It’s been seven years since I’ve been to Yankee Air Museum annual event, Thunder over Michigan. And this year was great year to return. All the familiar sights and sounds of vintage aircraft coming to life and soaring above Willow Run airport. It was a good opportunity for me to catch up with a bunch of fellow aviation geeks and photographers. I had forgotten just how entertaining they can be.
I had only two reasons for attending this year’s event. The first being the Dakota Territory Air Museum newly restored P-47 Razorback named “Bonnie” was supposed to attend. Unfortunately, she had a mechanical issue at EAA Airventure and was unable to make the trip over to Willow Run. And the second was Dan Filer’s MiG-23UB “Flogger”. Which suffered an in-flight emergency during the show on Sunday, forcing the crew to eject. The MiG was destroyed in the crash. After witnessing such a horrible accident, I can’t tell you how relieved I was to hear that both pilots were safe and no one on the ground was injured.
I have to give a ginormous thanks to Kevin Walsh, all the staff and volunteers of The Yankee Air Museum for putting together another wonderful show along with the superb level of professionalism due the MiG accident. Thank You!
During the two-day event, I shoot 8,887 images. Here’s 60 of my favorites. Enjoy!
Click on thumbnail to view large image.
Canon EOS 90D DSLR
Canon EOS 5DSR DSLR
Canon EF 100-400mm F/4.5-5.6L IS II USM
Canon EF 500mm F/4.5L USM
iPhone 11 Pro Max
If you like what you see, consider hitting the “Like” button or maybe start to follow my little blog!
Ever since 2004, I’ve had a passionate love affair with photography. And come to discover that I have a fondness for photos that comes with a story. Over the years, I have shot a few of them. Here’s the next installment in “The Story Behind an Image” series.
Part 8: Capturing the Magic: Unveiling Mother Nature’s Canvas
So, this year I’ve returned to my love of aviation photography. As a birthday gift to myself, I upgraded my gear and have been spotting all around Detroit metro airport (DTW). And before I shot a single frame, I had an image in my mind that I know I wanted to capture. It would be of an airliner landing either at sunrise or sunset with a dramatic sky in the background. The aircraft would be most likely silhouetted but recognizable. And from the start, I never gave much thought to what airline, or the type of aircraft was going to be in the shot. I wanted some type of emotional background to be the subject. Also had no idea exactly when I was going to take the shot. Having to wait for Mother Nature to do her thing to make the shot possible.
My first attempt at the image was back in February, soon after I got my new camera/lens combo. I purchased the 90D along with the 100-400mm Mk2. Spotting for me is my cheap and easy way of getting back into the routine of photographing aircraft. I can grab my gear, and some snacks, drive down to DTW, and I’m only out a few bucks in gas money. There I can get back to being comfortable in my shooting stance, reconstituting that muscle memory of changing settings without looking at the camera and just enjoying the time behind it. Nevertheless, to say those few outings were cold and brief. And from the location I was shooting from, the sun was setting low on the horizon due to it still being winter.
Now that it’s springtime and I’ve been regularly spotting at DTW. Over the long Easter weekend, I found a couple of new shooting locations and became infatuated with two European young ladies, Lufthansa 442 and Air France 378. The following week, my enthusiasm for spotting continued, and found myself back at my new favorite spotting location, an abandoned gas station at the corner of Middlebelt and Goddard Road. And after a busy work week followed by afternoon spotting, by the time Saturday rolled around, I was tired and hesitant to go through the motions of spotting.
The weather had been great all week, but Saturday had a chance of afternoon thunderstorms. All day long, I kept a watchful eye on the weather forecast. Then about 5:30, a fragmented line of storms started popping west of DTW and slowly heading east. Growing thunderstorms definitely qualify for an emotional background. And Air France’s lovely A350 is just about an hour away from touchdown. And with the imagery of a brilliant gloss white Airbus contrasting with the dark gray of afternoon storm clouds was plenty to motivate me to gear up and do some more “spirited driving” down to DTW.
