I became interested in photography as a child and pursued it though high school and in some college classes. Through my career as a police officer I learned how important photography was in prosecuting cases and reconstructing crime scenes. As a firefighter, I found that photography captured scenes that would quickly be destroyed. Photography became important in crime scenes and in fire/arson investigation. I began regularly taking photos while at work and began pursuing it more as a hobby.
I had originally started in high school with a standard 35 mm film camera, which I continued to use until the new millennium. In 2000 I purchased a Nikon E5700 digital camera. Shooting in the digital age changed my photography and I began to take more photos. In 2003 I decided I needed a change from standard “static” work type photographs and began to pursue aviation interests. I began shooting at small, local airports when I had the opportunity to see a military C-130 cargo plane land at Allentown Municipal Airport (KABE).
Having a fresh taste of military aviation I began attending airshows in 2004. My first airshow was at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, DC. Although I got some “keepers” with my camera, I realized that I needed a dSLR to keep up with the pace of the airshow circuit. Around this time I also became involved in some airshow and emergency services forums and needed a nickname.
Not being very creative and basically without much thought, I chose my nickname as “Crimeguy”, which in our area basically means “someone who investigates crimes”. Between airshows I also took my camera with me and began to photograph emergency scenes more often than I had before. In 2005 I upgraded to a Nikon D70 and upgraded my lenses in the years that followed. I began attending between 6 to 9 aviation events a season. While traveling, I also photographed anything noteworthy in the area.
In April 2008 I purchased a Nikon D3 and began using that as my primary camera, even today.
Shooting airshows and participating in on-line forums, such as Fencecheck helped develop my skills and technique. Many times, there can be as many as 20 or 30 aviation photographers at the fence line who post on the forum. I used it as a challenge to get a different angle or capture a different moment than the other photographers.
Using the low light capabilities of the D3 helped me get shots that many others could not. It was a constant challenge to get sharp photos in low light to get something that somebody else didn’t have. That still holds true today, whether it be a night airshow or a nighttime shot of the Vegas strip.
As my interests and travel expanded, so did my photography. I really enjoy the challenge of “dark ride” photography at Walt Disney World.
So, after taking tens of thousands of photos, what have I learned and what tips can I give? Here are a few that I think are important:
– Turn around – so many times there is a great shot behind you
– Both eyes open – shooting with both eyes open helps see people who are going to walk in front of you or action outside your view finder
– Don’t be discouraged – if you don’t get the shot you wanted, use it for inspiration and do better next time
– Back up your photos – Don’t lose your hard work by thinking the inevitable won’t happen. I’ve had drives crash and lost photos, trust me – it happens.
– Research or know what your photographing – If your photographing your favorite jet team, know their routine. If your photographing your favorite animal, watch how they “pattern” their movements to get the best shot/angle.
– Most importantly – put the camera down and soak in the moment. Photos are great, but you tend to look at everything though a “viewfinder”. Put the camera down and enjoy memories of what your doing.
Here are some of my favorite spots/events (so far) –
Oceana Airshow, Virginia Beach – held in September it’s usually one of the last shows of the season on the east coast. Oceana is a Navy base that serves as a master jet base for the east coast. There is a night show on Friday and Saturday nights. There are a lot of photo spots in the Virginia Beach / Norfolk area.
Vegas Strip – great photo opportunities on the strip, along with the surrounding area such as the Valley of Fire, Red Rock Canyon and the Grand Canyon.
Gravelly Point – outside Reagan National Airport near Washington DC. The park is situated right outside a runway. Commercial jets fly right over your head – constantly!
Walt Disney World – dark rides, hidden Mickey’s and fireworks provide for non-stop photo opportunities.
Take any opportunity you can to get out and capture the moment!