Summary of the 2005 Season - Behind the Scenes


Hello, my name is Clark Cook, creator of this website and photographer. My photography experience started in April with the purchase of a Canon EOS Digital Rebel. Within a week, I acquired a Canon 75-300 image stabilizing telephoto zoom lens. I thought this would be the perfect start for photographing aircraft. Within a few weeks, I was photographing airliners departing and arriving at Sacramento Int'l. Airport. The results were excellent and I was ready to photograph airshows for the 2005 season.

California Capitol Airshow

The first local airshow was scheduled for May 14-15 at Mather Field (formally Mather AFB) in Sacramento. This was to be the 10th anniversary since the field was converted to a civilian airport, dubbed "California Capitol Airshow". Unfortunately, less than perfect weather put a dampener (literally) on both days, in fact, it rained almost the entire 2 days. I didn't want to risk getting my new equipment wet, although there were some static displays on hand. I made a difficult decision not to attend the first local airshow of the season.

U.S. Coast Guard Open House

On May 21-22, the EAA's B-17 "Fuddy Duddy" was scheduled to be at McClellan Field (formerly McClellan AFB) in Sacramento. The plane was parked near the U.S. Coast Guard Sacramento Air Station. To my surprise and delight, the USCG station was holding an open house on the 21st. The weather was perfect for photographing both static displays and flying aircraft. On hand were various helicopters from the Coast Guard, Sacramento Sheriff, Metro Fire Department, REACH Air Ambulance and California Department of Forestry. CDF also had an S-2T Tanker and OV-10 Air Attack on display. Visitors were also able to tour one of the Coast Guard's C-130 aircraft.

EAA's B-17 "Fuddy Duddy"

I returned to McClellan the following day to photograph the B-17. For a small donation, I was able to board the aircraft and shoot some photos. I was able to get some shots of the B-17 taking off and landing, which required transiting from one end of the very long runway to the other side.

Collings Foundation B-17 and B-24

The following week on May 28, Collings Foundation arrived at McClellan Field with their B-17 "Nine 0 Nine" and B-24 "Witchcraft". I shot photos of both aircraft in flight as well as on the ground. I  toured both aircraft and took some great interior photos. The Gallery was added on November 27.

EAA Golden West Fly-In

The EAA's Golden West Fly-In was held on June 4-5. I attended both shows. The first day featured sport aviation with various aircraft performing aerobatics and the following day featured warbirds. An F/A-18 Super Hornet flew a fantastic demonstration, followed by a heritage flight with a Hawker Sea Fury on both days. From this day on, the heritage flight became my favorite airshow act. This was a true test on how I could capture images of fast moving aircraft. With little experience in airshow photography, I had my shutter speed set to a very fast setting, which was perfect for jets, but "froze" the propellers on the other aircraft.

Father's Day Fly-In

Two airshows were scheduled for the weekend of June 18-19. I had planned to attend the Vertical Challenge (helicopters only) show in San Carlos, which is located in the Bay Area. Marginal weather had me keeping a very close eye on the weather forecasts. On Saturday, the 18th, it was still raining in the Sacramento area. I didn't want to risk driving 120 miles to an airshow that might not happen. As it turned out, the weather in the Bay Area was beautiful and I missed the show. The next day, I drove to the Columbia Airport near Sonora for the annual Father's Day Fly-In. This show is relatively small, but spectacular. Many very interesting aircraft fly into Columbia for this event. Spectators could view the flyby's relatively close to the runway. A few P-51 Mustangs flew by in excess of 300 MPH. The sight and sound was incredible! This show has the best pancake breakfast of any airshow (pancake breakfasts are a tradition for many airshows in this area).

The beginning of Airshowpix dot net

After the Father's Day Fly-In, I thought it would be a great idea to post a web gallery of  my photographs. That week, I reserved the name "airshowpix dot net" and created the website. After nearly a week of hard work on the website, which included design and processing photos, I uploaded the first version of this site on June 23, 2005 and Airshowpix dot net was born.

Nevada County Airfest

Nevada County Airport in Grass Valley held their event on July 9. This was the first time I would experiment using a slower shutter speed to get the effect of moving propellers. Some of the photos were taken with the faster shutter speed, in case I wasn't successful with this experimentation. Fortunately, the results were great. CDF did a demo water drop and the USFS Huey Cobra flew in what I believe a first public exhibition. Many other warbirds were flying and a corporate Gulfstream made an appearance.

