This is a 'Doofer Book' entry for the A2A missions flown for this trip. USAF tradition is that a log of sorts is kept of all squadron activity... good, bad, funny.... whatever. The above shots are a compliation of the particular mission... and in no way reflect the EFM or any serious stuff.The notes and pictures were taken from the Mustang Air2Air Fourm on Fred Miranda.... most of our photogs are on this forum: http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/600984 This is fun.... you should try it sometime!
Steve Zimmermann: Alliance Airshow 2010 I spent an exhausting and exhilarating four days in Texas at the Alliance Airshow a couple of weeks ago. In addition to shooting many thousands of ground-to-air shots with a long telephoto and the 10-frames-per-second Canon 1D mark IV that I obtained for the occasion, it was my great privilege and distinct pleasure to fly a pair of sunset air-to-air missions, 'shooting' from the tail gunner's position of the B-25 Mitchell "Pacific Prowler". The North American B-25 is a twin-radial-engine, medium bomber used in every theater of World War II, but it is most famous for having been flown by the Doolittle Raiders in a daring, one-way bombing raid over Japan early in the war. We got to photograph six different aircraft: A Douglas A-26 Invader, a Douglas A5D Skyraider, a North American P-51D Mustang, a Cessna T-37 Tweet, a T-38 Talon, and finally an Aero-Vodochody L-39 Albatros. I invite you to view the fruits of this labor in my online Alliance Airshow 2010 gallery. The air-to-air missions were planned and executed by pro photographer Jim Wilson and B-25 pilot Scott Perdue; Jim's handle is 'Shooter', for his photography skills (he's also a pilot) while Scott is known as 'Gunny', from his time in the Air Force. We had a full complement of five or six avid aviation photographers on each mission, mostly from the rabid band of brothers known as "Mustang Air to Air", whose members keep in touch online in a terrific aviation photography forum. And what a great group of accomplished shutterbugs and propeller-heads they are.
SteveZZZ: stevez wrote:
Hey, Shooter -
I was trying to figure out why my shots out the sides of the B-25 are almost all soft, softer, or softest. Then the other shoe dropped: it's got to be the wake turbulence/engine exhaust you were talking about having seen to either side of you, from the tail! I think I've got a shot that proves it, and I'll post it when I get a chance.
Has anyone else noticed this phenomenon?
My tack-sharp rate shooting from the tail was about 10x (no exaggeration) what I got when shooting out the side, except when the target aircraft was above the horizon: I got plenty of keepers there. And that ratio would be very hard to explain since when I was in the tail I was shooting around you from such an uncomfortable kneeling position with both elbows jammed against the bulkhead for support.
If I'm right it means we have to come up with a different plan for positioning subject aircraft when shooting out the sides. What do you think?
I really thought I'd screwed up a camera setting; then I was trying to blame the 24-105 for the lack of success out the side. But in the end it was a Tweet shot with the 70-200 where the tip of the vertical stab is perfectly sharp and the rest of the aircraft is downright blurry that convinced me it's got to be exhaust-related. I can't believe nobody's mentioned it before. It's a very different and more uniform distortion than the heat haze you see when shooting jets from the ground, so it's easy to dismiss as bad technique or autofocus failure. Here's a shot I think is convincing. Tip of stab: sharp. Everything else: various degrees of seriously blurry.
So the sweet spot for shooting angles out the side is compromised. The natural formation position, aft on a 30-45 degree angle and slightly below the B-25, is the worst place for distortion: in wings-level flight a subject aircraft needs to be either very close to or above the horizon, or much lower, to be clear of the distortion zone.
Man, am I sore this morning, and my right forearm is blotchy from bruises I got bracing up against a bulkhead in the tail. But nothing can wipe the smile from my face; my 'permagrin', as Jon put it.
also: What a weekend! My comfort level and hit rate swinging the rented 500 f/4L continued to improve throughout, though my back and arms and grip finger are sure sore. I'll be heading home with 16000+ images shot over four days, great memories and several new bruises, thanks to the Prowler. Here are a few from last night's air-to-air mission, including one of the Skyraider, as requested.
And let's not forget that Jim made it happen. How he keeps smiling while managing to keep several herds of cats heading in the same general direction is beyond me.
Jan Arie: Thank you sir the keeper rate is not bad not bad at all. I certainly will come back for another try but it could take a wile because of other priorities. But I'm very satisfied on the results of this trip I think you could read it back in the little piece that I wrote up for the isap article .
