The Lessons behind an Image: Part One

 For the past 14 years, I have had a love affair with photography. Like with anything we love doing, we run into problems as we learn more and progress. And the more problems we face, work through and learn from, the better our work will be. I’m a huge fan of “Try, Fail, Learn, Repeat” Cycle. I try to apply that cycle to all my Passions. I have learned some difficult lessons in photography and I want to share some of them with you. Normally this series is about the story of an image. But today I’m going to switch it up and call this one “The Lessons behind an Image.” Sharing something valuable I learn from one of my images.

Part Five: Lessons learned

 2004 was the start of my love affair with photography. Earlier in that year I got my first DSLR camera, Canons Digital Rebel. With a whopping 6.3 megapixels, 7 Auto focus points and that cheap silver plastic body, it was one of the first DSLR you could buy for under $1000. I loved mine and took it everywhere. And that June, it came with me to the Grosse Ile Air Extravaganza for my second airshow with a DSLR camera. Of the couple of hundred images I shot that day, here’s a series of eight I want to share with you. It’s of this P-51 Mustang, 44-74446 N1451D “Checkertail Clan“. Unfortunately, some 10 years later it crashed. Killing both the new owner/pilot and the instructor on the Fourth of July 2014 shortly after take-off.

film roll of mustang

Of the eight images, only one stands out for me. As soon as I saw the Mustang, I knew there was an image there I want to capture. At the time, I was very new to photography. I really didn’t know what I was doing.(As if I do now) HaHa! But I knew there was an image somewhere of this beautifully polished P-51 with a bunch of crap around it. I remember feeling the struggle and lack of confidence of trying to capture the image I saw with the camera. I had two problems. First, what do I see that is so interesting? Where does it start and stop? And second, how do I hide all the stuff around the aircraft? You can see in the second image in the roll above, there is at least 7 cars, a C-130, a row of porta johns in between the canopy and the vertical stabilizer, some tents over the right wing and what the heck are those folks looking at over the left wing!

 To overcome my first problem of what do I see that is so interesting? Where does it start and stop? Here is where the beauty of digital photography comes into play. With a large enough media card, you have the opportunity to shoot far more than if you were to shooting film. Since I began making images, I have always believed to have more than enough memory cards. I never wanted to get into a situation where I run out room on memory card(s) while out shooting. Two things I remember a lot of photographers telling me when I first start my photographic journey. One, invest in glass and two, get the largest card you can afford. Cards are cheaper than glass. I have always invested in large as well as fast cards. It gives me the freedom to shoot all day and never have to worry about how many shots I have left.

So, I shot like a machine gun so to speak. I shot with confidence knowing that even at the end of the day, I was not going to run of space and I could explore my subject and capture what I saw that interest me. This runs into my second issue; how do I hide all the stuff around the aircraft? How I did was the easy part. I just positioned myself in a way that the aircraft itself cover up the unwanted clutter. But what I feel is more important is the why. And it is a lesson I have come to learn over the years, but I can still trace it back to this image.

 Knowing where the edges of your image lay. To Isolate your subject along with hiding unwanted and unnecessary clutter. Looking back on the image, I know when I took the shot, I didn’t know where the edges of that image was. But you can see me searching for them in the series of images. Close, getting closer, spot on, going away and then revisiting it. I truly didn’t know until after the show, while I was home looking through my images on my PC and saw the photo of the image in my head.

I feel knowing where your image lays is an important part of knowing what it is you are trying to show. One thing through the years that has help me define the edges of images has nothing to do with aviation. It was when I lived downtown in Detroit and I would frequent the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory on Belle isle. I came up with a system that taught me to start down and to see what it is I was looking at. Once in the conservatory, I would walk through all the rooms, gear still in camera bag, looking for things to shoot and keeping mental notes of things of interest. Making my way back to the the entrance where I began, with a few ideas for images, I select what lenses I feel I needed and retraced my steps. When I come to something I wanted to shoot, I stopped, focused in on what is catching my eye. Once I have an idea of what it is, I set up my tripod, compose my shot, shoot and review. If it is not to my liking, I’ll recomposes and shoot again until I’m happy with my shot. I would repeat this for all my points of interest in the conservatory. Over the years, this has help me define the edges of I was looking at as well as help me understand how the camera sees things.

 I ‘m not saying you must always get closer to your subject. There are times when you want to show a sense of space. And even then, you still should know where the edges of your images are. Too much, you can lose your subject all together and not enough, your subject seems crammed in the frame. It comes down to knowing what it is you are trying to show your viewers. Looking back, I wanted a tight shot showing the highly polished surface, its colorful markings and not losing the iconic shape of the P-51. 

FAR_90

 From this one images, I learned two things. One, to keep shooting your subject until you feel you have captured the image that you see in your minds eye. And Two, know where the edges of your image are and why it is important. It took me many years and thousands of images, before I truly grasp how important these two lessons were to me and My Photography.  

