Manassas

2019 Manassas Airshow by Todd Henson

The Bealeton Flying Circus Wingwalkers

It’s been a few years since I attended an airshow, so this year my father and I made our way to the Manassas Regional Airport for the 2019 Manassas Airshow held on Saturday, May 4. This is only my second time at this show, and I certainly hope it’s not my last. I really enjoy these shows.

This year had some of the same performers as the last show we attended, but it also had new ones to add a little variety. And some of the same pilots were flying different aircraft. The weather looked somewhat questionable at first, with the possibility of rain, and some low lying clouds. Thankfully it cleared enough by noon that the aerial performers were given the go-ahead.

Click on any of the photographs for a larger view.

RJ Gritter and his Bellanca Decathalon

RJ Gritter was flying his Bellanca Decathalon, performing some amazing aerobatics, trailing white smoke through most of the show. His plane is painted in red, white and blue.

RJ Gritter pulling up in his Bellanca Decathalon

RJ Gritter flying by in his Bellanca Decathalon

The Flying Circus Wingwalkers

The wingwalkers from the Bealeton Flying Circus always put on an amazing performance. Chuck Tippett flies their Stearman biplane while Joe Bender climbs out on the wings to perform a number of different incredible moves. He flies like superman, stands atop the plane, and this year they also flew the US flag. Beautiful sight.

Look closely to see Joe Bender flying like Superman between the wings of the Stearman biplane, flown by Chuck Tippett, of the Bealeton Flying Circus.

Chuck Tippett and Joe Bender of the Bealeton Flying Circus flying a US flag atop their Stearman biplane.

Art Nalls and his L-29 Albatross

Art Nalls performed this year in his L-29 Albatross, a very maneuverable jet flown by a very capable pilot.

Art Nalls performing a flyby in his L-29 Albatross.

Art Nalls and his L-29 Albatross may look like they are floating above the runway because of the fast shutter speed I used, but he was, in fact, flying by quite fast.

The Bealeton Flying Circus

This year the Bealeton Flying Circus flew four of their biplanes in formation, circling the airport a number of times. They looked amazing as they turned against clouds, the sun highlighting each plane. I’d love to visit Bealeton and see them perform on their home turf.

Four biplanes from the Bealeton Flying Circus flying in formation against the cloudy sky.

The Bealeton Flying Circus Stearman biplans flying in formation.

Lee Leet and his Super Tucano

I love the look of Lee Leet’s Super Tucano, a turboprop aircraft that was a lot of fun to watch.

Lee Leet flying his Super Tucano.

Lee Leet landing his Super Tucano.

Chef Pitts and his Pitts S1S

Chef Pitts performed some absolutely incredible aerobatics in his small red Pitts S1S. This guy was absolutely amazing. There’s no way I could list all the incredible moves he performed. This was one of my favorite parts of the airshow.

Chef Pitts and his amazingly aerobatic Pitts S1S biplane.

Chef Pitts taking his Pitts S1S down for a 1-wheeled landing.

Warrior Flight Team

The Warrior Flight Team was back, flying a pair of Czechoslovakian L-39 jets, piloted by Charlie “V+12” VandenBossche and LCDR Mark “Crunchy” Burgess. Awesome performance.

Charlie “V+12” VandenBossche and LCDR Mark “Crunchy” Burgess of Warrior Flight Team performing a synchronized flyby in their L-39’s.

One of the Warrior Flight Team L-39’s coming in from a distance, trailing smoke.

US Air Force A-10 Demonstration Team

One of the highlights of this years show was the performance by the US Air Force A-10 Demonstration Team. I have always loved the A-10, both the look of it, and the way it moves. It’s such an incredible and capable aircraft, and they did a great job showing off some of its capabilities.

USAF A-10 Thunderbolt performing a flyby.

USAF A-10 Thunderbolt quickly changing orientation. Notice the air being forced over the tops of the wings near the fuselage and trailing from their tips.

P-51 Mustang in the Parade of Planes

At the end of the show was the Parade of Planes, where a large number of aircraft all took to the sky, one at a time, most of which had not performed in the airshow. One of the highlights for me was an absolutely gorgeous shiny silver P-51 Mustang. I just love the look of this aircraft.

P-51 Mustang taking off. The rear tire has already left the runway.

US Marine Super Stallion CH-53 and the Crowds

In addition to the performances, the Manassas Airshow included a nice collection of static displays. The photo here shows some of the crowd walking around the show, along with a US Marine Super Stallion CH-53 helicopter in the background. The tail of the helicopter was open, with folks lining up to walk through it.

