Standing fast, SSgt Matthew Chase is vigilant as he guards an imposing top secretfacility…or at least that’s what I would have thought with my first glance at this photo. In reality, we’re on the Andrews AFB flight line just before 6 pm on a Saturday after drill!
Being a Reservist gives me access to some awesome people and amazing backdrops, which I’m very fortunate to have at my disposal. SSgt Chase and SrA Ryan Mathsen (below) are great troops who agreed to stick around with me for a couple of hours after we finished our work day to do this shoot. I’m incrediblygratefulto them for donating their time and going the extra mile to acquire weapons.
For this shoot I brought out my two Alien Bees 1600WS strobes and attached them to my new Vagabond II battery pack. I went”bare bulb” with the flash heads since there was a slight crosswind coming off of the runway, and I still don’t have sand bags yet.
The first light in this photo is positioned camera right and about 50 degrees off axis to created that dramatic shadow on SSgt Chase’s face. The second light is positioned far off camera left to kiss the underside of the KC-135, but still with enough fill light to keep thescenemoody. I underexposed the frame by -2 stops to create a dark and dramatic feel. I also did just a hair of retouching in Photoshop todesaturatethe colors and throw some blue into the frame.
In the second shot, I wanted to create a tight portrait frame with the jet in the background and the subject closer to the camera, but I knew this was going to be tricky…and it was. The positioning took a couple of tries and I went through a number of different exposure levels until I came to around -1 1/3 stops. I picked a point off in the distance for SrA Mathsen to stare at intently, and then positioned my first light around 30 degrees off the camera’s axis to capture the detail of his uniform and gear. I moved the second light closer to the jet to create a hot spot forseparationbetween the background and foreground, which in part made the light fall off a lot faster on the jet.
I HAD toincorporatethe other two weapons they brought along for the last shot… the M-249 and a sweet shotgun! This shot was initially tough to frame because I wanted to include the building, plane, and troops. I switched from my CZ 16-80mm to my Tamron 70-200mm to compress the frame and get all those different elements in there nice and tight. I positioned my two lights just off to their right since the strobes had to be further away to keep out of the shot.
I want to send a BIG THANKS out to SSgt Matthew Chase and SrA Ryan Mathsen for being killer subjects. In the next 5-10 years, I hope that I can shoot this type of ‘military photography’ full time as a freelancer and they’ve helped me immensely to get one step closer to that goal!
The last week has been BUSY to say the least, BUT Amy and I are finally moved into our new place in Charlottesville, VA and really love our new digs! Amy found an apartment right at the buzzer just south of town that has plenty of room for the two of us. We’re surrounded by a ton of great amenities, including my personal favorite…Walnut Creek Park, that just so happens to host one of the best mountain bike courses in the area and it’s just eight miles down the road from me!
As you may or may not remember I am now full time with photography, which hasn’t meant much lately other than a corporate shoot, unpacking boxes, and rearranging our apartment, but I did find time over the last couple day to brainstorm how I want to revamp the blog to include these new photo frames. The blog has also been updated with some slight aesthetic changes with a BIG thanks going out to Greg Lavallee for all his help in recoding some of the dated HTML.
On to the images! During my August UTA weekend with the Reserves I was an ‘in demandkind of guy’…to say the least. I shot two promotion ceremonies, two retirement ceremonies, and set up a photo booth for the Family Fun day. Needless to say, I was swamped with work, but luckily we just added another troop to our shop who is very eager to shoot as well, so I was able to break away for a bit on Sunday to cover the retirement ceremony for MSgt Rodney Meyer.
I only met Rodney a month before during the July UTA weekend when he came by my office asking if I wouldn’t mind helping him out with a parting present that he was putting together for the squadron. Not being one to turn anyone away I agreed, and we soon got to know each other. The next UTA weekend he again stopped by my office to ask if I wouldn’t mind covering his retirement ceremony. A guy only retires once from the military (well, most of the time) and Rodney seemed like a genuinely good guy, so how could I turn him down??? Little did I know that this man was literally an institutionand will not soon be forgotten at the 459th.
Rodney served proudly for 28 years with the 459th alone which is just incredible to me! He’s unquestionably been an integral part of every aircraft to come across the ramp and finished out his career proudly as a boom operator. You may be asking yourself, “how does this goon (me) who’s only been part of that wing for six months know anything?” Well, I know all this because there wasn’t a dry eye in the packed auditorium.
After shooting two promotion ceremonies the day before in the same auditorium with an on camera flash, I decided to only shoot Rodney’s retirement with my 50mm F1.4 since the ceilings are incredibly low for such a large room and I wanted a more intimate feel to these images. The bokeh on this lens is awesome and it was a stellar performer all day with a few exceptions of back focusing.
Whenever the military gets together we of course have to have a bottle of hooch on hand. This was presented to Rodney as a gift for all the years he has selflesslyput in as the First Shirt at the Operations Squadron.
Taking a stab at Rodney for still being a C-141 load master at heart, the Operations Group Commander Col Muncy presented him with the “best picture” he could find of his old bird.
Rodney’s wife was a lot of fun too, in the above image she is surprised that she was recognized for all her years of support to the Air Force. Pictured Right, Rodney just could not get enough of that C-141 photo!
The MC for the event wrote a tune set to Fire and Rain to send Rodney off.
I wish I had more time to get to know Rodney, but one of the big downsides of the military is constantly saying goodbye to great people. However, if it weren’t for the military I’m sure that I never would have crossed paths with Rodney to begin with.
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.
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!