EXIF data

Date: June 18, 2004 8:14 am

Model: Canon Digital Rebel

Focal length: 65mm

ISO speed: 100

Exposure time: 1/320th

F stop: F/9

Shot handheld

If you like what you see and read here, click the “Like” button! Along with feel free to leave a reply below or start to follow my blog.

Until next post,

Steven

The One and Only

Wings over Houston 2018

Here I am Monday morning sitting downstairs in the hotel having some coffee still energized from how amazing yesterday’s show was. Wings over Houston 2018, the one and only show I attended this year. True be told, as of last week I was more excited about getting out of Michigan and hanging out with my friend Rob Wetterholt then the show itself. I’ve always enjoyed his level of excitement about aviation as well as photography. This would be his first time going to the Houston show and I doubt it will be his last. As for my blog, I had no agenda of any kind for the show. My only plan was to go and have fun. Last week, I was thinking that I would have very little to nothing to write about along with sharing my images from the show. Normally don’t like the idea of writing a play by play post about an airshow. But because of the access we got, and it was a pretty awesome adventure, it’s worth sharing. I know we all have an airshow or some type of aviation event we would love to re-shoot or redo if we had the chance. From the countless shows and events, I’ve been to, hands down Sunday at Wings over Houston 2018 is that show. Holy Shit! It was amazing!

It all started Saturday, the weather was crappy with overcast sky and a very low ceiling. I was amazed that the Blues flew in that soup. Sunday’s weather looked more promising. Like I said earlier, I had no plans other than hanging out with Rob, having fun and maybe take some pictures. Well Rob knows a guy in the Coast Guard, Charlie “The Mayor” Wilson. He in turns knows Chris Ebdon, photographer, aircrew as well as the admin for social media for the Collings Foundation at Ellington field. Rob and Chris had been texting back and forth during show. We finally got to meet face to face after the show. During our convention, he informed us that there was supposed to be a photo flight with the Collings Foundation F-4 and F-100 after the show but the weather pooped out. But it was rescheduled for Sunday morning. We continued to chat it up for a while and then Chris offered us if we wanted to see the Collings Foundation other aircraft in their hangers? Yeah! Who doesn’t want to see that? So, we piled onto Chris’s golf cart and we were off to the Collings hangers! Once there Chris opened their hanger and…. There was their Huey and TA-4J crammed into the hanger. Chris was very knowledgeable and offered us an informative look at the Collings Foundations operations. We also got to climb around their Me-262. Such a wonderful collection of warbirds.

Before we left, Chris informed Rob and I about the morning Photo flight with the foundations F-4 and F-100. Turns out Professional aviation photographer Scott Slocum was heading out over the gulf in an L-39 to photograph them both. Chris offered to take us in the morning to the ramp, so we could shoot them start up and takeoff. We were all aboard! How often do you get a chance to see and shoot a real live F-4 and F-100 taking off in the morning light? Yeah, and it gets better!

So, the plan was to get up at the crack of dawn and head over to the Collings hanger to meet Chris and head over to the hot ramp. We had an issue at the gate that could have shut us down our little adventure. But Rob called Chris, he meets us at the gate and quickly cleared up the issue. We quickly packed up our gear, piled onto Chris’s golf cart and raced over to the hot ramp. Wings over Houston does have a morning photo tour for photographers, but they were restricted access while the aircraft were started. But with Chris being part of the Collings aircrew, we got to stay close and keep shooting.

 

During the startup, Chris contact airport operations to see if someone could take us out to the runway so we could shoot both the F-4 and the F-100 taking off. He got a hold of his contact and soon after, here comes a Ford Expedition with Ellington field operations on the side of it. Yeah, This is going to happen!!! At this time the F-4 was started up and was making its way to the runway. We jumped in the OP’s Expedition and we got dropped off yards away from the western side of the runway. It would had been better if we could had been on the eastern side of the runway with the sun behind us. But I’m grateful for just getting the chance to be out by the runway. 7D MK II along with 500mm F/4.5 in hand, I’m ready for this! In the distance you can hear the two J-79’s roar to life. Here we are in the morning light, next to the active runway where the Collings Foundation F-4 is barreling at us! Excited is an understatement!

The One and Only_291

Personal disclaimer: Wings over Houston was the first show I had shot in about a year. So, my shooting skills were a bit rusty. The image I wanted from this is the burner shots after the aircraft passes us. I got this… sort of. It’s cropped but it works. But more importantly, I’m happy with it. It’s never the one you want but it’s the one I got.

