I just got back from Pylon Racing Seminar which is the certification for new pilots and aircraft, leading up to the Reno Air Races in September. I still don’t know where time goes but it seemed like PRS came and went by really fast this year which was a sign that it was a good year. We had a good turnout of planes to enjoy and even a couple new ones that hadn’t been seen in a long time. Like this beauty. This was Bob Hoover’s P-51D Mustang that he flew during acrobatic and perofmrance displays. Bob had many aircraft throughout his career but this one was also a racer. It’s pretty freakin cool that this plane is coming back to racing but more on that later, for right now you’ll just have to settle for this one teaser image.
Every time I go out shooting it is a different experience, usually because every time I go out either I get the shot that I wasn’t thinking I was going to get or something else comes up completely that i was predicting. It’s one of the best parts and the most frustrating parts of being a photographer. Well for the last couple of Photoshop Worlds I have been too I have had the great honor of assisting at the Precon Photo Safari with Moose Peterson and Joe McNally.
What sets this one apart from all the rest is each one is different from the last. It’s whatever wherever we can find. A year and a half ago in Orlando it was PBY’s, Trimotor’s, Mustangs and Jets at Fantasy of Flight and Stallion 51. This past March it was a Civil War Reenactment group at a plantation outside of DC.
What will today’s Precon be? What will these crazy guys come up with next? I don’t know but I can’t wait to find out and share it with everyone. Stay tuned.
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.
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.
Over the last few years working with the aviation crowd I have come to notice that many unexpected things happen. The most recent one was kinda the rebirth of a classic racer. At PRS this past week was Precious Metal, a heavily modified P-51D Mustang that hasn’t raced since 2006. It’s probably one of the most unusual modifications you see at Reno because of the duel opposite rotating props. This plane has gone through many owners hands and has quite a history starting in 1987 when it first raced. Unfortunately the plane also has a history of crashing due to its design. This particular Mustang has a Griffon powered engine versus the Merlin or Alice engine. It still has that classic racer look to it and hopefully it will be racing this September. Anyways it was of great interest to the shooters, myself included, so I spent quite a bit of time working little detail shots.
Images captured with Nikon D3, AF-S 200-400 VRI, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film
For some time now I have been working in the realm of aviation photography, which is rather different then working in wildlife photography. Not only has it been a fun journey so far but it has also helped my photography come along to a higher level of quality. Now for the first time i get to go to the ISAP symposium. The International Society for Aviation Photographers is a great group of people whose soul purpose is too inspire and help current and future photographers become not only better in their craft but also to help preserve the aircraft we photograph by making them known to the general public. It’s truly a great organization for anyone that is trying to get into aviation photography or anyone wanting more information about the field. That’s probably going to be the best part of these next couple of days, the amount of info present which practically guarantees that there is something to be learned.
Now i say practically because there is never a guarantee in photography for a better things only a hope. It’s very exciting to be amongst such photographers as Paul Bowen, Jessica Ambat, Tyson Rininger, Richard Vandermuelen, David Leininger and so so many more that i can’t fit that many links in one post. The hardest part for these next two days is remembering everyone’s name. I look forward to what else is too come and so should you.
Well after the first half of the Precon going so well with so many great images, one has to ask how is it going to get better? Good Question! I don’t know, at least i didn’t. Dad had pulled a Dad, he made a phone call and found another place nearby Orlando that had some beautiful aircraft. This is Stallion 51, a restoration and education center for planes and people. They have some gorgeous planes including, recently added, the L39, four P51D Mustangs, three T6-Texans and a various other craft. The people there were very nice including the pilot, Willy, and a very charming women KT. Now the great thing about aviation folk is that they can be very open. Lots of times just showing up, being polite and saying that you will give them images is all it takes. With this in mind we were able to get three planes pulled out and a fourth one setup for Joe to do an indoor lighting demo.
As you can see from above i stayed outside. The models moved around the planes in various styles, and poses as models do. Dad had a stroke of brilliance, yes i know i said that out load, hopefully he skips this post otherwise it’ll go to his head, and he asked KT whether she would put on a mechanic suit and stand next to the T6. She said sure, whatever you need. She was great about it. Posed wonderfully, was real laid back easy to work with. The best part was that none of the shots required flash. It was late in the afternoon the light was setting, and with the cloud cover we had a nice soft light bouncing off of her and the plane.
Now as we were shooting and there were participants all around us, Dad pointed out that this maybe a good time to go black and white, or to at least think black and white potential. Normally i wouldn’t go that way with a person, it just isn’t me. Then again i rarely photograph people so whats that say. It just so happens that Dad had a good idea. Black and white worked quite well. Between her green suit, the yellow plane and the variations in light it turned out pretty decent. It’s just another one of those things to consider.
As i said earlier we had four models, not including the staff of the place working with us. I personally didn’t want anyone in the shot. I just don’t like the look most of the time, unless it is the pilot of the plane. Well it was close to wrap up, Joe was finishing the indoor lighting demo and the planes outside were quiet. Everyone had gone inside. I went out, and eventually Dad tagged too, to the mustang and started shooting. There was some great skies coming in and i thought who knows. I started experimenting, went down to -2 exposure comp, vivid, auto white balance rose the calvin temperature to A6, and shot at f2.8. Why did i do all this, i hadn’t done it before. Never had i put in all those settings at the same time to see what would happen to the plane. I had an idea of making a silhouette with a nice sunset. It didn’t work. Instead this great drama appeared in the sky and the plane had a natural vinette on it which i liked. Then in post i converted it to black and white and that made it, that was it. Getting to this point took a lot of playing and that’s really what it is all about. Playing making mistakes and making good images in the process. It was a good end to a good day, and to an even better shoot. Can’t thank the guys over at Stallion 51 enough.
