How to Get Those Great Flight Shots

I wasn’t kidding when I said the P-47’s were coming in a later post. It’s such an amazing fighter plane but sadly there aren’t enough out there anymore. I was very fortunate a few years back to see five of them at the Planes of Fame Airshow. I didn’t think they could do one better than the year with six P-38 Lightnings. Well, the Jug was a hit that weekend and the photos are still ones that I cherish. But not to keep you in suspense I’ll tell you how I got them.

There are two key spots at PoF that are great for flight shots. In the morning, the far west end of the runway has good light and background for the “going away shots,” where you see the tail of the aircraft. In the afternoon it’s best to be on the northeast corner by the static ramp fence where the planes come in from the north and do a banana pass by the crowd. Now if you have photo credentials then there is a pit for you but if you don’t just get to the fence early and you should be fine. It’s a cool place, a great show and I can honestly say I wish I was going this year.

Images captured with Nikon D5, 200-400 VR on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Getting Ready for the Invasion

One of the most iconic subjects on warbirds today are the black and white invasion stripes. For those of you that don’t know these stripes were painted on the wings of every plane that flew during the Normandy invasion or, D-Day. The idea was that the men on the ground would be able to tell friendly planes from foe by seeing these stripes. It would help keep our pilots safe as they made their ground attacks on enemy installations so that the boys of the invasion fleet could keep pushing back through the fifty miles of beach that they needed to secure.



This past year at Oshkosh the Texas Flying Legends did a great salute to our veterans with a panel of vets and a recreation of the D-Day invasion with their C-53, which just came out of paint, and a paint crew putting on the invasion stripes. Using mops, buckets and brushes they used a water based crayola paint that washed right off but looks real and made these stripes across the plane. Up close you can see that the stripes aren’t perfect with bristles and imperfections in the paint but from far away you can’t tell. The reality is this is how it was done. It was an all hands on deck project the night before the invasion that made this all possible and everyone at every rank was involved at the England bases to get it done.








Today of course we see these lines all over the place. On different Mustangs, C-47’s and P-47 Thunderbolts. They can be seen on a variety of different aircraft as they have become a very symbolic part of WWII. It was these three planes though that were among the biggest players during the invasion.

Working that Rainbow Background

If you follow my blog or my Dad’s, then you’ve no doubt heard about how much we like clouds in the background of our plane shots or landscape shots or really any shot that has sky in the background. It really does make a big impact on the overall image. Well this is a bit more than we usually ask for especially since we were in Chino and this particular day it was almost 100 degrees out but there happened to be some ice crystals in the air which formed a rainbow affect in the clouds and they just so happened to stick around for quite a while. As the planes were going by occasionally they flew close enough to get some color in the background.


Dad and I made a little game of this and every time a plane looked like it would go by that one tiny stretch of color we just let the shutters rip! Everyone around us in the media pit looked our way, always with the same expression, “what are they taking so many shots of?”


Well it was these planes going by in these certain spots. Using a D4 and 200-400 VR, I waited for that right moment. The A-2 Skyraider had the most consistency as it flew higher than most others. The Mig 15 and F86 Sabre were next best as they too were flying high at times.


The true winner was the P-47 Thunderbolt. The four ship went right over the spot and then as they did their break a ways and single passes, old Snafu here, a P-47 bought from the museum in Duckshire, flew the best line through the best section and gave us that brief moment of joy.

The Mighty Jug

The P-47 Thunderbolt, more affectionately known as the Jug by those who piloted it, was one of the heaviest, largest and toughest fighter aircraft that relied on a single radial engine. The Jug was built with heavy armor and a massive offensive capability. With four .50 Caliber machine guns in each wings and able to haul up 2,500 lbs of bombs which is over half of what a B-17 can carry. Although the P-47 was not used in long range bombing attacks, it was used for short range ground attacks. It was widely used for long range escort for the flying fortresses. It was made famous by the 56th Fighter Group, part of the Eighth Air Force, which had a number of top aces, as they flew missions further and further into Europe. When looking at this plane it’s almost like watching a flying tank.



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

Why do i Keep Getting Asked This?

It seems like every time I tell people what I do and I explain that I photograph airplanes, i get the usual excitement. Then they ask is there a preference in the planes, older planes as opposed to newer ones. I always answer “I prefer working with the Warbirds.” Then they always seem depressed with my answer. I never understood that. A preference is a preference nothing more that my own like. It’s not like I photograph only warbirds merely i enjoy them the most. It’s hard to beat the stories that they tell.

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The reality to photography that most people outside the business and even some in the business don’t understand is that you can’t always work with that one thing that you want to work with. Photography has always been about following ones passion even if that means photographing what normally one wouldn’t. In order to succeed you have to be flexible and do the work that not only comes your way but at the same time going after the jobs that no one is offering you. Flexibility is the key to success.

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Before I was taught anything else about photography my Dad told me that there will be those times when it just sucks to be a photographer and then there are those times that you are glad to be one. Those are the good times. All of that goes into the next project and it’s how we become better. Here in this post I show four images that I have taken within the last couple of years of basically all modern military aircraft. The A10 is a little stretch but still well within the last 20 years recent activity. The L39’s are the only one well dated. I decided to post these shots because i wanted to show that even though they aren’t my favorite shots, even though i have no plans on using them anywhere, and even though i know no stories about any of them, I still enjoyed photographing them. Each one taught me something new about photography and that made them worth while.

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Preferences aside I enjoy aviation photography. Basically anything that flies is worth while to shoot. The difference is that which i can do something with afterward and that which the afterward is only another file added to the collection. Everything comes down to time. The one disadvantage to Aviation Photography is that everything needs to be processed in post afterward. In wildlife nothing gets post work. Deciding what to spend time on is the difference between success and failure. If it’s not evident enough I try to do a little bit of everything. For me if it flies it’s in the files or at some point will be. Perhaps the best answer to that first question that people ask me is, “I photograph whatever is in front of my lens.”

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