Thursday, April 30, 2009

All In The Family

I bet you didn't know that the Pillsbury Dough Boy has a brother who shills for a funnel cake kiosk at fairs? It's not nearly so high profile as his brothers national gig, but it keeps him busy.

The Red Knight

That's right, it's time for another plane from the Sun-N-Fun airshow, this time from Saturday. This is The Red Knight, an early jet fighter. It appears to be a T-33 and originally flew with the Royal Canadian Air Force (I think). Pretty impressive machine if you ask me.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Here are a few pictures of an actual airplane from Sun-N-Fun last Saturday. This great old warbird is a B-24 Liberator bomber. It's a giant thundering machine that delivered death from the skies. If memory serves, this one is currently being flown by the Commemorative Air Force, a group of enthusiasts dedicated to preserving and flying these warbirds, and making people aware of the effort that went into building these machines in such short order during WWII.

This is a close-up of the forward machine gun on the B-24. I think this is a different aircraft than the one you see in the air above. I believe this one was called Bucket Of Bolts, while the other one is called Ol' 927, or something like that. Someday I'll get smart and shoot the registration numbers on the sides of the planes I see, then I can look them up later and give you relevant links. No, no, no, I'm wrong, this is the same B-24. I think Bucket of Bolts was parked nearby. She's a C-45 Expeditor.

Two Inch Worm

As part of my quest to show you everything I saw at the Sun-N-Fun airshow this past weekend except for the planes, here's a worm I found crawling along a railing. He's moving along like an inch worm, but he's about two inches long. I don't think there's such a thing as a two-inch worm, so I don't know what to call him. Harold, I guess. That'll just have to do for now.


I just love to shoot fireworks! When it's a nice long show, and you have a good view of the sky, everything can click and you just get some really nice shots. All of that happened Friday night at the Sun-N-Fun, and I got these great shots of the fire in the sky.

I think I've found that the trick to getting good shots of fireworks is to stop your lens down tight. I think some of these were shot as small as F18 or even F22. That lets only the brightest light leave an image on the image sensor, and that doesn't let the light collect and tend towards white. I think it lets me get more color in the shots. Your mileage may vary.

A hard part of shooting a big show like this is getting just a single burst (or two) in the shot. There's a lot of stuff going on at one time in the sky, and trying to capture too much of that just leads to a muddy mess of white light. I took progressively shorter and shorter shots, with 2-2.5 seconds being about the sweet spot. You get one, maybe two bursts in the frame, and all the colors are still good.

Sometimes still photography can't do an effect justice. These blue streamers were shooting out in a circle, looking for all the world like a giant version of the old Rainbird lawn sprinklers, only with light instead of water. To a camera with a lens open for 2.5 seconds, it's all the same.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Still More Turkeys

I almost forgot about these pictures. I was on my way home from Daytona Beach the other day when I saw these turkeys out foraging for food on the side of the road. I pulled off, put the big lens on the camera and hopped out to get some shots. Unfortunately, they wouldn't let me get very close. It occurred to me that they were pretty oblivious to the cars speeding by, but me on foot must have been a threat to them. Maybe I should have tried to stay in the car and shoot. I'll remember that next time.

It didn't take long before they got tired of me and flew off. I was surprised how well they flew. They didn't just use their wings to hop up onto a roost like a chicken might, but they actually flew away. This picture is a little blurry (like most of the shots I got from too far away), but it's still a turkey on the wing, and one of the few turkey shots I've ever gotten.

P Or T

So, which plane would you rather have? Above is a P-51 Mustang, a fighter plane used during World War II and rare as hen's teeth these days. They go for probably a million or so bucks, if you can find one for sale. They made thousands and thousands of them, but only a handful remain. Or you could have the T-51 Mustang shown below. It looks very similar, but it's actually classified as a light sport aircraft and is built from a kit. It's powered by a Suzuki engine and screams like a banshee. I think it's a hard call. Maybe one of each?

Whoops, sorry. The plane at the top, Crazy Horse, is actually a TF-51, or the trainer version of a P-51. It's got dual controls so it can be used as a trainer. These planes just confuse me sometimes...

Monday, April 27, 2009

Planes, I Promise

I think I've shown you just about everything I saw at the airshow except any planes. Sorry about that, I'm just easily distracted, I guess. Here are a couple of planes for you, in a display very similar to what you saw from the Macdill Airfest earlier this month. This is part of what they call a Tailhook display, honoring the legacy of naval aviation. I think they ripped it off from the Air Force and their Legacy flights, but that's really beside the point. It's quite the impressive display, both planes flying in formation, both planes with their tailhooks dragging through the air. What, you didn't notice the tailhooks were down? Look at the bottom rear and you'll see it on both these beauties. So what planes are these? The jet above and left is an F-18 Hornet, I believe. The prop plane is a A-1 Skyraider, I think. I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong.

