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I think this may have been the only comet and a running Mustang shoot in the world. I invited one other friend out that I shoot with at the Reno Air Races who lives in Vacaville where Sparky/Blondie lives. Between the two of us, there is a very high likelihood that we have the only shots in the world, of a P-51 running, and the comet, taken for real. (I'm sure someone will photoshop something together at some point.) I wish I had thought of the shoot a week earlier when the comet was really brilliant. That said, the owner was still doing the annual on this one, and didn't get it finished till the morning of the shoot.

It was a good shoot, and I'm thrilled the owner was interested in doing it. Were there things I'd do differently if I could do it again? Yep. Are they fatal flaws? Not at all. It worked well for being something that had little actual planning and a lot of just winging it. (Yeah, that was a pun.)

Hmmmm, I wonder if I can get another local owner with a P-40 to pull it out for a night shoot? That would be super cool.


Amazing Will, and the whole you saying you that you didn't really get
to plan things out, and were winging it is awesome ! 馃く馃樀 Think that
is really shows the unbelievable talent you have, and how it doesn't
matter the situation, you're pics are always going to be great !!! 馃榾
In a way, the spontaneity might even supercharge things, and get
those creative juices flowing as they say. ..Honestly is something
to see all of these Will !

Yeah, by the way, can imagine another night shoot with another
P-40 would be epic. Thanks again !

Super Moderator
10,361 Posts
From the archives...

A little over processed but...

Boy oh boy, it has to be so difficult for you actually ever picking out a favorite
photo of yours Will. Because I know it's impossible from this side of things ! 馃槷
Literally every single pic is captivating, and draws you in. I mean it could be
an extraordinary shot with a plane, and a sunrise, sunset, or even lightning ! 馃く
Or it could be a close up shot of just the chrome of one of the planes emitting
this unbelievable prism of colors ! 馃槻

They're all magnificent ! ..Magnificent I say !!! :D Thanks a ton Will !

56 Posts
Difficult to pic a favorite? Eh, perhaps, but not if its broken down into events, or even years, or type (Warbird, classic, modern, ect) Its all in how you define "Favorite" Now, if you said all time overall favorite, That is a much more difficult one to answer. To that question I have to say, I don't know. My goal is to shoot captivating images that draw you in, and could stand on their own without the obvious main subject. (At least for the static stuff, for the stuff in flight, well, you remove the subject and all you have is some panned background.) Aviation photography is a niche subject, but to do it well requires so many elements, and has so many variables, that it might be one of the most difficult subjects to photograph well. (A clear, sharp yet boring picture is not a good picture, its simply a picture.) This is the main reason I hate shooting a clear blue sky. You have subject, and nothing but the subject to pull you into the shot. What to do? Make sure that subject is tack sharp, with complete prop blur (full transparent disk) and cropped in so close you can count the rivets in the cockpit, and if the angle is right read the instruments on the panel, or the notes on the pilots knee board. You have to shoot something that draws the viewer in so they just think "Wow!" All with a boring empty blue sky as a background. I feel this is what separates those who are true artists with a camera from those who are just another person with a camera. There are some people who could be good enough to be artists with a camera, but are too afraid to push their limits and go for the really tricky shot that has a high risk factor of being total crap. (Oh, gotta play it safe and get a picture, can't risk missing a shot for THE picture.) What has been interesting is watching other aviation photographers change their styles to be more like mine. The awesome thing is, some of those people have made huge strides in their work and I'm responsible for it I've got several friends who were scared to shoot slow shutter speeds that would give them totally blurred propellers on their planes, instead going for a "safer" faster shutter speed with very little blur. I kept pushing them to push their limits, and now their images look nothing like what they were shooting just a couple years ago. I think that is awesome, and it makes me proud to be the influence that transformed their photography.

