The Saratoga T6

There was no way that the three of us were going to come to Hawaii without seeing Pearl Harbor and the nearby airfields. What better way to see these places then by air. A good friend of ours, Bruce, owns one of the only warbird flying in the Hawain islands. Yes there is the Pacific Aviation Museum which has some beautiful historic aircraft but unfortunately they aren’t flown. It’s the sad truth that all planes will eventually be grounded flown or not. Anyways, we decided it would be worthwhile to fly over Pearl. Little did we know at the time that flying over Pearl isn’t an easy feet to accomplish. The air space restrictions over the island make it difficult for GA fliers, mostly due to the island being controlled by the Navy. Oahu has numerous airfields including Ford Island, Hickam, Wheeler, and Barbara’s Point. There are more as we found out including multiple bases, ammo depos, and hangers.

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Dad and I flew in a Cesna 172, not the ideal choice of photo platforms but it got the job done just fine. I was yet again in the back of the bus which was fine because I got to fly over Pearl Harbor. It doesn’t get much cooler than that! Our subject was Bruce’s T6 SNJ. He has personally flown that plane all over the states and it now resides in Hawaii. Don’t ask how it got there you’ll never believe the story. Bruce was in the Army and Coast Guard. This particular plane was flown off the Saratoga many many years ago and since has been restored in the original paint scheme of the planes that were on that aircraft carrier.

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As you can see from the background it was an interesting shoot. We had clearance from three different towers to fly over Wheeler Airfield, Pearl Harbor and Hickam Airfield. Most of the island at this point is covered in homes, few pockets of rain forest are left . Unfortunately the weather made it unsafe to go over certain areas which would have been more scenic but less historic. The shot above was taken over an orbit of Middle Bay. In the background is a moth ball fleet of Navy ships no longer in use. It’s one of those times that Dad and I agreed, buildings in the background were okay. There is more to this story but not right now.

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

Wow That’s a Bright Plane!

I know, I know another post about planes. I can’t help it, they’re great subjects to work with and i like talking about them. Well next up on the shooting list that we worked Sunday morning of Air 2 Air was this beautiful T6 Texan. Now over the last couple of years the two of us have photographed many T6’s, one of our good friends even owns a number of them, but never have either us photographed a T6 that was soooo polished before. Even with the patchy light this plane just stood out. It didn’t matter what background we put behind it, the thing just popped!

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One of the really interesting facts that we learned while done there at CAF was that originally Falcon Field was a training station during WWII for pilots. That part wasn’t so surprising many strips that were once used for the military have been turned into public areas nowadays. The interesting part was that that particular plane was painted in the same scheme that would’ve been on a T6 if it was stationed at Falcon Field during WWII. Having that knowledge and being able to photograph the T6 over Falcon really made that one awesome shoot.

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Now normally when working anything in an air to air shoot there is some play with where the planes go that we photograph. Well Brian, the pilot and owner of the T6, someone who has never done this type of flying before, was so good that if we said over the radio to go 20 meters left or up 10 he would stick it there just like that. It was impressive to see someone get used to flying with a photo platform that quickly. Like before i was in the back of the bus shooting over everyone’s heads and as you can see i was still able to photograph that plane when it was below us. He was just that good.

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Images captured with Nikon D3, 70-300 Vr, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Ahhh the Trainers

I love these planes. The T6 trainers have just a beautiful look to them and can be shot so many ways. Out at inner pylon 4 where the T6’s coming screaming down at us before they bank left into the stands, we experienced the magnitude of the race. Amazingly enough they are only going about 200mph but that is more than enough to make it hard to pan on them. This year there are a great number of T6’s flying and everyone one of them looks great. But when i was going through them i said to myself, “hmm… they should be Black and White.” O boy not my strongest area, hurray for a challenge!

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Sure it sounds easy but getting just that right look of the plane and the clouds, while bringing out the drama in the whole shot, gives me that challenge. That’s the best part. If there is no challenge then whats the point. I love making mistakes on these images because eventually, and i use that term with some optimism, i will get that answer on how to improve them.

