The Grumman J2F Duck

It’s been a crazy week and has put me a little behind of things but nevertheless todays blog would still get written. For a little change of pace it seemed like a good time to talk about another amphibious plane, one that I have always liked, the Grumman J2F Duck. This is a really cool and very rare aircraft, with only a handful of survivors remaining in the world, most of which are static only planes. 584 J2F Ducks were built to serve in a variety of roles in all branches of the US Military between the mid 1930’s and the end of WWII.


The Duck was designed at first as an executive transport for the Navy but it’s roles increased for anti submarine use and most importantly for air sea rescue of downed crewmans. The Duck first flew in 1936 with it’s Wright R-1820 Cyclone engine, equal span single bay biplane and large monocoque central float which housed its retractable landing gear. The landing gear is similar to Leroy Grumman’s design first used by Grover Loenings in his early amphibious biplanes. The Duck had a crew of two or three, a pilot and observer would sit in tandem and then a radio operator was also available. The storage space could hold two people or a stretcher. The main pontoon is blended into the fuselage making it almost a float plane. The landing gear are manually retractable like the Grumman F4F Wildcat.


One of the most famous Ducks is the J2F-4 serial number V-1640 that crashed on Greenland on November 29th 1942 while trying to rescue crewman of a crashed B-17 the were looking for a downed C-53. The US Coast Guard aircraft was lost until 2012 when the North South Polar Inc discovered the location of the Duck buried under 38ft of ice still containing the three crewman. A really good book Frozen in Time by Mitchell Zuckoff has been written about the expedition.


There is one Aviation enthusiast that has more experience with the Grumman Duck then any other person and that’s Kermit Weeks owner of Fantasy of Flight. He has owned four that are known about, two were traded, one is under restoration and the fourth is seen here, the Candy Clipper. This is not the original Candy Clipper but painted in honor of the aircraft that flew in the Philippines on Bataan during the battle. The original Candy Clipper was sunk but was later refloated by an American P-40 base. It made four trips to bring in much needed medical supplies and on one flight candy. Today the Candy Clipper can be seen flying over Fantasy of Flight and on certain occasions even landing on the lake that sits behind the museum.

Images Captured with Nikon D3, 70-300 VR, 70-200 VRII on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

How Much is too Much?

I have been debating this every time I open an image in Photoshop. I talked to my Dad about it in regards to my wildlife work. It is hard to look at my photographs now without seeing imperfections that i want to get rid of. There is always something there that I don’t like. Now I still hold to true to not touching my Wildlife images in any form of post work with the exception of making really big prints, no way around that one. However with aviation there is finishing work that needs to be done, and is unavoidable.

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This is a Grumman Duck photographed last April at Fantasy of Flight down in Florida. This was part of the Air to Air Workshop that my Dad along with Richard Vandermeulen and Doug Rozendaal host. Now our usual platform is a Skyvan however the plane we had broke down the morning of the flight, I’m afraid that happens with aircraft, nothing you can do about it. So they provided us with a Twin Otter as a replacement. Well it got the job done but wasn’t great. The rear door on the left pilot side, left, came off and the nine of us shot out of it. Now as you can see there is a head in my shot, that’s because I was in the back row, which was fine they were paying participants and deserved best seat, but for me it made a rather big imperfection in the shot.

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Now there I had one of two options either leave this shot alone, not use it, and let it sit on my hard drives collecting dust or remove the head in post. Obviously I chose to remove the head. I like the shot, and to me it was the right decision. But while i was working on this image, it made me think about what is to much and what isn’t. This isn’t by any means a new rant, most photographers have this rant every month, it just comes with the territory. What we choose to do is totally up to ourselves. But i wanted to make it clear that whenever post work can be avoided, it’s not only a more efficient use of time because it’s less time per image and more for other projects but also it makes photographers push harder on their own photography.

Camera Gear:

Nikon D3, 70-200 VRII, TC-17e, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

What kind of Waterfowl is That?

