The Grumman F7F Tigercat was one mean plane. It’s fast, it’s strong and looks really awesome! Developed by Grumman during WWII the Tigercat never got to see action during WWII but would go on to see combat during the Korean War as a night fighter and attack fighter for the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps. Only 364 were built and only a handful remain flying today.
Why is thus important? Well if you follow my blog and like bringing up anniversaries and todays is the 74th anniversary of the first flight of the F7F Tigercat. It’s a pretty cool and pretty darn big fighter plane that I’ve been fortunate to get to photograph a few times over the years. If you’re at an airshow I suggest you spend some time with this plane because there really aren’t many flying anymore.
A really common mistake I see is photographers putting the camera down too soon. Once the peak of action shot has passed there is nothing left to shoot and that’s wrong. A prime example of this in aviation is the tail shot.
Every plane has a unique design and it can be seen from all angles, not just head on. The tail shot is just as interesting as a head on pass given the right composition. This F7F Tigercat is obviously a Tigercat given the shape of the plane. Even though it’s small in the frame everyone knows it. The rest of the image tells the story. The cloudy skies, the little puff of smoke, and the plane climbing. It tells a story even if it’s not full frame and from the front. So a simple way to improve your photography is to keep shooting even after the peak of action because there might still be one more photo out there.
The F7F Tigercat is one of the rarer warbirds flying in the world with only 364 built between 1943-1946 only seven are airworthy and only a dozen survivors in total. The Tigercat was built too late to be used in WWII but served in Korea as a night fighter and attack aircraft used in Marine units. While initially it was designed to be used on carriers multiple issues arose preventing carrier operations.
The F7F Tigercat was a multiple engine single seat attack fighter which was later adapted with radar and a second seat for a radar operator. Grumman’s goal was to build a fighter that would outperform all others. They succeeded with a plane that was 71mph faster then the F6F Hellcat and carried more firepower with 4 20mm cannons, 4 50mm machine guns, and hard points for bombs and torpedoes. However, the trade off was weight and high landing speeds forcing the heavy Tigercat be used on land bases.
Since combat use was minimal for the Tigercat some did survivor and were used as aerial tankers. The planes were fitter with a belly tank to be used as aerial fire bombers. One example, owned and operated by Rod Lewis, has flown at the Reno National Air Races for several years in the unlimited category. With a maximum speed of 460mph the plane could be a gold contender but due to its rarity was never entered in that category. Today F7F’s can be seen at some airshows and are a favorite among st spectators for its unique but powerful design.
Images captured with Nikon D4, 24-70 AF-S, 200-400 VR, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film
I wish I had great words of wisdom to go along this post this morning but truly I just liked this photo of a F7F Tigercat and wanted to post it. Often times I forget that this blog is made for photography and enjoying all aspects of the image. In that essence a simple image is all it takes.
In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D3, 70-200 VRII, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film
It’s been an interesting last coupe of weeks, mostly due to the fact that I have been stuck behind the computer. It seemed appropriate to have a simple fun photo to end the week on and to kick off a good weekend. This is a Grumman F7F Tigercat photographed this past September. It was part of a sunrise shoot that was one of the best that I have had the privilege to be able to go to.
I realize I have been doing this a lot lately but i just enjoy so much being able to put up all these images for others to see. It’s the best part about being a photographer is sharing my work with others. That might sound nostalgic but i don’t care i like it. This will be the last one for a while though. The two on the right are P38’s and the two on the left are the Tigercats. This big bad boy is the F7F Tigercat. One big ass fighter. Amazingly multiple of these planes would be on carriers during the war. The wings would fold up but it still baffles the mind that the planes could stack up next to one another considering how big these suckers are. It was prime fighter in the Pacific theater not so much in the European. The best part about this plane is the one thing i can’t share and that’s the sound it makes as it goes by. It’s so freakin cool! There really isn’t any way to describe so i suggest you head to an airshow.
One of the biggest differences I’ve noticed between aviation photography, wildlife and landscape photography is that in aviation I’m spending a lot more time editing and processing my images. Since Pylon Race Seminar three weeks ago I have processed about 150 different images and have added them to my galleries. Now not all of these images are up on my blog yet but all good things with time. It has occurred to me over the last few weeks just how many images can accumulate in just a couple days of airshow photography and how important it is to keep up to date on getting them processed. Sadly however time doesn’t always allow for playing with images.
These three images are some of my favorite statics from PRS and are ones that I had fun. The top one comprising of 2 L29 Delfins and a Mig 15 jet is a shot that just caught my eye as Dad, Mom and myself were going by. It was simply the pattern of the red, black and grey that I just liked. One of the best things about aviation photography is the patterns that can be seen with the different planes.
This is a T-33 Shooting Star another great jet produced from the late 1940’s – 1950’s. It was original designed as a fighter but as more jets came online it was turned into an impressive jet training plane. It’s amazing how often a simple image is usually my favorite and this is just that. One click with little post work. Some of you might by wondering why this is my favorite shot, considering it is kind of a boring static image, well it’s one i didn’t have before in my files and with new planes even the basics are needed.
The last one here is the F7F-3 Tigercat another fighter, and one big ass plane to have flying around the Reno. This particular image is why i continue to shoot. I wasn’t aware of this at the time but when i took this image i was busy moving around, didn’t notice that i cut off the tail, or that the tail blended in with the folded up wing. A simple five feet to the right would have solved both of those issues making for a just a little bit stronger image. It just goes to show that more practice is needed even for the little things.
Images Captured with Nikon D3, AF-S 200-400 VR, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.