In this recent post, I showed a shot of an Amazon Prime Air 737. With a bit more notice and better timing from an availability point of view, I saw that another jet was coming in to Paine Field from Anchorage. It was being delivered from the conversion line in China and would have the finishing touches taken care of by ATS at Everett. I was there and set up in plenty of time – except… I had one camera ready to go but the other one had been previously used for some video at home and was on manual focus. I was shooting with the 500mm initially and all was well. As the jet got closer, I switched to the 100-400 and everything was wrong. Nothing would focus. It seemed like forever but I must have realized fast and flicked the focus switch because I was able to shoot it as it came level with me and crossed the threshold. What an amateur mistake. Fortunately, I got away with it!
I learned something significant while shooting the airliners from above LAX. It is a lot harder to see an airliner from above than I thought. In the many years of flying, I am familiar with the importance of maintaining a good lookout and the difficulty of spotting other aircraft around you in the sky. From our locations over the airport, we were generally picking out the aircraft from a background of the city, not the sky. I had figured that we knew the approach paths and what was due in so we would not have trouble seeing the planes as they came in.
I was very wrong. First, they are not easy to find at all. Three sets of eyes were looking but we would find things at odd times, sometimes when they were very close. Also, with parallel operations to the 24 and 25 complexes, you can get distracted by activity on one side and miss out on something the other side. The result of this was that we did not see some of the jets until they were on the ground. Pete, who was with me, flies 777s so we were keen to get the BA jet when it came in. We knew the arrival time and still managed to miss it until it was on the ground. An Air France A380 also sneaked in past our “diligent” scan. An Aeroflot A330 was also successful in coming in untouched.
All of these were a little frustrating but not terrible. However, it did give me pause for thought about how I would plan the flight the next time in order to keep track of the things that I most wanted to get. This flight was my first time trying this so I was happy to have got so many shots that I like. The missed ones are not the end of the world. I did learn a lot though and will make sure I use that knowledge next time.
I attended a course recently that was held in Madras OR at the home of the Erickson Air Museum. This museum is a fantastic collection of vintage aircraft, some of which were used for the course, more of which will appear on this blog in due course. At various times while we were there, I had the opportunity to wander around the museum and see the collection. This included during the evening when a party was underway but which also meant they had some interesting illumination.
The majority of the aircraft are warbirds but not all of them. A Bellanca was present which is, to be generous, a most unusual looking aircraft. I would certainly have liked to have seen it outside had the opportunity arisen but that wasn’t to be. There was also a Martin Mauler which is an aircraft I had never heard of previously. It looks like a Skyraider but you could tell it was different. It was just hard to know what it was without checking the information on the display.
Madras is not on the trail for most people so I imagine the museum does not have a lot of people happening upon it. However, it is a nice facility with a great collection and a super bunch of people working there. If you like warbirds and vintage aircraft, it should definitely be visited at some point.
There seem to be quite a few posts on the blog of kite surfing. Whenever I come across someone out in the waves, I can’t help myself but spend some time watching them. Driving down the coast from Coronado, we stopped on the beach to eat our breakfast. As we sat on the wall looking across the sand at the waves, the kite surfer headed out a short distance away.
Of course, he never came up as far us us but he was still close enough to get a good view. He managed to get some good air at times, usually when I wasn’t trying to photograph him. The wind off the ocean was strong and steady so he was having a lot of fun with some reasonably sized waves to launch off periodically. I figured an animated GIF might be a good way to show him in motion. See what you think.
The National Championship Air Races recently took place at Reno NV. This was my second year covering it and the 50th running of the races. Before I go too much further, here is the link to the article I wrote for Global Aviation Resource so, if you want a rundown on how the event went, that is a good place to go. It also has pictures but you don’t need to go there for them since I am about the share a bunch of them here too!
Reno is a very interesting event to shoot. The organizers go to a lot of effort to host the media representatives. Given how many of us show up, this is no small feat. They provide a center for us to base ourselves out of, breakfast and lunch each day (this year sponsored by Nikon), buses to take a selection of people out to the pylons each morning and afternoon, access to most places you could want to be and a team with golf carts who will run you to wherever you want to go (provided you can find them since they are kept busy!).
The parts of the show are very interesting in themselves. Exploring the pits is a great thing to do. The main pit area has the Unlimited racers and the T-6s. The jets are at the far end of the field and always seem isolated to me. However, more fun can be had walking through the hangars for the Sport, Bi-Plane and Formula One classes. Here you will see small teams of people beavering away on their pride and joy. With a lot less people coming through, you can get a lot more access to what they are doing.
