There's something about airplanes that can stir the depths of an amateur photographer's soul. It could be the shape of the airplane, the colors of metal and sky, the challenge of capturing speed - it doesn't matter. The love of recording all things related to airplanes with the click of a shutter just happens, and the world is often better for it because aviation is such a universal subject matter.
Once in a while, an aviation photographer gets lucky and is able to turn his or her passion for airplanes into a job. That's what happened to Andrew Zaback from Dover, Delaware this summer. He was selected to be an aviation photography intern for the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association). This meant that instead of the day-and-a-half he spent at EAA's AirVenture Oshkosh last year, this year he was there for the whole week. Instead of using his equipment, he got to use some top-of-the line camera gear. And he got to take some great pictures on top of all that.
Andrew wandered the AirVenture site all seven days of the event, taking pictures he liked as well as those he was directed to take. One of those he was asked to take was of the CAF Red Tail Squadron's RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit on the last day of AirVenture. The idea was to tug the Mustang out from the side lawn where it had been parked for the whole week and position it in front of the exhibit. It was thought this would make a great picture. And it did, even though Andrew had to wait and wait and WAIT for a big Sea Stallion helicopter to be moved so he could get the shot. He said, "That's kind of how it goes with photography. Either you wait and wait for the best shot to suddenly appear or you wait and wait for something to get out of the way for a great posed shot. Any way you look at it, patience is a requirement for any sort of photography."
You can see how the Sea Stallion was hogging the shot here. That's its tail hovering (no pun intended) over the left side of the Mustang. It takes a very big helicopter to make the Mustang look that small!!
Here's how the final shot turned out. Andrew was standing on a portable 40' photography tower.
We were so impressed with the photos that Andrew took of the exhibit that I asked him to send some more of his photos so I could feature them in the blog. During our phone conversation, I learned that he only has one more course in air traffic management to take at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach and he'll graduate this fall. He's a licensed pilot who really, really liked flying this classic Piper J-3 Cub, the same type of airplane that Alfred "Chief" Anderson took Eleanor Roosevelt up in when she visited the Tuskegee Institute in 1941. (Andrew took his self-portrait with a wireless trigger.)
Andrew sent me these three photographs as samples of his work. I think you'll agree that he absolutely knows what he's doing:The instantly recognizable Blue Angels at their most exciting.
A night Shuttle (Discovery) launch in August, 2009 as reflected in Daytona Beach's Halifax River.An F-16C flown by the USAF 64th Aggressor Squadron out of Nellis AFB just outside of Las Vegas.
If you'd like to reach Andrew regarding his wonderful pictures and his photograph business, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you're interested in shooting the types of pictures he does, here's another piece of advice from him: "Be sure you know what your camera is capable of and also what it won't do. One time, I set up a couple of cameras too close to the shuttle launch site and the blast ruined them. That's a somewhat extreme example but I know I learned a lesson from the experience!"
NOTE: The Mustang and the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit will be at the Kansas City Aviation Expo Air Show at Wheeler Airport this Saturday and Sunday. Stop by and say"hi" if you can attend - we'd love to see you. Bring your camera and see if you can take pictures like Andrew.
The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven 501c3 non-profit organization that operates under the auspices of the Commemorative Air Force. For more information, please visit redtail.org.