After Years Of Dreaming About It, A Photographer's Experience
Of A Lifetime Shooting The Airshow
Each year, the photos that appear in the media, online, or in
advertising that are shot at Oshkosh showcase aviation. It is easy
to see these photos and not realize some of the difficulty and
equipment involved in capturing them. For years I had admired the
photographers that worked so hard to capture these incredible
photos, and tried to learn what they did to capture them.
Robbie Culver In "The Ditch"
I confessed long ago that I am a true camera geek. And
coming to Oshkosh, any photographer will tell you, is like a
photographic addiction. If you are into airplanes and photography,
AirVenture is a place you simply have to be. There is at Oshkosh a
unique opportunity for those fortunate enough to earn it. For
years, I had watched as the EAA photo staff and their invited
guests would shoot the airshow from beyond the flight line, in an
area nicknamed "the ditch." That's how they get those incredible
The ditch is a drainage area between taxiway Papa and Runway
18-36. It is deemed a safe area for photography, and offers an
unobstructed view of the show from almost directly underneath. To
say the least, it is an opportunity that most photographers dream
Besides the permission from EAA, shooting photos there also
requires the correct camera and lens. I had traded up to a Canon 5D
Mark II digital SLR last fall, and was excited to learn that I was
able to borrow some of Canon's larger lenses on site.
So on Wednesday, July 27th, I was pinching myself as I sat in
the EAA Media Center briefing room, preparing to go out in the
ditch to shoot the airshow. As long as I'd dreamt of doing this,
here it was and I was having a hard time believing it. Canon Camera
had been gracious enough to loan me a very large (and very heavy)
500mm F4 telephoto lens, so I was well-prepared for the
Looking Back At The Flight Line
The safety briefing is complete and sobering. It reminds one of
the environment and the hazards that surround it. During AirVenture
especially, being out near the runway while the airshow is going on
can be extremely hazardous. Colored safety vests identify the EAA
photographers and guests, and a pre-defined area is assigned with
clearly set boundaries.
In the years since I first shot photos at Oshkosh with an old
manual camera loaned to me by my father, I had long since
progressed to much better cameras and learned from my mistakes. I
loved coming to Oshkosh at every opportunity, and shooting photos -
but never like this. So out we went - past the crowd, beyond the
taxiway, and down into the ditch. Walking out there was unreal - I
paused and looked back, still not quite certain it was really
happening. But there I was - in the ditch.
Airshow From "The Ditch"
The view from the ditch is priceless. I was standing there with
a completely unobstructed view of the entire runway, at an event I
had been going to since I was a little kid to take photos. Behind
me, the crowd was endless behind the taxiway. I looked up and down
the flightline, then pulled up the big lens and began to shoot a
few photos looking back intop the crowd in front of a DC-3 (see
I was out here to shoot the airshow and first up was an F-4
Phantom. The Phantom squealed behind me at the end of the runway,
and I turned and raised my camera. The airshow was about to begin,
and I was ready to shoot it from the ditch.