Bob Adams and I attended the AirExpo 2013 air show at Flying Cloud Airport in Eden Prairie, MN. It was my first air show since 1989. I love old aircraft; especially World War II planes (I’ve been a student of the Pacific Theater of WW II since childhood; Dad’s influence).
I took 493 images and scaled that down to what you see here. Almost all of these were taken in Program Mode, point and click, as the action was happening far too quickly for Manual Mode.
As always, I highly encourage you to click on the images for a higher rez version.
The music for this page is “The Joshua Tree” by U2. The first 4 tracks on the CD are easy favorites, but also check out “One Tree Hill”…I also snuck in “Rattle and Hum”; their 1988 half-live/half-studio effort.
A crowd lines up for a tour of the “Yankee Lady”, a B-17G that was in attendance. It’s an awesome bird. The caption on the airman’s cap (under the engine) says “The Price of Freedom is NOT Free”…
“Barbara Jean”, a P-51D Mustang, prepares for take-off. I left the horizon crooked because I like the angle. Finding a spot along the crowd line to get this was tricky, but worth it.
Look at this beautiful 1929 Travel Air 4000 biplane. People were getting rides in it all day. That looked like a lot of fun.
The “Red Tail” P-51C from the famous Tuskegee Airmen lines up. We saw one of the pilots from that storied group, but he was being shuttled somewhere.
A pilot in his T-6 Texan. I went monochrome here because I loved the composition, but the colors were too muted. Wiping out those colors gives it a nice vintage feel.
The same aircraft as above, but from a different perspective. I wanted something other than just the full bird in my shots, and that’s what I did here. There was some temptation to go monochrome like the previous shot, but I liked the mix of colors.
A person taking images next to me complained about this Civil Air Patrol member who was doing crowd control. “I wish the CAP guy would move!” he said to me. On the contrary! Instead of cursing his presence, I used it to my advantage; this ends up being my favorite shot of the day. Maybe I can do portraits?
“Barbara Jean” takes off with a friend accompanying. Bet that private plane was thrilled to have a P-51D as a wing-man!
“Barbara Jean” does a fly-by. One of the reasons I was set in Program versus Manual is these planes are moving at a good clip, so you need to concentrate on focusing and keeping them in your frame.
The Red Tail Mustang makes a run. This earlier version is most easily identified from later versions by the canopy. Note “Barbara Jean” in the previous image had a bubble canopy, and this P-51C does not.
A very neat T-6 Texan raises its gear during take-off. This make of aircraft was used as a trainer for many years. The T-6 was also extensively featured in the movie “Tora, Tora, Tora!” to represent Japanese war planes. Fans of Pat Benatar should also recognize the T-6; it was the plane she flew in her “Shadows of the Night” music video.
What I found cool about this shoot was how the in-flight images give the illusion that I’m also in flight alongside them. A pleasant surprise, indeed. Here is the Red Tail Mustang doing a fly-by.
Here is “Miss Mitchell”, a B-25 Mitchell that is based in St. Paul. We never saw her up in the air, but the ground display was quite cool, and the crew members were quite enthusiastic.
A tail end view of an L-39 Albatross, which was a jet fighter trainer of the Warsaw Pact nations during the Cold War. This one is owned by Bill Jansen, who was very friendly and helpful to on-lookers. We’ll see this one in the air later on.
I ask of you, a brief pause, as I dedicate this page to the memory of Leo Bingham, of Pine Haven, Wyoming. “Lightning Leo” was Amateur Radio operator WY7LL, and that’s how I met him (I am Amateur Radio operator WX0V). Although the time I knew Leo was brief, it was very easy to tell what a tremendous man he was. Leo passed away recently, way too early, but not without leaving those in his orbit many wonderful memories. Thank you, Leo.
A group of T-6’s known as “Texas Thunder” passes by with one of many formations they performed during our visit.
The Pitts Special biplane buzzes by. Bob, who at one time had a pilots license, was particularly engaged by its presence. Capable of extensive stunt flying, the limits of a local suburban airport in a major metropolitan area kept it in check. Still, a very cool plane.
The nose gun of “Miss Mitchell”…Don’t Mess With Her; Part 1.
