Wednesday, May 30, 2012

ISAP 2012 - Norfolk, Virginia

As some of you may know, I belong to the International Society of Aviation Photography, more commonly known as ISAP. This is an organization of some of the best aviation shooters in the world, and they still let the likes of me in!

ISAP has been running for over ten years now, and I have been a member for six of those years. Each year there is an annual symposium; three days of presentations, showcases, tutorials and the ever popular field trip day, in which we get to visit interesting places that one might not ordinarily be able to visit. In past years I have attended symposiums in Pensacola, FL; Dallas, TX; Las Vegas, NV and San Diego, CA. This year, we headed east to Norfolk, Virginia.

It was really great to see everyone again, I have made a lot of friends in the years I've been going to ISAP symposiums. Although the numbers were a little down this time - some folks couldn't make it - there were plenty of new members, including some who joined after attending the Thursday night public session.

We had some excellent speakers, too. Scott Kelby boosted Adobe's profits by showing us all the new stuff in Lightroom 4 and Photoshop CS6 - I came home and upgraded to LR4 because of this, and I know of several other folks who did similarly.... Carolyn Wright went over copyright law, while RC Conception explained lots of things regarding social media and maintaining an online presence. Scott Slocum demonstrated in-flight video techniques, Lyle Jansma showed his 360-degree cockpit photography. Jim Koepnik and pilot Bruce Moore showed their work from the last 20 years or so - Jim is the ISAP 2012 George Hall Lifetime Achievement winner this year, and his work showed why he deserved this. Canon and Nikon were both on hand to show their latest wares too, and both provided complimentary camera cleaning which I took advantage of.

A brace of FA-18s at NAS Oceana

The field trip day was a lot of fun. We started the morning at Naval Air Station Oceana, one of the main US Navy bases of which there seem to be many on the east coast here. Look on the map and the whole Norfolk and Virginia Beach area is a mass of military bases. Here at NAS Oceana, there were F-18s. Lots and lots of F-18s! More than I ever knew existed... We were guests of Strike Fighter Squadron VFA-31, the 'Tomcatters', who fly FA-18/Es. The squadron really looked after us. They let us go all over the ramp, as far as the last parked jet, which was very close to the taxiway. There were F-18s from many other squadrons taxiing past to the hold points, one of which was directly in front of us, and the other was down the far end of the runway. So we got to shoot jets at various points in their takeoff sequences. We could also get plenty of shots of parked F-18s, with the only stipulation being that we didn't take pictures directly down the air intakes. Everyone enjoyed being around such intense noisy action, and the Squadron sold plenty of T-shirts and challenge coins, too :-)

An F-18 in CONA colours

The VFA-31 squadron bird

Next stop was the Military Aircraft Museum in Virginia Beach, which is home to a startlingly large number of WW1 and WW2-era aircraft. They were gearing up for holding an air show at the weekend. We visited on the Friday, with the hope that we'd see some aircraft practising their displays. Unfortunately the wind that day exceeded their airfield crosswind limits, so not much flew, although a C-46 did a fast, low pass down the runway which was very cool. Personally, I hardly noticed the lack of flying aircraft, since there was so much on the ground to keep us busy. I have never seen so many WW2 re-enactors, and the line of aircraft along the runway was seriously impressive.

A FW-190 starting up

It would have been easy to miss the WW1 hangar. In fact I did walk past it, before someone told me to go inside. I am so glad I did! There were all kinds of things in here. Three Fokker Triplanes! A Sopwith Camel, an SE-5A, a DR-7.... The building itself was a replica of an original French hangar of the period, built to modern standards and with hurricane protection - not really a factor in northern France.

Hangar full of WW1 aeroplanes

The C-46 on low approach

On Saturday it was back to the classroom, before the banquet which finishes the Symposium. This is always an entertaining affair, with a paper airplane contest and plenty of door prizes. This year's guests of honour were two Tuskegee Airmen, O. Lawton Wilkerson and Hilton Joseph, who spoke about their wartime experiences in the only Black squadron of the time. These two gentlemen had spent the entire weekend with us, and were taking pictures and enjoying themselves as much as anyone else was doing. It was an honour to spend time with them and to hear their stories.

Normally, that's it for ISAP, and everyone scoots off home on the Sunday morning. This year, about thirty of us stayed, in order to attend the Virginia Beach airshow. As it turned out, although they had very fine weather on the Saturday, the rain and storms had closed in on us for Sunday. We got over there in the dry, but it was overcast and threatening. Not much was going on, except the re-enactors were staying busy keeping all their stuff dry. However, the grey and damp conditions in the re-enactor camp looked a lot like 1940s Europe... so what is a pack of photographers to do? We took some of the most unusual pictures to be had all weekend!

A pilot leans on the Hawker Fury wing

About two hours after we arrived, the rain started to come down, and most of us took shelter in the main hangar. However there were still plenty of pictures to be had, of passing aircrew and wet aeroplanes with reflections in the ramp concrete. The C-46 made a reappearance and landed in out of the mist, which was a sight to behold.

A wartime photographer

We finally bailed around lunchtime, but we all had some great images, of the kind we would never have taken were it not for the damp conditions. Just goes to show that a rainy airshow is not necessarily a disaster! We repaired back to the hotel and spent much of the afternoon and evening talking as a group about ISAP and photography and friends, which was a thoroughly pleasant way to finish a great weekend. Roll on ISAP 2013!

The C-46 in the mist

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