The One and Only_325

After both aircraft took off, I turned to Chris and said “You know I’m buying you dinner! Does not matter where! Whatever you want!” We were hoping to stay put until the both aircraft returned. We knew both aircraft were going to do a few touch and go’s before landing. But soon after all the aircraft involved in the photo flight were airborne, airport operations came and grabbed us up. We thank them for the great opportunity then jumped on Chris’s cart to head for the other end of the runway to catch them land. Chris spotted out a location on flight line in front of the crowd line to shoot them touchdown. The F-4 came back first, did two touch and go’s before landing using its break parachute. Shortly after the F-100 did the same but with the pop of the burner as the power was added for the touch and go!

Again, Rob and I jumped onto Chris’s cart and headed over to the Coast Guard hanger to see if we could shoot them pre-flight and start up before their demo. Rob and Chris both know Charlie Wilson and he is well known at the base in Houston. The Coasties were very welcoming to the idea! As we are there hanging out in front of the hanger waiting for start of their demo, the alarm sounds! The crew must gear up and go to work! The demo bird on the tarmac is now going on a mission and we are going to shoot them gear up and go to work!

The back up bird was pulled from the hanger and placed on the hot ramp. Chris’s plan was to shoot the pre-flight, start up and then head out across the runway where the Demo was to place and shoot with the sun at our backs.  As a seasoned veteran of the show, Chris know actually where the Coast Guard was going to do their demo. We parked, and Rob ask Chris “Is this where we are going to shoot from?” No sooner than that, we look up and there is Debby Rihn-Harvey in her Cap 232 known as the Hurricane 2, nose down and pulls up feet over our head. Chris’s reply was priceless, “Is this good enough for you Rob?”  Right in the middle of the airshow box!

Soon after Phillips 66 Aerostars landed, the Coasties Dolphin was inbound to start their search and rescue demo. First pass was their high-speed pass down the show line. Follow by gear down transition to a hover to lower the rescue swimmer, pretty much right in front of us. Being that close, was very exhilarating. Such an awesome sight and sound! I’m thinking, how much cooler can this get?

Well, during the show Saturday, retired Lt. Col. Jerry “Jive” Kerby flew in a freshly painted A-4 Skyhawks from Draken International and was scheduled to leave during the show Sunday. He was heading out west to do some aggressor work. Shortly after the Coast Guard search and rescue demo was over, Jive taxi Draken lovely scooter to the active runway, gets clearance for takeoff, power comes on and the little A-4 leaps off the runway effortlessly on a downwind takeoff! The gear starts its slow trip to their wheel bays and all the time racing towards us! Yet another amazing opportunity!

Tora! Tora! Tora!!! Has always been one of those acts I felt I never captured well until now. Shooting them from inside the airshow box at tree top level with pyro going off on either side of us was sensory overload! Our location gave us a unique perspective of their act, the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Orbit after orbit, I swear they were aiming right for us!

I normally don’t shoot video, but here’s a short video of the action from our location!

After that intense round of shooting, the World War II bombers and fighters made their way to the runway. With a close and unobstructed view their take off roll, I dropped my shutter speed to show a sense of speed and the power of takeoff. Once airborne, we had a great opportunity to caught them flying in front of the dark clouds of smoke from the pyro going off. With the lightning and our location, it made for some visually stunning image capturing.

After all that action on the field, we headed to the crowd line before the Viper demo started. That is where we ran into the pretty eyed Zoe “SIS” Kotnik, next year’s Viper demo pilot and the first female to do so. “You Go Girl!” After the Viper demo, we again hopped on Chris’s cart and wondered about for some food. Our pace slowed down a bit until the Blues started up and we headed back to the show line where we shot the Viper demo.

Having seen the Blues a ton of times, the only shot I wanted to capture was the sneak pass down the show line. From our vantage point, we had a great line of site as his sneaky approaches. Saturday was soggy with tons of humidity, and Sunday was fair skies but dry. The day with no vapor, that’s the day I’m going to nail the sneak pass. Go figure?!

The One and Only_4202

Before the Blues finish up and landed, we head over to the hot ramp to see what maybe leaving after the show. Traffic leaving the show is going to suck, so why not hang out with the Collings Foundation aircrew on the hot ramp. As the sun start to set, we find a spot up on show line to shoot from. With the show day winding down, Blue Angels 1-6 along with two number 7’s starts up and taxi out to the runway to head back home to NAS Pensacola. The Blues departure in some very nice crisp afternoon light. Soon after, we hear the turboprops of Fat Albert come to life. With the Stars and Stripes flying from the top of the cockpit, Fat Albert taxi by us on the way it’s way to the runway.

Now the sun sets and the light is fading fast, we hop on Chris’s cart one last time to head over to the Collings hangers. As we weave our way through statics, we hear the sound of a helicopter running about to take off. As we get closer, we realize it’s the National United States Armed Forces Museum beautiful CH-46! Chris makes a formula one pit stop and we dismount off the cart, frantically bust out the gear one more time and started shooting. What a nice final opportunity with the moon in the background. We finished the long but incredibly awesome day at Pappasito’s Cantina for dinner.