New and improved camera equipment

After the Nevada County Airfest, I decided I wanted to invest in improved camera equipment. I needed a camera with a very quick burst mode (taking multiple shots in succession) as well as other improvements. I also wanted to invest in a larger telephoto lens. My choice was the Canon EOS 20D and the Canon 100-400mm image stabilizing telephoto zoom lens. Although very pricey, this combination would be perfect for airshow photography. The EOS Rebel and other lenses are still used, mainly for wide angle shots and as a backup. This prevents the inconvenience of constantly changing lenses.

Auburn's "Thunder in the Sky"

Auburn's "Thunder in the Sky" show on August 13 was the debut for my new equipment. It is also the first show I would exclusively utilize slower shutter speeds for propeller driven aircraft and helicopters. I even went down to 1/60th of a second on some shots (standard is about 1/250-1/320) to get full rotation of the prop. As you can see in that gallery, I got some great results. Many warbirds were on hand including 2 friends of mine, Duncan Miller, who flew in a BT-13 and Julie Clark, who flew in a T-28. I also met who is now a good friend of mine, Matt Davis, another photographer and creator of digitalbubba dot com.

Wings over Wine Country

Thank you Matt, for giving me a heads up on the Wings over Wine Country airshow, the following week on August 20. I was to give this one careful consideration, due to the low ceiling in the Santa Rosa area. The night prior, I made a decision to go ahead. The weather in my area was beautiful and clear, but suddenly changed as I drove nearer to Santa Rosa. When I got into the airport, it was still overcast at 09:00, but the overcast started lifting at 11:00. By the start of the show, the sky was almost completely clear, which made a perfect day for an airshow. CDF did a demo waterdrop, the Northrop vintage flying wing did a demo, along with many other civilian and military acts, including a heritage flight of an A-10 Warthog and P-40 Warhawk. 2 T-6's, the vintage North American version and the current Raytheon version flew in a heritage flight. An F/A-18 Hornet flew a demonstration as the final act.

Reno Air Races

The week of September 14-18, Reno hosted the annual Air Races. I left for Reno very early on the 17th and camped out near the far pylon of the unlimited class and jets with some friends from United Airlines. The site is referred to as "Picturesque Loser Hill". From this vantage point, I was able to get some fantastic shots of the planes racing right in front of us. I also got some shots of the USAF Thunderbirds and Canadian Snowbirds, but the better shots were to be taken at the airport the following day. The weather was reasonably warm in the day, but near freezing at night. I slept in the camper shell of my pickup truck, which was no shield from the freezing temperatures. The following day, I drove to the airport. After a long walk, I purchased the best seat possible, located in the grandstands. I stayed there the entire show. Besides the races, there were airshow acts in between, including the Canadian Snowbirds (The USAF Thunderbirds were not scheduled and did not perform that day) and 3 heritage flights. There were also some aerobatic performers. To date, this was the best airshow I've seen so far this season.

Nut Tree Air Fair

Nut Tree Airport in Vacaville hosted an Air Fair on October 1-2. My wife and I attended on October 1. Although small, this show featured many warbirds and a few ultralights. Duncan Miller had a dinner that evening after the show and many pilots were able to share some stories. One of the highlights of this fine small show was a C-5 Galaxy from nearby Travis AFB performing a fly-by. We arrived at Nut Tree Airport about 30 minutes after the C-5 made an appearance. Salinas was also hosting their annual "International Air Show". Due to the distance and uncertainty of the weather, I made a decision to put this one on hold, at least until next year.

San Francisco Fleet Week

The annual Fleet Week airshow was held on the San Francisco waterfront on October 8-9. After taking a ferry from Vallejo to Pier 39, I walked to a location on a bike trail close to the Municipal Pier. This location was closest to show center and slightly elevated, which provided a great vantage point for photographs. The Red Bull Air Races opened the show under intermittent overcast conditions. By 11:00, the skies over the waterfront were clear with a layer lingering behind the Golden Gate Bridge. An F-16 flew a demo, followed by a heritage flight with an F-86 Sabre. The Blue Angels' support aircraft dubbed "Fat Albert" made many passes over show center. This was followed by the Blue Angels demonstration team. One of the very nice highlights of this show is the backdrop provided by the San Francisco waterfront.

