Tag Archives: virginia

FAA Gulfstream

I have plenty of photos of Gulfstreams and a few photos of FAA jets – mainly flight checking Learjet 60s.  However, the FAA Gulfstreams have not been something I have seen a lot of.  I did have a nice chance to shoot one at Washington National many years ago, though.  I did see the jets on the ramp at the south end of the field occasionally but I think this was the only time I got one airborne.  It was shot from Gravelly Point so I was nice and close to it as it was on final approach.  That is a great place to shoot from (or just hang out and watch the planes) and I will have to get back there at some point.

Midwest Airlines

My trawl of the archives is also including airlines that have disappeared.  Today’s subject is Midwest Airlines.  They operated out of Milwaukee which was not far from me when I lived in Chicago but was not a place I frequented much.  The only time I think I shot there was during an open day at the ANG tanker unit based there.  I did get some Midwest movements that day.  I actually saw more of their jets and Washington National as it happens.  It wasn’t an airline I have many shots of in total but here is a selection of what I did get before they disappeared.

Blue Angels at Oceana (And High ISO)

I have only been to the Oceana show once.  I headed down there with my friends Ben and Simon.  We weren’t terribly lucky with the weather.  There was flying during the show but things were overcast and deteriorated as the show went on.  The finale of the show was, naturally for a big Navy base, the Blue Angels.  I was shooting with a 1D Mk IIN in those days and that was a camera that was not happy at high ISO settings.

The problem was, the light was not good and the ISO needed to be cranked up a bit.  Amusingly, if you were shooting today, the ISO levels would not be anything that caused concern.  Current cameras can shoot at ISO levels without any noise levels that would have been unthinkable back then.  However, I did learn something very important with this shoot.  The shot above is one that I got as one of the solo jets got airborne.  I used it as a test for processing.

I processed two versions of the image, one with a lot of noise reduction dialed in and one with everything zeroed out.  I think combined them in one Photoshop image and used a layer mask to show one version in one half of the image and the other for the second half.  When I viewed the final image on the screen, the noise in one half was awfully apparent.  It was a clear problem.  However, I then printed the image.  When I did so, things were very different.  If you looked closely, you could see a little difference.  However, when you looked from normal viewing distances, there was no obvious difference between the two.

My takeaway from this is that viewing images on screens has really affected our approach to images.  We get very fixated on the finest detail while the image as a whole is something we forget.  We print less and less these days and the screen is a harsh tool for viewing.

Washington National

IMG_2811.jpgIt has been quite a while since I last flew in to National Airport in Washington DC (or Virginia if you are being accurate). My recent visit to DC took me through the airport but not through the main terminal that I have used in the last decade. Southwest operate from the original terminal which, I have to admit, I didn’t realize was still in use.

IMG_2812.jpgThis is quite a distance from the rest of the airport and so you have a ten minute walk to get to the access to the metro station. It takes you all the way through the original terminal building which is a pretty impressive art deco structure. I did not have a camera other than that on my phone but I did grab a few quick pictures of this building which seems to have been restored as it is in good condition. It seems to be a bit of a gem that is missed by most people traveling through the airport.

C-46 Commando

wpid13604-C59F9601.jpgEven people how aren’t particularly into aviation have a reasonable chance of having heard of the Douglas DC-3, also known as the C-47 and the Dakota. Not only was it a hugely important aircraft in WWI but it also continued to provide the post war commercial services and, even today, to fill a niche in air transportation. Far less attention is given to one of its counterparts in the war, the Curtiss C-46 Commando. The C-46 never stuck in the public conscience in the same way and its use post war was a lot more limited.

wpid13612-C59F9800.jpgHowever, they didn’t all disappear and one fine example still flies at a lot of air shows. I got to see it at Pungo in Virginia a few years back at an ISAP event. The symposium was being held in Virginia Beach and we spent a couple of days at Pungo. One was the day before their annual air show. We got to look around the collection and see the aircraft in action. The C-46 put on a few great low passes and I was at one end of the field and got a great view head on.

