A Walk Through Aviation History

In celebration of Veteran’s Day this year, I went to Virginia Beach to visit the Military Aviation Museum. It is one of the largest private collections of military aircraft on the east coast, and reminds me of places like the Shuttleworth Collection, which I loved to visit while I was in the UK.

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, the museum put on a special ceremony, and then displayed a number of aircraft from that era.

I really enjoy black and white images of aircraft, and particularly like the challenge of shooting them on the ground in a way that captures their spirit for flight. So with each of these photographs, I tried to use the surrounding hangers and structures to remind you how much these machines love to fly.

If you want to learn more about the Military Aviation Museum, you can visit their website.

All photographs taken with the Nikon Z7 and Zeiss Milvus lenses.


Video: Fly with Team Global Stars

I have been busy working with the Cambridgeshire based aerial performance team, the Global Stars, to produce a series of videos highlighting their stunt performances and am excited to finally release the second video. This short movie, titled "Fly with Team Global Stars" gives you an up close and personal view into what it is like to fly as a member of the team. Strap in and get ready to fly! 

Video: Meet Team Global Stars

Wow! I have been busy the past few days preparing for, shooting, and editing a series of videos for the Global Stars aerobatic team based out of Little Gransden Airfield in Cambridgeshire, UK. After a full day of shooting and many hours of editing, I'm pleased to release the first in this video series.

The Global Stars are a team led by Mark Jefferies, a world famous aerobatic pilot and owner of www.AirDisplays.com. I've been lucky to meet Mark early in my UK travels and had a chance to do some earlier air-to-air photographs with him and another pilot on the Globals Stars team, Chris Burkett. In preparation for another season filled with aerobatic shows, we've been busy shooting footage for these promotional videos and photographs.

This video was a combination of footage from GoPro cameras, a DJI Phantom Vision 2+ aerial quadcopter (drone), and my D610 dSLR video rig. Music is by one of my favorites, Dexter Britain.

Check out the video and meet team Global Stars! Stay tuned for more videos, including some killer airborne footage, coming very soon......

Quick Shot: Hurricane Pilot

I have thousands of photographs in my personal collections, but very few of those images feature a person as the primary subject. When I saw this pilot getting into the cockpit of his Hawker Hurricane, I knew I just had to get a quick portrait photo.

He had no idea I was taking his photograph, which makes the image and his expression 100% genuine. I had watched as he climbed up the wing and opened the cockpit canopy. As he started to climb inside, I just let it rip with the camera's shutter, knowing that something he was about to do would be worthy of a portrait. Sure enough, I got this expression of deep concentration as he was getting situated.

I love photographs of people in black and white, so there was no question that I'd be converting the image, with an extra emphasis on capturing the detail and lines in his face.

Shot with the Nikon D610 and Nikon 80-400mm telephoto lens.

Behind the Scenes: Airshow Photographer

Ever wonder what it's like to be just feet from the action at an airshow with nothing but a (big) camera lens between you and some of the most powerful aircraft in the world? 

Let's take a step behind the scenes as an airshow photographer at the Little Gransden Air and Car Show from a few weeks ago. Although not new to aviation photography, I don't have many connections in the UK yet, so I was very grateful when an opportunity arose for me to be an official photographer in at this show. I may not have my furniture shipped over from the United States, but I had everything I needed to shoot the show, so I jumped at the opportunity.

Being a show photographer starts by getting to the show with all your equipment and checking in with the coordinators. After signing my life away to the Brits, I was issued a neon yellow vest that certainly raised my fashions up a few notches. More importantly, the vest gained access to the otherwise restricted portions of the show along the runway, which offers an unobstructed view of the aircraft. This area is tightly controlled by the CAA (British version of the FAA) as you are closer to the aircraft with no safety barriers between you and a spinning prop. 

Neon yellow really can be quite the fashion statement! In my right hand is my D610 with Nikon 80-400mm lens while I have my D800 with 24-70mm on my left shoulder.

Neon yellow really can be quite the fashion statement! In my right hand is my D610 with Nikon 80-400mm lens while I have my D800 with 24-70mm on my left shoulder.

The group of photographers first had an orientation with the organizer who showed us where to stand and explained some of the basic rules for the day. Those rules include getting the heck out of the way should there be an accident - we are standing immediately in front of the fire and rescue services! 

A view of the crowd from my vantage point. Straight ahead is where the planes would park before it was time to perform and the runway is immediately to the right (off image).

