An Aviation Photography Workshop

Since I started photographing airplanes, I’ve marveled at the absolutely gorgeous shots by published photographers of the sun setting behind planes, and longed to replicate such pictures.  I wasn’t sure how you would even gain access to do such shots unless you knew the owners.  I found that most of the air shows I’ve attended would end by 5pm, and that was long before the sun set.

Sunset over the Atlanta Warbirds Weekend 2015
Sunset over the Atlanta Warbirds Weekend 2015

In my search for airshows within driving distance of Charlotte, I stumbled across an aviation photography workshop with a sunset opportunity coming up at the Atlanta Warbirds Weekend. It’s only 4 hours from me. Warbirds and a workshop over a weekend, sign me up for that!

It turned out to be the best money I’ve spent so far on my new photography hobby.  I wasn’t sure what to expect and whether I’d be the least experienced person or not, but I was determined to give it a shot.  What’s the worst thing that could happen? I look like an amateur?  I am an amateur! I’d make no bones about it. I figured I might learn a thing or two regardless.

It turned out that I wasn’t the least experienced person there after all.  I was glad to know there were folks with all levels of experience attending.  It made me feel more comfortable.

The day started out very overcast, but we were expecting things to start breaking up as the day went a long with a little luck.  We spent a couple of hours going through some classroom information on safety, and what to expect and settings for specific times of day.

Hawker Hurricane
Hawker Hurricane
B17 Memphis Belle
B17 Memphis Belle

I’d never seen such a gathering of P51 Mustangs.  It was incredible. Not only were they lined up for our viewing pleasure, they all flew together.  I enjoyed watching them taxi and takeoff.  Of course, I took a ridiculous amount of pictures too.

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P51 Mustang
P51 Mustang

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We spent the better part of the day walking the ramp and taking pictures of the planes.  The best tips were on how to photograph the planes in the middle of crowds.  In most cases, my pictures were taken with people around with the exception of the sunset photos.

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There were all sorts of planes coming and going during the event.  It was wonderful having such close access to the runways to grab some great shots.

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As it was getting closer to sunset, we regrouped to setup for the evening shots.  They had positioned three planes for us in close proximity to each other, but in different directions to give us a variety of sunset photo opportunities. We had Red Nose, a P51 Mustang, a Corsair and the P40 Warhawk from the Military Aviation Museum to photograph.

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The mostly cloudy skies had begun to part in the afternoon and by evening, we had the most amazing sunset I’ve seen in a very long time. The skies were incredible.  We couldn’t have ordered a more perfect evening if we’d tried.

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One thing I’ve learned about photographing planes is that I prefer some clouds in the sky for a background.  It can really make a huge difference in the outcome of your photos.  I like how dramatic it can make the Warbirds look, and actually  make them seem like you went back in time to capture a moment in history.

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I met some great folks and got some excellent tips for improving my photo abilities.  It’s an excellent way to still feel connected to the avaition world, even though I’m not flying at the moment.

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What I really love about photographing planes, especially the Warbirds is they seem so alive and filled with history. If you run a gentle finger along a sturdy wing, you might hear a whisper emerge that beckons you to know a little bit more about them.  They’re so strong and sturdy, many have seen battle, yet have stood the test of time.  They’ve been lovingly cared for and brought back to life. They’re marvelous creations with a sound that only comes from their uniquely designed powerful engines.  There’s nothing else quite like them.  As much as I love modern military aircraft, they just don’t have the same character these old Warbirds have rolled up inside them.

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It was a pleasure to spend so much time with so many beautiful aircraft.  Each unique and gorgeous in it’s own right.  Each a special piece of history, restored and flying on to share with those us that are willing to take the time to get to know them just a little bit better.

This turned out to be exactly what I had hoped it’d be, a sunset photo opportunity with some of my favorite planes.  I wouldn’t have had the chance to photograph these planes in this environment if I hadn’t attended the workshop. I’m thrilled with the outcome of my pictures, the instruction I received on how to capture these moments ,and the amount of time we had to do so.  I think a lot of luck was involved with the cooperation of the sun and clouds, but after a long day, it was worth the wait.

I hope you enjoy the pictures as much as I enjoyed taking them. A special thanks to the gentlemen at 3G Media Avaition for a wonderful workshop.  You can check them out here at  http://3gaviationmedia.com/news/   for more information.

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