Images captured with Nikon D3, AF-S 24-70, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film
Ah the little friends, the fighter planes that held off enemy fighters when flying escort missions with the B17’s and B24’s. The guys in the bombers would refer to them as Little Friends, their protection their friends, the guys flying the fighters referred to the bombers as Big Friends. They definitely proved to be our little friends that afternoon. Casey and Bob were flying the two mustangs, Casey in Stang and Bob in Cripes O Mighty. Both are just beautiful planes both with interesting histories.
After the break off with the B17 we had a nice 30mins with the pair. Stang kept the lead most of the time but they did come in in singles. P51’s are not only easier to photograph but they are easier for pilots to handle when keeping up with a photo platform. The B17 with four engines and a lot of drag requires some serious muscle to hold steady with a photo ship. P51’s are small, maneuverable, and fast.
One of the things i like most about the P51’s is there ability to stack up. Since these planes were made for speed and have always been portrayed as such, it is important to achieve that look in the photographs. Getting the planes low to the ground helps, as does clouds, and of course anything in the background to give some more depth. Of course just having two stacked just looks cool. It’s the classic formation fighters look that is seen in old movies.
Of course we had to end the flight the same way we did with the B17 and has such been a trademark for the Air2Air workshop. Dragging the P51’s along the runway with the skyvan pulling up creates that speed that we are always looking for. Best of all it makes the planes seem “down to earth” with a location on which they took off and landed on. Great planes, great fun and it was only the first day.
Images captured with Nikon D3, 70-300 Vr, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film
After the morning shoot out of the sky van the workshop was officially over, with one minor exception. FiFi the B29 SuperFortress flew down to the CAF headquarters in Phoenix on its way to some more restoration. The group decided to go see the event. Well the field that it was landing at was 45mins from Falcon Field, so the Doug and Bob thought it would be fun to fly the P51’s over to Deer Valley where FiFi was landing. In true Dad fashion, he called me over told me to get my stuff cuz i was going flying. O yea flying in a P51, glad i had an extra pair of shorts in the car because it was damn exciting!
The two P51’s were Stang and Cripes’a’Mighty. They both were beautiful Mustangs. Richard flew in Stang with Doug and i was in Cripes with Bob. We also had the Spitfire come up and fly with us so we ended up with a really nice formation, now all we needed was the B17. Now I’ve flown in a T6 with the canopy open before so i was going off what that was like. Well i was wrong… After a few minutes of taxing out we launched in formation, Stang on the left. Oh it was blast, literally i couldn’t lean forward. The one thing that i did learn from the T6 is that shooting to the left is easier than to the right. It was proven correct yet again.
After a few minutes of flying towards Deer Valley, we started on a flyby of the cemetery for a memorial service that day. The affect of classic aircraft flying over is truly amazing, everyone stops in awww. After the cemetery we started doing a view left turn orbits until we could land. The amount of traffic that day at Deer Valley was unbelievable. Every five someone was landing or taking off. then again it is a training facility for new pilots. Even though we were flying solely for supporting the CAF, we still had a little fun.
The best part was the hard break left which pushed me into the right side, for a short moment i though about shooting but it seemed smarter not raising the camera. The funny part was, we weren’t even going that fast. The challenge this time prove to be the canopy. The reflections and angles of lights made for a tricky material to shoot through. As i was told beforehand, you can’t have a shade or filter on or else the canopy will get damaged. So many more lessons to learn. The flight was amazing and Bob yet again proved how good a pilot he was. We landed at Deer, with cheering fans awaiting the arrival of FiFi. We stepped out of the planes with smiles on our faces.
Images captured with D3, AF-S Nikkor 24-70 f2.8, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film
It’s that time of the year again when Dad cooks up another workshop series. The latest one was never expected to happen but out of the turn of events in the past few years isn’t unexpected. Air2Air workshop here in Phoenix Arizona started on Friday with a simple meet and greet, and a couple of presentations. We had some great instructors including, my Dad, Richard Vandermeulen, and Doug Rozendaal. The basics were setup for Saturdays shoot and what a shoot it was.
The day began in the early am before light came up, one of the best times to be photographing static aircraft. The B25 and B17 were of particular interest. These were two awesome looking aircraft! With the amount of junk in the background, the fence, the buildings, the poles, getting down lower not only helps to minimize some of that but also removes more of the ground adding more sky to the image and thus creating a feeling of openness and flight; which is where these “machines” need to be doing.
After a good morning shoot, breakfast and debrief, it was back to the airfield for some air too air time. The participants and three instructors, Dad, Richard and myself Doug was flying the plane, got into our sky van that we’re using for the next couple of days, tethered down and harnessed in to make sure our asses went no where. For this shoot we had the B17, two P51 Mustangs and a Spitfire. The plan from the briefing was to go around Red Mountain, which we did and it produced just an amazing background. When the back door of the sky van opened it was like HELLO!, there’s the B17. It was awesome!
The P51’s were great too, they added more dimension and authentication with the B17. Little Buddies as they were known proved just that. The size comparison when flying is substantial. This one is rather well known, it’s Cripes’a’mighty, a beautiful P51 inside and out. It was also the first one i ever saw that had mirrors on the front which looked a little odd at first and still kinda does to me. We had an hour with the planes, only about 20mins with the B17 from crank to on the ground, which was based solely on the amount affordable for the gas it takes. It was a great 20 mins. With 4000 gallons of gas used up in the shoot and a thousand or so images it was time to come back down. As Doug said a number of times let’s go have a beer, good’ol pilots.
Images captured with D3, Nikkor AF-S 24-70, Nikkor AF-S 70-200 VRII, 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.