The Bearcat makes it into Combat!

This was one powerful plane! The F8F Bearcat was Grumman’s answer to the climb to rate ratio that at the time was deficient. After the Battle of Midway, Grumman pilots in the field were demanding aircraft with better performance. At the time, Grumman was introducing the F6F Hellcat, which was a large step up from the F4F Wildcat but still didn’t meet the demands the pilots were looking for. This was 1942, with the release of the Hellcat in 1943. Grumman used the Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engine for the Hellcat, which was the most powerful American made engine at that time with 2,000 horsepower. Thus it also was used for the Bearcat.

Modifications to the fuselage length, wingspan, vertical stabilizer, amount of fuselage behind the pilot’s head, canopy, landing gear, prop, and many other factors helped bring the weight down to 7,650lbs when empty. The result of all these modifications was a max speed of over 400mph and a rate of climb of 4,465 ft/min. However; due to the length of time to design, test, and produce the Bearcat, it never saw combat in WWII. The Bearcat had operational status with Fighter Squadron (VF) 19 on this day seventy-five years ago but the Cat never was able to make its mark. That being said, the Bearcat was believed to be one of Grumman’s best planes as it has been used for years as a racing plane, breaking speed records for piston-powered aircraft and even was the plane of choice for the Blue Angels at one point.

How Valuable is it To Finish an Old Image?

It’s quite common to get so wrapped up in current shoots that you only finish the images needed for whatever purposes you have and then leave the rest for another time. I’m guilty of this myself. In past years I would finish images for blog posts and articles and then leave the rest for later. Problem is the more you shoot the more images tend to stack up so you never really find that time to finish the images. The other downside is it is easy to forget not only what you photographed but the conditions in which you took the image to begin with. This makes it harder to finish the images at a later point. So what do you do?

The images have to get finished one way or another but if the argument is if there is value to finishing them later after you’re out of the moment of capture, then is it worth the time, time being money after all or hardrive space? Well personally I hate leaving images unfinished. Even if they are old there was value in them to start with or you wouldn’t have taken the image to begin with. Leaving them to be forgotten is not only a waste but isn’t a good business practice. Part of the answer comes back to proper time management. Taking less images but still good quality images means less computer work which is a better business practice. There’s another potential answer to the question.

So yes there can be value in old images but it comes from recognizing that value and applying it to your business.

Enter the Bearcat

One big engine in a small plane. The F8F Bearcat never saw combat in WWII but one could imagine what would’ve happened had this 455mph fighter/interceptor entered service. Powered by the Pratt & Whitney R-2800, the Bearcat was designed to be operated off of escort carriers, which were smaller and lighter, with a high rate of climb, maneuverability and speed. The first operational squadron was ready May 21st 1945 but with the war over in Europe, production orders were vastly reduced and eventually only 1265 were built. The Bearcat first saw combat in the French/Indochina war and then again in Vietnam.

The Bearcat’s true fame came from the Navy’s choice for the famed Blue Angels squadron, then being raced for decades at the Reno Championship Air Races and for setting the 3km World Speed Record as well a the time to climb record. The speed record was of course broken later on.

Still this marvelous aircraft graces the skies of North America at various airshows throughout the season. It’s short wings, short fuselage and high profile make it hard to miss among the other aircraft on the ramp. In the skies, the sound of that R-2800 is unmistakable as it thunders overhead.

Does Size Really Matter?

Great title right? it seemed appropriate considering the subject matter. It seems like every event I go to I always hear about other photographers trying to get closer to the subject in order to fill the frame. I always wonder about this. Yea it’s great to get that portrait shot that fills the frame but it seems to leave a lot on the table when trying to cover the whole story. Take this F8F Bearcat for example. It was a high a performance fighter used during land and carrier operations in the Pacific during WWII. It’s known for not only being really fast but also being tough. That’s the attitude that has to be conveyed. Although I couldn’t get physically any closer and using the 200-400 VR, there wasn’t much else that could’ve been done but thanks to the clouds behind it and leaving a little space for the plane to travel through the image, the mind instantly puts the speed and power to the plane. Bigger in the frame might be more esthetically pleasing but not necessary.


One beautiful Static Subject

Same plane, different photos. The first morning I got to Stead Airport, my Dad told me that there was a Bearcat down at the end of the runway worth photographing. So we get up and drive down in our borrowed golf cart and there at the end of the runway was the Navy Blue Angel Bearcat. Now there was a number of rumors as to why it was there that week and how many hands it changed during the process of it trying to race. The only thing I know for certain is that it did not qualify. Which is sad because it’s a beautiful plane. That being said it still made for a great subject.


I imagine it’s pretty easy to tell what the difference between these images is. The top one is a straight shot and the bottom is a seven frame HDR. Why did I do both and post both? Well, i like them both. Simple as that. I love finding backgrounds that i can get good silhouettes with and that usually works the best by getting low and having an unobstructed background. At the same time the plane has so much character that i wanted it to show. The only solution was to shoot the plane both ways.

