A T6 with a Great History

The great thing about these airshows, especially the Air Races, is that you never know what planes are going to show up even with the list of aircraft they email out. Well one of the biggest turnouts is always the T6 class. T6’s have always been the most common of the warbirds because of there easy to maintain nature. These trainers have been used and continue to be used for all types of flying lessons and practice. They are also widely used for Airshow rides due to their low cost with fuel consumption.

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Over the last year we had another T6 at the races that was a bit of a new comer. Thanks to a couple of dear friends who happen to be historians at the races we have since learned that this particular T6 was used for combat in the Spanish War. It still has some of the original components that make it combat worthy, including the radar dish behind the canopy, machine guns in the wings and a hidden squadron mark. Now none of us now if the guns are real and were converted to display pieces only by removing the firing pins, or if they are fiberglass. Either way the barrels can be seen sticking out of the wings.

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The really cool feature is the hidden squadron mark which is hidden behind the silver panel underneath the canopy. We were told that the mark is in watercolor and that if it rains it would be ruined. Funny thing is even the historians weren’t entirely sure what the insignia looked like. Maybe it’s just me but i always find it amusing when the guys that know it all get stumped. It means that there are still mysteries out there.

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59 was a great subject flying around the pylons. We had one day of great clouds but diffused light which is never appreciated. The rest of the time it was good blue skies.

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

Watch the Wings

Polished aircraft are a lot of fun to work with. Compared to aircraft with a fixed paint job throughout, any plane that has a polished aluminum surface naturally glows. It’s pretty obvious why, the metal reflects all light. Sometimes that’s good sometimes it’s bad. It can mean that you get more blown highlights along the surface. It also means that in almost any weather condition the plane is going to stand out. Of course the other benefit of polished is in post it’s really simple to make the aircraft pop. The white and highlight slider is all it takes in ACR.

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This particular T6 belongs to a friend down in Phoenix who was kind enough to let us photograph it one morning. It had just rained that morning and we were going out before the storm got worse. Now not every pilot is willing to go out between scwalls but when you work with the best one of the benefits is having that luxury. The rain didn’t hinder our flight and actually made for some great images by making the desert look more vibrant and richer by being wet.

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

How To Show Speed

It’s always funny to me when my friends pick through a movie and point out was is possible and what isn’t. I of course at times do it too. Well some of the areas they pick on are ones that are easy to explain in photography. For example; last week my buddy Al was saying how in the Matrix you wouldn’t have the spiral bands as the bullets fire from the gun and are stopped by Neo. Well it’s Montana, of course they pick on gun references. I simply said, “Do you know how hard it is to show speed?” Having spent some time around planes, it’s pretty easy to see just how difficult it is.

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Whenever out working with planes, whether an air show or private shoot, one of the few images I always try for is one with the plane flying by and there is enough information in the background to make it look like it’s going fast. That’s why at airshows Dad and I are always hoping for clouds. Clean, simple, perfect. Howard Hughes said it best when filming Hells Angels, “with no clouds we have no sense of relative motion.” As you can see with the two images i posted you can see exactly that.

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The top image is boring as sin, at least in my mind it is. There is nothing in that image, besides the prop, that tells the eye that the plane is moving. In the bottom image the background information provides the look of speed. To me having some form of ground as the background works even better than clouds. Ground and buildings have more details and thus more info to blur out. A good challenge is to find those spots at the airfield where you can get above or level with the planes. That way you can achieve a more dynamic look with less work.

In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D4, 600 f/4, TC-17e, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Finally Some Racing Previews

My apologies for the delay in posting anything from Pylon Race School, which took place a couple of weeks ago, but I was having “fun” learning a few new things about use with the D4 and CS6. I got to play with one for the first time at PRS and although different from my D3 the D4 rocked photographing planes. The buffer never seemed to fill which was great when tracking four or five planes going by at 100mph. The file size is the one thing I’m not quite used to. With every image being over 15MB, it definitely puts a whole new meaning to storage space.