A view of the crowd from my vantage point. Straight ahead is where the planes would park before it was time to perform and the runway is immediately to the right (off image).

After our photographer orientation, I had an hour to sit with my friends and enjoy our packed lunch before I had to scurry off to the pilots briefing. This is the last minute planning meeting for everyone flying at the show. Here, the show director reviewed the order of the performances, the timeline, and the take-off sequence. This turned out to be a bit of a spectacle - some performers wanted to get airborne several acts early to give themselves some practice and prep time, so there had to be some careful coordination and planning to make sure everyone knew where they were supposed to be and that all the planes were in the right place at the right time. Adding to the balancing act is that some planes have certain restrictions - for instance, an ultralight glider was set to perform immediately after the Vulcan, but we had to wait 3 minutes for aerial disturbances and turbulence caused by the Vulcan's jets to subside before the ultralight could take to the air. 

Managing the logistics for an airshow is very tricky business and made even harder when some of the performers fly in from another airfield to display and then fly away - the timing has to be perfect! Here a pair of Lancaster's flew over the show immediately following a memorial prayer service to honor those who have died in service to their country.

Besides a slew of logistics, the show director also took this opportunity to cover radio frequencies, information on getting fuel, and where the backup runway to land in the event of an emergency was located. It was all the sorts of things that, as spectators, we take for granted when seeing a brilliant show.

Held in one of the hangars before the show started, the pilots orientation was a chance to work out the final logistics for the flying performances. Here the flight director is briefing the pilots that would be performing on everything from emergency procedures to where the snacks are located.

Following the briefing, I made my way to the flight line to start shooting. This is where the behind the scenes gets less interesting - the obvious photographing of planes ensued! But there were several unique twists to being a show photographer; the show director was standing nearby and I could overhear her radio. This meant I could hear the pilots talking to each other... "ready... go" was a good clue they were about to do a trick or stunt I needed the camera poised and ready for! 

Getting the timing right for photos like this can be a bit tricky, but it helps when you are standing close to the flight director and can overhear the pilots talking on the radio!

Several hours and 5 memory cards later, my feet hurt but I had shot just about everything possible from the show! After returning my vest it was time to head home and start the long and painful process of editing thousands of images to find only the very best.

My friend, who was back in the crowd, got this distant photo of my position for context. I am in one of the neon vests between those firetrucks - it's a position that offers a great vantage point without blocking the views of the rest of the crowd.

Although I normally shoot with my Nikon D800, I actually opted for the D610 for this shoot because it offers a faster shooting rate and the lower megapixels meant I could fit more images per memory card. The camera performed beautifully and is probably my new "go-to" for any action shooting. I still used the D800, but kept it equipped with a 24-70mm lens and used it for close up shots of the action immediately in front of my position. 

Being so close to the flight line also gave me a chance to get some unique angles on non-flight activity. For instance, Mark Jefferies greeted the crowd after an exquisite aerial solo performance. By being away from the crowd, I could shoot back on them to add the additional context.

The show was an outstanding success - all of the performances went off without any major glitches and I took away thousands of great shots. After almost 6 days of editing (slightly delayed by the fact that our furniture was delivered in the middle of it), I narrowed it down to the very best images. Here are a few of the other photographs from the show:

Quick Shot: Mustang Nose

Last weekend was the annual Little Gransden Airshow, which is held to raise money for children in need. I honored by being invited to join the airshow as one of the official photographers, which permitted me access to the flight line for the aerial displays.

During the course of almost 4 hours, I photographed approximately 50 aircraft that exhibited during the show..... my camera felt like it was just eating up memory cards to keep up with the action! Thankfully, I packed plenty of spares.

One of the benefits of flight line access during the show is that you get a head on view of the planes as they taxi back from landing, meaning I had many chances to get some intimate head-on portraits of some beautiful birds.

I have always had a soft spot for the P-51 Mustang, so I was thrilled to have a chance to shoot this Mustang from the flight line during the show. While I got many great aerial photos, my favorite turned out to be this one on the ground where the Mustang was coming at me nose first. 

Stay tuned to the blog for some behind-the-scenes information about how putting on one of these air shows works... and lots more photos of classic birds.

The P-51 Mustang named "Marinell" taxiing down the flight line after landing. I love this photo in black and white to show off the polished metal on the fuselage of the aircraft.