This image happened totally by accident. I was tripod-mounted when Texas Thunder passed overhead, and didn’t have enough angle to capture them. I lifted a leg of the tripod to point the camera up, didn’t even look in the viewfinder (I couldn’t see it), and instinctively clicked the shutter. I really like the shot. Maybe I should take more by that method?
A single T-6 Texan, smokin’. I never used to like this aircraft; thought they were too ugly. Not anymore. Now I think they’re great; especially with that growl they have…oh, yeah!
The Pat Benatar connection also helped…have I ever mentioned it’s a travesty she’s not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? Yeah, I guess I have…
A close up of the “Yankee Lady”. I had so many it was difficult to pick just one.
The big girl’s firin’ up her engines; clear the way! Note the slower shutter speed/higher aperture setting. I wanted a slower speed to help blur the props.
This is a Boeing/Stearman A75 biplane. I love the colors but wish I had a better sky for the backdrop. Another superbly clean aircraft. One can only wonder how much work goes into keeping these up.
The twin-stinger tail of the B-25 “Miss Mitchell”…Don’t Mess With Her; Part 2.
All sorts of helicopters were buzzing around. For a reasonable fee, you could go for a 10 minute ride in one. Maybe next time I will.
A crowd gathers as a Grumman TBF Avenger fires up the engine. This was the primary torpedo plane for the US throughout World War II.
The “Yankee Lady” returns from her flight. As noted earlier, this is a magnificent war bird, but I was disappointed they didn’t do a fly-by over the site.
The Avenger begins its departure. Although they scored no hits, these aircraft played a huge role during The Battle of Midway. Their attacks kept the Japanese off balance and opened the way for the dive bombers to come in and devastate their carrier force. Many brave men died in these aircraft that day, but during the course of the war the Avenger proved to be an excellent aircraft.
A cool image of the Avenger and Red Tail Mustang in formation. Certainly not an everyday sight at your local airport.
Dan Jansen flies by in his L-39. I was alongside in my Nissan Altima; at around 700 feet. Haw! Doesn’t it look like I’m flying right with him? By the way, he told me the flag is from the Czech Republic (probably Czechoslovakia at the time).
“…and I can see those fighter planes…I can see those fighter planes”...a pair of T-6 Texans make a good match for the words of Bono singing “Bullet the Blue Sky”…
I brought both my D7100 and my D7000 to this shoot. I took most of my images with the D7100, but this (and the previous shot) shows the D7000 is still a very worthy DSLR. It’s also a reminder that getting in close to these birds can net you a neat shot; and you cannot even see the wings!
Dan and his L-39 depart, and so did we after a wonderful day at AirExpo 2013.
Some photography notes:
• Program Mode under-exposed the aircraft because of the bright sky. It might be a good idea to either use spot-metering (if your camera has it) or over-expose by using your exposure compensation (which almost all cameras have). Even in RAW, compensating for the under-exposure added some noise.
• I had some camera shake issues. Despite the excellent stabilizer in my Tamron lens, I was still shaky, and some good images were too soft and had to be discarded. That might have been reduced by higher shutter speeds, which I could have shot with had I used a higher ISO. Bob asked me early on what ISO to use, and I instinctively said “100”, but 200 would have allowed for higher speeds. Bob used ISO 200 with a non-stabilized lens and had fewer shake issues.
• These birds move fast, and I tried to frame them at speed. I was successful at some, but for the most part, I think it was better just to center and fire, and crop later.
• It took hours and hours across 3 days to get what you see processed from the original 493 shots. This is one reason why I used single shot versus continuous burst mode. Can you imagine if I had to go through say, 2,000 or more images? Yikes. I also feel singe shot mode gives me more precise shooting.
• Make sure to bring and USE sunscreen! I brought some, but got too caught up in the action to use it. Both Bob and I were baked pretty good.
AirExpo 2013 wasn’t Oshkosh by any means, but I cannot believe anyone went home unhappy. Bob and I loved it (notice all the exclamation points?). I really enjoyed this shoot as well, and later commented what a difference this was from my North Shore image shoot (found HERE and HERE). The North Shore stuff was, and felt like, work. This was more like play, and I felt like a kid with these great machines on display. You just cannot go wrong with an air show!
UPDATE: also see my “Wings of Freedom” air show page found HERE. This page features a B-17 AND a B-24 airborne!
all images © Scott Woelm – July 2013