Thursday, April 29, 2010

Reflections on a Knife

One of the nice things about being employed full-time is I don't have to do photo jobs to make a living. Wedding photography is probably one of the most underestimated and difficult shoots in the profession. It's like herding cats by a factor of ten; large, unwieldy, sometimes boisterous and sometimes surly herds of really big cats made up of old and new relatives. Sometimes they even like each other.

I don't envy the folks that do weddings shoots. It's a lot of work. But I do like hovering on the fringes shooting what I think will make neat images as a supplement to the usual staple of photos the pros do - and are expected to do.

The above photo is a case in point. I was doing black and white photography for a friend's wedding. The woman above was one of the bridesmaids. The wedding party had been eating at the reception when the pro announced it was time to do some formal portraits outside at a fountain. Of course, it was time to fix the make-up and check the lipstick, but she had no mirror.

Necessity being the mother of invention, she used the blade of her dinner knife. I was seated a couple of tables away and noticed her primping by the blade and quickly snapped a couple of candid shots. This is the cropped image, which focuses the viewer's attention on the blade and lipstick. I thought it made a wonderfully humorous photo and is one of my favorites.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Red Bell

A few degrees to the left of yesterday's image was a formation called "the Bell." The green vegetation is quite striking amid the red rock. Again, no cloud activity, but the bright blue sets off the Bell nicely. The sun angle was really nice at this time, too.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Sedona Whirlwind Visit

We went to Phoenix a couple of weeks ago for a wedding. While there we took a day trip up to Sedona with Tina's sister, Lin, who had never been there before.

It was a very pleasant jaunt. I had not realized that day passes were required to stop in the Red Rock park areas nowadays, but they are. A quick look at the view made the decision to buy one easy.

We had not entered Sedona via hwy 179 before. It's a very easy route and the scenery was neat. This shot is from one of the viewing areas inside the passes required area. I'm actually standing in the parking lot. It would have been more spectacular with some cloud activity, but since this was a lightning strike sortie I'll take it.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Thunderbird Tweaker

Nellis AFB is the home of the USAF Thunderbirds demonstration team. While I've always felt the Navy Blue Angels were more exciting and a tighter team, there is no denying the Thunderbirds are excellent at what they do, too.

As with any high performance machine, the real heroes are the tweakers, fixers and maintainers - the unsung members of the ground crew.

Modern military aircraft are complex, and while maintenance shots are not as sexy as flybys and aerobatics, there is a certain beauty in that quiet science. This shot, taken during the 2010 ISAP visit to Nellis, captures the essence of that quality for me: a sleek and shiny F-16 tucked into a hanger, looking out into the bright light while being opened up for routine work, as if anticipating its next performance before a packed ramp of excited enthusiasts.

Even a machine could feel the energy of a crowd like that and look forward to the next showtime.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

I Have You Now!

Perhaps the most colorful aircraft certainly in today's U.S. military are the CAG birds of the Navy. CAG stands for Commander Air Group. He is the boss man of the Carrier Air Wing, composed of the various squadrons embarked aboard a typical American aircraft carrier.

Since the standard battle colors of contemporary military aircraft are various shades of gray (or as one friend puts it, "yuck gray"), colorful aircraft are a rarity. Fortunately Navy rules allow each squadron to paint up two aircraft in CAG markings - ostensibly because its the airplane (and the spare) that the CAG gets to fly should he choose to do so (or is qualified to do so).

Regardless, the squadrons usually try to out-do each other, hence the very colorful, sometimes gaudy markings that are sought after by slide and image collectors.

This EA-6B Prowler of VAQ-209 is heading down the taxiway to the runway at Nellis AFB during the recent ISAP event there. Activated, or "stood up," in 1977, VAQ-209 is a reserve squadron that calls itself the "Star Warriors." Yes, that is Darth Vader's head adorning the vertical tail of the Prowler.

I have to admit to some mixed feelings about these markings. While a wonderful piece of graphic art, and while Darth Vader is an iconic American image, he is, after all, a bad guy. At least he was in Star Wars (yes, I know it's called A New Hope" now, but to me it'll always be just Star Wars) and in The Empire Strikes Back. It wasn't until The Return of the Jedi that he redeemed himself - which I never really bought dramatically.

Regardless, in his incarnation as Darth Vader, Anakin Skywalker was the villain. Even more bluntly, he was evil personified! So why on Earth would clean-cut American aviators - the Good Guys - want to take as their squadron symbol something perceived as evil personified? On top of that he was the front man for the spread of an evil empire! Is that the message we want to spread?

I suppose in the business of war the psychological trumps questions like that. Various squadrons have the grim reaper as their mascot. Some have werewolves, some have Vikings and other fierce warriors while one famously has Felix the Cat. It's whatever makes your morale strong and melds you into a cohesive fighting unit. If Darth Vader's mask is too cool for words, then the symbolism behind it takes a back seat.

I just wonder what the other side thinks and if irony is lost in war?