It’s hard not to make a few jokes or even puns when referring to a plane named “the Duck.” I have to wonder why it was called the Duck considering there is little physical similarities. The aircraft is a very cool design. It was meant for sea rescues, bale to hold up to four people down below, as well as the pilot and rear spotter. The really cool thing abut the plane is it’s ability to takeoff in a very short distance while on the water. Land is another story. Seeing one of these land on a runway is quite a thing. Seeing those little wheels touch down with just barely enough space left for the foot not to hit the ground is impressive. We were very fortunate to be able to photograph this particular Duck at Fantasy of Flight a few months back during Dad’s Air to Air workshop. This was one of the first amphibious planes we photographed hopefully not the last.

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Grumman Duck
Images captured with Nikon D3, AF-S 70-300 VR, 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.[swf], 585, 435[/swf]

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

The Birds of Fantasy of Flight

I am a little behind in blogging again which isn’t abnormal when times get busy. This past weekend was a very busy time with very little sleep. As some of you might know from my Dad’s site, last weekend we were in Florida with another adventure in the new series of Air to Air workshops. This time we were at the fabulous Fantasy of Flight like we were for Precon this past April. Fantasy of Flight has some truly spectacular aircraft, all of which has its own unique history. Now the guy who owns Fantasy of Flight is Kermit Weeks who has in his collection over 160 aircraft, that’s a few stories! We were lucky and got to work with some really cool planes including the one up above the Shorts Sunderland. This plane usually never comes out of the hanger, thankfully there was an event that weekend and it had to come out for space. This plane used to fly but unfortunately it hasn’t been flown in some time making it in need of repairs now. It’s still a great plane, massive but great!

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The night we flew in which was Friday night, there was a massive thunderstorm that went through the area and Saturday morning when we went to the airfield we had a nice layer of fog. The fog is just a great backdrop for the planes. The airfield already is super clean with a lake and trees in the background and of course the best part is no fences! The addition of the fog creates this feeling or allusion of being back in England on a cold morning right before battle, which is quite nice with some of the planes we were working with including the P51C Mustang and the TP-40. The Duck was a favorite of Dad’s for some time so naturally he wanted to photograph it. Thanks to Kermit we were able to.

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The major highlight for the workshop was the P51C Mustang. Photographing the Duck, Sunderland, TP-40, and a few other planes, was absolutely marvelous but the P51C was just beautiful. The amount of detail and time spent in this plane is obvious. The plane is painted in the colors of the Tuskegee Airmen, in particular it was painted in the colors of the groups ace Lee Archer. Although not seen here, the plane actually has his signature on the armor platting in the cockpit. Most of the morning was actually spent around this plane. Once the sun came up and the fog left we spent hours working these planes from the ground all the way up to the top of a ladder. It was amazing. This one plane took over an hour to shoot all the angles and details, and even then i know there were images missed.

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Like i said the sun rose and the fog began to disperse. In a normal morning shooting statics we tend to spend a couple of hours at location. Usually before sunrise to 8am or 9am. Not long, a couple of hours and then it’s breakfast. Well this morning was so good that we arrived at 6am and didn’t leave until 10am when the museum actually opened to the public. It was that good of a shoot, no one wanted to stop. I can honestly say that there are more images in my files then there is time to process them and put them up on my blog. The last plane that caught my eye, was of course the PBY which had a great background with the ground fog. I still love this plane, can’t wait to see it in the air, and i thought i would share it with you all.

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Images captured with Nikon D3, AF-S 70-200 VRII, AF-S 24-70, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Fantasy of Flight Continued

Well i know I said that i was busy and didn’t have time to really go through what happened at the Precon so as promised I have gone back in and have rewritten what took place in the last post. Give it a gander it’s kind of interesting, with it that I’ll explain a little bit about what happened below us.

