This is the first part in a series I call “Exploring My Creativity”. An examination of MY creativity. Being a creative person, this is something I feel I must do to expand my creative thinking. Know one self.  A very large part of who I am is my creativity. As long as I can remember, I have been creative and doing creative things. And it seems to grow more complex the older I get. At the start of 2018, I told myself I wanted to embrace the idea of “Concentration and not validation. To focus on me and what drives me to be creativity. Let’s start with the strongest member of my creativity, Passion. You have probably noticed I used that word to describe the things I love to do. My photography, modelmaking, sculpting along with writing are my passions.  

It all started in spring 2017, while I visited the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory on Belle isle. I went there to photograph the spring flowers in bloom. Red, white and pink little beauties standing proud in the light. There was so much color and so many little pretties all over the conservatory grounds. After about an hour into shooting, I stopped and looked around. During that moments of silence, I heard myself say “I could do this all day long”. Loud and clear as the sky is blue. I knew where it came from but what do I call it? It was something I have heard as long as I can remember. But it’s been so long since I heard it so clearly. It wasn’t until I got home and started looking at my images, that I realized it was my Passion speaking to me. It moved me so much, I started to question it and I came up with two short but complex questions.

1. What is Passion? (what does it mean to me?)

2. How has is changed my Life?

I spent countless hours pondering and searching for answers to those questions. I struggled to clearly describe how I felted. How could I describe something that I had come to live with for so long. At one point, I felt it would have been easier to describe blue to a blind person. I found sharing these questions with others who I felt had passion in their lives to be helpful. I was not looking for my definition of Passion in others but more to the point, finding others that felted the same as me. Those two questions produced some of the most honest and enjoyable conversations with others creative people. It’s very interesting hearing how others describe their Passion. I want to share with you some definitions of Passion from other creativity individuals I have meet in my travels as well as how Passion has changed their lives.

Let’s start with Nick Malachowski. He’s a Lead Automotive Designer. I had the pleasure of working with him in 2016. Here are his thoughts…

Passion is the enemy of fear. Fear prevents us from exploring the unknown, from being vulnerable, from uncovering the truth about us and about the world. Passion is the very act of pursuing those things.

There have been specific decisions in my life I have be faced with (quite recently in fact) where there was no guidebook to tell me what to do, and most of them involved a level of risk that could have paralyzed me. Passion was my catalyst for change.

There can be times where passion can cause pain. When you pour your heart into creating something that doesn’t function or resonate as intended. But, as with most pain, time heals and brings perspective – even revealing that sometimes the most important experiences in our lives can reside within failure.

And a life driven by passion, and accepting of pain, is the only version of life I’m interested in experiencing.

The International Society for Aviation Photography rents a house very close to Wittman Regional Airport during EAA AirVenture. This is where I met Vincent Trelut, a man of many talents. Here is how he feels about Passion…

Passion is what occupies my mind when it is free from obligations or necessities, and my brain is available for pleasure and joy. It is what drives my motivation in life beyond the usual day-to-day activities, because I have not made a living or a necessity out of my passion: it is therefore consuming some of my resources, without bringing money to fuel it. I live passion for aviation history, flying and photography with freedom and an amateur spirit.

Passion has made me knowledgeable about history, science and many other things. It has stimulated my brain and body, contributed to keep me healthy. It has made me meet great people, make friends and share with others. It has also absorbed a lot of my time and resources, probably too much from the viewpoint of my family. It has also made me focus on a few topics only, and created a bias in my approach to life, at least in my leisure time. The key is to keep a balance and not be too passionate all the time on the same topics, while still keeping passion alive, because it stimulates and makes me learn so much, becoming a better person.

During our Friday night cookout at AirVenture, I met Gary Daniels. His creative career spans from designer, creative director to marketing executive and now he is owner of Daniels Creative.  I feel we instantly hit it off. And the following morning, He did a masterful job during our little photo shoot of warbirds and re-enactors. Super talented and passionate guy. Here’s what Gary has to say about Passion…

Why does a person find they are drawn to something so much that they pursue it in life, either as a hobby or a profession? A lot of factors come into play here. Maybe something sparked an interest when they were young.  Maybe they stumbled on their passion later in life by accident. It’s a mystical and magical thing. That is almost impossible to describe sense it is so different with each person.

And a ‘passion’ can be literally anything! I once met a fellow that collected old credit cards. He had thousands and he was passionate about it! He talked to me for 30 minutes about his collection and it was all I could do to not dose off! I thought, “What a gigantic waste of time!” Go figure, but he was very passionate about it and that was ‘his passion’. Who was I to discount it?

I spent my professional career in the creative industry and I was exposed to fantastic designers, photographers, illustrators, writers, etc. I had this very discussion with many of them. And, I heard this statement from almost all of them, ‘I didn’t start out doing this…I didn’t pick this, it just found me.’ 

Another aspect of the human experience, I am most appreciative of, is the gift of imagination within each of us. And, because of our inherent ability to imagine, we create passions that we pursue…sometimes for a week, sometimes for a lifetime. Imagination and passion, I feel, are the two human drives that give each of us a reason to live.

