Oshkosh, this is a big one! Over 10,000 aircraft and 500,000 aviation nerds! It is a weeklong event, I’ll be there from Wednesday to Sunday. That’s still 5 days of shooting aircraft of all types. From home built aircraft to the US newest 5th Generation fighter, the F-35. I’ve never been to Oshkosh and have no idea what to expect. There will be tons of stories and images from this event. I have been writing them down all my ideas so I do not forget them.
There is going to be a lot of warbirds I have not seen there. Hoping to see and shoot some unique images. I rented some gear for this event, Canons 50 megapixel monster, the 5DSR along with the 100-400mm MKII fromLenRental.com. I’ll be using the 5DSR with my 500mm F/4.5 as my main body and my 7D MKII with the 100-400mm MKII as my 2nd body.
This list of events was posted over on the Warbird Information Exchange forum(WIX) by “BK”.
-75th Doolittle Raid Anniversary: “just under 16 B-25s confirmed” still hoping to get 16. Sun-Mon arrival, fly Tuesday will land and be lined up as if on the Hornet in Warbird Alley. Wed night will launch (7:45pm) as if on the Hornet in rapid succession. I assume no 500ft take-offs. 🙂 At 8pm the B-25s will “light up the skies,” with 96 shots of pyro!
-75th anniversary of 8th Air Force/70th anniversary USAF: Saturday B-1, B-2, & B-52 formation pass at 3:30pm, the B-1, B-2, B-52 will also make single ship passes. Followed closely by 2 B-29s, 2 B-17s, B-24(“we may have a B-24 on board now”), flight of B-25s, & A-20. Collings are in Chicago that weekend.
-The B-1B that is static for the week will also be the one flying during the week. Arrival Monday at 2:30pm, will fly during the Wed night show, then fly again during “Bomber day” Sat. B-2 is flyover only Sat. Two B-52s – one static, one for the Sat. flyover.
-Two F-22s will arrive Friday will stay the weekend. KC-135 arrives Tue. will be static rest of the week. Two Navy P-8s, one on display early in the week and open for tours Tue-Wed. This P-8 departs Thurs morning with another P-8 arriving Thurs afternoon.
-F-35 Heritage Flight arrival Mon., none static, several A-10s Heritage Flight and static. Composite Heritage Flight F-35, A-10 and 2 P-51s. Wed. & Sat. 122nd FW Indiana ANG two A-10s demo with pyro.
-RAF A-400M arrives morning and departs during airshow on Wed. will do a couple of flybys on departure.
-Mystery flyover Wed. and maybe Tue as well at the start of the airshow. “Lots of moving parts required.” Requires a tanker with people coming from far away. “If it works it’s gonna be awesome.”
-F-18s, F-16s Wisconsin ANG, Army Chinooks and Apaches.
– B-29s (Doc/Fifi) flying Tue, Fri & Sat., Doc on the plaza all week, Fifi on the plaza and selling rides in Appleton. YL-15 on the plaza, Scaled Composites Proteus, F-86A oldest flying jet, 2 P-47s from TN, Collings Mark IX Spitfire w/116 combat missions, recently restored SBD, CAF P-63, A-20, C-123 used as a stage for the honor flight/veteran parade.
-Blue Origin will have a space flown booster rocket on display as well as the capsule (open for tours) they plan to use for space tourism.
-Wed 30m warbird airshow display “fighters,” Thurs. jet warbirds, Fri. 60m warbird show w/B-29s, A-20 is flying in Tue., Fri., and Sat. warbird show.
-Sun. NASA T-38 and CAF P-63 in NACA scheme will fly together.
As you can see, there is going to be a shit load of awesomeness happening at Oshkosh this year.
Show 3, post 3: Pretty light and Old lessons learned
Well after a long day yesterday, I wanted to write this while my thoughts and feelings are still fresh. Yesterday was hectic! Where to start?… So, flying at the Goshen freedom fest wasn’t going to start until 6:30pm. From my apartment to Goshen, Indiana is 3 hours away. I told my buddy (fellow photographer) to meet me at my place at 2pm, load up my car and go. Figured we will get there about 5-5:30 and give us an hour to look around, shoot whatever statics are there and find a shooting location on the crowd line. My thinking was, it’s Goshen, Indiana, how many people are going to show up for this small-town show? We should have plenty of time…. Plus, the last show I went to there, I had no problems getting to the airport and finding parking. What can go wrong?!
