As I have said countless times before, you never know what might show up at these events. One of the planes here is the P-51D Mustang “Rebel.” Owned and piloted by Doug Mathews this beautiful Mustang was out at Oshkosh two years ago under viewing for Grand Champ. Yagen’s P-51 won that year but the mustang is still a beaut. Mathews is now more famous then he was after setting the altitude record in a prop plane at 42,000ft. Yesterday morning we were fortunate to have it out static on the tarmac. It wasn’t planned but it was a happy accident. With Home Pylon in the background, this plane is happy to be home here at Reno.
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.
Have you ever wondered what the sexiest airplane is? I know it certainly wasn’t the first thought that I had but apparently to some there’s a bit of controversy over the matter. In one of the current articles on the Plane and Pilot Website is an article recently done on public poll of the sexiest planes in General and Military Aviation. It’s a fun read with some good facts in it.
There isn’t much to say with this one. After a long day on the feet, carrying gear and shooting whatever comes around, there is nothing better than sitting down while watching the planes go over head. Well on this occasion it was better to go out one last time for a sunset shoot.
Image Captured with Nikon D3, AF-S 24-70, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film
There are some things we come to expect from the Air Races and one of those things is the lack of clouds. Normally we get lucky and have just one day of good clouds to go with the planes but for some reason this year we had clouds almost every day. Heck the day i drove in it started snowing outside of Sparks! That same night they had an amazing thunder and lightning storm over the field. Sadly they couldn’t find a subject to put with the skies.
Thursday we had another great cloudy day with amazing thunder heads brewing to the east. They never got to Stead nor did we have much overhead but with the combination of the 200-400 and getting low, Voodoo stacked up pretty nicely with the sky. Voodoo was pulled out to do a maintenance warmup, testing the engine making sure it was ready for the next heat.
Voodoo is always an interesting photo subject, the paint scheme and team shirts just stick out with every background. Sometimes it works really well, sometimes it doesn’t. The problem i seem to find is that good time to shoot Voodoo when the paint scheme isn’t overpowering to the point that you just can’t look at it. The mid afternoon light works decently here but it still could’ve been better. It was still fun to watch the team do their usual drills as they were getting ready for the next race.
Images Captured with Nikon D3, AF-S 200-400 VRI, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film
Over the last few years I, along with the rest of my family, have had the honor of attending the Air Races as part of the Media Ops team. In that short amount of time we have come to consider everyone there as family and graciously my family has been inducted into there’s. Needless to say that attending the races is always a big deal for us, even if that means driving 16 hours from Montana in order for me to attend. The event started as it usually does, a predawn shoot on the tarmac with a plane that was graciously pulled out just for us photogs. It just so happened that the first one we worked with was the Super G Corsair, courtesy of the Odegaards. I’m sure if you have gone to Dad’s blog by now that you realize not only how close we are with them but also how close that plane is with Galloping Ghost. It was a beautiful morning shoot with followed up with a day of walking the pits, talking with the crews, sucking up every bit of information that we could about the planes.
Thanks to the friendships Dad had created with the Odegaards and Jimmy, we were able to reunite the Super Corsair and the Ghost for another early morning shoot that will always be remembered. Everyone out there was in awe seeing these historic aircraft together and we gave thanks that we could be part of such an event. However, after the events on Friday, they were the hardest images to look at. It’s the sad truth to aviation that planes go down, and the ones we love we lose. Standing out at Pylon 2 Dad and I finally made the connection that Ghost was flying in that heat, unfortunately only seconds after we made this discovery we saw the cloud of dust come up and the horrible gut wrenching feeling came over us, as we knew exactly who went down.
Rushing on to the bus and back to Media Ops we watched the stands hoping that everyone was going to be okay, fearfully knowing that it wasn’t going to be. As soon as we arrived Dad and I were directed to be part of the first response but shortly were turned around being told that they had enough volunteers. We spent the rest of the that horrid day waiting around, helping where ever we could, consoling whoever needed it. We kept busy or at least as distracted as possible to try and keep away the images of what had occurred to come flashing back into the mind. As the day went on volunteers and photogs started to leave, they made the journeys homeward talking with all their loved ones and friends. Mom, Dad and I stayed around we helped until there was nothing left to do that night, including answering phones in the RARA office, talking to those that feared they had lost their family and friends. We spent three hours in that office, Dad and I entered names into the computer and Mom was on the phone. Everyone just wanted to keep busy. We went to bed that night, not sure what the next day would be like or how much worse it would get.
Saturday was the first day that i can remember coming to the races and sleeping in. We always got up early, but this time there was nothing to get up for. No planes to shoot, no crews in the pit to talk to, no sounds whatsoever. It was quiet, it was unnerving. Dad and I walked the pits that morning looking for all those that we knew and could find, trying to talk with anyone to make sure they were okay. The pits which usually have a movement to them in the morning were clam and stark. It was like walking through a ghost town. At times it seemed our voices echoed there was so little going on. NTSB had locked everything down and taken control of the scene within hours of the incident. It still seemed odd that there was no one at these planes. We walked for 2 hours before we came back to Media Ops at which point a security guard stopped us and said “you can’t be in there.” We hung around the trailer and the building helping where ever we could.
The few photographers that were there talked about what had happened, sharing our stories about Jimmy. We laughed when we could, remembered things that Jimmy had said or done. We all tried to get a handle on what had happened, and what was going to happen.
Eventually most people left, leaving only a few volunteers and the family to help break down Media Center. It felt even stranger breaking down the media center on a Saturday. It usually is busy, everyone is moving around getting lists made, flights ready, and photogs in and out so they can shoot the races. There was none of that. The only commotion was getting the place packed up, again keeping us from thinking about what had happened.
There was press conferences that started the day before and continued through the weekend. The News teams yet again proved their rudeness and true lack of interest in the tragic event. They were all trying to get their 5 minutes of fame paying little if any respect to the good man that we lost. It was disgusting for those of us watching that knew Jimmy and knew about the plane. Most of us walked out before the conference even ended. This was the first crash that i had witnessed with such devastating affect, I truly hope it is the last. The reality is that this kind of flying is dangerous, the pilots know this we spectators have a harder time handling it. I realize the little solace there is in these words, knowing full well that it does nothing to bring anyone back nor ease that horrible feeling that we now have. I can only say that this event hurt is all and as a community we’ll have to work together to get past this.
My thanks go out to all those that called, emailed or texted to make sure that me and my family were alright. All your support made a big difference, please show the same support now for those involved with the accident. My hopes and prayers go out to Jimmy’s family, along with all those that had friends and family involved with the tragic accident. May those that we lost always be remembered in our hearts, and pray that they are watching over us in a better place.
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