The “One” – AirForce One in Charlotte. Details, observations …

It’s fun to shoot one of a kind things, like AirForce One. I was working inside the arena during the DNC in 2012, so it was great that I could photograph it today. The weather also looked good, in photographer’s term that also means low humidity and not too hazy. By noontime, it wasn’t “crisp” anymore, but that’s alright.

I was amazed by the surgical accuracy of road closures and airway restrictions. Growing up in Hungary, Budapest was crippled for a day when a statesman or prime minister visited. Still it was eery how there were no planes in the sky the few minutes before and after the arrival and departure of the president’s plane.¬†The only other flying object was the hovering helicopter at the start of the runway. This wasn’t the main runway used by the commercial airlines, but one closer to the National Guard section of the airport.

I packed “light” only taking my 300 mm lens, so I would have been in trouble if it would have been the closer runway. The question was to add a 2x TC ( Teleconverter) and by turning it into a 600 mm lens or not? ¬†Stopping down to something like f/10 wasn’t a problem, plenty of light was at hand. I’ve already decided previously not to use a polarizing filter, the effect in the midday light was minimal. I had a monopod to support the heavy lens. Since I wasn’t shooting with a zoom lens, I needed to get the coverage area right and in the last minutes before departure I did add the teleconverter. I’ve tested it before and there is virtually no loss of image quality especially when stopping down.

Preparation and visualization are very helpful. Leave as little as possible to the moments of shooting. Determine correct exposure ( not what the camera would suggest, as often is the case ) way ahead of time. Reduce tasks to minimal for the key moments, mainly to follow and frame ( with a 600 mm focal length it is quite a task ).


It is a HUGE plane, and a beautiful one. One of the shots I’ve posted shows the landing gear still out, the other ( I like that more ) with the gear already pulled in.


There are some interesting details, like the bump in the nose or all the gadgets and antennas on the top. Commercial planes are smooth on the top. The reflective bottom is beautiful.


The whole event is only about a minute, graceful, but very task oriented when photographing. It reminded me when I photographed one of a very few night landings of the Space Shuttle, back in the 90’s. Of course on film, what would we have given back then for the 5-6000 ISO, being used today.

Let me know if you have questions and/or comments.