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Well it was one great week. After last years terrible accident that resulted in 11 deaths and many questions to be raised over the safety of the Reno Air Races, it is with great joy to say that the races will be continuing. The support that the races have, not only from the volunteers and aviation community, but also the community of those in the state of Nevada is tremendous. More than once while there we were told just how great the support was from the fans.

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Over the years that my family has been a part of the Races many planes have showed and some have not. IT always seems to vary depending on the year. After last year we weren’t quite sure who would be showing up this time. Well a good number of Formula One, Biplanes, Sports, Jets and especially T6’s came to the Race Seminar. The only shortage was in the Unlimited Class which was a surprise to every one. Of course with economics involved nothing is ever certain. It was a good week nonetheless, with good planes, people and a few challenges.

In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D4, 600 f/4, TC-17e, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Finding Inspiration

It’s been one heck of a week, so much so that I wasn’t even sure what to blog. I was thinking and thinking and couldn’t come up with anything. Considering how the week started I wanted to end it with something good, which isn’t easy. Last night after dinner I was sitting watching Walle and it occurred to me that I might have been over thinking. That of course lead to some more thinking of why i was over thinking at which point I actually started to hurt. Amongst all this nonsense and waste of time I came up with something to talk about.

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Last June at Pylon Race Seminar Dad and I did an air to air shoot with a good friend and his T6 Trainer. It was a simple afternoon shoot over the Nevada desert. We did our usual moving of the plane around, getting different angles with different backgrounds. When we got back down and looked through the images on our computers we noticed that some of the shots looked like they were taken with a PCE lens, which of course we weren’t using. It was truly different. Now those aren’t the ones i put up, I’m still debating what to do with those but these are ones from that shoot. What does this have to do have to with the main topic?

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Well it’s simple, my random thought to the start the weekend is, is it the knowledge already acquired by oneself that accomplishes the best photographs or does the best photographs come from shear accidents, completely unintended to happen but learned from? Now i realize in this job we are required to experiment and push ourselves to find new possibilities and then share that with others but why is it that the best answers come from the experiments we didn’t try? Is it simply a limit on our imagination or is it a logical outcome that we didn’t foresee beforehand? I don’t know but it kinda has me stumped. Now I’m sure I’m not the only one that has had this happen to them and if I am then maybe I’m just nuts. But i guarantee that at some point in every great photographers life they had a fluke photograph that gave them a brilliant idea.

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

An Historic Flight

One of the best flights that I have ever had, which isn’t saying a whole lot considering there will be so many more to come, was this past April when we did an Air to Air over Pearl Harbor and Ford Island. It was truly amazing flying over the place where the biggest and most awful war truly started for this country, Sadly; however, this might be the last non air to air to happen over Pearl because of the multiple air controllers and the activity Navy presence still at the Harbor. It was a great flight for me, one i will truly treasure. Hence why it is now in the Lost Posts section, so that the flyover will always be there.

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The Saratoga T6

Images captured with Nikon D3, AF-S 70-200 VRII, TC-17e, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

The Planes of the Pylons

There really isn’t anything that compares to the Air Races, it truly does stand out on its own. Besides the volume of aircraft that comes to the event, the access we media guys get is just great. Unlike most airshows where there is a rope that we always have to be behind at Stead we get to go right up to the planes. One of the most unique features, which truly makes the Air Races what they are is getting to go out to the Pylons where the planes fly around and shoot from the base up at them.

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As the day moves forward we rotate around the different pylons. There is an outer and inner course for the various planes types. The inner course is used by the biplanes, formula one, sport, T6 and part of the Super Sport. It’s very diffuclt to shoot, the planes go by and you follow with them. The challenging part is the steady panning needed to go with the planes as any prop plane needs a slower shutter speed in order to get a blur in the blades. The biplanes are by far my favorites that go around the inner course except for the T6’s. Sports are cool, no doubt but I tend to lean more towards the classic fighter look.

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There was one exception this time around, a new plane that none of us had seen before at the pylons. This is a Radial Rocket which has a great look to it. We all gravitated toward it looking like a P47 or even a Hawker Sea Fury. It definitely had that great fighter look to it. Unfortunately I didn’t get many good clicks of the plane. Hopefully it will be there at Reno this year for another crack at it.

