The unnatural proposition of powered flight is still stunning in its realization. Even after more than a century from the Wright Brothers' first flight. Witnessing the gargantuan C-5 lumber into the air or feeling the thunder of an F-22 taking off in afterburner creates a sense of awe.
The best aviation photographer can capture this feeling and convey it as a single image. As legendary nature photographer Ansel Adams noted, “A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed.”
That sentiment is particularly true for aviation photographs, starting with the very first one. John Daniels, assigned to the Life-Saving Service station at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, tripped the shutter on a pre-positioned box camera just as Orville Wright lifted off for the first time on 17 December 1903 at 10:35 a.m.
But beautiful aviation photographs do not come easy. Those who have set their alarms for four a.m. to get to an air base to catch a sunrise takeoff know of the level of effort necessary for an exceptional image.
To get that dramatic nose-on air-to-air shot, a photographer may have to be held in place with nothing more than a nylon cargo strap – while standing on the edge of the open cargo ramp of a C-130.
Air-to-air photography of one fighter from another fighter has its own unique complexities. Anyone who has changed a compact flash card (or can remember changing rolls of film) after experiencing the body blows of multiple high-g turns has a refined appreciation of the dynamics behind a good aerial photo of an F-16 or an F-35. Air-to-air photographers deal with subjects moving in three dimensions from a platform that is also moving in three dimensions.
Dynamic and colorful images have been a hallmark of Code One throughout its thirty-year history. The magazine’s exceptional access to the units that fly Lockheed Martin aircraft has resulted in images that haven’t been seen anywhere else. In addition to our staff photographers, the magazine also has regularly showcased the work of world-renowned freelance shooters and the best shots from the hundreds of military photographers around the world documenting daily operations oftentimes in hazardous locations.
Over the course of a year, Code One editors look at hundreds of images. Most are used to illustrate a specific feature article or an item for our News section. But quite a few—like the ones in this gallery—are just simply outstanding images. This gallery has been populated with new images of current or legacy Lockheed Martin aircraft out there that are still being flown.
We welcome your shots. If you take an exceptional photo of a Lockheed Martin aircraft and would like to share it with our online readers—or maybe we should say “viewers”—please send high-resolution digital image files for consideration to Jeff Rhodes (firstname.lastname@example.org).