Strength In Numbers

It's an old cliche, but it's true. There really is strength in numbers. I spotted these ants carrying a grasshopper off to their nest on a runway at Sun-N-Fun this past Friday. He's obviously quite the catch, but how in the world did they ever think they could do anything with him once they got him? I guess they knew what they were doing, though. I noticed this little tableau for two reasons. First, they were moving quite fast. I thought the grasshopper was injured and somehow crawling along his side until I noticed the ants bearing their burden. And second, they were on a runway, making it much easier to move the big critter without fighting the grass. How smart is that?

Sing Out Loud

I can't go more than about ten minutes without taking a picture of a bird, I think you know that by now. Even with all the commotion of airplanes at Sun-N-Fun this weekend, I still took a few minutes to shoot the meadowlarks that live in the short grass between the runways. I don't think they are used to all the people being around, but they're willing to put up with the commotion one week out of the year. I watched as they flitted about, looking for food in the grass, then hopping up on a high spot once in a while to sing their little song. Then after the song, they take a deep bow and go back to their eating. Quaint custom, but cute.

I see that I took a very similar shot of very similar birds at this very same airshow three years ago. See, history does repeat!

Kites Are Fun

Planes, helicopters and birds weren't the only things flying at the Sun-N-Fun this weekend. Kitty Hawk Kites also had a huge display and they seemed to be doing a brisk business. They had a couple dozen kites flying over their tent, held aloft in the stiff breeze by long fiberglass poles. Not everyone can afford a fancy plane or an ultralight, but you can always get a kite and pretend that's you up there in the breeze.

Forgive Thy Enemies

One of the more interesting stories I heard at Sun-N-Fun involved the two men you see in the picture above. On the right is General Dan Cherry (USAF-Retired) and on the left is Hong My, a pilot in the north Vietnamese air force during the Vietnam War. On April 16, 1972, Cherry and his Phantom F-4 shot down My in his MiG-21 over Vietnam.

On April 5, 2008, these two met again, on the ground this time, in Ho Chi Mihn City, on a television show that normally specialized in reuniting long-lost family members. But this time, it reunited two men who had once been enemies. Who says reality TV is a bad thing? Cherry went on to write a book about the event, and the two of them have visited numerous airshows and museums recently to tell their story. The woman in the picture above translated for My. I don't know if she's also a family member, but I suspect so.

The plane they stood in front of when they spoke at Sun-N-Fun had intrigued me the previous day, but I had no idea what it was. Looking closely revealed that all of the markings on it were in Russian, so I suspected it was a MIG. It was also the only plane on the field that looked as if it had never been restored. It was leaking fuel and had several oil drums beneath it to catch the spill.

I learned something else today. You can go online and look up planes by their number. See that 7708 on the side of the MIG? You can find it's info here.

Pyro Can Be Fun

Finally, let me share some pictures with you that I took at Sun-N-Fun this past weekend. This series of shots comes from part of the Saturday afternoon airshow. They had some WW2 fighters and bombers making loops of the airfield, and when the bombers went by, the pyro would go off. Now if you look close, you'll see what I think is some sort of fighter trainer flying by behind this explosion. I don't know if he was supposed to be this close to it or not, but he's not very far away, that's for sure. I don't think he was ever in danger, it's probably just an optical illusion, but it sure surprised me when I looked at the pictures the first time.

The Lonely Goldfish

Poor little cracker, all alone on the hot asphalt, never too be eaten and soon to be crushed.

Marble Factory?

Here's one of those unique shots you might only find at Ernie (Not Bert). This is a detail of the fruit on some sort of palm tree I came across the other day. I don't think these are big enough to be coconuts, and I don't think they count as dates, so I don't know what to call them, but they sure looked neat.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Love Birds

You know how much I love these little kestrels, so imagine my excitement when I got this picture today. Turns out that someone had moved into the old Pelican Man's Bird Sanctuary facility on City Island, and they've got a few birds in there already. It's still far from full, but they seem to be headed in that direction. One large pen had three kestrels in it, and two of them seem to have hit it off. It may look as if they're fighting over that little chunk of lunch, but one bird was actually offering it to the other one. I think there was a little nest building activity going on in one corner of the cage as well. I almost got a shot of a little egg-making activity, if you get my drift, but I wasn't quick enough on the shutter button. Maybe next time.

One Size Fits All

Sure, I could bring you pictures of planes from the Sun-N-Fun Airshow this weekend. But anyone can do that. Who's going to bring you pictures of a crescent wrench made into a hood ornament for a tractor? No one, that's who! Only Ernie.