With our gear packed in the trunk and the tank filled, we headed off to Goshen. On the way over, we had time to caught up on how our summers are going, what other shows we were planning as well as any updates on the Freedom Fest. Well come to find out their added a few great additions, Warbird Heritage foundation Skyraider “Bad News” and their P-51 Mustang “Baby Duck” were both there at the airport. I was thinking that “Baby Duck” was going to fly down with the F-22 from Battle Creek, do the Heritage flight and go back to Battle Creek. Goshen Freedom Fest and Battle Creek both have the F-22/P-51 heritage flight in their shows which happen to be the same weekend. Two TBM Avengers showed up along with a Grumman Wildcat and Bearcat. The P-51D “Pettie, 2nd” also was there. The F-86 Saber turned out to be Paul Keppeler’s which I spoke about in Show 3, Post 2. The big addition I had no idea about was Dean “Cutter” Cutshall was going to fly his beautiful North American F-100F Super Saber at the Freedom Fest. The F-100, nickname the “The Hun”, was going to stage out of its home base in Fort Wayne, Indiana. His Super Saber is on my list of aircraft that I want a unique image of and with the lovely evening light, I’m hoping to check it off my list. But every time I get a chance to shoot Dean’s Hun, Mother Nature decides to make a bunch of clouds and place them right in front of the sun while it is flying. Another late addition, is a newly repainted B-17 Flying Fortress, was formally known as “Chuckie” now being flown as “Madras Maiden”. I had forgotten that the Military Aviation Museum had sold their Flying Fortress. I had lost track of where it was and what its new owners was doing to it.
The trip over to Goshen municipal airport, the weather was sunny and looked to be a very nice evening. A few clouds here and there but nothing to be worried about. All we have to do is get there, park, scout around and find a promising spot to shoot from. But as we got within a few miles of the airport, we were greeted by bumper to bumper traffic from others like us, trying to get on to the airport to see the airshow. I was excepting some traffic around the airport, which is not uncommon to most airshows. Just due to the surge of people trying to get on to the airport grounds.
But most of the time traffic is slow but flows smoothly. This was a dead stop and we only moved one or two car lengths at a time. It was now 5:30pm and we were not ever in sight of the airport. And after about half hour, we were still not in sight of the airport. Now we are starting to doubt if we would get parked before flying started. Then as 6:45pm nears, Mother Nature had to put her 2 cents in. In all western Indiana and southern Michigan, you can guess where she decided where an isolated thunderstorm was going to pop up at? Yeah that’s right, Goshen municipal airport!
It rained good for about 20 minutes, which in some way we felted was a good thing. It delayed the flying while, which gave us a little bit more time to inch closer to the airport. And at least we were almost there and that we and our gear was dry. By the time the rain stopped, we had advance enough to see the airport and the passing storm overhead. Still off the airport grounds and some distance from parking and about there we see plane start to take off and pass over head. A flight of 4 AT-4 Texan opening the show.
One of our associates already at the show and waiting for us to show up, told us that the F-22 and P-51 Heritage flight was to be at 7pm, which was quickly approaching. But traffic is still only moving one or two car lengths at a time. By now, we can see the complete line of car in-between us and where they are parking cars. We were hoping to be parking be soon, like within 30 minutes. But that was not the case. Another text from our buddy about the show, B-17 in bound.
And our frustration level just went up another notch. “Why are not moving? I don’t understand why thing is taking so long?”, my best friend said as we watch the B-17 line up for a photo pass over the crowd line. So, close but still too far away. 7 o’clock, I ask my friend if wants to get out and go to the trunk to get his gear so he could walk beside the car and shoot when the F-22 shows up. Yeah, that’s just how slow traffic was moving. He gets out, pops the trunk and grabs his 7D MKII along with his 100-400mm MKII and starts shooting.
Now Vlado Lenoch in the P-51 “Baby Duck” gets airborne and started his aerobatic routine before the Heritage flight. I know now that I’m not going to be able to replace my NAS OceanaF-22/P-51 shot with one here. I’m driving along the road way, all the windows down so I can try and spot the Raptor. The Mustang is doing pass after pass and as I’m creeping along, hearing my friends shutter just clicking away. Getting antsy and I want shoot too, I ask my buddy to grab my 7D MKII and ask if I can use his 400mm F/5.6 that he was bring to the show for our friend to shoot with. Still moving along at a snail’s pace, the F-22 Raptor show up and joins with Vlado in “Baby Duck” for the Heritage flight. Got my camera and lenses in my lap, I’m shifting in-between park and drive trying to shoot what I can of the Heritage flight. Fortunately, the airport we to my left and I could snap a few shots here and there. But It sucked. Here’s my F-22 and P-51 Heritage flight image, shot through driver window while sitting in traffic.