Passion has a life cycle. You may be hair on fire passionate about something, then, the flame burns out. You may start out lukewarm on something, then, it becomes a full-blown passion. I have experienced both of these scenarios with several ‘passions’ in my life. Many ‘passions’ have come and gone.
But, for me, the one passion that has maintained a fire is photography. I think because of the creative aspect of the craft. And, photography is one of the miracles of the human experience. Being able to capture history with a device that snaps 1/250-of-a-second snippets of time is quite miraculous.

The positive aspect of my photography passion is the experiences the craft has made possible, the travel, the opportunities, the friends met along the way, and the desire to be better at the craft. Photography keeps me involved with life, with capturing the wonderful aspects of this world we live in.

The negative aspect, for me, has been the frustration of staying on top of the technology and the cost of staying current. And, the drive to be better can be so tiring if you do not keep that aspect of the passion in check. You can burn your passion out if you are too critical of yourself. Becoming better at your passion is a natural progression of practicing and nurturing it but pushing too hard just breeds discontent and self-doubt in your abilities. And, that can douse the flame.

But, a surprising bonus came out of my photography passion as I grew in talent and knowledge…I like helping others be better in the craft. Early in my photography passion, I was very competitive and did not want to share my ‘secrets’ of how I got the shot. That was borne from insecurity in my abilities and taking myself way too seriously. Now, I realize that there is always someone better than me, and always someone not as good as me. I have learned to drop the ego and just enjoy the craft with others at all levels. Teach as I can, learn as I can. And, the interesting side effect of this approach is that my passion for photography has actually heated up and I enjoy it so much more.

 Of everyone I asked, I gravitate towards Gary’s definition the most. Can’t wait for our paths to cross again!

But after months of pondering, I’m starting to form a definition I feel good about. Passion, it’s a fire that burns in my mind, body and sprite. When it is lite, I can tell you what color the flames are along with how hot they are but not how long it’s going to burn. Doubt and frustration can quickly snuff out it’s flame. I love feeding the flames and enjoying its heat. I must be careful and not put too much fuel into the fire. When I do, my life become out of balance and I start to neglect other parts of my life. Sometimes it becomes difficult to maintain balance, but I know I do my best work when my life is in balance.

While nurturing a passion of mine, it beings me an unmatched profound satisfaction that I cannot find anywhere else in my life. The nonsense of the world as well as the noise in my head fades into a peaceful silence. Time gets lost as hours pass like minutes. During this time, a clear and peaceful calm engulfs me. This time is sacred to me and I will not let anyone in anyway sabotage or try to take it from me. My passion has steeped into every part of my life and has become an important part of who I am. It has added many colors to the cloth I’m from.

My major difficulty associated with my Passion is that I want to spend more time doing what I love than things I should do. What I mean by that is I would love to be able to live off what I love to do verse working for a corporation. Yes, my job pays for everything I enjoy, and I keep reminding myself that but at what cost?  The mental focus and to be consistence creatively takes its toll after a while. I’m very good at what I do but it is a very taxing spending your creative energy on someone else idea and get little to no acknowledgement. I get far more satisfaction from teaching and passing on what I have learn to next generation then in my day to day duties. 

Seeking that peace and calm I get from my Passions V’s working on something and letting that peace and calm find me. If I am upset or frustrated, I do not work on my passions. It often just turns to shit and is more work to try to fix it later. I’ve also had people try to give me grief about my Passions. Negative comments along with underestimating my abilities. Fortunately, I’ve learned through some painful lessons not to let those people bother me and I have become cautious to who I share my passions with. There also the pain of others that take advantage or miss using your passion due to poor planning or just plain stupidity.

This is by far, the most difficult post to put together. And hope it is not the last. I do not ever want to stop challenging myself. My Passion, I feel it is going to take me a life time to truly understand and I can accept that.

Here are my images that sparked this exploration into my creativity. Looking back through my images, I can remember how much I enjoyed shooting that day. Great light and beautiful subjects.

I must say “Thank You to all who participated in this post. For shared their definition of Passion with me. Feel free to share your definitions of Passions in the comments below as well as if you like my content, click the “Like” button or even start to follow my blog. 


Until next time,


The Story behind an Image: Part Four

For the past 14 years, I have had a love affair with photography. I love images that comes with a story. Over the years, I have shot a few images that has a story. Here is part four in a series I call “The story behind an Image”

Part 4: Have Fun!

Anyone who ever been to any NAS Oceana airshow knows in the morning you do two things, shoot statics and shop for swag! During the airshow weekend, most of the squadrons based there set up a row of tents and sale tons of goodies. T-shirts, Cruise DVD’s, challenge coins, coffee mugs, photos & prints… Back in 2008 two of my good friends, Shawn Yost and Craig Scaling both attended the show. To save on cost, Shawn and I split a room and Craig crash with us on Sunday. All weekend long we were cracking jokes, quoting “Top Gun” and all around enjoying each other’s company.