Crowds walking around the 2019 Manassas Airshow, with a US Marine Super Stallion CH-53 helicopter in the background.

Final Thoughts

I had a great time at the 2019 Manassas Airshow. These shows always seem to be over far too quickly. I do wonder sometimes if I should try attending one without bringing a camera, so I can just relax and watch the show. But I really enjoy photographing them, so that would be tough to do.

This year I decided to use my 200-400 mm f/4 lens, a large and slightly heavy lens, but one that works really well for these shows. Though it’s a bit heavy, it’s still light enough to hand hold for short bursts as the planes fly by. A lighter lens would be nice, though. In the past I’ve also used and been happy with a 70-200 mm.

I found myself switching back and further between aperture priority mode and shutter priority mode. I used shutter priority for the slower flying propellor-based aircraft so I could capture motion in the propellers. And I used aperture priority for the faster flying jets to get a faster shutter speed. In the future I think I will just stick to shutter priority and adjust the shutter speed as I see fit. I don’t really know why I kept flipping to aperture priority, other than that’s the setting I most often use.

For the fast moving jets I tended to use a much faster shutter speed, for example 1/1000 to 1/3000 of a second. That helped assure I captured sharp images of the jets, though in one case it captured the L-29 Albatross seemingly hovering over the runway, when in fact it was moving very fast. I should have used a slower shutter speed in that case to blur the background as I panned with the jet.

When the propeller aircraft were flying I lowered my shutter speed to between 1/25 to 1/125 of a second. This increased the chances of blurry photographs, but it assured I’d capture movement in the propeller. If you use a fast shutter speed you may freeze the propeller, which looks very strange when the aircraft is in the air. This also helped blur the background as I panned with the planes when they flew low enough to see trees behind the planes.

This year was a great year for the Manassas Airshow. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I very much look forward to attending again in the future. If you’ve never been to an airshow I’d highly recommend you give one a try.


Capturing Candid Moments at a Festival by Todd Henson

A member of Embajadores del Folklore after performing a Morenada dance.

This is the third and final post about XXX Festival Boliviano, the 30th annual Bolivian Festival held at the Prince William County Fairgrounds in Manassas, Virginia, on September 3, 2017. As with the previous posts, be sure to click on any of the photos for a larger view.

Here is an example of a performer looking right at the camera.  This performer was with Tinkus Bolivia who performed a Tinkus dance.

Another example of a performer looking right at the camera. In this case I was in a lower position looking up at this performer with Morenada Bolivia USA who had just performed a Morenada dance.

In the first post I shared photographs of several of the dance groups that performed. In the second post I shared many photographs of individual performers. In this post I look at capturing candid moments. These might be interesting moments during a performance, but are more often captured between or after a performance when the performer has relaxed and perhaps taken themselves momentarily out of the persona they portray while dancing.

I love this photograph of two young performers with Tinkus de San Simon USA, who performed a Tinkus dance. One performer is looking down the route they would take towards me, and the other is looking back towards the rest of their group.

In this version I captured a lone young performer from Tinkus de San Simon USA, who had performed a Tinkus dance. She is facing away from me, looking towards the American flag and back towards the rest of her group. I really like the moments captured in these two images.

I like trying to capture these candid moments because I think they help tell the story of the event. They show another layer to the performance and the performers. For example, we see the exhaustion when someone takes the mask off their head, the beads of sweat dripping down their face. And in that moment we can see the effort these performers put into their performance.

In this photo I captured the moment after the performer from Fundacion Socio Cultural Diablada Boliviana removed his mask after their final performance of a Wititi dance. You can see his exhaustion as he lifts his head towards the sun.

And in this photo we see another performer from Fundacion Socio Cultural Diablada Boliviana who had removed their mask after performing a Wititi dance.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I don’t consider myself a people photographer. I rarely photograph people. But I am just as attracted to a stunning portrait or to impactful examples of street photography as I am to photographs of the subjects I most often shoot (nature, wildlife, outdoors). So I really enjoy events like this Festival, where I can practice photographing people in a challenging environment, trying to capture action and movement, but also trying to find and capture those more intimate moments between the dancing, trying to show a little more personality to the performer.

Here a performer from Tinkus Tiataco pauses during the Tinkus dance, raising her hand to her mouth. What was she thinking? What was she feeling? 

Here is a moment when a young performer from Salay Bolivia USA pauses, raising her hand to her head, just after her performance of a Salay dance.

This photo captures a moment from a Tinkus dance performed by Tinkus Bolivia. I believe the girl with the whistle is leading her group within the dance. I like her pose and the positioning of the other people with the image.

