Quite a while back, I saw a shot that someone had composited of a Typhoon display over an airfield where they had the jet throughout its routine to show its route through the sky. I liked the idea and, while it was totally different, it got me thinking when I was up at Heritage Flight Museum. They had the Skyraider on the ramp but not flying. It was ready to go but hadn’t yet been signed off.
However, they did do an engine run for the visitors and unfolded and folded the wings a few times. Having got some basic shots, the idea of the Typhoon display popped in to my head so I shot a sequence of shots of the wings as they folded and unfolded. I took way more than actually was a good idea. I imported them all in to Photoshop as layers and then hid all of them except one and then progressively added some back to get the wings in different positions. If I had used them all it would have just been a blur of wings.
With the ones I wanted selected, I changed the blend mode for all but the base layer to Darken and that meant the dark wing elements overlaid anything brighter behind them. The result was a composite with multiple wing positions all showing at once. I think it came out quite well. I thought I might have issues with hiding things I didn’t want to or having to much movement between shots but that wasn’t a problem in the end.
Is what I am seeing real or is it a Mirage? Sorry, pretty crummy pun usage. When I was going to Nellis for Red Flag, one of the things I wanted to shoot was the Mirage F1s of Draken International. It is a long time since I have seen an F1 – it was back when the Spanish Air Force was still flying them and they came to RIAT. Now that Draken is using them for aggressor support services, I was keen to catch one or two of them.
As it turned out, I didn’t have to wait long. The first time I drove up to the base, a pair of the Draken jets were recovering. I grabbed the camera as they came in straight towards me before going over my head. I had not set up the camera as I would have intended but just turned it on and pointed it at the jets. Not bad luck and some of the shots came out okay.
I did get a couple more opportunities. These were departures at the Speedway. In one morning I had a pair of them heading out without flexing. The camo pattern they have is the same but the colors vary. The black and white scheme was interesting. However, I prefer the brown scheme and the last two jets I got to shoot before I headed to the airport were F1s flexing north. Top and tail the visit with Mirages!
When the arrivals at Nellis on on the 03 runways, it means a trip to Cheyenne. This is not the greatest part of the world to visit but it is a feature of a Nellis trip. The sun angles were still quite low while I was there so I decided to try shooting from further around the road than I have done previously. For the planes coming in on the left runway, I had a reasonable sun angle on them. For planes on the right, they were coming right over my head.
I quite liked shooting like this. The planes have a surprising amount of variety in their line up angles when this far from the threshold so, while they are all coming close to you, it is not a repeat of the same shot every time. Each pilot takes a slightly different line and some variation in elevation too. You get something akin to head on shots and then it is a case of rapidly swiveling around to get a shot from behind.
There is a lot of fencing and trees along that part of the road so getting a clean shot of everything is hard to achieve. However, it is still possible to get something a little different. With the light angles being less than ideal, rather than worry about shots that aren’t going to be very usable due to either glare or shadow, why not get something a little different. It does require some quick adjustments and it can get a touch noisy but it is still fun to try something a little different.
The weather at Nellis was definitely not playing ball for the majority of my time at Red Flag 22-2. However, as the recoveries from the afternoon exercise were completing, some of the regular base traffic was getting ready to launch. Nellis is a bit like Seattle (hear me out) in that, even when the weather is a bit crappy in the afternoon, there is a good chance the light improves later on. This proved to be the case on my first full day there.
As the later jets were launching, the clouds had cleared up a bit and there was some nice low angle sun to be had on the aircraft as they headed out. I had gone up past Gate 6 at the Speedway to be in place for any Flex departures and this proved to be a good spot. Some of the jets turned a little beyond me but gave a better top side view while other turned a bit earlier and were almost heading overhead where I was. The light was better than anything I had got earlier in the day so it worked for me.
It was recently announced that Nellis AFB has ended operations of the F-15C/D Eagles. The Eagles have been at Nellis since the 1970s so this ends a long association. The Strike Eagles are still based there and there will, no doubt, be F-15EX jets based there in the not too distant future but this was still noteworthy within the aviation community. I have shot a bunch of based Eagles over the years including the aggressor jets. They went a while back so I won’t include them here but here are a few of the Nellis jets over the years.
Every once in a while, I really test the high ISO capability of the cameras I have. The R3 got an early test when I was at Red Flag, I went out on two evenings to shoot some night departures and experimented with the ability of the camera to perform in those conditions. The high ISO capability of cameras has not moved on too much to be honest. The max ISO I used on my 1DXII was 51,200 and the R3 is still the same. It does appear to be a bit cleaner but they have possibly hit a bit of a limit. What I had not tried out before was an electronic viewfinder in such conditions.