Saturday, we got on base, parked the car, geared up, made our way through security and met up with Craig. We made our way over to the “Squadron Mall” for swag we could not live without. Shawn and Craig both like squadron cruise DVD’s and challenge coins. Me, I enjoy zaps (squadron stickers). After spending an untold amount of money, it was time to figure out where in the hell we were going to put it all. Remember, it is still morning. We still have a whole day of shooting ahead. You can’t hold on to all that swag and shoot jets?! You got to pack that shit up! With our hands full of swag, we headed toward to show line to figure out what we are going do and where we want to shoot from. If I remember correctly, Craig wanting to head over to the static to reshoot something. We paused, Craig took off his backpack to put his DVD’s away. With his hands full, he asks me to hold his camera. He then processes to put his DVD’s into his backpack. With a devilish grin on my face, I nodded to Shawn. He instantly stuck the pose and I quickly framed them both and press the shutter. Craig had his camera set to continuous shooting and it shocked me to hear the frames blast away. And as quickly as it happened, I lowered Craig’s camera and Shawn recomposed himself. Craig ask for his camera back….” You’re shitting me, Right?!” I said to myself. He didn’t realize what just happened. So, I handed him his camera as if nothing even happened. Trying not to laugh, Shawn and I were both amazing he didn’t hear the shutter on his camera or pick up on what we did. It was beautiful! Craig went off to shoot statics and Shawn and I in disbelief found a shooting location. We shot the show, packed up our gear and headed to the hotel. While there, dump cards, charge batteries, shower, dinner and get ready to do it all over again the next day.

Sunday morning, we woke up, got some breakfast and head to the base. Again, parked the car, geared up, made our way through security, shot the show and met up with Craig afterwards. I can’t remember why but Craig stayed with us on Sunday. I do remember, we headed over to my parent house that night for a home cooked meal. On the way over, I figure Craig would had said something to us about Saturday little photo shoot but nothing. At my parent place, we eat, and we laughed. Heck, my Dad even broke out his old cruise books when he served on the Ticonderoga(CV-14) and Saratoga (CV-60). Before long it was time to head back to the hotel. Back in the hotel, we chilled, packed up and come Monday, we all head back to our homes.

According to the EXIF data from the image, it was a full 10 days from the time I shot it to when Craig found it, processed it in Photoshop and email it to Shawn and me. He named the image “ShawnandStevearedead”. Hard to believe that come September, that image will be 10 years old.


What I want you all to away from this image. First, regardless of what it is you are shooting, Have fun! Even better is to have fun with friends. Make moments with friends who make images. And second… Don’t ever let me hold your camera when Shawn is around!


EXIF data

Date: 9/20/2008 @ 10:17am

Model: Canon EOS 40D

Focal length:  23mm

ISO speed: 400

Exposure time: 1/200th

F stop: F/10

Shot handheld

Knowledge or Gear?

So, three weeks ago I have an idea for my next post. It was my take on the Knowledge vs. gear argument. What is more important? Having the knowledge to see and capture images properly or having the latest and greatest gear? The problem was I already knew that knowledge is far more important than any gear. And as I started writing, it turned into a long-winded rant about why knowledge is more important. I did not like the way it was going along with that is not the way I want to share. So, I thrashed it, gathered my thoughts and wrote this. What I normally like to do is come up with an idea that challenges my creativity. Then go out and test it. And share my results with you all.

I know just because you have a camera, does not make you a photographer. That’s a bitter pill for some. My opinion(and my opinion only), what makes you a photographer is having the ability to see and capture images properly that speaks to your viewers. And it does not matter if it was shot on a Nikon, Fuji, Canon, if it was shot as a RAW or Jpeg, was it from a full frame sensor body or from a cell phone… All those things are just tools to capture an image YOU see. It’s what the photographer trying to show and what the image says to YOU that matters most. Yes, gear helps. But like anything, if one does not know how to use their tools properly, the results will never be as good as someone who knows what he or she is doing.

My idea for this post was to go down Belle isle in Detroit on two different weekends. And I wanted my images to show three things. One, how cold it was outside using a limited color palette. Two, to show how colorful and alive it was inside the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory on Belle Isle. And three, have all the images maintain my look or style of photography. On one weekend, I used only with my iPhone 8 plus. And the other weekend, only with my 7D MKII with my 17-85mm. Each weekend, I shot images with the same three goals in mind. Then in Lightroom, strip the EXIF data from each of the images. With the idea of concealing what camera shot what image. Letting you, the reader, to try to figure out if you could tell what image was shot with what. I did strip the EXIF data from the images because it does not matter what gear I used. But what matters, did I accomplish my three goals?

I cannot stress enough how important it is to know how to use YOUR gear properly. Knowing how YOUR gear sees and captures light as well as its limitations. I also want to stress the important of having an idea of what it is YOUR trying to show YOUR viewers. The next time you’re behind your camera ask yourself, “What is it I am trying to show and why?”

Until next time,


Thoughts about the future

In the coming year ahead, I want to embrace the idea of “It’s about concentration and not validation”. I’m no longer looking for any validation with any of my passions. I’m not saying I know it all, that is far from the case. I feel it is time to continue this creativity adventure of mine and start to focus as well as explore it’s many paths. I want to spread this idea to all my Passions. Photography, model making as well as writing.


