Revisting the Super Corsair

Maybe it’s just me but I found that there has to be priorities when it comes to image processing and when that comes up some images get pushed back and others forward. Well after Dad and I did the Super Corsair shoot for the Epson Finish Strong Campaign, some of the images that i took sat for a while before I was able to get to them. These are a couple of those.

Although my focus was entirely on getting the image for the ad, there were times when i could just shoot to shoot. One of the most important things to do while conducting an air to air shoot is to give the pilots a break. The mental and physical strain on both pilots, more so on pilot of the subject plane, to keep the aircraft looking good in the photos and safe is a lot. A simple couple of minutes to relax is a big thing up there. In those few minutes of relaxing is more than enough to get a couple of shots with the second body which happens to be the D4 and 70-200 VRII.

Of course there is also the way back in which provided some good shooting time too. One thing to say about this plane above all others is that no matter what the background is, the plane sticks out.

In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D4, 70-200 VRII, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

A Very Big Day With Epson

For a year my was talking about this day. Going over details and details down to every rivet in the plane and letter in the contract. It was a long trek through lots of paperwork and constant revises of aircraft but finally on July 1st 2012 we went up in the skies and made history once again come to life.

The target for the day was to do a shoot that we had never before attempted. We were going to photograph the F2G-1D Super Corsair, of which it is the only of it’s model flying with the exception of an F2G-2 Super Corsair. Combined there are only 4 survivors left in the world. That wasn’t the tricky part or the new part. We were going to do the shoot Air to Air, still not new, with the objective of capturing shots not only of the plane but of the photographer inside the photo platform photographing the plane. Yikes! That’s the new twist. When my Dad asked me to be apart of this for none other than the Finished Strong Campaign For Epson. I was blown away and scared out of mind. How the hell were we going to do this? The first step was the planes. Amazingly enough the hardest part in most shoots, the photo platform, was the easiest to get a hold of.

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The next challenge was the subject plane. With the idea behind the whole Ad as big, powerful, fast and beautiful no ordinary plane would suffice. After a long list of plane ideas they landed on the Super Corsair. With the Pratt & Whitney R-4360 engine powering this beautiful beast it was fast, new paint made it beautiful, and the fact that it is the only one of it’s model left made it unique. I won’t go into all the details about the plane in this post but you can read more about in a previous post I wrote in last January. Our good friend and pilot Larry Perkins was once again at the stick of the Super, no better place to be. With us for the shoot was our test pilot Scottie, Kevin pilot and owner of the Bonanza.

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5:15, the light wasn’t up yet. We were awake and waiting for the sound of the engine to turn over. The crews, the spectators and the pilots were for what was to come ahead. The briefing we had rehearsed the day before was buzzing around in my head as last minute checks. All gear was in place, planes were ready and the cameras were on. With a quick crank and loud bang the giant blades of the Super Corsair began to turn as the engine started up. The R-4360 was coming to life. We saddled up in the Bonanza and 15 minutes later we cranked over. The Bonanza didn’t need as long as a run up time as the Corsair did. Down the private air strip we went with the Corsair in tow we headed out to the Astraea Mountains. The temperature had cooled slightly and thankfully was below the 100 degree mark. It was enough to keep the air slightly less bumpy. The heat was a factor in the shoot. More heat meant more dense air which slowed the planes down and caused more unsteadiness with formation flying.

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For 90 minutes we flew over the mountain range. From the East side to the West we made orbits around both covering every angle of the plane we could out of the starboard side of our shooting platform. Back, Forward Up and Down the Super Corsair was constantly being moved in order to get as many useable images as we could. The flashes were firing away and the cards were filling up. This shoot mattered more than any other, there was no other chance to get it right it was this morning or nothing. After 90 minutes of flight time, both pilots hungry and tired we headed back to home base. We had our debrief on the ground, uploaded the cards and did the one thing that we all were anxious to do, look through the images.

The results speak for themselves.

My Thanks to all those that made this possible: the Epson marketing staff, special thanks to Dano Steinhardt, Larry Perkins, Kevin Crozier, Scott Foster and of course my Dad and Mom for making this happen.