After the Heritage flight was over, we were both hoping that the F-100 was not up next to perform. We were glad to hear the jet truck started up, as we do not care to photograph jet truck at airshows. The truck did buy us a little more time and once it was done, we were on the airport ground. The line of car was still inching forward slowly and by now my nerves were starting to wear a bit. By the time we parked and started looking for our other buddy already there, a high performance aerobic act (I like to call spinners) had flown its routine and landed. We quickly geared up, locked car and started walking for a spot to shoot from on the super crowded show line. Holy Fuck, Goshen! I truly think all of Goshen’s population was crammed on to the tiny airport. Young, old, big, tall and what seems like Indiana entire Amish community as well!
It took us an hour and half to get through traffic, park and finding a spot to shoot from. Yeah, half as long as the drive over. Our shooting spot was not an ideal location, with so many people already there. Didn’t have much of a chose. We were about 150ft from the rope that started the crowd line. But we did have a good view of the runway for takeoffs as the sun began to monumentally peep from behind the clouds. And just after the show announcer said that Dean Cutshall is inbound from Fort Wayne in his F-100, the sun slides behind a cloud. I manage to capture this one I’m happy with.
Once we were in our shooting location, it was business as usual. The light was as I imagined it would be, rich golden color and was a treat to shoot.
Click on thumbnails below to view larger image.
I learned some valuable lessons this past weekend. One is to get to the show early so you will have enough time to look around and find what going to work best for you. The whole time from sitting in traffic, final parking the car to the time we found somewhere to shoot found was the most frustrated I have been at a show or event. It is something that I do not want to repeat anytime soon. And underestimating the amount of people going to a show. Because I failed those two things, we miss shots in which we travel there to shoot along with having a poor shooting location.
The best lessons in life are learned through pain.
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 three in a series I call “The story behind an Image
Part 3: My 11 years and over 16 Airshows/events shot
Ever since I started my love affair with aviation photography, I have formed a list of images I wanted to capture. One of them is a ¾ front shot of a F/A-18 Super Hornet during its high-speed pass with a full vapor cone in a cloudless blue sky. Not a full cone from side view, but a nice full round vapor cone from ¾ front. And on a cloudless day so you can see the contrast from the white of the vapor cone and the blue of the sky. This is a shot I chased for 11 years and at 16 different events and airshows.
There’s a huge misnomer about the elusive vapor cone. When people see it, their think that the aircraft is breaking the sound barrier. This is not true. A vapor cone can form (if the conditions are right) at transonic speed just before reaching the speed of sound. Demo pilots meticulously rehearsed a precise routine showing off the aircraft performance without breaking the supersonic speed limit set at an airshow and other aviation events.
Now on to just how difficult this shot was for me. 16 different airshows and events in 5 states and one in Canada over 11 years. Yeah! Here’s 3 YouTube videos I found that showing just how quickly the vapor cone forms and disappears during the Super Hornets high speed pass.
Pretty amazing right!? Now imagine shooting it with a heavy 400mm or 500mm telephoto lens hand held. Yeah! For me, the trouble was not being able to keep track of the Super Hornet during the high-speed pass or not being able to get images in focus. It was having the right condition for it to happen and for me to be shooting from the right location to be able to capture it the way I want. The main ingredient for a vapor cones and any other forms of condensation is humidity. One of main features of the shot I wanted to capture is having a cloudless blue sky to showing off the full cone of condensation. And having a humid and cloudless blue sky the day of an airshow is a weather oxymoron. Clouds in the background can take away and or make the cone look deformed. Our eyes are very sensitive to circles and can quickly pick up on things that do not appear to be round. Another feature of this image I envision is the position of the Super hornet and the vapor cone. I want to shoot the Super Hornet as it is heading toward me in a ¾ front view so it looks like it is punching through a little cloud. There is no way of knowing where the cone is going to form, if it even happens or not during the high-speed pass. But I do know during the demo, it does it’s high-speed pass from the right to the left. Knowing that, I want to be farthest left of show center. So, if it forms I can capture it in the position it in that front 3/4 view.
Below are 4 interesting failed attempts at capturing the Super Hornet high speed pass I had shot over the years. Each showing different combination of wrong factors. The images are as they are out of the camera, no skipped images.
The first one is from Battle Creek 2006. The Super Hornet was from VFA-106 known as the “Gladiators” based at NAS Oceana. A nicely painted 206 bird, nice blue sky but no vapor. The night before the show, a front came through and dried the air out.
The next high-speed is again from VFA-106 performing at the 2008 NAS Oceana airshow. The sky was partly cloudy, blue on one side and cloudy on the other. This pass I was in the wrong location and with not the best weather conditions.