With my photography, I’m going to limit my online presence. I want my blog to be my main online outlet. I will email and post blog updates on a few forums I enjoy but that is about it. Not Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter……Blah, Blah, Blah! Those are NOT the way I want to share any of my work. This is MY singular and personal journey. I’m not trying to reach out and share to everyone in the world, just a few other creativity souls that I manage to interact with. I’m sure this idea will upset a few people. But the time I would spend on social media, I would rather spend it doing something creative or nurturing one of my Passions.

Sharing and getting that instant feedback is great. But for now, I’m not looking for it. I really want to dive deep and explore my creativity, scrutinize my inspiration and have what I find show in my work. I feel I can’t do this legitimately if I’m wrapped up in social media. I’m not worried about people not seeing my work. Those who enjoy my work, know how and where to find it as well as how to share it with others. If you like my content and do not know how get updates, just click the “Follow” button.

My reducing online presence is only for my photography. My writing and modelmaking should be unaffected. And actually, my online activity with my passion for modelmaking sure increase. Hopefully in early 2018, I will launch “Far Resin”. My small “What-If” aftermarket resin endeavor. This has been something I have been secretly working on for some time now. From learning different molding and casting methods to building an inventory of what I feel is an original sellable product, it is time to take the next step and see if any of it will in fact sale. I’m currently finishing up the new web page and working on some new exciting products.


And for my writing, I want to continue to write about things I feel is important to Me. And that is where I am running into problems. From the start of this blog, I told myself I was not going to write about what is happening in the world and how it affects me. I am find the frequency of which issues of the world that trouble me is becoming shorter and more disturbing. We live in a truly fucked up world and there are a lot of opinions about it all. Seem like most of them are negative and is just a bunch of regurgitated garbage. And it comes from everywhere, the news, social media, and even from family & friends. I’m frankly sick of it and I don’t want to add to the noise. I feel Rose Tico from Star Wars: The Last Jedi said it best,

“That’s how we’re going to win. Not fighting for what we hate. Saving what we love.”

I want to keep sharing my adventures and my experiences along with maybe inspire one of you to do something different, go one step further or even leave me a comment about your feeling. I want to share with you my favorite comment I has gotten. It is from Jerry Ennis, about My 2017 Season Review.

“You had me at your second sentence. I’ve been feeling the same way and have event passed on some shows because the lineup just looked like a rerun of the year before and the year before that. I enjoyed reading your post and then decided it needed to be studied, not just read. I’ve printed it so I can read, pause, reflect, and (I hope) find some answers of my own. Thanks for priming the pump.” Jerry Ennis

Helping other creative person get those juices going and start to do something with them. That is why I write. I want to keep writing about my passions and to continue to get great comments like Jerry’s. With all my Passions, I still have a lot to learn. I hope 2018 will be a positive learning experience that I get to share with you all.

Happy New Year!


My 2017 Season Review

Before I start my 2017 season review, there are a few things I want to share with you all about pass years. During the last few years, I have been slowly growing tired of seeing and shooting the same group of aircraft and acts along with going to the same aviation events. So, at the end of my 2016 season, I told myself in 2017 I’m going to new shows and events I have not attended and seek out aircraft I had not seen. Along with there were some shows I flat out was not going to attend to stop that cycle.

Over the years of shooting, my view of my photography has changed from going to airshows and other aviation events and thoughtlessly shooting aircraft to trying to capture images that can tell a story as well as speaks to my viewers. Building a collection of images unique to me over the course of my lifetime. In order for me to do so, I have to start seeing and shooting things differently from others. I didn’t want to shoot the same images as everybody else at any event. I wanted my images to more than just snapshots and in 2017 I was going to do something about it.

All throughout 2017, I’ve been trying to capture images that tells a story and or is unique to me. The way I went about this was to get out of comfort zone. I did not do it at every show or event I went to but when I could, I did. Like if I was going to a new show for the first time, doing something to get out of my comfort zone would not be a smart idea. It is already challenging enough shooting in unfamiliar location. But on the second day or other days of an event, then I would challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone. Once out of my comfort zone, I’m forced to see things differently and when I do, the images I produce are far superior to if I played it safe. I’ve found that these images are some of my favorites.

 I have definitely changed the way I approach shooting an airshow from my first show of the season to the last. From what gear I use, seeking out better light, paying attention to what the light is doing, to what I want to show and share on my blog. At the beginning of the season I wanted to get a zoom lenses because I felt I was missing shots. So, at the TICO show I rented Canons 200-400mm F/4 as my primary lenses. But the images I was able to produce with it, had the clarity but not the look that I like. Full frame with little to no negative space around the subject which I got use to while shooting 500mm prime. After TICO, I felt I had to stay true to how I wanted to shoot. That is my 500mm is my primary lenses and a zoom as my secondary.

While at the Planes of Fame show, I noticed the very large number of photographers all shooting the same subject with basically the same gear. Prime time to be different. For the longest time I shied away from shooting people. With Saturdays weather being gray and overcast, I started working on my ground game and founded I enjoyed searching out new images with people.

And there was the frustration of Goshen, but the evening light was well worth it. Shoot the light and not the subject!