Even with my ability to shoot great shots, I still have trouble getting them chosen for publication. I see tons of lesser shots printed, but Its a rare occasion that my stuff gets printed. Of the pics that do get printed, they tend to be the least liked shots that I took. (Boring, so-so lighting, or any one of a number of factors that don't make the image worth printing in my mind.) The worst is when I see a shot that is very similar to mine that is posted or printed, but its out of focus, or motion blurred or has some major flaw to it, knowing full well I submitted a better shot, that was nearly flawless, yet its not the one in print. Heck, just recently I had a couple pics used in Vintage Airplane magazine of a Luscombe Model 4. They used two of my shots that were pretty boring, and the rest of the static shots were done by someone else who shot the thing midday under harsh light, no contrast, with tons of people around it. Honestly, the pics suck. (Even the owner of the airplane questioned the choice of pics since I gave him all my shots of his plane from the shoot.) It took me 3 mornings worth of shooting to get the images I wanted with awesome light, contrast, and no people around. The other shots in the article were taken mid day almost like the guy was just passing by and took a couple snaps in passing. It seriously make me feel like I need to dumb my pics down and shoot a whole lot of boring crap if I want to be published (Anyone else see the problem and irony there?)

Enough ranting, how about some pics?


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10,361 Posts
Holy cowza, breathtaking as always Will, and once again literally couldn't
pick a favorite if i had too. 馃槃Love every single shot, and how you even
mixed in some ultra cool helicopters this time around ! 馃槈馃槑 Oh, and by
the way, how on earth do you take those shots that look like the light trails
of the planes are frozen in the air? 馃槷It looks like fireworks, meets lasers
honestly !

Oh, and thought it was the THE best reading how you enjoy, or want to
shoot captivating pictures. Or images that draw you in, and make people
say 'wow', and could even stand on their own without the main thing you
are shooting. That is amazing to me ! So often with think of what we're
are shooting as the focal point, but the feel, and style is just as important
it sounds like. (y)(y)

By the way, that is something how evidently other photographers have
used your methods, or tried to mimic your style. You know the old saying,
imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. 馃榾Seriously, you are like the
Obi-Wan Kenobi, or even Yoda with all of this, it sounds like Will. Just
the way your pictures have been published before is proof of that !

Oh man, and that is too funny with you saying you feel like you have
to dumb down your pics, or shoot boring stuff to have a chance of
getting something published. 馃槃Hey, was thinking, if 'they' won't take
your incredible photos. Or publish them, or enough of them. How about
getting your very own book made? 馃く馃樀

Thanks once again Will !!!

56 Posts

How did I take this shot? Well, its pretty easy. Its a 3 minute exposure of this guy... (taken with the other camera at the same time he was doing his routine.) The camera with the wide angle lens was on a tripod, the shot below was done hand held.

The helicopters I shot during the fires in the Napa Valley in 2017. They were working just west of Rutherford, loading from several irrigation ponds on wineries. Yes I went bushwacking up a dry creek to get close enough to get a couple of those shots. I was technically on private property. (Not something I do frequently.)

I would not consider myself like Yoda or Obi-Wan, I'm just a guy with a camera who saw someone's digitally enhanced images and thought they were cool, then figured out how to shoot them for real.

Its stuff like this that bugs me. (Yoichi Nagae photo) This isn't good photography, its totally out of focus. Yet it was featured on the Reno Air Racing Association's FB page. It even got 285 likes. (scratches head in bewilderment.)

Or this. Sure its sharp, but the prop is nearly frozen, and the pic might as well be a model. (Lyle Setter photo).

Not a one of the pics in my previous post has been deemed publishable, yet this mediocre stuff ^ is? What am I missing?

Wouldn't stuff like this be more engaging? (Please excuse the FB compression. It did them no favors) Sure empty blue sky happens, so you try and capture the reflection of the ground in the gloss of the paint. I'm not saying these are better because they are mine, but better because they are in focus, props are totally blurred, and there is more than just an airplane with an empty blue sky going on.

As for publishing my own book, the idea has crossed my mind, but I'm pretty sure I don't have the $ to cover the publishing and printing costs. Heck, I've got more than enough content just from Reno to do a coffee table picture book.


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10,361 Posts
Yowza, yeah, that's the picture Will, and wow, it WAS actually fireworks
after all. 馃槂馃槑 Man that is cool, and so fascinating how you did it too ! 馃樀
Kind of is like you work with ILM, but are working all by yourself to create
these masterpieces. It really is something to see, and has to be extremely
fulfilling being so good at what you do, and enjoying everything so much.
Although I bet that was scary actually being around those fires in 2017
at Napa Valley, and everything. Honestly, didn't even realize the whole
fire thing happening in those shots sir. Thought it was mist, or fog actually.
Wow, scary stuff.