Quick Shot: Shuttleworth Collection Air Show

Europe is known for having a complex and colorful history - you can hardly walk down a street without coming across a building from the 12th century or some old castle where Sir Arthur dueled. So it's not surprising that Europe also has a fantastic collection of historical aircraft, some of which can't be seen flying anywhere else.

Of course anyone who owns a piece of aviation history wants to show it off to the public, and this weekend was one of the popular British air shows to see historical aircraft. The show was held at the Shuttleworth Collection Museum at Old Warden Park outside Biggleswade, UK and featured aircraft ranging from the old and bizarre to fast and modern. 

Unlike my previous two aviation photo shoots, this one was done entirely from the ground. I shot primarily with my Nikon 80-400mm lens and used my new Nikon D610 body for the ground-to-air shots because it offered a faster frames per second capture rate.

If you ever have the chance to see this collection, I'd highly recommend it! And you can enjoy it in true British style while picnicking and drinking a pint of the finest ale!

This is a more unique aircraft - it's actually a towed glider called the Eon Primary! I'm not sure you could get me strapped into that chair to fly that contraption either!

At first glance, this small transport aircraft doesn't seem all that special - but check out the point on the windshield. How'd you like to get fingerprints out of that?

Mark came out to play with one of the most modern aircraft, the GOFF PETROLEUM Extra; as expected, Mark put on quite the show with some daring acrobatic work to please the crowd.

This German World War II aircraft is called a Frieseler Storch and was one of the more unusual characters that took to the skies - it's an incredibly slow flying airplane and has a very awkward way of moving through the sky.

This was one of the half dozen biplanes on display at the show - I love the bright polished finish of this 1937 Hawker Demon contrasting with what was a particularly beautiful British afternoon.

If you look closely on this Spitfire, you can see a series of white stripes on the wings and underside of this fighter - those stripes are called invasion stripes and were painted using mops and whatever white paint could be found before the Allied invasion on D-Day. These are obviously a re-paint since the real stripes were applied crudely just hours before the invasion.

This Spartan Executive is probably my favorite aircraft from the show - but this was taken back at the Little Gransden Airfield. The plane normally resides at the airfield where I'm temporarily living, so I've had two weeks to drool over that polished aluminum finish!

I absolutely love these World War II classics like the Spitfire - very few still fly and the ones that do mostly reside in Europe, so it was a real treat to be buzzed by them during the show.

Mark and the GOFF PETROLEUM Extra closed out the show, giving me a chance to get a few more shots of him at work with a great display of aerobatics. 

Quick Shot: Stampe-ing Around in Little Gransden

This evening was busy at the Little Gransden Airfield here in the United Kingdom, but one plane in particular caught my camera's attention.

The aircraft in question is a Stampe et Vertongen SV.4, more commonly referred to as a Stampe, which is a two seat biplane trainer aircraft used heavily during the 1940s. The militaries of France, Belgium and England all used these aircraft to train pilots during and following World War II - because they are primarily European based aircraft, this was my first opportunity to see a currently flying Stampe up close.

This particular Stampe was built following the conclusion of World War II, with it's engines coming from Paris and the main airframe being largely constructed in the former French colony of Algeria. Several years ago it was completely overhauled and now flies regularly from the Little Gransden Airfield. 

I love to see and photograph aircraft like this - they are so exquisite and graceful in the air! It's really an honor to photograph aircraft that have also played such an important role in Europe's history and I thank the pilot for letting me photograph his beautiful machine.

How can you not love an aircraft like this? Everything about this plane is gorgeous and it couldn't have been a more beautiful day to see this piece of history in action.

The Stampe taxiing towards the grass airstrip at the Little Gransden airfield. It flew for about a hour today, offering its passengers some breathtaking views of the British countryside.

The Stampe returning from her flight

I usually find that aircraft photographs either look better in black and white or color, based on the personality of the aircraft and story I'm trying to tell.... but this Stampe is the exception and looks gorgeous in both!

Hey pilots (or friends of).... if you have a unique or favorite aircraft that you'd like me to photograph, shoot me a note. I'm happy to try and arrange photo ops!

Quick Shot: LT-6 Revisited

The past week has been busy with entertaining movers as we prepare for our journey to the UK (we leave Monday!) and while they pack and inventory our goods, I've had some free time to work on editing some photos. I wanted to revisit some of my past edits and photo shoots to go back to some of those images I marked as "want to use, but don't have the time to edit yet."