From Goshen, I headed off to Oshkosh for my longest aviation event to date. I was told many time from many people, if you love shooting aircraft, you must go to Oshkosh. And I hesitated for years but with what was attending this year’s AirVenture, I had to go. So many great images along with such great memories. What I remember most from Oshkosh is the time I spent with other photographers. As well as the feeling of being surrounded with all things aviation related and being around other aviation nerds!

Photographically shooting at Oshkosh, it’s a target rich environment. I enjoyed just wondering into the sea of aircraft and finding hidden gems. The daily afternoon airshow offers a diverse mix of old and new. Facing east and in the the afternoon, the light is great. The only negative thing of this year AirVenture photographic, was the moving of the show line due to the USN Blue Angels. But seeing Doc and Fifi together in formation was priceless. The USAF bomber formation with the B-1, B-2 and B-52 was pretty cool too.

Selfridge open house was a disappointment flying wise, but the static display was far better. It was there where I started my personal challenge to show a sense of motion with jets. I did manage to capture two but felt I could do better. It was at Selfridge where I started a newest technique. With 3 to 4 images that could stand alone but when placed side by side, you can visualize the whole aircraft. Adding one more way to look at things differently.

At the northern illinois airshow, I continued my challenge of showing a sense of motion with jet. I also went back to some of my roots so to speak at Waukegan, I shot with Canons 400mm F/5.6. Which I shot for years until I purchase my 500mm F/4.5. I love the 400 5.6, I cannot say anything negative about it. Its tack sharp and easy to shoot slow.

The show had a great little line up, two F-86 Sabres, two AD-1 Skyraiders, a MiG-17, a TBM, a T-33, A-4 and a civilian F-5 that tore up the pattern a bit. That show was a real treat for me shooting wise, I got to use up all my “bag of tricks”. I think the Waukegan show was the only show this season I went to that it didn’t rain!

Wings over Houston was my final show of the 2017 season. A solid and strong show to end my season. Mother Nature tried hard to make a mess, but she played nice and the show went on without any hiccups. The atmosphere was amazing all weekend, the clouds and the light together made for a dramatic back drop.

What was most memorable for me during my stay in Houston was the time I spent with friends. Having dinner with Steve-O and his bunch. Running into Wil Ward and catching up with him. And a happen chance of Ken Cheung parking right next to me on Sunday morning. It’s really great hanging out with others that enjoy aviation and photography as much as I do. The sharing and making memories.

So, what to come in 2018? I want to continue to get out of comfort zone and keep trying to see things differently that results in producing images unique to me. I also desire to continue to create images that speak to viewers along with tells a story. To keep growing and nurturing my passion for photography. I feel it is crucial for me to shoot the images I want and not the images anyone can shoot. I’m going to continue to seek out aircraft I have not seen and try to shoot them in great light.

As for shows and aviation events, this winter I want to get my passport so next year I want to travel to Europe. Going to Duxford and Mach loop is on my bucket list. If not 2018, then 2019. I like to return to Florida and go to the TICO show again just due to lighting there. After this years AirVenture, I want to spend time the whole week there next year. I think those two shows will be my only repeat shows from 2017. The rest of the 2018 season, I want to find new shows and events that I have never been to. Nothing is set in stone as of now, just ideas.

Let’s talk about future gear. Planning on getting a Canon 5DSR soon. I rented one for quite a few shows this year and enjoy the higher resolution and creative cropping ability. I love showing off details of things and with 50 megapixels, it really brings out every little detail. I have been toying with the idea with getting a small mirror-less camera to increase my capacities to capture my adventures. I have found a DSLR is too big or too much camera for some situations. I have been using my iPhone more and more as a fill in the gap to help tell the stories of my travels. But it is very limiting in terms of control. Some photographers like the idea that cellphone cameras have no controls and it forces them to use what they know to capture an image. I like that idea, but I want minimum controls. As well as being able to shoot less conspicuously than with a larger DSLR. So, I have been eyeing up Fujifilm X-T20. But I just upgraded my phone to an iPhone 8 plus. Which has a better camera than my older iPhone 6. Before I go out and buy a new camera, I’m going put the new phone through it paces and see how it fairs.

During the winter, I’m going to get a new camera backpack. I have out grown my current backpack. My main complaint about it is it can not hold my laptop. It would make traveling easier if I can put my laptop in my camera backpack, so I do not have to carry an extra bag. And having my laptop with me while I’m out one of my adventures will give me the option to dump/clear my cards and not have to worry about having enough space for next day of shooting. I feel the MindShift Gear BackLight 36L Backpack will suit my needs. Size wise it is larger then my current pack and has dedicated compartments for a 10” tablet and 15” laptop.

I have found that my phone is a powerful tool when it comes to blogging. I can upload and process images in Adobe Lightroom along with write post in Microsoft word. Both apps are synced to my accounts. So, whatever I do on my phone, I can save and continue on my work station and vice versa. Being able to work anywhere with an internet connection will hopefully speed up my postings process. I do love the ability to write anywhere at anytime. I also pick up a Philips digital voice recorder. I feel it will be another helpful tool while I’m traveling. I feel confident I will continue to capture images that tells a story, speakers my views and are unique to me.