On the difference in other pictures next to yours above Will, can totally
see a difference, and how dynamic, and just plain detailed yours are to
tell the truth. (y) I mean it's almost like you are right up there with the
planes with a jet pack on, peering right at the planes, and into the
cockpits. Plus there's just something about the pics in general really.
They really capture the feel of the moment I think, and seem super
intimate, giving anyone looking at them a feeling of being right there.
It's like real life high definition art !

I'm sticking with the Yoda, and Obi-Wan comparison sir. Am going
with Will-Wan Kenobi ! 馃槈

P.S. Am imagining that coffee table book now !!! 馃檪

56 Posts
The Napa Valley Fires were pretty crazy. The Atlas peak fire literally burned to my driveway. A house two lots down from me burned to the ground, the house right across the street from my mailbox, all gone. The houses right around mine, all here. but a couple to the east of me did have their yards go up. I stayed here as long as I could before picking up and heading to a friends house a couple miles away, only to be called out to work. (I work for a high end hotel/resort on the southwest side of Napa) because the fires on that side of town were headed toward the place and it had been evacuated (it was 3am or something like that by this point.) I got out there, touched base with the GM and set about running the irrigation on the perimeter of the property to halt the potential advance of a fire should it get to us. (it was still about a mile and a half north, and moving west rather than south.) Naturally I wasn't about to leave $6000+ worth of camera equipment in the house that could burn down, so I had it with me at work. I'll let the photos do the talking... Napa Valley Firestorm 2017

Now you see why I'm sitting here scratching my head with what is making it to featured images and them not being anywhere near up to par. Like I said, do I have to shoot crap to get it featured and printed?

As for what I could use for contend in a book, well, have a look through these albums. They aren't complete, but there is a lot of stuff here. If you look through the photostream you will find all the stuff from Oshkosh 2018 that never made it into an album. RAD2LTR鈥檚 albums | Flickr

On a side note, if you look through the Reno Air Race albums from 2012 on, you can see very clearly my progression as a photographer. Its pretty wild.


Here is a pic to stay on topic...

Super Moderator
10,361 Posts
Can't even imagine how all of that must have been Will. It sounds, and
definitely looks apocalyptic. I mean we get a tough storm once in a
while that knocks down some branches, or a blizzard, and we get all
bent out of shape here. However, what you are talking about, along
with showing is life, and death, and really scary. Can't believe how
calm you seem to sound about everything. But I guess it's been a
few years right?! Crazy stuff Will. Let's hope this year is fire free this
time around. Although I know there are already fires going on out
there this summer too. Man oh man, fingers crossed.

I actually kind of feel guilty looking at all of your pictures from when
all of it happened. Some of them look like peering into an area that
is around a volcano. It's ominous, and leaves you in awe sir. Am so
glad that you, and so many somehow managed to stay safe. Because
I know how awful the fires can be.

That's why it has to be wonderful having all of these other spectacular
photosto dive into, and enjoy. They are like moments frozen in time that
you can really appreciate, as well as escape to. Especially during a
tough time, or tough times. Whoa, you have a ton too Will !

Unbelievable really !!! Thanks so so much for sharing all of this ! (y)(y)