wpid13606-C59F9606.jpgOn the day of the show, the weather was not cooperating and the train came down heavily at various times throughout the day. The C-46 did fly in the gaps provided by the not so awful weather. They were not conditions conducive to good photos but I still got some of it. However, the practice day proved to be the better day for seeing this fine machine in the air.

wpid13610-QB5Y5183.jpg wpid13608-C59F9763.jpg

Virginia Air and Space Museum

Located in Hampton Virginia is the Virginia Air and Space Museum.  Hayman and I checked it out as part of our tour of local museums.  I had been warned by Liza that everything inside was pretty crowded and she certainly wasn’t wrong about that but more of that later.  The museum is a very modern looking facility with glazing at both end walls allowing lots of light inside.  That also makes for a few problems with the levels of contrast between parts of the building but I doubt they planned it based on the needs of photographers!

In fact, they really didn’t.  The building has a great collection of aircraft.  The close proximity to NASA facilities has obviously been helpful in getting access to some pretty unusual exhibits.  The Apollo 14 Command Module is on display as is the HARV F/A-18 Hornet, a research F-106 and an XV-6 Kestrel among many other interesting airframes.  They even have an MMU from the Space Shuttle program (although getting a shot of it from the moving elevator was tricky).  The result of all of these exhibits is that they have to be squeezed in.  They are usually suspended from the ceiling which makes them look more dynamic.  However, they do tend to overlap a lot.

This isn’t a problem if you are visiting to see everything which is, after all, the purpose of the museum.  It does, however, make getting photos a bit more tricky.  I ended up using a combination of lenses.  A wide angle zoom and a fisheye zoom were the two I chose.  The fish is a lens that viewers can tire of quickly but, in this case, it was a case of trying to get unobstructed shots where possible.  It also let me try a few odd angles for fun too!

While not a museum I would go back to repeatedly, this was certainly a good place to visit.  I might go back one more time with some new ideas about how to shoot certain things but even that might require the cooperation of the management!  If you are passing and have a couple of hours, do pay it a visit.

Curtis Commando

I took a couple of trips to Pungo in Virginia recently to the Warbirds Museum.  The first visit was part of the ISAP field trip while the second trip was for the airshow on the day after the ISAP symposium had wrapped up.  The field trip was on the Friday when they were preparing for the show.  The sun was out but the wind was gusting pretty high so none of the aircraft were flying.

The Sunday was a lot worse.  The rain was pretty constant and the cloud base was low.  There was still some wind although it was a little lower.  However, any chance of a display was gone.  The only aircraft that performed on both days was the C-46 Commando.  It showed up on the Friday to check out whether the wind was within limits.  it did a low pass and determined that it wasn’t landing and off it went.  Fortunately, I was in the right place for the first pass, even if a slightly longer lens would have been helpful.

On the Sunday it appeared again out of the murk.  It did one pass (slightly higher than Friday) and then came in to land.  I was further down the field this time and with a longer lens so was better placed for the landing.  Conditions were not good since it was raining a lot but I still got a few shots.

The Commando is not a common aircraft so I was glad to get to shoot it, even if the circumstances were not ideal.  It was a shame to miss some of the more unusual flying items but there you go.  Make the best of what you get!

Pungo

Continuing my theme of items related to the ISAP symposium, we took a trip to the Museum of Military Aviation at Pungo south of Virginia Beach.  Actually, we took two trips to be accurate.  The first was part of the symposium field trip and the second was after the symposium had concluded and was for the air show at the museum.  Since they were preparing for the air show on the Friday of the field trip, I think it is fair to combine the two events into one posting.

Friday was a great day from a weather perspective except that it was quite windy and, more importantly from an aviating perspective, the wind was directly across the runway.  This meant that not too much flying was going on.  With a great collection of vintage military aircraft available, this was a shame.  However, they were all laid out along the field to take a look at so we were able to get up close and personal with a bunch of cool aircraft.