Jo Hunter: wednesday, november 03, 2010 Air to Air from a B-25
Last weekend was one of the most awesome experiences ever, during which I was able to capture some of the best photographs of my life. I don't say that lightly! Read on...
I went up to Alliance Airport in Fort Worth, TX. Their airshow was held on the Saturday and Sunday. I went up on Friday morning, to hook up with a bunch of friends of mine, who had travelled in from all over the USA and from Europe. Most of these guys inhabit the Mustang Air-to-Air thread on Fred Miranda. If you click the link, you'll find us there hovering near the top of the page. It's a fabulous community of aviation photographers that has coalesced over the last couple or three years, and it was started by Jim Wilson.
Jim is a professional aviation photographer and Ultimate Nice Guy. He also has the B-25 Mitchell 'Pacific Prowler' at his disposal. Here it is, parked on the ramp at Alliance:..... (picture).... And here's Jim, sitting in his customary shooting position in the tail of the bomber. Notice how there's no glass? Or anything else? Yup, Jim straps in and shoots his gorgeous images from there, with the subject aircraft formating directly behind. No glass, perspex, distortions or anything else to get in the way...... (another picture)... Jim had organized for those of us who were keen and willing (and able to stump up the cash), to join him on a pair of photo missions that he had planned for Friday and Saturday nights. Friday night's mission got to shoot a T-38 in Thunderbird colours, and a T-37 Tweet. I went on the Saturday mission, and this is what I saw... (lots more pictures).... Can I just say, this really was awesome?!
There were five photographers crammed into the back of the B-25. Jim stayed at the end of the tail, harnessed in, and acted as a block, while the rest of us took turns in crawling up the tunnel so we could shoot around Jim at whatever was hanging off the tail at the time. On my second journey up the tunnel, I was greeted by the sight of the P-51 rising into position from underneath - what a sight!
There were also two side shooting positions; one large porthole through which three could shoot at once, and they removed the gun from the other side which left a hole a few inches wide, good enough for one shooter at a time. These were great for when aircraft flew alongside.
It was noisy, crowded, uncomfortable, breezy and warm in the Texas evening sky. We were climbing over and around each other to get the shooting positions we wanted, as aircraft moved around us. Crawling up the tunnel was a hands-and-knees affair, and I was deeply glad I'd brought knee pads!
Large amounts of thanks go to Jim for setting this up, to Gunny and Jim who piloted the B-25, and all the owners and pilots of the subject aircraft who came to have their photos taken. I hope we did you justice, and that we get to do it again!
Finally, here's a short video. It's full of perspex reflections and something weird has happened to the letterboxing - first time I've used video out of the 7D and I guess I need to tweak my Final Cut settings - but here you go; it gives an idea of what it was like: .... (a video)...... if you'd like to see her blog for yourself-->
Jim Wilson: A little side note to anyone who hasn't photographed air to air. AIr to air photography is one of the most challenging venues any photographer could find themselves in. The consistent results that you see here are made even more spectacular by the fact that most of the photographers have no, or very limited experience shooting air to air. One of the things that made this weekend so special to me personally was looking back over my shoulder and seeing all those wonderful friends grinning, shooting, rotating through shooting positions and just having a ball. What professionalism, what innate talent honed to a keen edge by passion and an unquenchable quest for perfection. I'm proud of all of you, not just for the skills you have developed, but because you are all genuinely special human beings.
I want you to know, just in case you don't, that you could shoot toe to toe with just about any working Pro I know. Well done!
JW ........... check out Jim Wilson's videos here: http://www.vimeo.com/user2929681/videos
Mark McGrath, UK For most aviation photographer’s, an Air 2 Air photo shoot is something that many of us have dreamed of doing, but not had the opportunity to realise the dream. I was no different in this regard, and had tried to set up some opportunities to achieve this dream over the years with no success. At the ISAP conference held in Las Vegas this year, I met Jim Wilson a Dallas based commercial photographer who uses a B-25 as his preferred Air 2 Air platform. I had known Jim for a couple of years through a forum thread on the Fred Miranda website titled “Mustang Air 2 Air”. This thread over the years has developed itself into a mini community, and when ISAP announced their 2010 conference would be in Las Vegas a number of us decided to have a group meet. While at the ISAP conference, Jim announced to us that he was considering offering novice Air 2 Air photographers’ the chance to join him on Air 2 Air missions using a B-25 as the photo platform.