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

The Sizzling Bearcat

Despite the rather stubby appearance of the Bearcat’s fuselage this particular fighter is one very fast machine. While other planes were doing banana peals around us, this guy was just hauling ass as he went by. The Bearcat’s came out to late for WWII but did see action in the French Indochina War all the way up to Vietnam in 1959 when they were retired and replaced with other aircraft. The most popular use for these planes was air racing. The first ever Reno air Races was won in 1964 by a Bearcat, known today as “Rare Bear.”

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

The Grumman Family

Lately I have been busy getting images ready and out to people, trying to get as much work done as possible so i can go do what i love to do which is taking pictures. This next week I’ll be at the Reno Air Races, an event that i look forward to every year since i started going to them a couple years ago. Why am I telling you all of this? Well lately I haven’t spent a whole lot of time behind the camera coming up with new content so i thought this would be a good time to add another plane to the hanger.

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This is the Grumman F8F Bearcat. It’s design was partially based of off back engineering the FW190 Fockewulf. It was meant to a successor to the Hellcat in which it would be an interceptor. It was made to takeoff and land on the smallest of carriers. It was lighter, faster and more maneuverable than the Hellcat but fell in speed to the F4U Corsair. It still had an edge on the A6M5 Zero. Even though it came out later in “43” is provided a pivotal role in the Pacific Theater.

F8F Bearcat
Images Captured with Nikon D3, AF-S 200-400 VR, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

A New Museum to Explore

This past Saturday Dad and I went down to the Palm Springs Air Museum to see what treasures it would yield. The museum was holding a 65th anniversary to island hopping in the pacific specifically Midway Island and Gaudalcanal. Neither of us knew anything about their speaker format or what their flight demonstration would be like, so it was a good time to go learn especially since we had nice weather there and back. Now Dad spent a lot of time in the mountains and valleys in southern California but i hadn’t. Even being born in Santa Barbara and the occasional project Dad was working on, as a kid i wasn’t down in the area much. So along the way down to Palm Springs, Dad was pointing out places he had been when he was a kid and how much everything has changed.

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The Museum was quite impressive, inside and out with an F16 and Tomcat on display in the front yard and a memorial honoring some of the fallen. Inside the first thing that stood out beyond all else was a painting that expanded across most of the wall above us. It depicted the battle of midway with extraordinary detail. After admissions we started wandering looking at the displays and variants of aircraft. We later found out that the founder Robert Pond had between 25-30 planes in his collection, this included a B25 and B17. The first couple of planes that stood out were the Bearcat and Dauntless parked outside near the fence. Great looking planes, so unaccustomed to seeing a Bearcat that wasn’t modified. Outside was also the PBY which was amazing to see, so few exist nowadays.

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Walking around inside we saw a number of good looking planes. In the “Pacific Theater Room” was another Dauntless, Wildcat, Hellcat, Corsair and one of my new favorites the A26 Marauder. I saw one for the first time down at CAF Headquarters Arizona. This one looked even better, sitting inside helped, it had great yellow and red wings that just stood out in the room. Moving around we found the room with the B25, along with it was a P51, Spitfire and of course the P40 Warhawk. You just can’t not love this plane. The look of those shark jaws in the front just makes it look mean. It was of course replaced with the P51 during the war so it must not have been mean enough. Mousing around we found the room with the B17. Not quite as polished as the one at CAF but still great looking. This one was open to walk inside of seeing what it would’ve been like to be crammed inside of one.

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As we were waiting outside watching the T33 Shooting Star get ready for its flight, it was the plane doing the flying demo that day, i looked back across the yard to see if there were any missed shots. I seem to keep missing them, it’s definetely difficult with fences and hangers surrounding the place. I never got a good shot of the PBY with 24-70 while walking around, so perhaps the 200-400 would be better. That’s when Dad pointed out the nose art and i had to get the click. Next up was the flight!

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Images Captured with D3, Nikon Nikkor AF-S2.8 24-70, Nikon Nikkor Vr 200-400 f4, on Lexar UDMA Digital film

Last Day Round Up

Yet again the week long event of following up on the races is over. Sure there are more images to share but never enough time too. The stories we came back with were great, as they always are. The people are awesome, the planes are even better. Nothing so far gets the addrenaline pumping pumping faster than watching those planes buzz over my head. With that i share a few of my favorite planes.

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“Rare Bear,” F8F Bearcat

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Lady Jo, TF-51D Mustang

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Lou IV, P-51D Mustang

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What Da Fockewulf, FW-190 which showed a bit more of the other side of history.

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Finally the F7F-3 Tigercat and P-38 Lightning. They flew away toward the distant future awaiting what history will have in store for them as does us all.

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