One of the planned attendees for the show did appear but that is something I am going to save for another post.  The show also included a lot of reenactors who had set up encampments around the site.  For a lot of the group, this proved to be a good alternative to go and photograph.  Normally, I am more than willing to photograph anything interesting or unusual but, for some reason, I didn’t get into this topic at all.

It is not that they weren’t worthy of photographing.  If you look at the images that people got you can see some good work.  My friend Jo recently blogged about this very topic here so you can see some of what was there.  However, in this case it just did not seem to work for me so I spent my time wandering around other parts of the museum.

The Sunday of the show arrived with very unfavorable weather.  Apparently the Saturday had been pretty good but Sunday had low clouds and rain when we got there.  It appeared highly unlikely that it was going to improve but we waited it out for a while.  The reenactors were out again so there was much for people to see but, since I was more bothered about the aircraft, I focused on them.  A few extra aircraft had arrived since we had been there on Friday, my favorite being a Fairey Firefly that had come in from Canada.  They were supposed to depart late morning for their trip home but sadly the weather got too bad to allow even that departure.

I certainly enjoyed seeing the various aircraft at the museum and there for the show.  It was a shame they weren’t granted better weather as I’m sure their ticket sales will have suffered (although a surprising number of people continued to arrive while we were there) but hopefully they will have achieved enough to support the ongoing work of the museum.  They certainly need to be commended for their efforts putting together the event.

Fort Monroe

As our day exploring was running down, we made one diversion from the center of Hampton to Fort Monroe.  Up until last year, this was apparently still an active military facility.  Now it has been vacated by the military and is open to access.  The feeling of the place is still very clearly that of a military base, even if the large number of troops are no longer there.  It is also plainly very old.

At the center of the Fort is an old Victorian style structure with massive stone walls and a moat.  There are a few entrances you can drive through and inside is the heart of the fort.  It appears that the housing has been turned over to people now so, while it is quiet, it isn’t deserted.  I have no idea who the housing now belongs to but it is certainly interesting to drive around.

Outside the main fortifications are plenty of other buildings.  These include gun emplacements as well as some very nice high end housing.  As you drive around you come to some nice houses that you assume must be for the senior officers.  Only as you come around the next corner and see even bigger houses do you realize that the really senior officers must have been there.  Indeed, as we walked along looking at the buildings, one of the residents came out and said hello.  She told us that this was Generals’ Row while the other houses were Colonels’ Row.  I am guessing the enlisted guys did not see much of this area.

The access to the shore means that plenty of people come to the piers to fish or to walk along the beach.  I have no idea what the future holds for this place but it certainly is worth a diversion if you are in the area to see something that is a bit frozen in time – at least for now.

NAS Oceana

The recent ISAP symposium took me to Norfolk VA.  It is a short drive to Virginia Beach and NAS Oceana – the home of the east coast fighter squadrons for the US Navy.  The field trip for the symposium was going to include a visit to Oceana but, since I was there ahead of the event, I decided to pay a quick visit after my arrival.  A slight delay due to travel complications and then the passing through of a pretty significant storm meant I was a little later than planned but no great problems resulted.

The weather was not great so the light was a bit sparse.  Combined with a cloudy sky, photographing grey jets is always a challenge but I was meeting up with a friend from FenceCheck.com who lives locally so there was always time to chat even if nothing was happening.  However, after a pretty quiet period, a few more jets got up and started flying.  I was supposed to be leaving to go and pick up a friend from the airport but the storm that I had come through was not alone and his inbound flight was significantly delayed.  Therefore, I had the time to see what else would fly.

The activity kept going for a bit was the light was fading fast and my ISO settings were getting higher and higher.  Since the time to pick up my friend was now approaching, I decided to pack up my stuff.  Another jet arrived as I did so.  This didn’t bother me until I realized it was one of the CONA painted aircraft so the kit was rapidly extracted again and a few shots taken.  Then it really was time to go.

Thanks for the advice on the spot to those concerned and also for the chance to catch up.  Maybe not the most ideal conditions but still a fun way to kill an hour or two.