Miramar MCAS Open House

The following week on October 14-16, 2 airshows were on the schedule, one at MCAS Miramar in San Diego and the other here locally at Travis AFB. These shows were planned by us way back in August, with the purchase of airline tickets to San Diego and reserved seating at Miramar MCAS. My wife and I caught the first flight out of Sacramento at 06:00 on the 14th. We arrived early enough to see the entire dress rehearsal of the Miramar show. Many civilian and military acts performed, along with a tactical demo from the Marine Corps and a heritage flight of 4 aircraft! By the end of the show, I had shot nearly 3 Gigabytes out of the 7 I had available on my Compact Flash cards. After realizing that I would not have enough storage for the actual show the following day and the show at Travis, we purchased a laptop computer at a local Costco in San Diego to download the images and of course, see them. The next day was a repeat performance, with a different vantage point (the previous day, we had viewed the show from the grandstands). The twilight show was to follow, but due to the large crowds still arriving, the relatively cool weather and no steam left in both of us, we made a decision to skip the night performance, beat most of the traffic and enjoy a nice dinner in town. This show was by far, the best one this season.

Travis AFB Air Expo

On Sunday, October 16, we departed on the first flight from San Diego to Sacramento. Upon arrival, we headed to Travis AFB. The weather was strong dry winds from the north, in contrast to the light scattered showers back in San Diego. We got on the base at about 10:30. Unfortunately, we missed the fly-by of the B-2 Bomber, but we could see it from the freeway on the way to Travis. We also missed the C-5 demonstration, but the best was yet to come. Along with the civilian and military acts, the Thunderbirds flew an outstanding performance. This was followed by an F-15 demo and a heritage flight with a P-51 Mustang. Julie Clark also flew a beautiful show in her T-34. Among the static displays was a C-141 Starlifter dubbed "Hanoi Taxi". This aircraft flew the prisoners of the Vietnam War back to our beloved land. This particular aircraft has much significance to me, because this was the type of plane I worked on the most in my Air Force Career.

Edwards AFB Open House

The following week, I made a return to Southern California to photograph the Edwards AFB show. I arrived in Orange County on the 22nd of October and stayed at my parents house. I rented a car and on the October 23, I picked up a high school buddy and fellow photographer, who lives in Long Beach. The day started out at 04:30 and we drove past the main gate at Edwards at about 08:00. There wasn't much of a crowd in the beginning, so going through the security checkpoint, looking at a few static displays and finding a spot was very easy. Among the static displays was the Space Shuttle Carrier and the V-22 Osprey. Although the Thunderbirds were not at Edwards this year, the show itself made up for their absence. It started with Chuck Yeager flying past in a P-51 Mustang with the simultaneous crack of the sound barrier by an F-16 at 35,000 feet above us. Many civilian and military acts followed, along with fly-by's of some very unusual aircraft. Such examples were the F-22 Raptor and NASA's aircraft. One interesting aircraft was an F-117 Stealth Fighter with the underside painted in the stars and stripes. This aircraft was the first F-117 delivered to the U.S. Air Force, mainly used for testing. The flyby was the last flight before it was to be flown to Holloman AFB in New Mexico and retired. A re-enactment of  Tora, Tora, Tora was performed with fantastic pyrotechnics and authentic looking aircraft. The finale was a fly-by of many bombers, fighters, transport and refueling aircraft of our current U.S. Air Force inventory.


2005 was a record for airshows attended in a single year by myself. I attended and photographed a total of 16 shows. Although I would have loved to see all the airshows this season, I am very happy at what I was able to see so far. Certain things like the weather are far beyond my control. During the off season, I will be photographing landscapes, the sky, animals and other items of photographic interest. I am currently photographing outer space (astrophotography) with a new telescope. This is particularly a challenge, due to the setup involved, but the results are fantastic! My Gallery can be accessed Here:

Clark's Photography Portfolio

I have tentative plans for the 2006 airshow season, which will take me to different places than this year. I wish to extend a special  "Thank You" to those who visited this site and especially to those who took the time to sign the guestbook. Your compliments are greatly appreciated.


Clark Cook