now there is no better way to start off the week then with the Precon. Every event I have been too in the past has had great Precons. Each one is different and each one yields different results. I truly cannot wait to see what happens at today’s Precon Photo Safari.

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

Always need to think beyond the obvious

I love working with planes. It’s so much easier to come up with examples to talk about than it is with wildlife. This shot was taken about two years ago down in Phoenix, AZ. We were in a skyvan with Casey and Robert Odegaard flying our subject planes two P-51D Mustangs. Whenever we go out for an air to air shoot we always pick what to be believed as an ideal spot with little civilization in the background. The buildings never really seem to ad much to the image unless it’s a particular landmark that’s easily recognizable. Sometimes that option doesn’t exist.

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Of course it’s real easy to remove the buildings in post nowadays but it’s always better to get it right the first time. The one thing i noticed while processing this image and I realized this well after the fact was, captured this image the wrong way. If i was thinking about it at the time, which i do remember quite well, i have shot vertically. Instead i shot horizontally thinking how easy it will be to remove the buildings. Which truly it wasn’t hard but the image just doesn’t have the same attitude if i had tried the other way. That mental block is very important to get past. Even though the option exists to change the background in post it’s not always the best way. A simple repositioning would have worked also.

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

PRS is almost here!

It’s practically here! I am so excited about going to Reno this week for Pylon Race School. Ever since I got started in aviation back in 2009, i have gone to PRS and it’s a blast. It’s one of the few times of the year that i always look forward too. Now after the “rocky” past year at the races i am not only looking forward to seeing some of those fellow enthusiasts but also the changes that might have taken place.

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Over the past few years PRS has been a great time to get clean shots of some great looking aircraft. It’s also a great time to work on panning technique. Panning of course isn’t something I’m always working on.

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This time of the year is usually some of the best for aviation photos partially due to there being clouds in the sky. I’m sure some of you have heard my Dad say clouds are everything well that’s true and in this case they literally are. Without them the planes can be pretty darn boring in the blue sky.

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

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