This shot of the LT-6 at the Commemorative Air Wing Dixie Wing outside Atlanta, Georgia, is one of those photos. I edited it previously, but this new version really accentuates the details in the metal riveting and still shows the aircraft behind the LT-6. Photographed like this, you can see a collection of aircraft from World War II and Vietnam, including Japanese and US aircraft, spread along the tarmac on a static display.

What do you think of the revisited LT-6?

Quick Shot: Emerging Texan

I want my photographs to tell a story, and I am really excited by the story of this photograph of a North American LT-6 Texan. This aircraft was photographed during my recent visit to the Dixie Wing of the Commemorative Air Force in Peachtree City, Georgia. 

The Dixie Wing volunteers had been generous enough to pull out several of their World War II aircraft and line them up on the taxiway, despite heavy rains that day. This aircraft had just barely been pulled out of the hangar, which presented an interesting opportunity.... could I take a photograph in broad daylight (ok, overcast rainy daylight) that made it appear that this aircraft had just pulled out of the hangar and was preparing for its next sortie. Unfortunately, the hangar behind this aircraft was very cluttered and it was going to be hard to present this hangar in such a way that a viewer would believe this photograph was from World War II. The only thing playing to my storytelling was an L-16 that was used during World War II in the background; by levering that aircraft, I could create the appearance that the LT-6 Texan had just emerged out of the dark hangar it shared with another aircraft.

To get this photograph, I climbed about 5ft up a ladder to shoot down on the airplane from a higher vantage point. The higher vantage point also meant that it would be easier to trick the camera into making the hangar darker. The biggest trick was to make sure I was centered on the aircraft and holding the camera level!

After the shoot, I converted the photograph to black and white and was able to achieve the look I desired. Now when I look at this photograph, I see a warbird getting ready for its next battle, and I hope you see that too!

Emerging Texan: A US LT-6 Texan aircraft with an L-16 in the background. This photograph makes me think the Texan is emerging from the hangar to get ready for its next mission during World War II.

Source: Emerging Texan

Announcement: World War II Art Poster Prints for Sale

Scenic Traverse Photography is pleased to announce two World War II Art Poster Prints for sale in time for the holidays. These are a spectacular deal - each print is only $25 and I've arranged special pricing to get your print framed for the holidays. 

There are two posters available: the first is a 1944 Douglas C-47 Dakota cockpit and the second is a 1944 P-51C Mustang "Ina the Macon Belle". Both of these aircraft were used by US forces in World War II -- the C-47 actually dropped US paratroopers during the D-Day invasion. Miraculously, both planes survived the war and now live in the United States, where they still fly today! 

These posters are printed on the same fine art paper I use for my normal fine art prints and are 13x19inches in size, which means you can use a normal frame from your local craft store. However, to give this print a truly special touch, I've teamed up with a local professional framer to offer these prints with a custom matte and solid wood frame for a fraction of his normal price.  

Looking for a holiday gift? These posters would be perfect for any aviation enthusiast, history buff, or anyone who wants to own a piece of history. Each print includes a small card detailing the history of the pictured aircraft and is hand signed by the artist. 

The prints are $25/each (unframed) or $150 (framed). Order online today! 

These prints are available immediately and orders made before December 10th will arrive in time for the holidays. 

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Quick Shot: Marauder

One of the many things I inherited from my father was a love of airplanes. I've always been drawn to their raw power and sleek design. When I had a chance to photograph some of the best World War II aircraft still flying today, I jumped at the opportunity. 

The B-26 Marauder was a twin engine bomber used heavily in the European theater during World War II, including on D-Day. Unfortunately, frequent accidents during take off and landing gave the Marauder the nickname "widow maker" for some time, but the pilots learned to fly this great machine and it became one of the most important aircraft to the war effort. 

This B-26 is located at Fantasy of Flight outside Orlando, Florida. The aircraft has been diligently maintained and is still able to fly today.... 70 years later!  

The aircraft was parked too close to other aircraft for me to isolate alone in a single shot, but I was drawn to the reflection of the machine gunners bubble on the front of the bomber. I used a Nikon 14-24mm wide angle lens to get close to the bubble but to still get some of the wings in the shot as well.  

The photo was edited using Adobe Photoshop CS6 and Nik HDR Efex 2; I didn't have a tripod so I got all of the dynamic range from a single shot by dialing in an exposure compensation of -0.5 stops so that the bright sky wasn't blown out in the highlights. 

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