In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D4, 70-200VRII, Fisheye 16mm f/2.8D Autofocus Lens, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

A High Vantage Point or a low Vantage Point

A rather typical thing I see when I’m out shooting, are people standing and walking around the subject. Basically staying eye level with whatever it is they are shooting. Now this isn’t a bad thing by any means but it can be limiting. For example, as I have been talking a lot about lately, these two Super Corsair’s Dad and I photographed down in Arizona about a week ago. This was a sunrise shoot at the hanger, the shots were taken with D3 and 70-200. The 70-200 was the lens of choice, it allowed for enough focal length to get the ends of both wing tips in the frame but also close enough to isolate the planes from background clutter. The top image is taken while laying down and the bottom image is taken 40ft up on a scissor lift.

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I choose these shots specifically because they show a certain space to subject ratio. When lying down on the ground, which by the way the pavement at a hanger is covered with oil and dirt and tends to ruin clothes, I know cuz I’ve gone through a couple pairs of pants, the ground tends to fade away so less detail is noticeable and the sky becomes more prevalent. This is great when working with a great cloudy day. The opposite is true when looking down at something, more ground is in the frame and more detail is seen. The nice thing about looking down at the planes is that you can see more detail along the fuselage. Bad thing is if the ground is covered with gunk then it takes some more time in photoshop to remove it all. Depending on your work flow this may be problematic.

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Now when ever you look up at a plane it always seems bigger and more powerful. Looking down everything seems a bit smaller, more condensed. Looking over the top is pretty cool though, you have a lot less background to deal with, which can be nice and provides a view that is seldom seen. Now there isn’t exactly a scissor lift or ladder every time I go out shooting but it’s certainly nice to use when it’s there. One last important thing to consider. When working with sunrise and sunsets opportunities the light is a key factor in angle. Both of the shots above are at sunset and the light creates a harsh shadow, one of which covers the plane. If you don’t want that in your shot then going high isn’t a great idea. Lastly, under the wing is always in shadow, at sunrise it’s manageable but if you want all the detail under the wing and above then your going to have to use HDR or a lot of post work. For any of you that have done HDR you know you need to be very steady or else ghosting starts to pop up. Standing on top of a ladder trying to do HDR doesn’t always work so well. This is just one of things to consider when your out shooting.

Images Captured with Nikon D3, 70-200 VRII, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Playing With History

One of the best parts about working with planes and pilots is every now and then the opportunity arises to go photograph something truly unbelievable. Dad and I headed down to Arizona to photograph a rare bird, the F2G-1D Super Corsair. This particular plane, commonly known as “57,” due to the race number of 57 on the fuselage, was a former Thompson Cup competitor at the Cleveland Races. After a long, tough history of racing, rotting and revival it is now back to it’s former glory with a new paint job brilliantly shinning in the afternoon light.

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This is pretty much the most basic of shots i could have come up with, but due to the warm afternoon light on the candy apple red paint job, it just makes it seem like so much more. For this shot i was using the 70-200 VRII and my D3, got down low and shot at angle to the plane. The great thing about where we were was the people were so nice that they moved the plane to face the light. It couldn’t have been any better.

Images captured with Nikon D3S Digital SLR Camera, Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II Lens, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Gotta Say it Again

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again The Super Corsair is just a beautiful plane. The morning we had it at Reno for the static shoot was just amazing. As I’m going through images from Reno getting everything processed I thought I would share one that really sums up the morning. Oh and this is another image that I experimented with detail enhancer on. See if you can tell.

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Image Captured with Nikon D3, AF-S 70-200 VRII, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

A New Face Appears

It’s still hard blogging after what happened last Friday but it’s best to look at the good things that occurred not just the worst. A perfect example is of course the F2G “Super” Corsair. This is one sweet plane! It was rebuilt by the Odegaard’s and is the second Super Corsair that they had rebuilt. It’s one of the classic racers with the previous flying #57 Super Corsair competing in several Reno Air Races. The plane was originally designed as an interceptor but with the war ending in 1945 only 5 FG2-1 and 5 FG2-2 were completed.

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When I first saw this aircraft it seemed enormous, compared to a F4U-4 Corsair. The paint job is what really stood out on this plane. The white racing stripes were perfect for the races, a simple and effective scheme for the Races. The photogs were all drooling, even myself. We were very fortunate being able to do three static shoots with the plane! This is all from the second shoot which is late in the afternoon Wednesday. It was kind of a piggy back shoot while another photographer was using the plane for a model shoot. It served everyone’s purposes to leave the plane out and the Odegaards were nice to do just that.

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The Super G shows off some of the true racing spirit that can be found at the races. With the rich history the plane has from previous years as a contender, it will be interesting to watch this plane in the near future.

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Images Captured with Nikon D3, AF-S 70-200 VRII, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Unearthly Bound

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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