A few weeks after the ISAP conference, Jim announced that he had a couple of potential opportunities lined up where he would offer the spare seats in the rear of the B-25 to novice photographers to shoot an Air 2 Air mission, for a cost as the B-25 is not a cheap aircraft to operate. The first potential Air 2 Air mission would be at the gathering of B-25’s over the weekend of 18th April to commemorate the Doolittle raiders. On the 18th of April 1942, Lt. Col James “Jimmy” Doolittle led a raid of 16 B-25’s flying from the deck of the USS Hornet on a mission to attack Tokyo.
Another potential Air 2 Air mission was lined up for later in the year, this time being held at the Alliance Fort Worth Air Show. Being in late October, I decided that if I could afford the cost of the B-25 flight that I would fly across to Texas for the Alliance Fort Worth Air Show, and the potentially once in a lifetime opportunity of undertaking an Air 2 Air photo shoot.
After months of planning and saving the money for the trip, I left the UK on the 26th October headed for DFW. I was due to undertake my first ever Air 2 Air mission a few days later on Friday the 29th, and my excitement and sense of building anticipation.
The day before the Air 2 Air photo shoot was spent on the field at AFW, photographing some of the arrivals and practice displays for the air show. During the day, Jim Wilson took myself and another couple of photographers who would be joining the Air 2 Air photo missions for a tour of the B-25 we would be flying in – Pacific Prowler. The rear guns had been removed from the tail, leaving the tail position open, along with the emergency escape hatch on the right hand side of the rear fuselage. These would be our shooting positions once airborne. Access to the B-25 is via an access hatch with internal ladder in the lower rear fuselage, that is wide enough to take a person but not much wider. My first impression of being on board the B-25 was how much more room there was inside, compared with how narrow it looked from the outside. During our brief tour of the B-25 we had a general discussion over what to expect on board, and the different shooting positions, including from the tail. For safety reasons, as an experienced Air 2 Air photographer from the B-25, Jim would be permanently in the tail shooting position during the Air 2 Air missions, secured to the aircraft via a tethered harness and in communication with all of the pilot’s via intercom and radio. The other photographers would rotate through the tail position to shoot head on shots of the subject aircraft over the top of Jim’s shoulder. With the aircraft being on the ground I decided to crawl through the narrow passageway into the tail of the B-25 to see what it felt like to get through there and what the view was like. Crawling through I felt a sense of nervousness and trepidation, not being sure what to expect when I got to the tail, and I still felt slightly nervous once in the shooting position. This was with the aircraft on the ground, and the tail shooting position about 10ft or so off the ground. How would I react the next time I was to crawl through to the tail position, when the aircraft would be flying at a few thousand feet off the ground? I would find out soon enough.
Friday the 29th October, the day of my first Air 2 Air shoot had arrived. I was excited and nervous. Again I had access to the field at AFW to photograph the practice display for the airshow that weekend and more arriving aircraft for the static display. The highlight of the arriving aircraft was to be “Fifi” the world’s only flying B-29 Super Fortress that had just recently returned to flight. The Alliance Fort Worth Air Show was to be the first public appearance of the B-29 outwith it’s home base since the return to flight. Practice demos were flown throughout the day by the Blue Angels, the F-22 Raptor Demo team, the F-16 East Coast Demo team and numerous civilian performers. During the day, myself and the other photographers who would be participating in the Air 2 Air mission were told to meet up at the B-25 just before 5pm. The intention was to launch, along with our subject aircraft, just over an hour before sunset to give us nice autumnal lighting on the subject aircraft, which were to be a Cessna T-37C in South Vietnamese Air Force markings and a Northrop T-38 Talon in USAF Thunderbird markings. The Thunderbirds used the T-38 from 1974 to 1982 before transitioning to the F-16 which they still fly to this day. By the end of the day, I would not only be an Air 2 Air photographer, but also a photographer who had shot fast jets Air 2 Air.
A few minutes before 5pm, Jim Wilson arrived along with the PIC of the B-25 for our flight that evening, Scott “Gunny” Perdue, a retired USAF fighter pilot who flew the RF-4C and the F-15E Strike Eagle. “Gunny” got his callsign from his 8 years-service with the USMC where he reached the rank of sergeant before transferring to the USAF to become a commissioned officer and undertake pilot training. Jim and “Gunny” had just come from the pilot’s pre-flight safety briefing where all aspects of the mission were discussed and planned in detail between the B-25 crew, the fast jet crews and Jim advising where he was looking for the fast jet pilots to position their aircraft in relation to the B-25 to achieve the shots that he was looking for and that he wanted us novice Air 2 Air photographers to also be able to capture. It was now time for our own safety briefing. No loose articles could be taken on board the B-25, and lens hoods were not allowed either, as these could come loose or be torn from the lens by the slipstream when shooting from the waist emergency exit hatch position on the right of the B-25. For myself, and the four other novice Air 2 Air photographers it was now time to board and I climbed up the through the small rear access hatch into the fuselage carrying my 2 cameras with a 24-105 lens and a 70-200 lens attached, which I had been advised would offer the ideal focal lengths for the Air 2 Air mission. Everyone was quickly buckled in to our seats, and with five photographers plus a crew member in the rear fuselage, there was not much room left to move around.
