This summer, a rare opportunity is available for a select band of aviation enthusiasts to experience the thrill and majesty of photographing rare vintage military aircraft from the air. The Madras Air2Air Experience will be taking place over the last weekend in August in Madras, Oregon and feature some of the beautifully restored warbirds from the world-class Erickson Aircraft Collection. You too could be a part of this amazing aviation photography workshop which will not only partner you with some of the best aviation photographers in the business, but actually get you up in the air to practice what you’ve learned on the ground. WarbirdsNews wanted to find out a little more about the workshop from the student’s perspective, so we talked with Matt Booty, one of the participants from last year’s class, to discover his impressions of the Air2Air Experience. Booty was also kind enough to share some of the marvelous photographs he took during his air-to-air shoots as well.
WN: What was it that drew you to participate?
MB: The event brought together a lot of great things all in one weekend: exceptional aircraft, accomplished teachers, dedicated and highly professional pilots, a group of folks giving feedback and sharing information, a spectacular backdrop of open landscapes, a great museum and an airshow. It’s tough to imagine getting more experience and value concentrated in to one event.
WN: What do you feel the biggest positive things you learned were?
MB: I learned a lot about the amount of planning that goes in to an air-to-air shoot. There’s no way someone could learn everything you need to know in one weekend, but I do feel that I learned a bit about what the right questions are to ask in a briefing and how to make requests that are within reason of the sortie. We also got to shoot at different times of the day and in varying lighting conditions, which was good experience to know what kinds of shots will be possible given the available light.
WN: Has the experience changed the way you approach aviation photography, and if so, how?
MB: Definitely, in two ways. First, I got to see the amazing shots that other people came away with, given more or less the same aircraft and circumstances, so it pushes me to do better. Second, it’s made me plan my summer more around potential air-to-air opportunities, with Madras certainly being the headliner event in August.
WN: What were the instructors like, and how effectively did they communicate?
MB: Lyle Jansma and Scott Slocum were complete professionals and went out of their way to make sure that everyone got value out of the weekend. Furthermore, I think it’s important to note that both Lyle and Scott spent all their time leading the event, when their attention could have easily been diverted to doing their own shooting.
WN: How many students were there, and what was the chemistry of the group like?
MB: There were ten students, with a wide range of experience. One person had never been in a single-engine, private airplane before, while a few were accomplished air-to-air photographers. The way the event was structured, there was room for every skill level and I think everyone got along and found common things to talk about. When all else fails, tell airplane stories!
WN: What camera equipment do you use, and is there anything you’ve acquired, or would like to acquire, as a direct result of your experience doing air-to-air?
MB: I have a Canon 5D mk3 and a Canon 7D mk2, and I borrowed a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 from a friend for the event last year. That lens worked really well and I have since bought one of my own. Some of the shooters took two cameras up with them, which is something I’m thinking of doing this year, to get some tighter shots.
WN: Have you ever done air-to-air photography before, and if so, how did this experience change the way you work? If not, then what was your immediate impression of the experience?
MB: I have had the fortunate opportunity to do air-to-air shoots with the Historic Flight Foundation at Paine Field and also with the Bravo 369 Flight Foundation, in both B-25s and T-6s. The main difference with the Madras event is that you’re flying in pairs with Scott Slocum as the photo-ship pilot, so there is a lot more discussion in the air about setting up the shot and the chance to get personalized input from Scott and your shooting partner.
WN: Which aircraft did you photograph from the air, and what was your photo-ship?
MB: The aircraft made available for the event’s air-to-air flights were the Grumman FM-2 Wildcat in formation with the F4U-7 Corsair, and the P51-D … in formation with the Focke-Wulf FW-190. I also had the chance to shoot the Grumman J2F-6 Duck. The photo ship was Scott Slocum’s Beech Bonanza A-36.
WN: In doing the air-to-air, what did you remember as being the hardest aspect to cope with, and how did your instruction prepare you for this?
MB: For me personally, it was tough to keep two things going on in my head at once. First, paying attention to shutter speed and exposure and just trying to get the shot. Second, keeping a mental model in my head of where the formation was in relation to the sun and the landscape and thinking ahead to what shots would be coming up as we orbited in a slow turn. Scott did a great job of calling out what was coming up.
WN: What was your favorite moment in your experience?
MB: Watching Lt. Col. Greg Anders, the Executive Director of the Heritage Flight Museum, flying the P-51D as [our] photo ship slowly climbed up to altitude. Seeing the P-51 doing sweeping dives and climbs, coming up past us multiple times as we climbed, was majestic and something I had not experienced before.
WN: Have you stayed in touch with any of your fellow students?
MB: Everyone is on Facebook and many of us trade emails and see each other at air shows. It was fun to meet people in person that I had only known online.
WN: What was your overall impression of the weekend?
MB: It’s a top notch event worth every penny, run by great people. I think the only negative I could say about the entire experience is that there aren’t a whole lot of places open at 5:00am in Madras for breakfast!
So there you have it!… This year’s Madras Air2Air Experience is bound to be a fabulous opportunity to learn serious aviation photography skills and capture some of your favorite warbirds from the air over breathtaking scenery. You will be learning from some of the best air-to-air photographers in the world as well, such as Lyle Jansma and Scott Slocum. This year the masterful Paul Bowen will be featured on the instruction team as well! Be sure to check out what class package might work best for you. There are options for almost every budget… click HERE to find out more!
Many, many thanks to Matt Booty for taking the time to answer our questions so thoughtfully, and for providing us with some of his fabulous images as well. For more of his photography, as well as some of his 3D modeling artwork, please visit his website HERE. Matt Booty also expressed his desire to thank Brent Conner, Greg Anders and Mike Oliver for their perfect piloting skills with the Erickson Aircraft Collection’s fleet, as well as Stefan Trischuk who flew his yellow Pitts X2C.