I have to give a huge THANK YOU to all the Houston members of the Collings Foundation, Ellington field airport operations, along with all the volunteers, staff, pilots as well as the performers who makes Wing over Houston possible along with all their welcoming and kind hospitality. I can’t thank Chris Ebdon enough for letting us shadow him during the show, You’re Awesome!

If you like what you see and read here, click the “Like” button! Along with feel free to leave a reply below or start to follow my blog.

 

Until next post,

Steven

Inspiration

This is the second 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. Check here to read part one of “Exploring My Creativity”.

The second part of my creativity is my Inspiration. If Passion is my fire, then Inspiration is my fuel. Without it, the fire does not burn bright or fierce. It keeps my creativity going. And like any fuel, the quality of it is what’s important. You don’t want to fill up a Ferrari 812 Superfast with 87 octane. You want 93 or better! I’m not looking for material that is “kind of cool”. I want amazing, beautiful, captivating and most of all it must inspire me to keep being creative. Things that get my gears turning and or gets me to think about something differently.

My Inspiration has is a routine. Like my Passions, it must be nurtured along with be well maintained. My routine to find inspiring material is search, review, weed out, search more. It comes for various and sometimes odd places. So, everyday I take time to search and look for new inspiring material. Doesn’t matter how I feel. If I’m upset, frustrated or just tired. Most times it helps me get out of whatever funk I’m in and loosen up my gears of creativity. It doesn’t mean I find new material everyday. But went I do find something, I save it to my PC and on One Drive (Microsoft cloud storage) so I always have access to it from my phone. I have a folder for each of my Passions, model making, photography, artwork (for illustrations) and writing. These are my digital inspirational boards or Vision walls.

What I find inspiring in the past, may not speak to me the same today. Because of that, I must maintain my inspirational material. About once every few months, I’ll go through my  folders and remove any material that no longer inspires me. Two or three images at the most. What inspires me is different for each of my Passions. For example, things that inspire me about photography does not inspire me with model making along with things that inspire me about writing and blogging does not inspire me to do illustrations.

I want to go through a few of my Passions sources of Inspiration. Let’s begin with photography. I search Flickr for generally all-around photographic subjects. I’m not saying the best images are there, just that there is something different every day. Everything from landscapes, wildlife, floral to portraits. Both black & white and color. As I look through those images, it reminds me of when I first started my adventure into photography, shooting anything and everything. It helps me keeps that mindset of discovery and playfulness fresh in my mind.

Some days it is painful, browsing through countless images. And other days, it can be refreshing and re-energizing. It’s those days I can get lost into the “rabbit hole” in the search for material. One thing I find wonderful about Flickr, is went you find someone who has a ton great image. It’s that discovery and seeing the work from of other creative souls, I find that incredibly inspiring. One thing I must be conscious of is to just seek out what I find inspiring and not critique and judge other’s images. No good will come from me looking down on ANY one’s images. We all must understand that everyone learns at different speeds. And not everyone will like YOUR images. 

photography image

On to Aviation photography, back in the day we had Fence Check. Which at it peak was nothing short of amazing. But now it is long gone. And there has not been an equal in aviation photography forums to fill that void. I tried Instagram for a while and did not like it. I felt it was more a popular contest then anything else. Along with the limited image size, which I did not care for. There are a few aviation threads on various photography forums. But I find these threads move fast, and images get buried in the thread due to the speed of the forum. Yes, these threads are a great source for inspirational material, but they are not consistent. I have found that Airliners.net proves a good mix of aviation subjects consistently. Yes, there are ton of documentary photographers that shoot nothing but airliners and are set in their ways. Not everyone who post images there share that mindset. It is those who think outside of that box are the photographers I’m interested in seeing their work. Photographers who understand and use the elements of design in his or her images. Over the years, surprising I have managed to find a fair number of inspiring images there. There is also AirFighter.com but there is more to aviation photography then just war machines.

 Into my love of model making. I been building models since I was seven. 35 years later, I still love playing with plastic. One source of inspiration for me to building anything, comes down to a single question, “What if…” I’ve built models for competition in the past and all the research and kit correcting is no longer enjoyable. So, I started to build the things I wanted to make. That’s where my favorite question comes into play. What if Israel had A-10 Thunderbolt II? What would they look like? How would they modify them?  What I find inspiring in model making, is the imagination of the idea along with the craftsmanship of the model. This doesn’t mean that every model I find inspiring is a “What-if” builds. It could be the way a model is weathered, a paint scheme or the level of detail in a scale. Even difficult paint jobs have always been a source of inspiration. Like natural metal finish, splinter pattern or a digital camouflage.