When it comes down to it though, the racing is what it is all about. Shooting from the pits and the stands is fine and it gives a certain perspective on the races but shooting from the pylons is something else. Being right inside the turn as aircraft zip by at high speed and low altitude is really impressive. Sometimes you want to just stand and watch rather than see it all through a viewfinder. However, the races are not long and, if you have a variety of shots that you are looking for, you have to get them quickly.
Moreover, sometimes you need to get in the groove. The slower types are easier to calibrate yourself for but the jets and the Unlimiteds are really motoring and you don’t have much time to get in practice. You may want shots of everything but there are certain planes that you know are going to be required for coverage and whether you get them looking good, in good light and sharp in the brief windows available is a combination of practice and luck – plenty of the latter in my case!
It is a fun event to be at and one that will leave you pretty exhausted. Getting there early for the sunrise lighting and being around to get whatever opens up at the end of the day followed by downloading everything and cataloging it before cleaning your gear up – that dust gets everywhere – charging anything that needs charging and also remembering to eat and suddenly the sleep feels awfully short. It’s only a few days though. Is there somewhere else you would rather be?
This year I made my first trip to the Reno Air Races. I have no clear explanation why I haven’t been before. It has been in my calendar for many years but other things always seemed to conspire to stop me from making the trip. This year, I finally made it. I could almost have never made it. With the accident at last year’s races that killed a number of spectators, there were plenty of questions about whether the event would go ahead. Fortunately it did.
I was covering it for Global Aviation Resource. My article will shortly be published in their monthly digital magazine so, if you want to get the full story (and the better pictures) pop along to www.globalaviationresource.com to buy the magazine. I will not reprint anything here that is in the piece for obvious reasons. However, to tempt you a little, here are some other shots from the event that will hopefully give you a feel for what went on.
It was quite a learning experience for me. Fortunately, I had a number of friends their to give me guidance on what to do, where to go and what to look out for. The bus trips to the pylons were a great experience (if a little odd sometimes when we were shuttled about between heats) but getting so close to the aircraft as they turn was something special.
Planning became a real priority. Each race is relatively short with most being six laps. In that time you have to get all of the shots you want. Tight crops, loose views, pylon in the shot, video, slow shutter speeds and there you have used up your race! Getting into my stride took a little time but I soon got a feel for what I wanted. This does mean there aren’t many opportunities for a second chance so you have to shoot a lot quickly to make sure you get enough to work with.
This does result in shooting a lot of images over the time there. All of these have to be downloaded and checked. I won’t say exactly how many I shot but it was a very large number and culling the crap out was a time consuming business. I am still weeding out some now!
The media relations team at RARA are unbelievably helpful. They have a lot of people covering the event yet handle it all with a friendly approach and they really do make your life genuinely easier – not always the case! I planned out my time at the event to get me to the pylons at some points, in the pits and the flightline at others and the final day was mainly spent in the stands. My friend Paul had traveled up for that day so it was nice to have someone to chat with while watching the racing from the spectators’ viewpoint – even if I did have to leave that for a while to cover part of the ceremonies.
The Saturday of the Waukegan show turned out to be a great one with excellent weather, some great flying and a lot of good people to hang out with. What more could you ask for? While Waukegan is not a big airport, the quality of the show has steadily grown and the ability to attract the Canadian display team, The Snowbirds, is a sign of how well they have done.
This year had a great line up for the show as well as plenty of great aircraft on static display. With some great light but the temperatures not being at all uncomfortable, it was a photographer’s dream. Just as well since there were a bunch of photographers there! The show was a mix of displays with sky divers, piston aerobatics, fast jets, vintage piston displays, wing walking, a jet bus, Heritage and Legacy flights from the Air Force and Navy and the Snowbirds to wrap it up.
I mentioned previously that the weather had been less impressive for practice day. In past years, I have had good weather for the practice but not for the show. This year it did it right for the visitors – and there were lots of them! The quality of the flying was excellent and, while some of the acts were familiar, some were new or at least not seen for a while. Seeing the Hornets instead of the Super Bug was a nice change and the display is quite different given the differing natures of the two aircraft.
The Snowbirds proved to be a great conclusion to the show. They flew a tight and polished display (with one minor exception) and did a good job of using the number of aircraft to keep something going on in front of the crowd. They mixed it up with some pairs and four ship crossing to keep everyone on their toes. I think they made a lot of fans. I hadn’t seen them for a while so it was good to see them again. (They were also a lot of fun at the party later!)
One of my favorite airshows is held at Waukegan. This show has a lot to offer. It has a good selection of performers, it is not so large that you feel exhausted even getting there, the display is not vast but it does flow well and a lot of people I know are involved. Also, it is close to home so covering several days is not a problem.
