Vantage Point: The aviation photography of Jon Pece
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Vantage Point: The aviation photography of Jon Pece

Ray Refuels a B-52. Ray concentrates carefully as a B-52 approaches to refuel over the midwest. This demonstrates the versatile dynamic range of the D800: Ray was very much in the dark while the B-52 was very bright. Due to the tight quarters, I shot at 14mm. D800, 14-24mm. Photo and caption by Jon Pece

Given the velocities that you're working at, are you planning for compositions and backgrounds or is much of your work happenstance and atmospherics?

A KC-135 generally flies a straight line down a 'refueling track' or orbits in left hand turns in a 'refueling anchor.' Since our primary purpose is to air refuel, and not to exchange photographs, I am stuck with the scheduled refueling tracks at the assigned times. That being said, there were plenty of variabilities with which to work. As we would turn in an anchor, the sun would shine from every angle over time. Some shots were backlit while others were lit head on. The shots were obviously best when the tail of our aircraft was not casting a shadow upon the receiver aircraft.

Also, different weather effects would exist in different parts of the track. The key was to shoot if you saw anything interesting because it was unlikely to be repeated. The relative velocities between aircraft is very small since we are matching speeds and any wind causing turbulence would affect both aircraft the same.