Model making image

My current builds. From the top down, 2 seat Su-33, a Forward-swept wing Su-33 and a Carrier based Su-34. All 1/48 scale

Craftsmanship is huge for me. Doesn’t matter if it’s a “What-if” or a “Real world” build, a well-built model is always motivating. Some of the best model I’ve seen are ones that when you look at them, you can’t figure out what scale they are. I have seen 1/72 scale model with so much detail, you would think it is 1/48 or larger. Something else I love, is when someone takes a substandard kit and turns it into a thing of beauty. Like Cyrus Tan 1/48 Monogram F-14D Tomcat. If you have ever put together this kit, you know just how much work he put into his build. Also, I find inspiring is when someone kit bash or modify something that looks believable or turn it into something even more interesting like this, 1/18 Spitfire Mk. XIVe – Race #80 built by Peter aka “Airscale” over on Large Scale Plane forum. He started with HpH 1/18 Seafire FR47 which has fiberglass fuselage and resin detail bits. Then he converted it into a Spitfire Mk. XIVe and skinned with it in aluminum litho plate! The amount of time and work along with research that going into a project like this is absolutely astonishing. His work in progress thread is over 160 pages! But if you are like me and love model making, it is worth spending some time going through it.

He does truly mind-blowing and inspiring work. Which pushes me to try to do more with my models. To experiment with new techniques and materials. It sounds so cliche but thinking outside the box. To be outside of my comfort zone. With all of Passions, if I’m just doing that same thing, using my same techniques, I’m not growing.

Blogging, my newest Passion. 2018 is my second year of sharing with you all some of my thoughts. I posted more last year then this year. I’m still learning each time I post and I’m not sure what direction it is headed in. Yeah, I struggle with grammar and spelling. But I’m not going to let that stop me. I can’t, I enjoy sharing too much. So, what inspires me to write? My personal drive to be heard and to share my experiences that taught me something valuable. I have always liked the idea of passing on knowledge I have learn from other or from my own experiences. I’m still sorting out what it is going to be. Just like my photography, I’m looking for unique and personal experiences to share.

Blog image

I wanted to share my inspirational folders with you all, but I don’t feel it is right to share others images and work with out their permission. But my goal is to have my work fit into my inspiration folders. Not trying to match or copy someone else work but to have my work look as if it belongs in my inspiration folders, having the same flavor and feeling. To sum it up, I’m inspired by Photographers whose images can tell a story, Model makers not kit builders along with great Storytellers. What inspires you? Feel free to share in the comments below. If you like what you see and read here, click the “Like” button or start to follow my blog.

 

Until next time,

Steven

 

 

A Beginners Guide to Aviation Photography: Part two

Types of Aerial events and locations

Troll disclaimer. This is not the only way to photography aircraft and aviation events. This is information that I have learned and what works well for me. My tips and tricks may not work well for you. My goal is to share what I have learned with others.

Knowledge without application is meaningless. –Thomas Edison

Hopefully you have read part one of this series and have some idea of what you want to shoot and maybe started to form your own opinion of Aviation photography. If not, go and hit up this, Part one: Some thoughts on Aviation Photography.  This series is for those photographers whose passion for aviation is just as strong as his or her love for photography. Creating unique and lasting images of aviation subjects that are more than just snap shots. If that is not what you are looking to do, then click away.

If you are still with me, Part two is to help shed some light on what types aviation events and locations there are to choose from. I’m going to try and do my best with a breakdown of the types of show and events. Here’s what I came up with the following: Airshows, Fly-ins, Air races, Spotting, Aviation museums, Bone yards and Base visit/Exercises. Note I did not include air-to-air photography. Most likely someone beginning in Aviation photography will not get a chance to do air-to air. Nor am I saying that these are the only events and locations to photography aircraft, just a good base to start with.

Just a heads up, this is going to be a lengthy post because of amount of information. I recommend you click on, read the various links within this post along with doing some research on your own. There is more information out there than what is here. And again, this is not set in stone, the events and locations that I list are not the only places to see and shoot aviation subjects. My hope is that this can help you find locations where you can capture your images.

Airshows

 The most common and frequent events are Airshows. Airshows are held in various locations. On military bases, at beaches and at local airports. Not all airshows are the same. I like to break them down to Traditional, Military open houses, Warbirds, Beach, Helicopter and larger International Airshows. Each has something different to offer. Let’s start with the traditional airshow.

 The traditional airshow will be most common event to attend. It’s the run of the mill show with a mix bag of civilian performers and military demos. These shows are great for those who are just “getting their feet wet” so to speak. With many different opportunities to help you figure out what you enjoy shooting.

