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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Quick Shot: Pink

Summer is officially upon us, which means water lily time is also upon us! Every year, at the end of June/beginning of July, I head out to photograph water lilies at some of the local aquatic gardens. 

Photographing lilies requires several things. First, you need to set your alarm pretty early so you can be out shooting at day break. The bright sun and marsh humidity makes a summer day photographing these flowers unbearable at any other time of day. Second, you'll want a tripod and a decent telephoto lens. Third, you'll want some great light (either from the sun or a flash). 

My favorite destination is the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, which are located in downtown Washington, DC. This area is subject to tides flooding some of the walking paths, so it's generally best to time your visit for a cool part of the day at mid/low tide. The gardens feature acre after acre of aquatic plants and lilies. Some aquatic birds and thousands of dragonflies also call Kenilworth home.  

Last year I tried to take an abstract approach to the lily flower. I wanted bright colors, lots of pop, and a little flair. When I found this lily, I knew I'd found my flower. I used a flash to over expose the background and focused on the petal closes to the camera to get the great detail in each petal. Adjustments for color, sharpness, and contrast were done in Adobe Photoshop.

In the next week or two I'll be headed back out to Kenilworth to see what I can find this year! 

Shot with Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm macro/micro lens, and SB-700 flash. 

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Quick Shot(s): Feeding

This weekend I set my sights on a new destination in Northern Virginia to photograph birds and wildlife. I headed out to Dyke Marsh, just north of Mount Vernon, which is rumored to be one of the best places for bird sightings in the area. 

Feeling inspired from the friendly Blue Heron from last week, I wanted to see if I could find some similar birds, such as Egrets, out feeding. Low tide was expected at 1:30pm - many birds search the exposed beach during low tide for their next meal. 

It was a hot weekend so I was sure to pack a small camp stool and plenty of water so that I could setup a mini camp and wait for the birds to arrive. I hiked 3/4s of the way down the trail at Dyke Marsh before finding an area where I could cut to the waters edge. I (thankfully) found a shady spot to setup where I could watch several areas of the marsh at once.

I was immediately greeted with two Northern Water Snakes and a few cardinals, which had me optimistic for some great birding. I settled into position and began to wait. 

And wait. 

And wait some more. 

After two hours in the blistering heat, my water supplies and patience were running low. I'd seen some ducks and a few fishermen since setting up, but no signs of any of the birds I came to see. With the tide starting to return, I packed my bags.

Not every photo trip is a success - I've come to accept that there are plenty of days where I may return with nothing to show for my efforts. Even still, I love going out in search of the next great moment I'll share with nature. 

As I started the hike back to the car I heard an unusual sound. It was clearly a bird chirp, but it didn't sound like the other birds. It was too high pitch. 

I identified the source of the high pitched chirping a moment later coming from a small birds nest high in a tree. Birds nests have always posed a challenge to photograph - they are usually too high in a tree with too many leaves around to get a good angle to photograph. This nest, however, was clearly visible from the ground with minimal obstruction. I decided to setup my camera with the hope that one of the baby birds would pop it's head out from the nest. 

No sooner am I setup than I see a bright yellow Orchard Oriole sitting in the tree just below the nest. She was holding an insect in her mouth and watching my every movement. I fired off a series of photos. Despite my big flash, she must have decided I didn't pose a threat and began feeding her young. The pink beaks of the birds were barely visible poking out from the top of the nest.

I was thrilled. Seeing, much less photographing, a mom feeding her young is a bucket list item for most photographers. I wasn't prepared for the possibility that it'd continue to happen. 

For the next hour I sat and watched as the male and female Orchard Oriole took turns coming to the nest every five minutes to deliver more insects to the young birds.  I got several great shots, but narrowed it down to these three to tell the story.

Shot with Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm lens, Nikon SB-700 flash with Better Beamer, Gitzo tripod. 

 

The female Orchard Oriole scoping me out. She was just bringing some new insects to the nest.

The female Orchard Oriole scoping me out. She was just bringing some new insects to the nest.

The young birds would cry out for their parents after they left the nest in search of more bugs. They looked so incredibly frail, yet packed a loud chirp!

The young birds would cry out for their parents after they left the nest in search of more bugs. They looked so incredibly frail, yet packed a loud chirp!

The male Orchard Oriole delivering some fresh insects to his young. There were at least two babies in this nest.

The male Orchard Oriole delivering some fresh insects to his young. There were at least two babies in this nest.