Until next post,


Wings Over Houston 2017

Show 7, Post 1: Season Finale!

So, here we are at my final show of the 2017 season. Wings Over Houston. This will be my third time attending and its good end the season with a show that offers a good mix of warbirds and modern aircraft. To continue to get out of my comfort zone, I changed the way I’m going to write this post. I started writing more in the moment and at the end of the day verses waiting until I got home. While the day’s events are still fresh in my head and making it easier and faster to post my adventures. But being busy at work and at home, still delayed this post. I’m still trying to figure out what work well for me when it comes to this. Here goes…


After a long and exhausting week at work, I get to be a photographer again if only for a short time. After work, I raced home, showered, finished packing and it was off to Detroit Metro Airport to catch my flights down to Houston. Afternoon traffic was slow and a bit frustrating. But I took comfort in the fact I get to get out of Michigan and do what I love.

Through the TSA, which is more a pain in the ass than anything else. Sitting at my gate, writing and watching the sunset. The trip just started but still have a long was to go to get to Houston. Got a layover in Dallas/Fort Worth. Never been there and should there for about an hour. Just enough time to find my gate and look for a bite to eat.

I started watching the weather down in Houston on Thursday. As of now, Friday at 6:41pm looks like the rain has stopped and Saturday looks like the better day of the two days of the show. There is chance of rain Sunday morning but just going to play it by ear. Hoping to get some low puffy clouds this weekend so I can shoot slow and add some drama to the background. My attraction to Wings Over Houston(WOH) is for years now I wanted to see a USAF Heritage flight with a P-47 Thunderbolt and an A-10 Thunderbolt II, a Thunderbolt heritage flight. Well this year at WOH, it is scheduled to happen. I am also looking forward to seeing the Colling Foundation F-4D Phantom II, the world’s only privately owned and operated Phantom. It has been down for a few years due to various reasons. It is supposed to take part in the Vietnam reenactment portion of the show along with the Collings F-100F Super Sabra and TA-4J Skyhawk. I again rented the Canon 5DSR as my primary body and the 100-400 MKII for formation work from Len Time to board…


While on the flight to Dallas/Fort Worth, I had some time to unwind and clear my thoughts. There are few things in my life I can’t explain why I love them so much. One of them is listening to music and staring out the window of an airplane. It brings me a level of peace and clarity I rarely find that clears my mind, body and soul. Looking down on our planet and up to the endless sky, how small I feel. Very humbling feeling.

Oh Yeah! while in Dallas/Fort Worth, I saw the B-17 “Sally B” and a third B-29!

Well, after 8 hours at work, 6 and half hours of traveling over 1300 miles on 2 flights, I made it safe, sound and tired to Houston. Time to sleep!!!!



Woke up refreshed after a long Friday. Straight to the window to see what Mother Nature is doing. Blues skies along with a few clouds. With Sunday s weather being questionable, I’ll shoot more in my “safe zone” to ensure getting good captures. And Sunday if the weather gets better, I’ll shoot slower. But the forecast for Sunday morning is thunderstorms and clearing by mid-afternoon.


At the show, I run into one of airshow buddies, Steve Savino. It happens to be front of his favorite type of WWII fighter, the P-47 Thunderbolt. I meet Steve on a flight from San Francisco to Ontario, California on my way to the Planes of Fame airshow back in 2015. We talked and walked about the ramp, shooting as we go. We made plans for the gang to go to dinner after the show. He was shooting from the “Photo pit” and I like to be mobile, so we parted and would meet up later.

The show had it’s “The good, The bad and The ugly”.

The Good

The light! The light! Omg, the light! Yeah, it sucks in the morning but once the sun crosses the runway, it just gets better and better. Let’s not forget about the clouds as well. I love having clouds in the background. The Colling Foundation F-4D along with they’re F-100F in the hot ramp. The Vietnam War Flight Museum MiG-21 and their A-26 that I had never seen before, silver with black accent on the engine nacelles as well as the on the wings. There was one of Jerry Conley de Havilland DH-115 Vampires on the ramp too. There was a pair of F-15 Eagles from the 159th Fighter Wing, the “Bayou Militia”. They came over on Saturday and tore up the pattern before heading home. I also ran into Wil Ward, pilot and MiG owner who I had not seen in years. Was good to see and talk to him. Very cool guy!

The Bad

For Saturdays show, the MiG-21 or the Colling F-100F did not fly in the show for whatever reasons. Along with anything from Texas Flying Legends. Even thou I enjoy them and this only from a photographic point of view, but Tora! Tora! Tora! And their Pyro! HOLY SMOKES! It’s an entertaining act but once the siren goes off and the bombing starts, the show line gets absolutely smoked out from the airshow smoke and from the endless pyro shoots.

The ugly

The $40 ticket price at the gate! And the muddy parking lots. Luckily, they had a Jeep running around pulling cars and truck out of the mud.


