Of the many planes I have been fortunate to see fly, none have confused me more than the F-22 Raptor. From the first time I watched it, to the most recent experience, my mind can’t comprehend what it is watching. Seeing a performance by one make you reconsider what you thought you knew about physics. It is as if the plane is mocking where the spectator’s mind thought it should go. It is for this reason that when given the opportunity to photograph one, I jumped out of my seat and flew directly to Nellis AFB in Las Vegas.
Now Raptors are usually a bit hard to get alone for a photoshoot as they are one of the planes that are quite hard to “button up” for a photo. By this I mean they are so loaded with sensitive material that making sure not to show it is not as easy as it is for an F-16. Add to that that there aren’t that many to be photographed and you begin to see why this shoot was a bit harder to put together than most.
Nonetheless, the time came and I flew out to Vegas not sure what awaited me. I didn’t know if I was going to get a couple minutes with the plane and hope for the best or if the lighting would be good enough to shoot. All I knew was that I had a date with a fighter jet and that is all it takes for me to hop on a plane and fly somewhere without even securing a hotel room first.
My crew and I showed up bright and early to Nellis and went first to the Thunderbird’s hanger to catch up with the team and find out where they kept the really stealthy planes. Immediately upon walking out of the hanger to the tarmac we saw an F-22 sitting there with ropes all around it and really rough sunlight on it. I thought to myself, “some days are tougher than others.” As I started to discuss with my guys the plan of attack on shooting the plane, a gentleman approached and said, “sir, please follow me, we have your plane over here.”
After walking through a number of doors and hallways, he opened a set of double doors to a huge room, and there it sat, my own personal F-22 Raptor. So many expletives were said by us all in an attempt to describe what it looks like to see such an amazing piece of machinery sitting there prepped to be photographed. The plane was enormous, but looked like pure speed.
Our handlers from the Air Force were awesome, and helped us to get the shots we needed while not showing stuff that shouldn’t be shown. I wish I could show you a behind the scenes, but with the sensitivity of the hardware it was just too complicated.
I would like to thank Wolf, Bolt and all the members of the military that helped make this happen.