Once everyone was on board and strapped in, the engines were quickly started. The big PW radials that power the B-25 just seemed to burst into life, compared to the slower start up times I had been used to on other aircraft I had flown on before. We slowly taxied forward from the air show’s hot ramp and proceeded to back taxi up runway 19R in formation with the T-37 and T-38. The T-38 would depart ahead of us, in order to burn off some fuel to allow them to then fly slow enough to formate with the B-25.
I was sat in a side facing seat for take-off, and could feel the tremendous kick of power as the PW radial engines were set to take off power. The power was available near instantaneously. We were quickly airborne and passing 500ft entered into a right hand climbing turn to set course for the area of airspace where we would undertake our photo mission. Passing 1000ft we were released from our seats and free to move about within the rear fuselage. At around the same time the T-37 appeared on the right of the B-25. A few minutes later, the T-38 briefly appeared on our left, before again peeling off to burn some more fuel. It was time to start shooting. I began shooting the T-37 out of the area where the waist emergency escape hatch normally is on the B-25, and was amazed at the skill levels of the subject pilot aircraft in keeping such close formation with us. The T-38 re-joined us, this time forming up on the T-37 for a few minutes before the T-37 moved back into the slot position directly behind us to allow head on shots of the aircraft to be taken from the tail position. I was the second or third photographer to rotate through to the tail position. Despite my reservations from the previous day as to how I would find it crawling through to this unique shooting position, I actually found that I had no nerves or apprehension. Instead I was completely focussed on making sure that I captured the images that I wanted. After about 4 minutes shooting from the tail position I rotated out to allow another photographer the opportunity. Just after I left the tail area, the T-37 and T-38 were to swap positions, with the T-37 again falling into formation just off our right hand side and the T-38 taking up the slot position behind the B-25. The intention was to again rotate everyone through the tail of the B-25 to shoot the T-38 head on. However due to a suspected bird strike, the T-38 had to break off from the formation while in the slot position and the opportunity to shoot a head on Air 2 Air shot of it had gone. This highlighted the potential dangers and pitfalls of Air 2 Air photography where events do not always go as planned. With the T-38 returning to base, the T-37 stayed in formation with us for a little longer than they had originally planned, before they too had to return to base. For a finale we performed a low fast flypast of AFW at 500ft, before climbing out and returning to land.
As the engines wound down, I could not help but have a grin on my face at what I had just undertaken.
Just under 24 hours later I was offered the chance to ride in the flight deck of the B-25, while they undertook a different Air 2 Air mission involving an A-26, Skyraider, L-39 and a P-51 Mustang. Grasping this unexpected opportunity at the last minute I grabbed the 24-105 to take along with me, after originally planning on just taking the 17-40 to shoot flight deck shots or shots from the nose of the B-25. To get to the nose of the B-25 you need to crawl through a space just tall and wide enough for a person to fit into. The view from the glazed nose is amazing. While in the nose, my last minute decision to grab the 24-105 was to prove fruitful when I was able to grab some useable shots through the plexi glass nose of the Skyraider and the P-51 Mustang. This was a bonus I had not expected.
Over the course of the 2 flights, I clocked up approximately 2hrs 30mins flight time in a B-25. This alone was a pretty special experience, and gave a small insight into the lives of bomber crews during the 2nd World War in terms of the cramped hot and noisy conditions that they endured every time they undertook a mission.
Jim Wilson and “Gunny” Perdue have some exciting plans in store for 2011, which they will announce in due course, including offering the Air 2 Air experience to more photographers. A word of note, the B-25 Air 2 Air photography experience is not a cheap way to become an Air 2 Air photographer, but it was worth every pound I spent on the flight and on my trip to Texas. With Jim Wilson and “Gunny” Perdue’s expertise, I have achieved my dream of becoming an Air 2 Air Photographer.
Mark McGrath, UK