After the show, I was making my way through the crowd to the gate. When I saw a brightly polished metal finished P-51 with a flat black tail. “Can it be? Is It?” I asked myself. And as I quickly walked closer and closer to it, I found my answer. It is Texas Flying Legends newly restored P-51C named “Lope’s Hope 3rd. I saw over on the Warbird Information Exchange forum (WIX) that it had made its first flight last week but had no idea that it was here in Houston. AirCorps Aviation did an absolutely amazing job on the restoration. I can’t wait to see more of this Mustang in the years to come.

That night, the plan was to meet up at Twin Peaks for dinner with Steve-O gang. We enjoyed looking at all the eye candy and talked photography as well as airshows. Good times


Woke up to fair skies but Mother Nature had something else in store. What’s the staying, “They do everything bigger in Texas”. Mother Nature decided to live up to that Sunday morning with a line of Thunderstorms!



Gate open at 8am but flying does not start until 11am. So, I figure I stay in the hotel until the storm lightens up and then pack up the rental to head over to Ellington field. Besides, I already got rain qualified a few times this season. As the storm passes, I wait until the down pour turns to light rain and head over to the field. I figure, I’ll be better off sitting in the car at the airport when rain ends then in my hotel room.


On my way to the field I stop off at Jack in the Box for some breakfast. I order some food to go and drive over to the field, park and eat while I wait for the weather to clear up. As I’m eating, a car parks next to me on the driver side and I glance over at the car and the driver look familiar. As the weather clear up the drive next to me get out the car, goes to the trunk and starts to gear up. I open the door to my rental and ask the driver, “Are you Ken Cheung?” He replies Yes, I am. I have not seen Ken since way back in the day of Oceana 05 or 06? Ken was a regular on Fence Check. What are odds of him parking beside me? We talked for a good 25 to 30 minutes until Mother Nature started acting up again. So, we retreated into our rental cars. The gates soon opened, we geared up and went in. I gave him one of my cards and he made his way down to the photo pit.

With the show starting late, as everyone was coming in and finding a place to watch the show from, the Coast Guard demo was up and flying. There were a few patchy showers here and there but off to the north, the sky was blue with small puffy clouds. As the coasties demo lands, I felt a disturbance in the Force. It was a squad from 501st Legion. And you know I had to get a photo was them!


Sunday show had its good points and its low points. Here’s a few of the good points, the passing storm was for some great back drops with the sun was out. The light was sharp and clean along with the low puffy clouds…Awesome. The morning weather add more moisture to the atmosphere. Which means more vapor for Super Hornet. Here’s my images from the Super Hornet high speed pass with vapor cone.

WOH17 Super Hornet high speed pass film strip

Here’s a link to see it full size


As the show when on, the sun and clouds were continuous playing hide and seek. And I found myself shooting subjects with no light on them. While chimping, it was clear that the subjects shot in shadow were going to be junked. Yes, the shadow detail can be popped out in post process, but they don’t even come close the others shot in nature light. There is no substitute for nature light! So, those aircraft that was flying while the sun was hiding, I am not going to show. I’m not a documentary photography when it comes to airshows. Meaning I’m not trying to get images of everything that was there and what flew and it what order. I’m trying to shoot images unique to me that I can add to my collection over a point of a lifetime.

Sometime during the show Ken text me and wanted to know if I wanted to get dinner after the show. We plan to meet back up at our cars after the show and go from there. Show over and back at the cars, we decide to head off to Outback Steak house. There we reminisced about the “Good old days” of now gone Fence Check. How it was the site to visit to see what other aviation photographer were shooting and where. I had a good time with Ken at dinner and hopefully I run into him sometime during the 2018 season.

Wing Over Houston was a great show for my 2017 Season Finale. It was great seeing and talking to some of my old airshow buddies. Despite the weekends wet weather, I’m really happy with my images. The troubled sky made for a dramatic back drop during the show. Of all the images I shot at Wings over Houston, there are three images that stand out and tells the story of the weekend. I love the sense of location along with the low horizons showing off the vivid background. Each has their own different play with light and shadow. In all three images, each one draws your eyes in, so you can explore all the details and light in the screen. With each of them, I saw the image before I shot it. Heck, I shot one with my iPhone! Three more images to add to my portfolio.

My next post will be my “Best of 2017 Show season” post. Showing all my favorite images from the season along with some thoughts looking back as well as some going forward.


Until next post,


Using up my Bag of Tricks

Show 6, post 1: Northern Illinois Airshow

On September 9th, I drove over to Waukegan for the Northern Illinois airshow. The home show for Warbird Heritage foundation. I meet up with my good friend and fellow photographer, Rob Wetterholt. It was a great little show with a nice line up of performers along with a well laid out static display. I set out to try again to capture a sense of motion while shooting jets. The weather forecast called for partly cloudy skies in the morning and clearing skies as the day went on. By the time things started flying, the sky was clear and blue. I was a little disappointed about not getting the opportunity to try to do some cloud blurring but it’s Mother Nature, what are you going to do? For this show, I rented the Canon 5DSR again and my old friend, the 400mm F/5.6L. Canon’s 400mm F/5.6L is a hidden gem of a lenses. I bought the 100-400mm MKI and the 400 5.6 at the same time. After shooting both lenses, I was turned off by the softness of the 100-400 and sold it. I shoot the 400 5.6 for years and absolutely fell in love with its clarity and sharpness. Before I sold it and got my 500mm F/4.5, I got comfortable shooting it slow. Like 1/80th for takeoff/landing and 1/160th for flying and getting good constant results. The 400 5.6 is not a low light lenses and does not has image stabilization. But what it is, an amazing light weight sunny day lenses that is easy to shoot handheld. In ideal shooting condition, it’s a joy to shoot. I had my 500mm for about 2 years now and still growing into it. But after returning to the 400 5.6, I’m strongly considering getting it again. I had no problem with shooting it slow again.