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Images captured with D3, AF-S NIKKOR 200-400 VR, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Up in the Air

The races are over already but that doesn’t mean that the images are gone. Between the images, the planes and the great people the whole event was spectacular. The transition from Texas birds to metal planes was a huge switch but great practice, flying caracara’s isn’t quite the same as Mustang’s going 300mph. The T6’s are always a favorite just the straight lines and motion of the plane that makes them so alluring. For this particular plane and its partner 2 numbers 43 and 94 the matching paint jobs definitely made them stand out. It’s the checkers.

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Jets this year were enormous. The amount of rookies that came in were huge compared to last year. In total for the event there was 29 rookies, and some of those flew the jets. It might be my imagination but it definitely felt like the best event so far that i have been to for jets, which isn’t saying much since i haven’t been too to many but is interesting.

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Images capture with D3, 200-400 VR, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Flying in the high heavens


For the first time in many years i was enjoying being in an airplane. Flying high in the clouds, with 200mph of wind going by my face and the camera pixels being burned away, what better sensation is there. Dad had a rather unique project that i can’t talk about but it involved getting to go up into a T6 WWII Trainer plane and do air to air photography. Dad is in the Silver T6, you can see him in the back taking pictures of me, I’m in a yellow T6. Aviation photography takes on a whole other form in this essence. I can remember my Dad when he first took me to the Reno Air Races Pylon Racing Seminar, basically the practice runs  in June, saying to me, “if you get hooked it’s not my fault,” and now here he is getting me hooked on air to air photography. Two hours in the air and it wasn’t even close to enough!

Images captured with D3s, 70-300 AF-S VR, on Lexar UDMA Digital

The end of the show


It’s finally that time when I’ve run out of steam on these events. I have more images but i think I’ve shown enough. Besides it’s time for me to get back to shooting the one thing I’m actually good at, wildlife. I’m hoping to get out this weekend and find some critters to play with, that is of course if this bug i caught, that seems to be moving around campus, goes away.  Before i do that i thought i would show that last class that i liked at the races more than most of the others, the T6’s. The thing i like the most is the fact that they stack up onto each far better than any of the others class’s. Unlimited will stack occasionally but these guys seem to go many laps stacked.


The straight pattern to their wings and the sleekness of the fuselage make the plane look great in a composition. It reality only the paint job makes them different, at least in the sky that is.


It ends the same way it starts, one guy in front and one guy at the end. That’s about how all things work. The week was a blast, and although I’m still playing catch up for my tardiness, i wouldn’t have traded it for anything. Can’t hardly wait till next year, and that’s say something.

Images Captured with D3, 500f4, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

On lights grace


Wednesdays are always a tough day during the average week. There is so much that needs to be done. Its not like Mondays that just suck because you know the weekend is over and work begins again. Wednesdays are the days when half the work is over but you still have another half to go. This thought is in my head as i write this, ya see i was up most of the night get work done, playing catch up for my taking off last week. I’m not complaining cuz my professors have been very nice, giving me a few breaks. But its still work. In light of that i thought it would be good to have a nice mellow day of blogging. These shots were taken Saturday morning before Scott and I went out onto Home Pylon.


This was the day with the best clouds out of the whole week. They were just great, nice simple fluffy clouds. The light bounced around in them creating just outstanding skies. It was so good that i didn’t have any work in post to do. It helps of course setting the camera’s white balance to cloudy, it made the skies warmer and more colorful. Now you can do the same thing in post but that’s just more time wasted. As you can see i tended to like these F15’s, the Blue Angels just had too many people around them.


As we were heading back in to get ready for the morning rush, Brent and I stayed out a little longer. The day before Kevin and I were in the right spot to catch a couple planes come down the runway to get some runs in before things began. Well with that knowledge i knew i wanted to be in position in case they did that again. They did. This here T6 known as Big Red came out first and the light was hitting it just right. Slowly the light wrapped around its wings, down the fuselage and disappeared by the tail. It was one of those mornings.


