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.

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Behind the Scenes: Shuttleworth Collection of Historic Aircraft

It's dangerous to let me loose with a camera around historic aircraft - I absolutely love to photograph these flying machines! I could spend hours capturing every little detail, especially when the aircraft carry real historic value. 

Every year, the Shuttleworth Collection, which is a private collection of historic aircraft maintained by volunteers, opens the doors to their workshops for visitors to see behind the scenes of what it takes to maintain and keep 100+ year old aircraft airworthy! The collection, which aims to preserve the airworthy nature of these aircraft, many of which are the only remaining flyable ones left in the world, spent almost a half million British pounds ($750,000) to achieve this goal in 2015.

With my Leica SL in hand, I spent several hours photographing the inside of the workshops, which are normally closed to visitors. This provided me with a rare opportunity to see inside these aircraft while they are in maintenance - and it was truly spectacular.

1941 Supermarine Spitfire Inside Struts

Engine and wooden propeller

Aircraft engineer hands

Bristol Scout C cockpit

Inside the wing of a 1941 Spitfire

Parts hanging in the workshop

Britsol Boxkite tail

Shuttleworth Engineer

Clamps

1938 Westland Lysander engine

Fabrication

Bristol strut

Workshop

Parts

Safety belt

Tools and parts

Machine gun replica on 1917 Bristol F2B

Wooden Propeller

Tail from 1942 North American Harvard

Avro 19 Series 2 in the hangar

Quick Shot: Wings

It is airshow season here in the United Kingdom; every weekend brings a host of interesting and often historic aircraft flying around our house, so whenever possible, we try to go catch the show.  Last weekend was one of our favorite shows at the Shuttleworth Collection. This show features a collection of mostly pre-1950's aircraft and historic cars, given it the name "Wings and Wheels Airshow."

I went armed with the Leica's to get some 35mm film shots of the cars in black and white and some digital shots of the aircraft. I wasn't planning to shoot much of the aircraft in flight and wanted to focus on shots of the aircraft on the grass runway. I'll showcase some of the wheels from the show later and today am focusing on three of the wings.

All of these aircraft were photographed with the Leica M-P 240 and Summarit 35mm f/2.4 lens.

1917 Bristol M1C
This is one of the few replica aircraft in the collection as most are originals, but it's hard to find many aircraft form 1917 that still fly! This aircraft was actually built in 2000 but carries the markings of an original Bristol that flew with the 72 Squadron Royal Flying Corps in the Royal Air Force.

1934 Hawker Hind
I have always had a soft spot for the shine of the aluminum on these World War II biplanes. This Hawker actually saw service in World War II as a bomber and training aircraft and in the 1930s was part of the Royal Afghan Air Force.

1934 DH88 Comet Racer
Unlike the other aircraft in this series that were designed for wartime, this beauty was meant to participate in the popular air races. Specifically, she flew from England to Australia. Three of the comets participated and G-ACSS (this aircraft) won the race.

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?

Photo Essay: USS Intrepid & USS Growler

There aren't many places around the United States where you can walk aboard a retired US Navy aircraft carrier or US Navy submarine from the cold war era -- probably because some of those vessels are still in service today! But New York City has become the permanent resting place for two ships who served their country valiantly and I had a chance to tour and photograph both last weekend.

The USS Intrepid was commissioned in the fall of 1943 - as World War II raged. She served in the Pacific theater during World War II, sustaining attacks from Japanese kamikaze fighters. After the war, she continued her service in the Atlantic and supported operations during the Vietnam war. One of the most notable accomplishments for the Intrepid includes being the recovery ship for astronauts in the Gemini and Mercury program.

The USS Growler (SSG-577) was launched in 1958 during the height of the cold war. Her mission was simple - to carry the Regulus nuclear missiles that would be launched at the Soviet Union in the event of nuclear war. Thankfully her weapons never had to be used and after a short 8 years of service, she was retired. 

Both of these vessels now reside at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City where they serve as living museums. I knew I wanted to photograph both ships to capture as much of their story as possible during our short visit. All of the photographs were taken with the Nikon D800 and Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. I wanted these photographs to be in black and white - it can be a very powerful medium for describing the age of these vessels. With that all said, enjoy the photo essay by clicking through the slideshow below:


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

Quick Shot: US Navy SBD-5 Airplane

The Douglas SBD-5 "Dauntless" was one of the US Navy's most prolific killers during World War II. Unfortunately, after the war ended, most of the aircraft were left to decay and today there are only two SBD-5's in the world that can still fly....

... and this is one of them!

Based at the Dixie Wing of the Commemorative Air Force in Georgia, this SBD-5 is still airworthy and flies routinely. I am always excited to photograph aircraft like this that are so rare - it's my chance to capture one of the few remaining pieces of US history. 

It was pouring rain all day during my shoot at the Dixie Wing, but the rain stopped long enough for a few rays of sunlight to peak through the clouds, creating a dramatic cloud scene. I got my shot and minutes later it was back to a solid grey sky and pouring rain - but that was okay!

I like this photograph in black and white because it shows off the drama of the sky and gives the aircraft an old and majestic feel. I am very pleased with how this photograph turned out, but more importantly, am satisfied that I captured one of two airworthy SBD-5's left with the beauty and glory it deserves!

One of two airworthy Douglas SBD-5's remaining in the world, located at the Dixie Wing of the Commemorative Air Force.


Quick Shot: Engine

Last week I was in Atlanta shooting like crazy as part of my trip to Photoshop World. One of the first stops was the Dixie Wing of the Commemorative Air Force, where I had a chance to get up close and personal with some great World War II aircraft. I won't talk too much about the aircraft I saw because there's plenty of future Quick Shots to come!

This shot got my attention immediately - as you walk up to these historic aircraft you tend to stop and gawk at the powerful engines that carried these aircraft and their daring pilots into combat. In this case, I was drawn to all the details in the engine. Getting the shot wasn't as easy as it probably looks, though - it was pouring rain and I had to fight to get a shot without too much water getting on the front of the lens! Adding to that is that the engine is actually above my eye level, so I had to do a jump/hop to get up high enough. Never mind the logistics - I got the shot and I think it came out quite nicely!

The details of a Pratt & Whitney Aircraft engine

The details of a Pratt & Whitney Aircraft engine

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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