Photo Stories: On the Edge

We airshow photographers love shots with vapor. Give us jet aircraft on a humid day, and we’re poised and ready. Vapor normally occurs when the aircraft reach speeds around 400 mph, and conditions are right. The amount of vapor depend on moister content in the air, and the make up of the plane. Jets with broad wing surfaces tend to develop more vapor and at lower speeds than others. Either way the effect is quite dramatic.

Lots of vapor at the morning practice for the 2010 Gary Airshow.

Lots of vapor at the morning practice for the 2010 Gary Airshow.

There is another type of shot that to me is more impressive. This shot can only be achieved when the aircraft is right on the edge of breaking the sound barrier. Without getting into the physics of it, this happens at the speed Mach 1.0 (between 662 – 760 mph) depending on weather conditions. When light is right you can see the shockwave created by the plane. I have captured this effect twice here is one of those shots, from 2010 at the Quad City Airshow.

Shockwave from Superhornet at 2010 Quad City Airshow.

Shockwave from Superhornet at 2010 Quad City Airshow.

2013 SCCA Blackhawk Valley Regional

It felt good to be at trackside again. This was the feeling I had as I completed the first event of my season. When you near the end of a season, you are a bit fatigued and looking forward to a break. However after two or more months of down time, and computer work that feeling fades fast. At this point you are anxious to get out and shoot again.

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The event just completed was an SCCA double regional event with points scored towards the national standings. Most of SCCA’s 29 classes of competition were on hand. This particular event comprises the Chicago, Milwaukee, and Blackhawk regions. Together this covers half of Wisconsin and Illinois. Turnout for this event always seems to be high. This is probably due to the area covered, and that it is most competitors first chance of the year to go racing again in the Midwest.

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I enjoy the variety of cars and people you find at these gatherings. You will find the one car one man operation, the family operation, and the multi car full crew operation. You won’t find any big prize money, or sponsorships. So what makes these men and women go through the effort of hauling a car across state for these events? They all are there for one reason, the love of racing.

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The number and variety of cars range from old to new, and the number of them is amazing. From spec classes of a single type, to classes with multiple types, you will see a bit of everything.

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Poplar Grove Wings and Wheels Festival

While preparing my schedule for 2013, I had already decided as far back as November that my airshow schedule would be quite different from past years. Even before sequestration, I was planning to skip many of the large shows I would usually attend in favor of smaller ones. The primary reason, variety. I felt the small shows would provide unique and rare aircraft that normally does not get booked into large shows. For me this worked out quite well. I was able to get up close to, and meet the people who own and fly these great old aircraft.

Stearman's starting up for formation flight.

Stearman’s starting up for formation flight.

Poplar Grove’s Vintage Wings and Wheels Festival was a perfect example of just such a show. Vintage aircraft flying and on display, as well as vintage cars and tractors.

It’s not often you get five or six Stearmans in one place, and flying formation. Also in attendance were WACO, Fleet, Pietenpol, a and Bird BK among others.

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Daniel W Helsper spent ten years building this Pietenpol Aircamper.

Daniel W Helsper spent ten years building this Pietenpol Aircamper.

Four ship Stearman flight.

Four ship Stearman flight.

With the a fair amount of old cars and tractors included, it was a day well spent. For me this kind of up close and low key show is a joy to shoot. The ability to get close and interact with the people who love these machines adds a lot to the experience. This show and others like will be a priority for me going into next year.

Beautiful 1950 Cessna 140A.

Beautiful 1950 Cessna 140A.

Beech C-45H.

Beech C-45H.

1928 ord Model A Pick Up.

1928 Ford Model A Pick Up.

From automobiles to aircraft, Packard made some of the finest engines of the day.

From automobiles to aircraft, Packard made some of the finest engines of the day.

A pair of vintage Allis - Chalmers tractors.

A pair of vintage Allis – Chalmers tractors.