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Then of course is the T6’s. The T6’s have been a favorite for some time. This year there were eight T6’s at PRS and 4 of them belonged to our good friend Denis Beuhn. Denis is quite a character and won the T6 gold last year. The silver T6 is the newest edition to his fleet fits his style perfectly. What with a red, blue, and yellow plane why not a silver one to balance out the mix. Even though the T6 Texan is a rather common warbird it is great that he keeps so many of them going.

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The one unlimited that grabbed the most attention was Rod Lewis’s F7F Tigercat. This is one massive fighter that is flying around the pylons with ease. The unlimiteds and jets are the two classes that most tend to enjoy the most myself included, because we get to be out at pylon 4 which is locally known as the ridge. It’s the one spot where we get to see the planes coming right down at us. It’s a really freakin cool experience seeing them come screaming down at you.

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The pylons end up being a long, tiring day of shooting with thousands of images to go through but all well worth it. Time to get back to processing.

Images captured with Nikon D3, AF-S 200-400 VRI, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Flight, Day 1

Probably seems like I’m still going backwards blogging what happened a week ago. Well I still think it’s too fun, not to share it would just be wrong. Flight days were Saturday evening and Sunday morning. Saturday was three beautiful planes the P-51C, a T6 and the Duck. The only catch with this whole adventure was that Kermit wanted to fly every plane. So in order to make the transitions better without any dead air time waiting for the next plane, we were able to get the T6 from Stallion 51, the guys just down the road who are incredibly friendly and great to work with. The T6 wasn’t bad either.

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We started with the P-51C which was has an amazing finish. Any background that is put with that plane will look good. It’s just how that plane is. Now normally we would be in a Skyvan shooting out the back at the planes. Due to a mechanical issue at the last minute with the plane we were forced to work with a substitute plane, a Twin Otter. Seven of us were shooting out the open side door. It was an interesting experience. For myself i was behind the three front guys who were at the edge and i was leaning over them to look down and out. Not the most comfortable position but well worth it for the images produced.

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This is one of those images. There were two images that i seem to like more than any other when shooting that weekend and this is one of them. Nothing beats that look of speed.

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Then of course was the T6 when Kermit was landing the P-51C. Now T6’s are rather common, they are inexpensive and easy to get parts for still. However, there are some really nice looking T6’s and then there are some not so nice looking ones. This one is definitely a very nice looking plane. One of the best parts of the flight was having KT in the back while Syd was piloting so that both seats were full. That’s cool to see because the plane is a trainer and normally would have two people in it.

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As you might have noticed I do like the speed look.

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Finally we are down to the Duck. Wasn’t really sure how this one would be photographing because it looks bulky. Not big just bulky. Now obviously it’s a float plane and that extra boat like fuselage is what makes it look bulky, so in the air it makes you wonder how it can fly. Then again when you see it land on the water it becomes this awesome looking plane.

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It’s pretty sweet. Challenging though, the Duck is slowing down and we can’t slow down to much or the plane will stall, so getting the shot becomes very tricky requiring perfect timing. In the end it all worked out well and everyone got the shot. Now you might be wondering what else is there could top that first flight, well you’re just going to have to wait.

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

Stallion 51

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

At The End of The Day

After a good morning flying around in the 172, with Bruce, and his T6 it off for a fact filled quest to learn more about the island. Bruce is also a tour guide on Oahu and loves telling people about the history of the place. It was a long fun drive hearing about the different bases, runways, people that were stationed there and of course the preserved wounds that some of the buildings still have. Towards the end of the day we headed back to his hanger for a sunset shoot with his T6. It was a nice quiet air port with little traffic. We basically could put the plane anywhere we wanted which was very nice. Behind the plane is the original hangers and tower from the war. It seemed fitting to have them as a background for this great plane.

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Images captured with Nikon D3, AF-S 70-200, on Lexar UDMA Digital FIlm

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