I actually had three days up at the show. I shall deal with the show itself in an upcoming post. Before that I headed up for the arrivals and for the practice. These were on the Thursday and Friday and the weather could not have been more different. Thursday was a lovely day. I got there just after the A-10s arrived which was a disappointment but I was there for the F/A-18s showing up as well as the Snowbirds, some of whom flew around for a considerable time before landing.
The practice show on Friday had a solid cloud layer all day. It wasn’t so bad that the practice could not go ahead but it certainly did not make for great photographic conditions. The practice was just for the main acts with the Snowbirds performing, both Hornets doing the demonstration and the USAF Heritage Flight involving an A-10. The rest of the performers were not involved. Since these displays required closing a local street, the aim was to keep the practice relatively short.
The results were not my best photos ever. With the forecast for better things on the Saturday during the show itself, there was a good chance that most of these would be consigned to the trash if Saturday worked out. However, there were some that weren’t too bad. As for Saturday, you will have to wait and see…
My reduced enthusiasm for air shows has cropped up in posts recently. I mentioned it here not so long ago. I also talked about it last year with regard to my “home” air show, the Chicago Air and Water Show. I have been a bit reluctant to go to the show because it is very busy/crowded and the content of the show has been a bit reduced due to the lack of available performers.
This year the show snuck up on me and suddenly it was here. I had kept my calendar clear on the Friday before the show because I like to go to the practice day. Not only do you get a full show (usually) but there are a lot less people there. You can even get bonuses with the headlining team (either the Blue Angels or the Thunderbirds) tagging on a few extra practice moves at the end as they tighten up their performance. For some reason the Friday also seems to be more lucky with the weather. This year I figured I would follow the pattern and go then and avoid the busy weekend performances.
The plan turned out to be a really good one. The air temperature was about 70F but the skies were clear blue. There was even a hint of moisture in the air earlier in the day which would prove beneficial! They have moved the show an hour earlier compared to years gone by. I’m sure this has a number of benefits for the organizers and getting people in and out. However, the light is a little harsh earlier in the day until it comes around behind the crowds so starting earlier reduces the time for good light. However, you can still make that work if you plan your shooting.
I met up with a bunch of familiar faces down on North Avenue Beach and we settled in for the show. We had most of the main performers and a bonus with two Super Hornet displays. Two crews cover the show, one flying each day. However, they both get to practice on the Friday. It is safe to say the first crew got high marks from us for the style of the display and for having it close enough to see. The second crew seemed to be flying a very different display and were a lot further out. The first crew also benefited from the humidity levels by dragging some clouds around with them throughout the show. That helped their rating from us but they were clearly better on the day.
A lot of familiar acts were displaying but I got to see some I haven’t seen much of. Kirby Chambliss put on an excellent display I thought. All of the pilots are good but sometimes you see someone and just instantly recognize that they are a cut above the norm. Kirby fitted that description.
The Blues were the headlining act this year and they performed pretty well. Most of the display looked slick with the one glaring issue being the poor timing of the sneak passes. The four ship had been long gone by the time the solos arrived so people had plenty of time to see them coming. It was practice day so hopefully they fixed that on the real days. I didn’t see Saturday but was at home on Sunday to watch them come through the downtown as they repositioned. I did see that four was instead three on Sunday so I guess a jet or a pilot was sick – don’t know which.
With the combination of the great weather, the good friends and some excellent flying, I had one of my best air show experiences in a long time. This might be my last Air and Water Show so, if that proves to be the case, at least I will have gone out on a high.
As part of her tour of the country, Fifi, the B-29 operated by the Commemorative Air Force was coming to the Chicago region. She was scheduled to appear at DuPage Airport, west of Chicago. I had been in contact with the team about covering the visit for GAR. This is something to be published soon so I won’t spoil everything just yet! However, it is safe to say that I did head along and meet up with the team and see Fifi flying.
She was scheduled to fly three times during the day with the first trip being in the morning. The layout of the main part of the airport meant that the light wold be bad in the morning but better later in the day. I found an alternative spot to catch her as she took off and got myself ready. Unfortunately, my brain was not totally in gear and I had one camera on the wrong settings. I did get lucky though and did not end up with frozen props in the shots, even if they are a little less blurry than I would like!
I then headed around to the approach lights to get her heading back in. It was very impressive to have a B-29 coming right over your head. I got the shots but did peak out the side to enjoy the experience – something that is a little lost some times when focusing too much on getting the shots. I was about to head back when I noticed a P-51 on approach too. A nice bonus. Then it was back to the airport to get the interview and some ground shots. A great bunch of people and a very interesting day.