Here’s a few good starter airshows

Cleveland National Airshow                          Burke Lakefront Airport                                 Labor Day weekend

Wings over Houston                                        Ellington Airport                                                Late October

Vectren Dayton Air Show                              Dayton International Airport                        Late June

London Airshow                                                London International Airport                       Early September

 

Military Open house shows like NAS Oceana in VA Beach, VA and Nellis AFB Aviation Nation in Las Vega, NV, are superb opportunities to see many types of military hardware. Open house show is very common in the US and Canada. Most of the larger Air Force, Navy as well as Marine airbases has some type of Open house event.  Some are annually, and others are bi-annually. In the US, they are free to the public. It’s a good chance to see other units and squadrons other than the demo teams take to the skies. Open house show has a higher number of military demos than civilian performer and most likely have a jet team like the USAF Thunderbirds, USN Blue Angels or RCAF Snowbirds as the headliner.

Here’s a few well liked Open house shows

MCAS Yuma Air Show                                     MCAS Yuma, AZ                 March

Andrews Air Show & Open House              Andrews AFB, MD,              Sept

NAS Oceana Airshow                                      NAS Oceana, VA                  Sept

MCAS Miramar Air Show                               MCAS Miramar, CA            Sept

NAS JAX Air Show                                             NAS Jacksonville, FL         Nov

Nellis AFB Aviation Nation                             Nellis AFB, NV                     Nov

Blue Angels Homecoming Air Show           NAS Pensacola, FL               Nov

 

Warbirds shows like Planes of Fame out at Chino, CA and WWII Weekend at Reading, PA focus on WWII aircraft of all types, from the P-51 Mustang to the B-17 Flying Fortress. You are likely to see reenacted, warbird aerobatics, along with some formation flying. Most are organized and or hosted by museums like the Military Aviation Museum in VA, Beach, VA and Warbird Heritage Foundation in Waukegan, IL. Military Demo sometime perform at a warbird shows but not all the time.

Here’s a few of the more popular Warbird shows

Planes of Fames                                               Chino, CA                                          May      

Mid-Atlantic World War II Weekend           Reading, PA                                      June

Duxford Flying Legends                                 Duxford, UK                                     July

Shuttleworth Military Pageant                     Bedfordshire, UK                             July

Thunder Over Michigan                                 Ypsilanti, MI                                     Aug or Sept

 

Beach Airshow are just like traditional airshows, but the flying and performing it’s at a beach and not at an airport. Beach shows has its pluses and minuses. Let start with the good, a very good possibility for vapor. Water evaporating for a body of water into the air equals humidity. Also, your background most likely will be uncluttered. The horizon and sky make for a simple and clean background along with shows a sense of location. Shows at the beach are great show to bring the family along. The sand, the surf and the sun is a great entertainer for those who are bored with the flying and the noise.

For me, the biggest negative of a beach show is the location of the airshow box. The air space where aircraft are permitted to perform during a show or aerial event is called the airshow box. The show line, a visual reference line to aid pilots with orientation during the performance, runs down the center of the airshow box. 1,500 ft from the show line is the crowd line/spectator area. At most aerial events, one of the active runways is the show line. Most likely the show line at a beach show will be marked with a ship of some sort, large and very noticeable. 9 times out of 10, the water 1,500 ft from the shore is not deep enough for a ship. Remember, it must big enough for pilots to easily spot. With the show line so far from shore, more focal length is needed to obtain a larger view of your subjects.  To get closer, one could shoot from a pier or even a boat anchored close to the airshow box.

Here’s a few major beach shows around the US.

Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach           Jones Beach State Park, Wantagh, NY                 May

Miami Beach Air & Sea Show                     South Beach, Miami Beach, FL                               May

Milwaukee Air & Water Show                    Bradford Beach, Lakefront, Milwaukee, WI      July

Chicago Air & Water Show                          Lake Michigan Lakefront, Chicago, IL                 Aug

 

Helicopter shows are not as numerous as the other types. But helicopters are powerful and diverse aircraft that are very photo friendly. Helicopters present the same shooting challenge as shooting a prop aircraft. Shooting slow enough to blur the main rotor and still maintain a sharp image of the subject. There is a wide range of different types that could attend. From air ambulance, aerial cranes, firefighting, law enforcement, media/news, search & rescue, military to personal craft. I searched the web for countless hours and only came up with three heli shows and one of them is in hiatus. And have no idea if Rotors and Ribs will ever be repeated. If you get a chance to go to a helicopter only show, defiantly go and photo it up.

American Heroes Air Show          Lakeview Terrace, CA                     November

RotorFest                                        West Chester, PA                                 hiatus due to budgetary constraints

Rotors & Ribs                                  Goshen, ID                                             ???

 

International airshows are where you’re going see a bunch of new toys from many different countries from around the world. These are larger multi day shows that show typically attracts over 150,000 spectators over a weekend. Some of these shows cater photographers with early morning photo tours, arrive and departure day as well as photo pits. These features are not free so be prepared to spend some coin.