Here is a small group of performers from Morenada Revelacion Cocanis VA USA just after performing a Morenada dance.

The next time you find yourself at this sort of event, or just out about town with your camera, consider looking for moments you can capture, moments that help tell a story about the subject. And if, like me, you usually shoot nature, consider occasionally photographing something different, such as people, events, or street photography. It’s a great way to learn. And in the end, light is light, and anything you learn about light in one environment can almost always be applied to a different environment.

A performer with Fraternidad Alma Boliviana raises her hand at the end of, or just after, performing a Tinkus dance.

Another performer from Fraternidad Alma Boliviana after performing a Tinkus dance.

I tried to frame this member of Morenada Bolivia USA amongst the colored feathers of other dancers in his group. They had just performed a Morenada dance.

In a moment captured after her dance, sunlight creates colored reflections on her face from the sequins in her outfit. She is a member of Fraternidad Folklorica Cultural Caporales Universitarios San Simon Filial VA, who performed a Caporales dance.


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Individual Dancers at the 2017 Bolivian Festival in Manassas, VA by Todd Henson

A member of Tinkus Bolivia, who performed a Tinkus dance. She saw me photographing and smiled for the camera.

Previously, I shared photographs of some of the dance groups at XXX Festival Boliviano, the 30th annual Bolivian Festival held at the Prince William County Fairgrounds in Manassas, Virginia on September 3, 2017. In this post I share photographs of many of the individual dancers during their performances.

Tinkus Bolivia performing a Tinkus dance.

An energetic move during a Tinkus dance performed by Tinkus Bolivia.

There were performers of all ages, including this young one from Morenada Central VA USA performing a Morenada dance.

Another young performer from Morenada Central VA USA performing a Morenada dance.

I loved watching the large groups perform moves in sync, all jumping or spinning together to the music. I admire the training and skill required to move as a group. But I also loved finding and photographing individuals, trying to capture the moves of a single person, showing their emotion and helping tell their story as a part of the group.

A performer from Embajadores del Folklore wore a beautiful flowing colorful dress while performing a Morenada dance.

Embajadores del Folklore included a lot of color, such as this performer during a Morenada dance.

I love this pose from a member of Fraternidad Alma Boliviana during their performance of a Tinkus dance, raising his arm and lifting his head towards the sun.

This member of Fraternidad Alma Boliviana showed such energy, jumping into the air during their performance of a Tinkus dance. Notice the water droplets to the side, splashed on the performers from folks walking alongside them, helping them cool down on the hot day.

I recall a few times when a performer saw me photographing and turned to smile for the camera. There is at least one photograph in this set like this. But most of these images were created during a performance while the person was focused on the dance.

A member of Embajadores del Folklore performing a Morenada dance.

A young performer from Fundacion Socio Cultural Diablada Boliviana, fully in costume and performing during a Wititi dance.

Some performers had full costumes, from head to toe, such as this member of Morenada Transpeco USA performing a Morenada dance.

It was a hot day and I have to imagine this performer from Embajadores del Folklore was feeling the heat while performing a Morenada dance in a full costume.

Despite the heat, these amazing groups continued to dance, including this performer from Morenada Bolivia USA during a Morenada dance.

The weather changed throughout the day. It began slightly overcast, which was great. It provided a nice soft light on the dancers, creating beautiful soft shadows. But before long the sky cleared resulting in direct sunlight illuminating the performers, casting a more harsh and well defined shadow. The sun stayed out most of the rest of the day, but occasionally a cloud would move in front of the sun and for a brief period we’d have softer light again.

There was such a diversity to the outfits, but they were all beautiful and full of color, including that of this young performer from Centro Cultural Bolivia during a Pujllay dance. Look closely to the right of her hat and you'll see a floating bubble. There were children on the sidelines blowing bubbles throughout the day.

A young member of Morenada Bolivia USA performs his moves during a Morenada dance.

I really don’t consider myself a people photographer. I spend far more time photographing nature: animals, insects, flowers, landscapes. But events like this make me realize I can also enjoy photographing people, especially in such candid, fluid settings, even though it can be challenging. I have much still to learn and that’s perhaps part of why I enjoy it.

The Caporales dance performed by Fraternidad Folklorica Bolivia included energetic jumps and costumes that reflected colored light into their faces when the sun shone on them. Direct sunlight is not always a bad thing.

So much color and so many smiling faces, including this performer from Morenada Bolivia USA performing a Morenada dance.

A performer from Tinkus San Simon USA performing a Tinkus dance.


The content below contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. This is at no extra cost to you.