56 Posts
I really was pretty calm about it. It was kinda funny actually. It was pretty warm that evening, and the wind was blowing pretty strong, from an odd direction (the north east) I had every door and window open in the house and about 10 pm I could smell a grass fire. I thought to myself, eh not surprising and went about my business (was processing pics from the Air Races) I eventually looked at the clock and figured I should go close the gate (landlords want the gate closed every night.) I wandered out, yep, there is a grass fire... closed and locked the gate. Turned around and saw the glow on the hillside.... Oh, the fire is here... and there are like, 5 of them.... Well this should be interesting. Opened the gate, called a couple friends to see if they would come over and spray down any burning embers that might come my way. Started laying hoses out around the property and eventually a couple friends showed up with their truck. By now several of the fires had merged into big fires and were going in opposite directions. One was headed north west away from me, one was burning across Atlas peak going for the houses up above Silverado Country Club (where the PGA had just finished their tournament a few hours earlier.) And the 3rd fire... oh, that one is buring right down Atlas Peak rd. Hmmmm. Evidently the police had gone through and evacuated everyone but I never heard anything. All the neighbors were gone, so I went over and turned on sprinklers were I could and turned off gas lines. (actually propane tanks) Then I saw the fire dropping down into one of the vineyards just to the north of me. "Hmmm, this should be interesting." I had been watering everything I could on my property so If any burning embers landed anywhere, they would be quickly extinguished. We could see the fire burning past my place down below on Atlas Peak rd, but it was burning down the road and didn't seem to want to turn back up my direction. By this time my friends wife was freaking out calling him and telling him to come home, so, I loaded as much stuff as I could get out into the car, into his truck and we left. I left the sprinklers running and felt pretty confident that there would be a place to come home to. We headed back to my friends place and were watching the news. They were standing on the corner of my street and Atlas Peak Rd and I could see several houses on fire. "Hmmmm, thats not a good sign...." Oddly enough the fire didn't do anything more than burn through people's yards and stopped at my driveway. It went right around my place. (Yeah I won the lottery that night) Shortly there after I got a call that there was a fire on the other side of the valley as well and it was burning toward work. Okay, I've stared down one fire, what the hell, I'll go deal with another. Drove out to work. Now that was eerie. I could see the hills on fire and could watch the flame front working its way across the ridgeline in the darkness. I didn't figure the fire would get to my place of work so I just sat there and watched as there was a fire in nearly every direction I could see. With my 500mm lens I was able to capture some of the houses burning over a mile away. Despite the destruction, I found it strangely beautiful. The following morning was super smokey, everything was evacuated, and the air tankers were grounded due to smoke and still high winds. I couldn't go see if my house was okay, I had to call my landlords who were on vacation in Italy (imagine their surprise...) It was a couple days later before I went hunting air tankers. By this time the fire that had started on the west side of the valley had moved all the way up past St Helena, That had me worried as I had two classic cars ('59 Alfa Romeo 101 Giulietta Sprint and a '69 Datsun 2000 roadster) in a friends garage up there. Neither one ran at hte time (The Datsun had a broken valve spring suffered at the track a month earlier, and the Alfa hasn't seen the open road under its own power in my lifetime. The roadster was easy to move, the Alfa, not so much. It had no rear end on it so once I could get up to St Helena, I was thrashing to make the car moveable if I needed to. I ended up moving both to a friends place near Vallejo, but I didn' actually need to. There was pretty little risk where they were since the house dated to about 1870, and clearly had never burned. At the end of the week I was finally able to get a police escort in to see if I had a place still standing. Sure enough everything was just as I left it. I couldn't go back (no electricity, no well, no water, no gas... no point.) so I went Air tanker/Helicopter hunting and scored bigtime.

It was an experience. Sort of surreal, as you can imagine from the pics. The whole time, cool as a cucumber. Apparently it takes a lot to get me to freak out. hahahaha.

To stay on topic, here is an SBD Dauntless. I shot this at Wings over Wine Country in 2016.


Super Moderator
10,361 Posts
Super cool shot Will ! :cool::cool: Not only is the plane, and outstanding
detail exceptional, but love the whole black, and white theme. o_O
It really gives the picture an almost vintage vibe, however, you can
really enjoy the modern day clarity, and detail. Amazing !!!

Something else that is amazing is reading your whole experience in
the fire. I mean it reads like a novel that you can鈥檛 put down, and keeps
you turning page, after page. It鈥檚 really remarkable hearing everything,
and getting a feel for what something like that is actually like. To tell
the truth I seem more terrified for you guys out there. And I鈥檓 all the
way on the other side of the country. 馃槷 Honestly, the way you were
evidently able to do what you had to do, and go about your business
so calmly is, or was tremendous.

Can鈥檛 thank you enough for taking the time to really fill us in on all that
happened. Like I said, it reads like this enthralling story, or even movie.
Wow, just wow Will ! ..Just am glad you made out so well. It sounds
like so many weren鈥檛 nearly as fortunate.

Let鈥檚 hope this years fires stay clear of all of you !
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