Archive for June, 2009

Reno Air Races II

I know that this gallery has been a long time coming, and by long time I am talking ten months ago! But, the pictures from my day in September 2008 with Mike Brown’s air race team are finally up and I couldn’t be happier with the gallery. Before I go any further, I need to give a quick shout out to everyonewho has been patiently waiting for these photos. In the last year, I have finished grad school, while juggling both a day job and photography clients, and my personal projects took a distant back seat to a list of other things.Thank you for standing by me while I had the chance to dive deep into the 3,000 photos I shot that weekend in Reno to produce these two galleries and I sincerely hope that these images make their way to you.

The next big question is: What do I do with them? I really have my heart set on writing an article on this phenomenal team while trying to capture the spirit of air racing…but it all just seems so overwhelming right now! But every journey starts with a single step and I guess me posting the pictures is the first step, writing this blog post is the second, and for a follow-up act I am going to start captioning the gallery with all the information I collected that weekend.

In the meantime, I’d like to just talk briefly about some of my favorite images from the set and give you a quick and dirty. You’ll have to forgive me for not mentioning names, my notes are away from my desk right now and I still need to get in touch with some of the contacts that I made.

Above is a shot of two crew members just as September Fury finished up its third day of racing and returned to the pits. The setting sun was absolutely INCREDIBLE in Reno, and I love the balance of warm rim and fill light in this composition.

A big part of Team Brown’s recent success and ability to field three aircraft in the unlimited class is due to the addition of Bill Kerchenfaut in 2005. Bill literally is air racing! He has been involved with the sport for over forty years and is considered by everyone that I talked to as the authority of this sport. As you can tell from the gallery, Bill was the star of the show for me, and I hope that when I eventually put pen to paper, I am able to properly represent everything that is so unbelievably impressive about this very modest man.

As you may or may not remember, the biggest gem at the air races for me was the people there. In retrospect, I’m so glad that I turned the camera back towards the racers on my second day. I really feel that I got everything that I could when I come back to images like this.

Not wanting to leave anyone out; here’s a picture of the crew meeting before the start of the day. Considering that this group puts up and recovers three aircraft in a single day (!!!!!), I am absolutely humbled to have been welcomed amongst their ranks for the day, and I thank them for their unabashed reception.

I’d like to end this gallery with a photo of Sue Miller-Brown, Mike Brown, and Bill Kerchenfaut, taken a moment after the silver race. There was such an incredibly and interesting dynamic that existed within this group, and I truly hope that I was able to accurately capture it within this gallery.

Please check back in about a week for the gallery captions, and I’ll be sure to keep you all posted on the progress of this story as it evolves.




Over the last two weeks I’ve been on orders with my Reserve unit (the 459th Air Refueling Wing) down at Andrews AFB to serve out my Annual Tour (AT). For the 2% of my readers who are military, you know what I’m talking about. For the remaining 98% of you “being on orders” and “Annual Tour” denote the “two weeks a year” you hear in the recruitment commercials.

Before singing up with the Reserves I was incredibly hesitant about going back into the military after my 5 year stint with Active duty. But two months later, I’m pretty darn happy I did, and I honestly have zero complaints.

So far, the 459th ARW has been incredibly accommodating to me; they brought me in as an overage, assigned me to operations, and let me hang my hat at the Public Affairs (PA) shop. Working with PA I am and will continue to capture awesome shots like the one pictured above regularly on my drill weekends.

Hopefully, a PA Officer position will open up within the shop in the next year (or less), which will allow me to attend the Defense Information School and enable me to cross train into another career field. The end goal of this whole exercise in trial and error is to eventually land a spot with the Combat Camera folks out at March AFB just east of Riverside, CA.

In the mean time, I am more than happy to keep shooting with the 459th PA shop and here are some of my favorite images that I’ve taken during my AT. The above shot is SSgt Hoffman firing off the M249 down at Ft APHill. The amazing thing about this picture is that the M249 ejects jackets downwards, so each of the three shells captured first bounced off of the barricade and then up in the air!

This is my favorite shot from the last two weeks, but I like to open up with a landscape shot since I think it “fills the frame” better than a portrait shot can. The gentleman pictured here is CMSgt Van Yahres who recently took over as the 459th’s Command Chief. A simple shot right outside of the wing headquarters taken with one strobe placed low (to get underneath his hat) and a 1/2 CTO gel to match the warm surroundings. He’s a great fella who’s real easy to shoot and you can read more about him and see where this image was published here!

