Visual Storytelling, a 30yr Journey and Counting
A few weeks ago, the opportunity of my lifetime, ever!, was afforded me by some of the best to do what I do best, tell stories. The Texas Flying Legends Museum made it possible for the Kelby Training crew to tag along with me and film our first documentary. The subject of our film, well I can honestly say it has nothing to with f/stops and shutter speeds. Nope, it’s about a higher plane of photography and life, sacrifice above self. How the today’s legendary pilots flying legendary aircraft honor those legends from the past.
“Betty’s Dream” is making a run on enemy transport like it has done so many times in the past, having racked up an impressive score sinking enemy ships. All of a sudden it’s jumped by a zero. Betty’s top turret spins into action and is blasting away at the Zero when a P-40 appears that was flying top cover to make the final kill. While I love to tell that story verbally, I would much rather tell it in a photograph. Lucky for me, when I proposed this idea to Warren (pilot of the Zero, great pilot and friend), he said, “Ya, let’s to that!” The skill of Alan Miller at the stick in “Betty’s Dream,” Warren Pietsch in “Last Samurai” (A6M Zero) and Doug Rozendaal in the P-40 “Aleutian Tiger,” we were able to create the dog fight in real time in the air (my pilots in my Bonanza photo platform, Flydaddy & Scottie had a HUGE hand in the success as well). As all the pilots said, “they’d never seen that ever done before!” That’s just a itty pitty taste of the 11k images we shot in the air that day with nine aircraft. And that’s only one part of the documentary.
While the still photographs are the visual storytelling, where does the story itself come from? It comes from our experiences as life unfolds. For this image to come to life, those who lived these moments had to share their story. You see here just a couple of the amazing WWII vets who are also part of our documentary, LtCol Dick Cole, right seat, 1st plane of the Doolittle Radiers and Bud Anderson, Triple Ace and test pilot having conversations with me on camera. Others like three Tuskegee Airman, navigator for “Betty’s Dream” during WWII, George Preddy’s wingman when he was shot down. Even had a conversation with the pilot for the 3rd B-29 scheduled drop the atom bomb, a known suicide mission at the time which we now know from history, didn’t have to fly its mission. And so many more! The inspiration for the Texas Flying Legends Museum, the inspiration for my storytelling and therefore photographs come to life for you as these greats tell their story.
Photography is never what you think it is, noticed that? I’m incredibly fortunate the Scott Kelby understands this better than most and when I proposed this concept, they not only jumped on it but upped the anti to create their first documentary. Because photography has to be more than f/stop and shutter speeds, it must contain not only commitment but an driving passion. Having put in the most amazing week of no sleep photography in my life and seeing everyone else putting in the same 110%, I know you’ll see it come out. I want to thank all the pilots and the Kelby Training crew for their hard work and dedication. And want to especially thank ALL the vets who shared their stories on camera. Be watching for it next year, it will be an experience in visual storytelling you don’t want to miss!