As good as the T6 was, the P51 D Mustang known as Ridge Runner III was that much better. It slowly came down the runway, the light just shinning brilliantly off its silver fuselage. That red tip nose just glowing like Rudolph’s, it was a sign that it would be a good morning.


The planes never actually took off as it turned out. They went down towards the end of the runway and stopped right before where the Blue Angels were parked. This is the T6. The propeller was spinning so fast that it’s hard to make out but it’s there. I wish the clouds had stuck here but unfortunately they had slowly moved off and the light was no longer making them look spectacular. With this last moment caught, i headed back to the Media Center shaking with excitement for the things to come later that day.

Images Captured with D3, 70-300 AF-S vr, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Reaching the high heavens


The races are over for me, words i really don’t like saying. They ended on Sunday but i  had so much fun that i thought i would continue to share my excitement by blogging more planes this week. I’m going to take a little break from the Blue Angel shots that i said i was going to post and blog about Saturday’s fun. Don’t worry more shots of those awesome blue jets will surface later. I had the rare opportunity Saturday to go to an area that not many people get to go to, on top of the home pylon, where the vantage is seeing the planes as they come right at you.  We are actually looking down at the planes as they are coming at us. Now i say we because Scott Diussa and Mark Johnston were the guys that got me out there, along of course with all those at Nikon making it possible for us to be there. I’ll take this moment to thank all those involved with the races making it possible for the rest of us to come be apart of them, including my folks, they are by far one of the coolest events that I’ve had the privilege of going too. Now i wasn’t trying to be patriotic but one of the first images that popped out was the flag. It was windy and blowing just beautifully.


Going out to the races i had one thought in my mind, to get one shot that i can consider to being a wow shot. The home pylon gave me that shot. Now i love the P40’s and i wish i had gotten a great shot of them like Scott did, but i’m not complaining cuz i got the F4U-4 Corsair shot. It was coming around the pylon just barely entered the shoot coming at us. This was the only click i got of it during that lap that was in focus but it makes up for the rest. I showed it to Scott after the lap ended, who loves Corsair’s and he was instantly in love with it. I don’t blame him they are a very cool romantic aircraft. Of course when i went back to the media center and was looking at it, i couldn’t decide whether or not a certain cloud was distracting, so i was kinda running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to decide and the guys were being very nice and putting up with my nonsense. I finally decided to take it out, just was too much of a linear white line that i didn’t like being drawn too. Phew glad that was over with, on to other things.


The unlimited which are the planes we are currently seeing, are broken into 3 classes, bronze, silver and gold. Well each class is really cool but these are my favorite. On top of the pylon we are looking straight onto the course. Well i knew that the planes go by fast when at the other pylons but fast is totally different once on top of the pylon. This P40 is about to go past the pylon and you can see how much the stands and spectators blur when it does. Needless to say it’s even harder getting a sharp shot that close. It’s like here it comes….there it went.


We were up there for 3 races: sport, unlimited and T6. I like the T6’s, they have a great look to them and are relatively similar in speed so that they stack up a lot of the time. If memory serves it was around 10:30 when the T6’s went up and was also the point of this nice heavy cloud bank. One giant greyish mass that actually made very nice flat light but killed the sky. Except for that one spot you can see in the Corsair.


The T6’s as i said have a great shape to them, they fill horizontal frames just beautifully. I particularly liked this blue one. It stood out to me.


This one i also liked. Even though it is just white and has no real color to it, the decals and sponsor marks, give it a great look that i just love. It popped very nicely from the background which made it a great subject.


As i said they stack up nicely with each other. Scott out shot me with this one he got his stack up T6 shot that is just killer. At the end of the T6’s we had to get down, the C17 was going up and we weren’t aloud up there during jets. It was truly an amazing experience that i won’t forget. I got many nice shots but i didn’t get every shot that i wanted which is great, it means i have more to work on later. Two of the most important things I’ve learned this past week were save the buffer for the best opportunity and plane shots look better bigger. Thanks again Scott and Mark. My apologies to anyone whose eyes, ears and brains hurt after reading this post, i am definitely way too tired to be typing.

Images captured with D3, 24-70 for the flag, 70-300AF-Svr planes, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

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