Another shot from the Ft APHill range, this time of TSgt Junious, who I unfortunately didn’t get a chance to talk to but that still doesn’t preclude me from really liking this portrait shot. Before I took their group shot, I set up a strobe paired with a 1/4 CTO gel off to the side of group and told them that I would be happy to oblige any individual shots. Everyone was hesitant at first until TSgt Junious stepped up and quickly there after the rest of the group happily lined up…what were they afraid of???

Shifting gears, the wing was undergoing an inspection during the time I was there. Fortunately, the PA shop was exempt and free to continue about our daily business. One of the inspection criterion was to observe a confined fuel cell evacuation, which in so many words means that the maintainers had to pull a dummy out of the wing. It’s clear that TSgt Swain here is a bit weary of the approaching firefighters assisting during the exercise.

And finally, here’s a shot of the 459th’s Arial Port Squadron in charge of loading and unloading cargo from the KC-135. I never mind taking military group shots since everyone is keen to listen to my every command, and it’s a GREAT thing since I can get everyone in and out in a very timely manner.

I’ve thrown a bunch of images up in a gallery for you all to enjoy and I’ll continue to as the assignments keep coming.

And just one last reminder, all these images are PROPERTY OF THE USAFR, hence the reason why you may not download or purchase any of the pictures from me. Sorry, not my rules and I’m better off playing good solider on this one!

Tumbleweeds Tour

The last few weeks have been very busy and I’m really glad that I finally found the time to sit down and write about what I’ve been up to, but before I do I need to give a shout out to my boys currently on the road with theTubleweeds Tour. These four knuckleheads (one not pictured) are riding from Newport, OR to Cape Cod, MA in the efforts to raise awareness for Project Rwanda.

Just days before they set off to rally in Oregon, Ben (far right) and John (far left) asked me if I would capture a shot of the team (minus one) while they were all together in DC. The shot was supposedly for a Jackson, WY newspaper that would be writing a story on their adventure and I still have yet to see it! But I can hardly blame them since they are averaging about 70 miles a day! I was more than happy to oblige since this was one of the last times I was able to hang out with Ben, who I’ve become great friends with over the last two years that I have lived in DC.

The day of the shoot was somewhat precarious with a strong possibility of thunderstorms, but time was limited so we set off in formation on our bikes down to the Mall to find somewhere to set up. Luckily, we went with the World War I Memorial, which is tucked away just west of the Mall and away from the park rangers who would have likely been all over me since I didn’t have a permit to shoot.

Like a lot of my shoots, I need a little playtime to figure out the best way to go about tackling the lighting conditions and environmental obstacles. Unfortunately, the sun was dropping really quick, and with the storm moving in the ambient light was gone before I knew it. We had a chance to pop off a couple pictures before the sky opened wide up and we made our way inside the Memorial and shared it with a few Japanese tourists. With the wind, rain, and thunder all crashing down around us I managed to make some on the fly adjustments that turned out to be some of the best pictures I think I have ever taken. If these guys personalities don’t jump through these pictures…then I think I had best lay my camera down!

The easiest way to follow their misadventures is through their Twitter feed @Tumbleweedstour.

One of my favorite shots before the rain came pouring down. I really like the symmetrical shadows and complex lines.

This shot wasn’t my idea, nor am I going to explain their motivation.

John Franklin, aka “Thunder Lips.” Quiz, where’s that from?

Ben likes to think he’s the leader of this merry band, is he?

And here’s…Ryan? I just met him that night, he’s OK and I wouldn’t go any further than that.

Quick update for those of you who are still with me;

-Returned from an amazing trip to Peru on the 26 May with over 1,100 pictures that I’ll hopefully be posting within the next few weeks.

-I’m on orders down at Andrews, AFB serving out my Annual Tour (the two weeks out of the year they mention in the commercials) until 17 Jun with the USAF Reserves. While I’m there I am working with the 459th Wing Public Affairs office and I took a shot of our new Command Cheif that was recently published!

-Still working on the second batch of photos from the Reno Air Races and getting geared up for this year.

-I’m always looking for bookings, so please continue to help me spread the word!