Royal International Air Tattoo                  RAF Fairford, England                July

MAKS                                                              hukovsky Airport                        Biennial

Avalon Airshow                                            Avalon Airport                             March

Abbotsford International Airshow           Abbotsford, Canada                    August

Aero India                                                      Bengaluru, India                         February (Biennial)

 

To find shows near you, check out this site http://www.milavia.net/airshows/

 

You can search airshows by location, US and Canada, Europe and rest of the World. Has links to shows websites and lists aircraft that are scheduled to attend. One feature I really like is the Google Map link of the airport, so you can get an idea of the runway orientation along with where the tarmac is. Knowing where the tarmac is will you good indicator of how and where the show will be laid out. It’s not a sure thing but what also helps is an airshow map. On some (not all) airshow websites, organizers will have a map showing the layout of the show. Where the active runway, crowd line, static display, tents, bleacher etc… From this you can start to think about possible shooting locations, for takeoff and landing along with during flying. Also start to think about the path of the sun during the day. On Earth (I know some of you are from another planet LOL), the sun rises in the east and set west. What direction is the crowd line facing and how does it relate to the path of the sun? Are you facing the sun or is it at your back? Will the sun cross over the runway? Is their better light in the morning or in the afternoon? These are some of the questions you need to think about whatever airshow or aviation event that you are planning to attend.

 

Fly-ins

 A fly-in is a pre-arranged gathering of aircraft, pilots and passengers for recreational and social purposes, define by Wikipedia. Offer a up close and personal view of owners and their aircraft. Yes, I have Oshkosh under fly-in’s, it technically is. The fly-in’s that I have attended were laid back and casual. In the morning aircraft start showing up and parking. Pilots, family and friends welcome one another. There may be a late breakfast or lunch. Some might have seminars or not. Not all fly-ins are the same. But don’t expect any aerobatic, demos and or photo passes. It is not that kind of event. It’s local pilots meeting up, hanging out and talking shop. And at the end of the day, everybody says their good byes, do their pre-flight checks, take off and head back home. The Larger fly-in like Fun & Sun and Oshkosh does have daily airshow. Like airshows, fly-ins are always one going on. Fairly easy to find, you can google “fly-ins (your city or state)”. You’ll be surprised how many will pop up. I came across that site that I like, http://www.flyins.com/Has an easy to use search function.  Can search by airport code, zip code, state and time frame. There is a calendar as well.

Sun ‘n Fun                                        Lakeland, Florida                            Spring

EAA AirVenture Oshkosh               Oshkosh, Wisconsin                      July

 

 Spotting

I know there are some photographers look down on spotter and spotting. I’m not one of them. Shot what YOU love! If your new to aviation photography, spotting offer a great opportunity for you to try new techniques as well as it’s great to try out new gear in a predicable environment. My definition of spotting is simple, hanging out at an airport of some sort and photographing what’s going on. If it’s taking off, landing or flying by a known area. It’s not just airliners taking off and landing. You can spot around military bases, locate municipal airports, heliports and known low level training routes use by various nations. But there are a few things you need to be aware of. Especially around any military bases. There are a bunch of unwritten rules on spotting. There are a bunch of good site out there with a shit ton valuable info to help you spot safely and hassle free. I cannot stress enough how important it is for you to research the location as well as the “Do’s” and “Don’ts” of spotting.

Good source of spotting info

http://openspotting.net/

Plane Spotting Etiquette

https://www.thebalance.com/plane-spotting-etiquette-do-s-and-don-ts-for-beginners-282641

As well as know you rights as a photographer

https://www.aclu.org/know-your-rights/photographers-what-do-if-you-are-stopped-or-detained-taking-photographs?redirect=free-speech/know-your-rights-photographers

Do your own research as well, the more you know, the better off you will be. Google is your smart friend, use it! Along with your cell phone. It is a powerful little tool that can help you while spotting or any other type of aviation events. There are a few helpful apps you can use while out shooting. One would by some type of weather radar app, so you see if any bad weather is move your way. I like and use NOAA Weather Radar – Weather Forecast & HD Radar by Apalon Apps. The app is free and has a paid Pro version with no ads. The ads on the free versions are just banners at the bottom of the app.

iTunes store

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/noaa-weather-radar-weather-forecast-hd-radar/id749133753?mt=8

And over on Google play

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.apalon.weatherradar.free&hl=en

Other types of apps that is useful while spotting airliners is a flight tracker app and an app to listen to Air Traffic Control.  For flight tracking, the apps that comes to mind is FlightAware and Flightradar24. Both track flight in real time, over 10,000 aircraft. Bunch of cool and useful features. Below are links to each.

