I have never gone looking for luck, but sometimes luck comes looking for me. Today we connected, and I’m a happy man.
The C-47 here has been restored to depict a Vietnam War special version designated AC-47, complete with “gatling gun” rotating guns that don’t work (they say), bristling like stingers out of windows on the left side of the airplane. Google “Douglas AC-47″ to learn more about the bird; this post is about how I took the pictures that follow.
The airplane belongs to a Kansas aviation museum. There it is maintained and spends most of the year when air shows aren’t a part of the national aviation celebration during warmer weather months. Often, a Springfield area pilot and Facebook friend — former pilot with some major airlines, nice fellow, flies the ’47 to air shows and parks it at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport’s east general aviation ramp. Staging (placing an airplane at an airport closer to its next scheduled destination) saves fuel and wear on the airplane. The ’47 has been here about two weeks; not open for tours inside, but visible from the hurricane fence that separates the airplanes from the “hoi and polloi” — as Ernest Gann never ever said. I knew that today the bird would be departing this city for its next air show appearance a few southern states away, and I was a mite sorry because I believed I would not witness the departure because I would be serving the employer who keeps me in Burgundy wine and Jiff Extra Chunky peanut butter. . . . . . . . . What can I say? Luck found me.
As I approached the airport a little after 5 today, I saw the airplane taxiing into the run-up area at the end of Runway 31. This is the place where pilots rev the engines to maximum power, briefly, to be sure they will generate the power needed to successful rise to the occasion, so to speak. They also test the controls and receive takeoff permission from the air traffic controllers in the nearby control tower. In less time than it takes to type, I revved my vehicle to something approaching maximum power to arrive at my parking place near my museum office at the airport. I would have an excellent view of his departure IF I COULD get stopped in the parking lot on time.
If I had not come to a green light when I had to turn left and had not had to wait for oncoming traffic to pass before turning left onto the airport drive, I would have missed it. If I had not had my Sony Cyber-shot camera WITH ME, I would have missed it. If I had decided to run into my office to grab my larger Canon SLR camera, I would have missed it. Instead I RAN near-instantly after parking to a special elevated position I use for pictures of departing airplanes using Runway 31. As I arrived there, I heard the sound of engines rising to their full power at the start of the take off run.
It was hard to find the airplane through the view finder. I was looking INTO THE SUN, and virtually into the shadow. The right side of the ’47 facing the parking lot fence and me, was NOT illuminated beyond the natural ambient light in shade. By the time I saw it in my camera, I HAD to steady my hand and concentrate. Still it was hard to see him, thanks in part to the camouflage paint applied to the airplane and thanks to the dim background of trees and hangars in shadow. Already his tail was off the ground.
I did not get a full view of the airplane because I could not see it very well and I had no time to properly frame it. Still it’s a passable picture that shows the general aviation t-hangars across the airport and a Piper Cherokee sitting outside one of them. I did not crop the picture here. This is as I took it.
The delay of about three seconds while my Sony Cyber-shot “point-and-shoot” camera processed the image onto its memory card seemed like thirty seconds. I could not see the airplane while the camera was doing that, and I had to search for it all over when I was able to see through the camera again. AGAIN I was concentrating mightily on moving the camera up and down as little as possible. The Cyber-shot has a stabilization capability in the side to side, and I once I FOUND him, gently panned the camera as he moved. I saw the control tower come into view, waited another whole second or so to take picture number two.
I consider this the best of the three. Visible is the illumination of the sun on the wings. Note the landing gear had not yet started to retract into the wings. AGAIN I WAS BLIND while the camera processed! I had to start searching again, and I was running out of time. FINALLY I found him! No need to compose the picture. The plane was surrounded by sky. I would snap the picture as soon as I could while holding the camera as steadily as I could. I just did not want to blur the picture because if I did, I would LOSE the picture!
A few minutes later, in my office, I “composed” the picture with careful cropping of a LOT of sky around a relatively small airplane. For an image processed on my computer at 300 dpi and about 5 x 7 inches the picture is okay. It shows me (and perhaps you) that the landing gear on the left begins to retract first. It’s a matter of how the hydraulic system is arranged. Many airplanes have a similar “left strut first” sequence.
I walked to my office and processed the three pictures. It took about 20 minutes, and I posted the middle one on Facebook for my Fb friends.
Photographing airplanes in motion is especially rewarding to me; a lot like going fishing or hunting is, I suppose, for my friends so inclined. I never know, really, what I have “brought home” until it’s time to dress it out by the kitchen sink or backyard gutting table, or office computer. I, for one, am happy with the result of my visitation of luck, and I hope you are too!
Live long . . . . . . . . . . . . . and proper.