I have been witness to several El Centro Photocalls during my life. As a former F/A-18 Weapons Systems Officer for the U.S. Marine Corps, I had watched the “herd of photographers” deploying from the vans near the LSO shack many times. With an opportunity to request a spot on the other side of the lens, I jumped at it in order to experience the El Centro Photocall I had so often witnessed.
Unlike others who may prefer to tell the story of the photocall in a chronological order, I’ll put it together for you in the perspective of how to prepare for each of the parts of the experience: Equipment, Planning, and Execution
(Stop bringing the kitchen sink)
|Maxpedition Jumbo Versipack|
To fit this environment, I brought two bodies (Nikon D7200 and D7100), and only two lenses. (we’ll talk lens selection in a bit). My bag was a Maxpedition Jumbo Versipack. It is a shoulder bag that I can sling across my body that also provides a secure attaching point for long lenses.
(A Plan… I suggest you have one!)
- First, document the ISAP participation in the photocall.
- Second, nail the shots at the “Golden Hour”
(Carry out that plan!)
|ISAP Member Jeff Krueger captures the Blue Angels pass|
To get up close and personal with the aircraft, I brought along the Nikon AF-S 80-400mm VR. This lens allowed me to crop in close on the aircraft cockpit and reach out to grab events that happen away from the photographer’s box by the LSO shack. The angles and lighting of aircraft turning final, or rolling out well beyond the LSO shack are images that you just won’t be able to get without the longer reach of a long lens, or the lens-DX sensor combo.
The other important thing I did during my time at the LSO shack is MOVE! There are several photographers who “drop anchor” and try to grab that “one spot” that they think is best. I chose to keep on the move, vary my angle with the arriving and departing aircraft all while constantly evaluating my images on the camera LCD. Was I looking for the perfect shot? No, rather I was evaluating what angle of the aircraft I was able to capture and whether THAT told the story, even if I missed the shot. (which happened more often than I’d like to admit, usually due to bad panning!) There is always a lot going on around the airfield at El Centro, and even when you are watching aircraft on the runway, odds are, you might be mission some action on the taxiway, or in the break, overhead.
Now it was time to buckle down, shoot my best, and make the images I knew could only come from a photoshoot in El Centro.
Let me know what you think in the comment section, below!
(A shorter version of this article appears in the April 2016 issue of ISnAP, the magazine of the International Society for Aviation Photography.)
|US Navy T-45 Goshawk rolls over the arresting cable on landing rollout|
|F/A-18F Super Hornet from VFA-106 touches down after completing a mission|
|ISAP Photographer Craig Swancy captures the Blue Angels at the top of their maneuver|
|US Navy T-45 touches down after a bombing sortie in the local ranges|
|There is always one guy shooting the OTHER direction!|
|C-2 Greyhound from VRC-30 conducts Field Carrier Landing Practice (FCLP)|