FlightAware app

http://flightaware.com/mobile/

Flightradar24

https://www.flightradar24.com

Listening to air traffic control(ATC) is a very useful while spotting aircraft. You can find out what runways are being use for arrives and which are used for departures. There is an app, but it is not free. You can also use a scanner to listen to ATC.

https://www.liveatc.net/

Here are a few well know spotting locations

Nellis AFB Red Flag                                    Las Vega, NV                           http://www.nellis.af.mil/Home/Flying-Operations/
Mach Loop                                                    Wales, UK                               https://machloop.co.uk/
Rainbow Canyon                                        Death Valley, CA                     http://www.rkellenaers-photography.nl/RainbowCanyon
St Maarten Princess Juliana (SXM)      Saint Barthélemy                    Look Here!!!

More spotting location here, http://www.spotterguide.net/

 

Aviation Museums

I feel there are two types of Aviation museums, non-flying types like the National Museum of US Air Force and the flying type like Military Aviation Museum. I prefer the flying museums due to there are more possibilities for getting a unique shot. Yes, there are a ton of historic aircraft in non-flying museums but remember this, those aircraft are in fixed positions and will most likely be never moved again. Meaning if you see a great image, most likely someone else will too and repeat what you shot or vice versa. I am not saying don’t go to them. Go and enjoy them. But with the mindset of creating images, flying museums are constantly moving their aircraft around and there is a lesser chance of aircraft parked in the same location from day to day.  Most flying museums have an annual airshow featuring their collection along other visiting aircraft from other museums. Some also post on their website their fly dates along with which airshows their aircraft are planning on attending. Museums are always looking for volunteers. Some even have applications on their website. You can offer your photographic services to a local museum. Photograph their day to day operations, restoration projects along with museum events.

 

Air Races

The history of air racing dates to May 23, 1909 in Paris, France; where the Prix de Lagatinerie was held. Four aviators entered, of those two started and either of them finished. And pilots had been racing aircraft ever since. At its height, there were numerous events in North America and Europe but now it has dwindled to two races. The most popular being Reno Air Races held annually in Reno, Nevada and the other is the Red Bull Air Races series, held in various locations around the world. I consider the Red Bull Races more aerobic than racing but still entertaining in its own way. The two are very different from one another. Red Bull fly’s modern custom made high performance aerobatic aircraft like the Edge 540. And at Reno, pilots fly highly modified WWII aircraft like Voodoo, a modified P-51 Mustang. The Red Bull series has two classes and about 8-10 races around the world. As at Reno, there are six racing classes, with three trophy classes in each category, Bronze, Silver, and Gold.

Reno Air Races                                   Reno, Nevada                                                   September

Red Bull Air Races series                location varies                                                   Feb-Nov

 

Aircraft Boneyards

Boneyards are where retired aircraft go for long term storage, to be parted out and or recycled into scrap metal. One of the most well know is 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group or AMARG at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. AMARG is the largest aircraft storage facility in the world with over 4,400 aircraft in its care. Because AMARG is a controlled-access site, it is off-limits to anyone not working there or without the proper clearance. The Pima Air & Space Museum does have a bus tour for the public. AMARG maybe the largest and most famous boneyard but it not the only one. There are others, like Southern California Logistics Airport and Mojave airport, both in California. There is Alice Springs Airport in the Northern Territory of Australia. To find more aircraft boneyards, check out this site below. It has list and maps of boneyards all over the world.

http://www.airplaneboneyards.com/index.htm

One should observe the same rules as spotting when one is in or around an aircraft boneyard. Remember, it’s much better to ask permission then to beg for forgiven with the Cops!

 

Base visit/Exercises

Base visits and exercises are unique opportunities to see the day to day operations of a military unit. From maintenance of aircraft to flying training sorties. Most are organized through public affairs with some legitimate reason for the visit, like writing an article on a unit or squadron for a major publication. That mean having a letter from the editor of the publication stating your intent. And then having Command OK the visit. After that, you or your group must clear a background check before setting foot on the base. If you think you’re going contact the public affairs officer of your favorite squadrons and they’re just going to let you have access to shoot their aircraft, your gravelly mistaken. Base visits are planned months in advance through the proper channels. If you’re fortunate enough to take part in a base visit or exercise, be sure to follow all the rules that your given. You do not want to ruin your group or future groups.

There is Ian Allan Aviation Tours that offers some fantastic tours all over the world, but they are pricey. For more information on these tours, look here

https://www.ianallantravel.com/aviationtours/

 

Again, what I listed is not the only events to see and photography aircraft. What I listed is what I feel is the most popular and readily available aviation’s events. There are other events like night engine run ups and evening/twilight light shows. Which are rare events but are still wonderful opportunities. There is also ultra-lights and home built, sea planes, blimps, ballooning, gliding, hang gliding, crop dusting… Again, there is a lot more information out there than what’s in this post. Again, do your own research on shows and events you want to attend. The more you know the better off you will be. Now hopefully you have an idea of what you want to shoot along with where to find your subjects.

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Until next time,

Steven