A couple years back I wrote a blog similar to this one and I was positive that it would be the one and only time I ever would… I was wrong.
As some of those close to me know, I have been working on a personal project that is very important to me over the last few years. However, by “working” I mean planning, as this project was cancelled last March by a government sequester. No longer in threat of that, I figured I would give you guys a little heads up on what is to come.
While I never served in the armed forces, I have a very profound respect for the men and women that do. I have been fortunate to be a part of what they do in my time as the honorary commander for the 425 Fighter Squadron (Singaporean Air Force) at Luke AFB. During that period I was honored to spend time with the squad and see the day to day lives of fighter pilots. All this was capped off with a flight in an F-16, something I will never forget.
This entire experience was so inspiring that I decided I would figure out a way to help the Air Force using what talent I had behind the camera. From making great images of their aircraft that they could give to kids, to helping teach the Air Force photojournalists about lighting and how to start a career once their service was done. Heck, I’d even give camera advice to guys in the squad looking to buy their wives their first camera (always Nikon!).
Three years ago at an airshow like the one coming up this weekend, I went with Larry Fitzgerald to go watch and photograph the planes for fun. Mostly I wanted to watch and he wanted to see if he could handhold a 400 f/2.8, which he did easily. The big event at the show was the USAF Thunderbirds. As always they performed beautifully and left us very inspired. By the time they were done, Larry and I had made our way to the front of the crowd and cheered them as they landed. Well someone with the Thunderbirds took notice.
The next morning I received a phone call from the Thunderbirds asking if I could help them get Larry to fly with them. I explained to them that no matter the situation, (age, job, anything), convincing a guy to fly in an F-16 is NOT hard. The sentence is usually not finished before the guy says YES. So I then asked them if there was any chance that I could shoot some photos of them and donate them back as a thank you for what they did.
Over the coming year we planned out timing and when we could photograph the jets and pilots and how we could make some really great imagery. And then the call came…..
USAF Thunderbirds: “Hey Blair, would you like to fly with us?”
I would give anything to fly with them, but felt that there were many other people that deserved it more. I told them I would, but if they needed to give my seat to anyone that would be a better candidate, I would not take any offense. After all, my goal from the get go was to help the AF, and if I took the seat of someone else that could get more attention for them, I would be going against everything I set out to do.
Long story short, they felt that I would be a great person to fly, and so this Friday I will be flying with the USAF Thunderbirds.
It is an opportunity that I have the utmost respect for and I have been rescheduling photoshoots in order to make sure that I am in the best physical condition possible for it. I will be doing a photoshoot of their pilots before the flight and one of the planes after, so any attempt to condition myself to not be an unconscious mess will make the images better.
There will be quite a bit of coverage of these next few days, from behind the scenes of the photoshoot, to tips on how to light a plane, and of course a video of this photographer trying to stay conscious while flying with the world’s best.