Photographing an Airforce Pilot with his Fighter Jet: Watch How it’s Done

As the United States celebrates Independence Day with barbecues and fireworks, it’s an appropriate time to honor Americans, past and present, who have dutifully served their country. Robert Seale put the spotlight on his subject, Col. George “Bud” Day, when he photographed the Vietnam War veteran with an F-100 Super Sabre last year. This video provides a behind-the-scenes perspective of the epic photo shoot that made the cover of Air & Space/Smithsonian magazine:

Seale’s portfolio is full of polished portraits that give his subjects an air of strength and power. Pulling off these cover-worthy shots requires elaborate planning and efficient use of time and light. For this shoot, Seale and his crew orchestrated a pre-dawn photo session involving the movement of a fighter jet. He used large softboxes along with the early morning ambient light to define his subject. Close attention to detail allowed him to capture a number of striking images with the rising sun peaking over the horizon.


The lighting and perspective used in Seale’s photo shoot give Col. Day a well-deserved heroic look. Day, who spent over five years as a POW in North Vietnam, bears numerous awards, including a Medal of Honor and the Air Force Cross. He served in the military from 1942 to his retirement in 1977.


Setting up a portrait shoot involves more than an appropriate choice of location and equipment. As demonstrated by Seale, photographers also serve to create a mood that depicts the model in a way that highlights his or her persona.

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3 responses to “Photographing an Airforce Pilot with his Fighter Jet: Watch How it’s Done”

  1. Theo says:

    This, is what I call photography. Well done to all

  2. David Price says:

    Fact is the aircraft in the shoot was not an F-100, but a TF-100 (the T is for trainer). The F-100 was a single seater aircraft, the plane in the shoot was a 2 seater..

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