On to the APPA Gold Cup Hydroplane race on the Detroit river in 2011. VFA-106 came up from NAS Oceana to perform the demo each day of the race. Found a good shooting location on belle isle, an island park on the Detroit river, at the end of a fishing pier that jets out into the river. The pier did not interfere with the event airshow box and it did get me closer to the action. This time I was shooting my trusty 400m F/5.6. Close but not the the shot I was looking for. Poor position, great sky and OK humidity.
And the last of interesting failed high-speed passes is from Cleveland National airshow in 2012. That weekend I had rented Canons new 500mm F/4 MK II from lensesrental.com (amazing service). The whole weekend was overcast and there was a ton of moisture in the air. I had no question that Super was going to cone. The trouble was that it overcast and that there will not be enough contrast in between the cone and the overcast skies. In this series of images,these nine images are a testimony to just how good the cameras auto focus system capabilities are at tracking a gray object traveling near the speed of sound on a gray background. Great position, crappy sky but great humidity.
Fast forward to late spring 2015 and the Gary South Shore Airshow was approaching. It is a beach show on the southern shore of Lake Michigan in Gary, Indiana. This was first of two beach shows during my 2015 show season. 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. And you need a lot of humidity for a good full cone. Also, your background will most likely be uncluttered.
For me, the biggest drawback 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. The show line, a visual reference line to aid pilots with orientation during the performance, runs down the center of the airshow box. At most aerial events, one of the active runways is the show line. FAA rules state that the crowd must be 1500 ft. away from the show line. That does not mean the performers are always 1500 ft from the crowd. So, how do you establish a show line at a beach show? With a ship, of course. At the Gary show, I think it was a US Coast Guard ship. Not 100% sure, but it was a ship. Most of time the water 1500 ft from the shore is not deep enough for a ship. Remember, it must big enough for pilots to easily spot. Like a big white Coast Guard ship. That means the show line is farther away from the shore, which means one needs more focal length. Because of this I stayed away from beach show until I got my 500mm F/4.5.
I had planned on going to the Gary show with the intent of crossing two images off my list. I wanted to get an image of Warbird Heritage Foundation(WHF) Skyhawk during its photo pass. The Gary show give me yet another crack at get my elusive front ¾ cone shot with the Super Hornet. At the time I was living in Naperville, Illinois and the morning of the show it was straight and solid overcast at home and the weather for the show did not look promising. With questionable weather, I was seriously considering not going until my good friend called me to ask if I was going. He told me he was going and he felt that we would be OK weather wise. I was not too thrilled about the weather but I pack up and headed off to the show. If anything, I get to hang out with friend despite the weather.
During the drive over I was hoping for better weather but it wasn’t looking any better. But as I got closer to Gary, the overcast started to breaking up and had a few patches of blue sky here and there. By the time I reached Marquette Park, where show was being held, I was shocked to see the sky was clear and blue. Now excited about the show, I scrambled to find parking and call my buddy. Who had gotten there before I did and told me where to find him on the beach. He had pick a spot to the left of show center. The show opened with the US Army Golden Knight parachute team jumping in with the flag as the National anthem with being sung. After a few other acts, the WHF A-4 Skyhawk did its demo but due to the where the show line was, the tiny A-4 looked even smaller in view finder during its photo pass.
Up next was the Super Hornet demo. After seeing the Super Hornet demo countless times, the routine become very familiar. The demo starts with the dirty roll. During the roll, the landing gear are retracted followed by a vertical reposition for the next pass. At the bottom the repositioning, there is a hard pitch up and is a good chance to get some vapor coming off the leading-edge extensions. Back to level flight, lite the afterburners for the tight, fast and loud minimal radius turn. Exiting the minimal radius turn, hard nose up and to the tail stand. At he top of the tail stand, the stick is shoved forward and the ass of the Super Hornet abruptly rises and returns to level flight. Exiting right to reposition for the high-speed pass. THIS IS IT! Quickly double check setting, look around to check if there is anything that going to get in the way of the shot. Other photographers, people walking by, anything that could screw up the next 10 seconds. All clear! Lens up, focus on the Super hornet as it rapidly approaches, take a breath, get calm and start shooting. I hate the saying “spray & pray”. For me, mindless shooting away, hoping to capture something is stupid. Instead stay calm, focus on what you are doing and shoot you subject. The funny thing is I did not see the vapor cone form at all. Not a single frame. Remember when shooting, the mirror swings up and blocks the view finder so the sensor can exposure the image.
Here’s 9 frames from the West Coast Super Hornet demo, VFA-122 “Flying Eagles” Based at NAS Lemoore, High-speed pass during the Gary South Shore Airshow.