The first night, I went out into the dunes to be ready for the B-1 departures. As it turned out, they didn’t launch that night. I did get some fighters coming out my way for a while before I concluded that this was a bust and I was heading back to the hotel. I tried shooting a few of the jets but I discovered the limitations of the camera pretty rapidly. When there is no light, the electronic viewfinder really struggles. The frame rate of the viewfinder drops like a stone and tracking a subject becomes pretty problematic. The frames per second drop too so the chances of a result are slim. With an optical viewfinder, this is not an issue but the chances of a good shot are also slim.
I returned to the hotel feeling pretty dispirited by this result. I wondered whether this was a real problem for adopting the R3. The following night, I went out again with the B-1s again being my main target. This time I had some tankers heading out before the B-1s launched. It was a very different evening. Sure, the lack of light still makes the chances of getting a good shot pretty low but the camera seemed to have no problem tracking the subjects and keeping the viewfinder frame rate up to a perfectly acceptable level. If I had only gone from the previous night, I would have concluded that it was unusable.
The embedded images in the RAW files looked pretty good but the Lightroom edits required a lot more work. DPP might be the answer or DxO PrimeRAW could do a good job. However, that is not the issue. Will the camera allow me to shoot at night with very dark subjects. Apparently, the answer is yes. It can handle it. However, it can’t track an almost black subject with a couple of navigation lights like an optical viewfinder can. That is a limitation that I may have to live with.
Stopping for lunch at BFI, I was happy to be informed by someone already there that there were a couple of Super Hornets from the US Navy that had departed earlier and were due back shortly. I was able to munch on my sandwiches and do a little work while I waited but it wasn’t too long before they arrived. Initially, they appeared to be making a section approach but, as they got closer to the field, the separated and came in with about a 30 second spacing. One of the jets had some squadron colors which is always welcome these days. Not a dynamic approach but still a nice surprise.
Thanks to my friends, Bob and David, I became aware one Saturday morning that a fly day was underway that day up in Skagit County. The Heritage Flight Museum was going to have a few planes flying so I made a quick change of plans and headed up there. The conditions were a bit overcast so not ideal but it was still worth a look. There were a few of the regulars up there too so it was a chance to see some people I hadn’t seen for a while.
Of the various warbirds that they had flying that day, the A-1 Skyraider was the one that was of most interest for me. It was the only one I hadn’t seen at previous events so I was keen to get a chance to photograph it. On takeoff, it seemed to be trailing a fair bit of smoke. Since it was recently off overhaul, this concerned me a bit but it seemed to clean up as they flew for a while so everything seemed to be fine.
There were straight passes across the field from various formations followed by some arcing turns over the museum ramp individually. I backed up the road a bit to try and get a bit more of an angle on the planes as they ran across. It would certainly have been nicer to have a bit more light on them but it was still good fun to be shooting something different. I’m very grateful to the guys for giving me the heads up.
While sitting at the terminal at Honolulu waiting for our flight home many moons ago, I was staring out of the window at the traffic arriving and departing. Being in a different area meant plenty of different airlines as well as the more familiar ones. I created a post a while back that included some of the more usual operators. However, the airport shares a runway with the Air Force base. When you are on final approach, you get to see some of the fighters in shelters. It also means that some military traffic might arrive.
A bunch of F-16s started appearing as they rolled out after landing. I don’t know whether Hawaii was their destination or just a good stopover as part of a Pacific crossing. They weren’t making the journey unsupervised though. A KC-10 was dragging them across the ocean and it soon showed up too. I guess the last refueling was the cue for the F-16s to put in a burst of speed to get in first with the “Gucci” following them home.
There was an airshow in the Midwest that everyone used to say was a great event. It was held at Janesville and I finally got around to going to it shortly before it ceased to be. I promise it wasn’t my fault that it ended. I was there for the arrivals as well as the show and a pair of Hornets came in from Canada. The nice thing about this arrival was that they seemed to have a little extra fuel. Consequently, there was time for a few approaches and overshoots.
The light was a bit subdued that evening but it still had a slightly warm feel to it. Besides, pick your white balance and you can adjust just how warm things actually looked! I was shooting with the long lens from my location when they arrived so everything was taken at 500mm. Sometimes that was way too much lens for the distance between us but it was just an opportunity for a tight crop – let’s say that was an artistic decision!
The Hornet gear tucks up in a complex way and I got a few shots of them cleaning up as they powered away in to the pattern. A few times they pulled downwind pretty quickly and it felt like you were looking over their shoulder into the cockpit. I can even crop in and see the displays on the panel (later in the day means the ambient light isn’t too much making the cockpit a deep shadow. This was one of the high points of the evening. Shame I never got to see other shows at this venue.