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


1938 Westland Lysander engine


Bristol strut



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

Will You See Me in 2016?

I was honored earlier this year when ARTS Deutschland "Professionals for Aviation"  contacted me about using some of my air-to-air photographs as part of a calendar they put together every year. I happily obliged and just received my copy of the calendar.

First, kudos to the designers - this is one of the nicest calendars I have ever seen! It's printed on lovely stock and has some nice 3D textures that really make the images pop. 

My photograph of Team Global Stars is included in their large hanging calendar, along with in their smaller version. I am super excited about being part of this publication and, if you get their calendars, you'll see me in 2016! 

Quick Shot: Air-to-Air Over England

Scenic Traverse Goes Flying!

You probably noticed I've been having some fun photographing all of the aircraft at the Little Gransden airport near Cambridge - and you wouldn't be the only one! Some of the pilots at the airfield have also taken notice and today they invited me on a fly-along to do some air-to-air photography.

Air-to-air involves photographing one airplane from another to get some photographs of an aircraft in flight. It's significantly more challenging than shooting from the ground too.... suddenly you have to contend with holding a camera out of a flying plane's window and keeping it steady enough to get great shots while both you and your subject are cruising over the ground. Adding a particular challenge today was that the airplane I was shooting from also had under the wing struts, so that meant the alignment of the two aircraft had to be such that the struts weren't in the way. 

The entire flight was only a few minutes long, but gave me several chances to photograph this beauty over the skies of the United Kingdom. I'm very appreciative that they let me come along and take some shots for them this evening - what do you think of the final results?

The plane I flew in - notice how the window was removed to facilitate my camera and lens sticking out and into the wind! It's a very small aircraft, but very nimble as well - and lots of fun to ride in!

A view of the Little Gransden Airport and grass airstrip.

A more detailed view of the aircraft hangars and property at Fullers Hill and the Little Gransden Airfield. We are staying in one of the buildings behind the hangars, so it's easy for me to constantly keep my eyes and ears open for any activity at the airfield.

How would you like to maintain that garden?! This was one of the many scenic views afforded to us from the air. I think this would fall into the "high rent" category!

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

Quick Shot: Final Flight

On Tuesday, April 17th, 2012, the Space Shuttle Discovery made its final flight to Washington, DC where it will now be on display at the Air and Space Museum near Dulles, Virginia. I knew I had to photograph the end of this important era in American space history.

Getting this shot, however, was a bit of luck...

Any given Tuesday you're likely to find me sitting behind my desk at work - not out with my camera. However, my mom was in town with our wedding planner so I'd taken a few days off work so we could run the gauntlet of errands associated with planning a wedding. Knowing the space shuttle would be flying over DC, we decided to take a mid-day break from our errands to try and see the final flight. 

With my Nikon D800 and Sigma 150-500mm lens in tow, we set off for Gravely Point, an area located just north of the Washington Reagan National Airport. That is a popular spot with plane spotters and is located at the edge of DC, giving me a great chance to shoot the shuttle as it flew along the monuments. 

I never made it. 

Traffic was a disaster and the shuttle arrived a little earlier than we anticipated. Our first view of the shuttle came right as we were passing the airport - just 1,000 feet from Gravely Point. Traffic was completely stopped and the shuttle flew directly overhead - the best view was from my sun roof!  I was driving and missed a great shot, but it's one of those photos that I'll always have in my mind.

We inched forward a few feet and decided we'd join the crowd of hundreds of people who decided to illegally park on the side of I-395 to see the shuttle. The police, who were patrolling, didn't seem to mind given the unique circumstances.... so long as we didn't block the road.  

I popped out with camera in hand and watched for 30 minutes as the shuttle Discovery made her final flight through DC. I went to space camp several times as a child but had never seen a shuttle that had actually been to space with my own eyes before that... it was magical. At the same time, it was equally sad to witness the end of an era. 

I got many great shots that day, but the one I like the best is also the simplest. The photos of the shuttle next to the monuments diluted the power of the flight.... this shot captured the beauty and power of these amazing machines. I converted it into black and white to emphasize the dirt and space grim from a shuttle that had worked very hard in her career.

Shot with Nikon D800 and Sigma 150-500mm lens. Edited in Photoshop CS6 and converted to black and white using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2. 

Don't forget you can buy this and other prints online at


Quick Shot: C-47 Cockpit

This is the inside of a cockpit from a C-47 bomber located at Fantasy of Flight outside Orlando, Florida. This aircraft actually participated in multiple missions during World War II, including including dropping personnel on Normandy Beach.  

This shot took a bit of pre-planning; I would either need to do some HDR or a decent dose of editing to get the detail in the cockpit without over exposing the sky. I ended up shooting the image under exposed by about a stop and by shooting in RAW, I was able to pull the detail back out of the cockpit and clouds in Adobe Photoshop. Final adjustments were made using Nik HDR Efex for a boost to the color in the cockpit.