My next show is a little show down in Goshen, Indiana. Back in 2015 I attended their show, Rotors and Ribs, a small one day helicopter event along with a Rib cook off. Unfortunately, it was rained out. But I did like the feeling of the show, small town show put together by locals and not a huge over done production. This year’s event is going to be an evening show with a handful of flying displays. Here’s a link to the shows website…http://www.americasfreedomfest.org
My main reason why I’m going this show is the possibility for some amazing afternoon light. Flying doesn’t start until 7pm. The runway at Goshen Municipal Airport runs east/west and come late afternoon the light off to the east should be nice and only get better until sunset. Along with the crowd line was pretty close to the active runway, which make for a good opportunity for some panning shots. And in the lovely late afternoon light… Oh man!
Here’s a few of my pre-show thoughts. I have a shot of USAF heritage flight with F-22 and a P-51 that I shot at NAS Oceana back in 2008. It’s an OK image but it was shot is the bright mid-day light. The quality of light is boring and flat. As well as it’s a shot that many photographers shot during that show.
I’m hoping to replace that image with one with more dynamic lighting. The challenge is I’ll get only shot at trying to get the image I want. Again, it’s only a one day show, no practice or Sunday show. That means shooting higher in my comfort zone to have a higher “keeper” rate. So that means shooting in shutter propriety at 1/320th. Which is slow enough to show some prop blur on the P-51 but high enough to get a few keepers on each pass. I would like to shoot it at 1/100th or 1/125th but again it is a one day show. Getting a properly exposure image will be a little tricky. The paint on the F-22 like to shine a bright hot bronze color in late afternoon light. Which looks stunning but the camera tends to underexpose the Raptor, which isn’t a problem if I’m shooting the Raptor by itself. I can adjust the exposure in Lightroom no problem.
But during the heritage flight at Goshen with the P-51 Baby Duck, which has a highly polished metal finish, wonder how and if the light bouncing off it will mess with the exposure? Here’s an image I shot back in 2007 at Selfridge ANGB show. You can see the light bouncing off the P-51 Moonbeam McSwine’s and hitting the Strike Eagle fuselage. It’s cool that my camera’s sensor can pick that up but it makes a strange detail in the image.
Also on the shows website, it shows Paul Keppeler’s CL-13B Sabre Mk 6(Canadair built F-86) will be attending the show. But I’m not sure if whoever put the website together just grabbed any picture of a F-86 or if that’s the one that will be there. There no mention of the owner and that’s has me worried about who’s Saber is going to be there. Warbird heritage foundation (WHF) owns and operates a beautiful F-86 out of Waukegan, Illinois, which would be short hop down to Goshen. I have no problems seeing it again but I have many great images of WHF Saber and not sure if I would be able to shoot a better one at Goshen. If so, great but would rather see Keppeler’s Saber. Will keep an eye out on their Facebook page and show website for any news or updates on attending aircraft. Here is a few of my favorite images of WHF F-86.
To add to the unknowns, not sure if the Saber would even be taking off and landing at Goshen. The runway there is only 6,050ft long and I’m unsure how much runway is required to operate a Saber. It could stage out of another larger airport and fly over for the show. Which is very possible. The F-22 along with the P-51 are flying down from Battle Creek, Michigan, doing the heritage flight and then heading back to Michigan.
I would like to get some static shots of the warbirds if possible in the afternoon light. Shooting good static images are always troublesome to shoot. Always fighting with background clutter around the aircraft. Everything from cones and ropes to porta johns to tents. Making it difficult to isolate the subject. There is also a good possibility that the aircraft will not be acceptable for shooting. Some show separates the flight aircraft on the “hot ramp” from the ones on static. Will know more as the show gets closer. If not, I’ll know when I get there and take a look around.
There is one more thing to consider, weather. Thunderstorms are notorious for popping up in the Midwest during the summer. There is a good chance the show could see some rain before, during or after the show. It is something you should always be prepared for. Seek shelter if a storm comes your way. Inside a cargo plane, a hanger or tent, something. Get you and your gear out of the rain. If there is a chance of rain at an event, I will bring a ziplock bag to put my gear in if the sky opens up. I know you’re thinking “A ziplock bag? To do what? Protect your cards and batteries?” Yes and my 500mm F/4.5 and whatever body I’m shooting with. Ziplock makes large bags for clothing which are perfect for protecting your gear from the elements. They come in many different sizes, you can get one that you can put you whole camera bag in or one just that would fit just your camera and lense. Priced around $10 to $15, which I don’t mind spending if it can save my gear. Amazon has them, search for “large ziplock bags”