As soon as I merged onto I-94 West and saw the darkened and moody clouds in front of me, I enthusiastically said out loud, “Today could be the day!” My only growing concern was that the storm either blow through before Air France passes in front of my favorite shooting location or they die out before they get there. After exiting the interstate, I made my way to the deserted gas station. Unfortunately, it wasn’t looking like the storms were going to stay together for much longer. But the sky behind the airport was still dramatic. But Air France was still another 25 minutes out and that damn star was playing hide and go-seek with the fading thunderstorms. It would be a gross understatement to say that the sky was magical.
And sure as shit, when Air France shows up, Mother Nature started throwing shade. The Sun hid behind a substantial size cloud and the atmosphere visually quieted down as she glided past in slow motion. My expectations had gotten the best of me, and I felt like it was a lost opportunity with no help from Mother Nature.
But moments after the French Airbus landed, Mother Nature decided to show off once again and I wasn’t going to just pack up and go home. Who knows when or where such rare lighting conditions will happen again, and will I be there to shoot it? I stayed for another hour, photographing some of the most stunning images I’ve had the opportunity to capture. Even on the tiny LCD screen, I knew I had something special. Arrival after arrival, the light, and the tonal range just got better and better. In between flights, I feverishly chimp and was blown away. Amazingly to my fortune, I was the only spotter there photographing the light show.
One thing that I’ve come to understand about photography, especially when it comes to aviation, is that you go out aiming for a particular photo, but the reality is you must accept what you get.
This was my second event of the 2023 season. My only goal was to capture some vapor shots which was highly dependent on Mother Nature. Fortunately, she provided plenty of humidity for the “Vaporfest” over South Beach. With the impressive mix of military hardware,the vibe of Miami and the potential for vapor, this is an exciting event you want to keep locked up on your show radar. Click on or tap (on mobile) thumbnail to view larger image.
Canon EOS 90D DSLR
Canon EOS 7D II DSLR
Canon EF 100-400mm F/4.5-5.6L IS II USM
Canon EF 500mm F/4.5L USM
If you like what you see, consider hitting the “Like” button and maybe start to follow my little blog.
Ever since 2004, I’ve had a passionate love affair with photography. And come to discover that I have a fondness with photos that comes with a story. Over the years, I have shot a few of them. Here’s the next story behind one of my images.
Part 7: The image that makes me smile
Any aviation enthusiast and or photographer who has ever been to a 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 at Oceana sets up rows of tents and offers tons of squadron merch. From T-shirts, Cruise DVDs, challenge coins, coffee mugs to photos and illustrations. In 2008, I attended the show with two fellow photographers, Shawn Yost and Craig Scaling. All weekend long we were cracking jokes, quoting “Top Gun” and all around enjoying each other’s company.
Saturday morning, Shawn and I made our way through security, and met up with Craig. We made our way over to the “Squadron Mall” to buy all the swag we could not live without. Shawn and Craig both fancy squadron cruise DVDs and challenge coins. Zaps (squadron stickers) are my jam. 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, its 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! After packing our swag into every nook and cranny of our cameras bags, we headed toward to show line to figure out where we want to shoot from. If I remember correctly, Craig wanted to head over to the static to reshoot something. Craig took off his backpack to put his DVDs away. With his hands full, he asks me to hold his camera. He then processes to stuff his DVDs into his overpacked 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 the hell out of me when I heard his shutter blasting away. And as quickly as it happened, I lowered Craig’s camera and Shawn recomposed himself. Craig asks 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 snapping away or pick up on what we just did. Looking back now, it was beautiful! Craig went off to shoot statics, Shawn and I in disbelief found a shooting location. We enjoyed 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 afterward. I do remember, we headed over to my parent’s house that night for a home-cooked meal. On the way over, We figure Craig would have said something about Saturday’s 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). Back in the hotel, we chilled, and eventually off to bed. Come Monday morning, we all headed our separate ways back home.
According to the EXIF data from the image, it was 10 days from the time I shot it to when Craig found it and email it to Shawn and I. He named the image “ShawnandStevearedead”. Key takeaways are. First, regardless of what’s you are shooting, Have fun! And second… Never let me hold your camera when Shawn is around!