Which leads me into the title of this post, Using up my Bag of Tricks”. After shooting for some time, I have gathered a few techniques that I like to use to help capture images that I see. These are not anything that I myself have come up with but things I use to try to make my images stand out from others. While shooting at the Northern Illinois Airshow, I got the chance to use all my bag of tricks. Which does not happen too often. This post I’m going to share with you my small but slowly growing bag of tricks.

show opening for phone

Shooting slow to get a sense of motion and speed

This is the hardest of my tricks and I’m still trying to master it. It is my favorite way to isolate a subject. With the background blurred out and the subject tack sharp, the result is an image that shows a great sense of speed and motion. Here’s the thing about panning, it is the same if you’re panning an aircraft in flight, a person riding a bike or a race car on the track. Panning is panning, subject does not matter. What does matter is finding a stance and motion that YOU are comfortable with while panning. It is not the same for everybody, what works well for me may not work for you. This may sound dumb but holding your gear properly is a big factor too. While shooting, you HAVE to be stable and smooth while panning. Shooting a telephoto lenses handheld and at a low shutter speed is not easy but with practice, you can master it. Two important things I want to mention. First, whatever lenses you are using, keep your fingers away from the manual focusing ring while shooting. It does not matter if your using auto focus or any other type of focusing, if you turn the manual focusing ring while shooting, it will override any other focusing type resulting in soft and or out of focus images. And second, use a single auto focus point along with continuous tracking and shooting while panning. Do not use all auto focus points along with continuous tracking and shooting while panning. You’re going to confuse the shit out of your camera and will result in soft and out of focus images.

With the 400 5.6, I shot takeoffs/landings from 1/80th to 1/100th. Shoot flying subject slow depended on the background to show a sense of motion. During the show, the sky was clear blue and was no reason to shoot slow. But one the Hoppers, flying L-39s did do a very low flat pass that on the bottom of the frame has some blurred tree tops. It is not the sharpest image but you get the idea.


I went down to 1/30th (5DSR/400 5.6) on the Skyraider “Bad News” to get a full ark of the propeller as it taxies back to the hot ramp.



Shooting Low

Or I like to call it, “Doing the Alligator”. Laying on the ground with the camera at ground level, shooting up at your subject. The main problem I have with doing this technique is have a clean and unclutter background. Which at most airshows and aviation events is hard to come by. I have seen this type of shot done with wide angle lenses but I like using something with a bit more reach. Along with, I like to drop the horizon as low as I can and show very little of the ground. Giving the subject a proud stance and a strong presence in the frame. It’s fun to do on a grass field too, shooting through the weeds. You can also use this technique to shoot under airshow fences like this shot from Plames of Fame. Just be careful and mindful of your surroundings. People can and will walk on top of you and your gear.


Shooting High

Getting up and shooting down on your subjects is something I would like to do more often. There are many ways to do so. Many shows and events have portable stairs alongside aircraft so you can take a peek inside the cockpit, it’s a great location to shoot surrounding aircraft from up high. Another way to photograph aircraft from a higher location is to use a monopod, live view mode and self-timer. I add this technique to my bag of tricks last year at the Planes of Fame show. With my Canon 70D and 70-200mm, I extended all the sections on my monopod, switch to live viewing so I can see what the camera is looking at on the view screen, angled the tile screen down so when I raise the monopod up I can see what I’m trying to shoot. With the camera auto focus drive switched to self-timer 10 secs and in aperture priority @ F/4 to have a high enough shutter speed to not worry about camera shake when the camera is up in the air. Depress the shutter button to start the timer, holding the bottom of the monopod, quickly raise the camera up where I want to shoot. Looking up at the view screen tiled down, compose the shot, hold everything steady and wait for the timer to end. Lower the camera and check the results. It takes some time getting used to but well worth the effort.

Tiling the frame

This is by far the simplest trick in my bag and probably the most controversial. I have found that other either love it or hate it. I love it. I feel it adds visual interest to the subject and maybe some attitude as well. You can also combine this technique with others for even more visual interest.

Trick no# 4?

My newest trick I added to my bag I really don’t know what to call it. It’s showing an aircraft in a series of images. Each image can stand alone but place side by side, you can visualize the whole aircraft. I unconsciously started doing it at the Selfridge show. Just another way for me look at things differently and to see new images. This is something I’m going play with, nurture and make more my own.

Along with the elements of design and my mind’s eye, I feel confident I can capture images unique to me.

To view larger images, click on thumbnails


Until next post,