Ever since I was little, I have been fascinated with aviation. Vintage aircraft are especially precious to me. They are not only a testament to mankind's constant attempt to master the world around us, but also symbolize our desire for exploration and freedom. From DaVinci's sketches to the first hot air balloons to the F-22 Raptor, I love it all. The aircraft of World War II are the nearest and dearest to my heart though. The reason for that is in part because of all the combat footage that is out there.
I went to my first airshow in 1995 in Sellersburg, Indiana. I was fortunate enough to see Chuck Yeager flying a P-51 Mustang in that show. There was also a battle reenactment with Fighter planes and tanks. You could feel the thud of the tank fire in your chest. It was incredible. The pyrotechnics from the simulated bomb drops were spectacular.
The most amazing thing I ever saw live, aviation wise, was the wing walker performance at the Vectren Dayton Airshow in 2012. Pilot Gene Soucy & wing walker Teresa Stokes blew me away. The photos I captured of the performance do not do it justice. The coordination between the walker and pilot leaves no room for error. Call it crazy, call it reckless, but you can't call it easy, cowardly, or boring. I have no problems with people risking their lives for something they love as long as those around them know what they are getting into. I photograph storms for crying out loud. I'd be a hypocrite to criticise that.
I was still using my Canon XT back then with a Sigma 70-210 f/4 lens, one of those zoom lenses that extends and contracts like a trombone. The cylinder was so loose that the lens would creep every time I tilted it above horizontal. My solution was to fully zoom out and use electrical tape to lock it in place at the full 210mm. I also taped the lens to stay locked in at infinite focus. I had a rough go of it. Add the fact that I had started to have small bouts of back pain at this point, and 107 degree temperatures that day, and I was miserable.
I almost went to the 2013 Dayton Airshow, but I'm thankful I didn't. The government sequester had forced the cancellation of the Thunderbirds, so I decided not to go. Sadly, wing walker Jane Wicker and pilot Charlie Schwenker were killed in a crash at the 2013 show. Noone with a heart wants to see something like that.
I did happen to go to the first Owensboro Airshow in 2013 however. For being the first year of this event, combined with a government sequester that year which grounded all US military air show teams, the show was still good. It was a little humorous that Canada could send an F-18 Hornet, but the US couldn't.
The 2014 show was even better with the US Army Golden Knights skydiving team. Never before had I managed to capture the pilots as they jumped out of the plane...before their parachute had been deployed.
For both the 2013 & 2014 Owensboro Airshow, I had my Nikon D3200 and a much better Sigma 70-300mm F/4 lens. Going from an 8 megapixel camera to a 24 megapixel camera was a drastic improvement all in itself, but an additional 90mm of zoom made it even better. I could see the pilot in the jets! I tried to use a 1/400-1/800 of a second shutter for the prop planes and a 1/1000 or faster shutter for jets.
It is up in the air as to whether or not I get to go to Dayton this year. If any sponsors out there would like to have me cover it for them, I'd be more than happy to. The 2015 Owensboro Air Show is almost a certainty for me, especially since the Thunderbirds will be there.
Every time I read about a project to preserve vintage aircraft, it puts a smile on my face. I want to be photographing these marvels of engineering when I'm 80 years old...if I'm still around then. I would love the opportunity to photograph more airshows.