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One of the rare and most awesome of planes at Fantasy of Flight is the Duck. It’s a funny name to give to a plane especially after all the cool ones like Mustang, Warhawk, Tigercat, Hellcat, Flying Fortress etc. The name fits the plane though. It’s a funky looking plane. It’s basically a biplane with a big scoop on the bottom. Some of the history that i learned was that the plane can actually hold four people. One pilot, one gunner, and two in the belly of the plane supposedly for wounded. This plane was used for sea rescues for shot down pilots. Kermet decided to take it out for a little “maintenance” run and that’s what we believed. Well after like 10 mins of no passover after the last one we started wondering where he took the Duck for this maintenance run. Wouldn’t you know it he decided to take it to Sun in the Fun. There goes the Duck! O well we get to play with it again at the end of April.

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Images captured with Nikon D3, AF-S 70-300 Vr

Fantasy of Flight Precon

Final found some time to get up a few images from the Precon on Tuesday. We had a new Precon that was all about aviation photography. It was another Moose and Joe show this time with the beautiful planes for the background. We had two stops along the way for this Precon first was at Fantasy of Flight, and amazing place with amazing planes, and second over at Stallion 51 which also had some amazing planes. Everything below is just from Fantasy of Flight with some more on the way.

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This “museum” which really isn’t a museum it’s a private collection that this guy Kermit Weeks lets people come and visit. The cool thing is that he has it set up like an amusement park so when you first enter is this giant reenactment. There is the World War I trenches you walk through the briefing room and of course the best part the B17 which is setup with displays as you walk through it. Once you get past all of this you come out into the actually hangers and in these hangers are a number of great aircraft. This is of course only a small fraction of the facility there is a lot more that is not open to the public, including the restoration hangers.

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Out on the ramp were two parked planes. The first one that caught my eye was the Ford Tri-motor, the plane above. This plane was used for commercial flying until the passengers could no longer take the bumpiness or the duration. It was eventually replaced for a more efficient plane. The amusing thing was there was a Stinson Tri-motor not far away behind the ford and those two were competing against one another. Shooting it was no challenge there were many ways. I literally did circles around the plane because there was so much too do. The clouds really made a difference they made everything pop. Without them, i probably would’ve blown this plane off. Background makes the shot.

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This guy is the Duck, a rather unique plane. This is an amphibious and ground plane. It could take off and land on both water and land. It is also a rare plane there are not many left flying in the world, even less in the United States. I’m not going to spend a whole of time here because in my next post I’m will be talking about just this plane.

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Alrighty moving right along with the day, walking around the ramp, talking with folks, helping wherever i could; te sound of an engine crank began and soon to follow was a plane getting ready to take off. Who would it be? None other than the biplane. At Fantasy of Flight is the option to take aerial tours. the plane of choice for doing such a tour is the Steerman. What better way to fly around Orlando than in a World War I Steerman. It is quite a sight. I always wonder how many people call the police department when they see those older planes a flying. Once again not a big trick to shoot. The only thing that you need to keep in mind is that the plane is moving so you must pan with the plane, keep the camera in shutter priority to get the prop blurred and the plane sharp. Anywhere under 1/250th shutter speed will get a blur, be careful with planes taxiing out they go slower. The only way to really get better at this is practice because most planes differ in the shutter speed needed.

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At last my favorite plane from the Precon and for that matter the whole vacinity, the PBY. This is truly a great plane. They were used for reconisance, air to sea rescue, and transport. They were very versatile, however they were not fuel efficient. This is a big ass plane and it has two engines which takes even more gas to keep it moving. Like most warbirds there are not many left and even less flying. It’s really too bad because they are great. The first half of the Precon was great. The planes were great, both static and flying, Joe did his lighting demo with the models which was a great tie in with the planes and the participants learned some things about aviation photography. However, we aren’t done yet!

Images captured with Nikon D3, AF-S 24-70, AF-S 70-300 Vr, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Images captured with Nikon D3, AF-S 24-70, AF-S 70-200, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

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