First photos …
The first time I took a picture of a plane was in 1999 at the Open Gates Day – 93rd Aviation Regiment/ Timisoara – Giarmata; and as a photo camera I used an orange mirrorless camera on film … Made in China obviously. Why orange? I have no idea. Maybe the Chinese manufacturer thought that if you somehow managed to lose the thing, it was almost impossible, with such a crazy color, not to see the camera in the green grass. Where did the orange photo camera end up, I have no clue. It is certain that after this episode I got the ”virus”… the aviation photography ”virus”.
So the following year, when at Timisoara was announced the organization of the biggest air show in Romania, I decided to go properly ”armed” as a true “aviation photographer”. So I bought a second hand Russian single lens reflex camera (SLR), with the fabulous amount of 12 euro (at that time we used Romanian currency or dollars, as euro was not very common) – a Zenit 3 with a 35 mm/ f 1.8 prime lens. How exactly I imagined then that I would succeed to photograph the aerial evolution with a 35 mm lens was not very clear to me. Luckily, I managed to find a very good photographing spot (which I still use today), right next to the aircraft parking area. And as most of the planes taking off had to pass me by, I managed to get some decent photos. That’s on the ground-to-ground photography side. As for the ground-to-air … well I didn’t have too much success. All that I got were a few miniatures shaped like an airplane, such as Hong H-5 escorted by the L-29 Dolphin.
Timisoara Airshow 2000 …
Fully equipped with my Zenit and “armed” with 3 Fuji films with 36 frames each I was present near the aircraft parking area at 07:00 A.M. As for the camera, even if I get ironic about those times, it is a very good one and I still use it, after 20 years, for portrait and landscape photography. Arriving at the airport at 7, two hours before the beginning of the air show, was a very smart decision. I learned then that it’s really important to get to the location as early as possible if you want to get some good images. Something always happens before the actual air show: air crafts arrive, as was the case with the Antonov An-30 and Hercule C-130; a weather probe flies by, such as was the Mig-21 Lancer B; planes are being moved into position, a MiG-29 Sniper for example. This would be your chance to see and photograph some backstage activity! Since that moment, every time I go to an aviation event I arrive at least 2 hours earlier. And each time it turns out to be a very good decision.
At 09:00 the air show started with the Romanian Air Force helicopters flying in formation while carrying the flags of each participating country. On June 17, Romania was celebrating 90 years since Aurel Vlaicu’s historic flight. And how else could one remember Vlaicu’s achievement better than through an aerial display?! The event was attended by staff and planes from Austria, Bulgaria, United Kingdom, United States of America, Turkey, Ukraine and Hungary. On the ground and in the air I had the opportunity to see some interesting, and now very rare, airplanes: Yak-52, L-29 Dolphin, L-39 Albatross, IAR-99, MiG-23, MiG-29, MiG-29 Sniper, MiG-21 Lancer, Hong H -5, Hercule C-130, Antonov An-26, Antonov An-30, IAR-330 H, IAR-330 SOCAT, IAR-316B Alouette, Antonov An-2 & Extra 300 (Romanian Air Club); C-160 Transall & NF-5 Freedom Fighter (Turkish Stars); Hercules C-130 & F-16 (USA); Mil Mi-17, Sukhoi Su-25 & Antonov An-26 (Bulgaria); Panavia Tornado GR1 (United Kingdom); Ilyushin IL-76 & Sukhoi Su-27 (Ukraine); Saab-105 (Austria); Mil Mi-8 (Hungary).
It was somehow the ”swan song” of some air crafts that served for many years in the Romanian Air Force, such as L-29 Dolphin, L-39 Albatross, MiG-23, MiG-29, Hong H-5, Antonov An-24. In the years that followed, they gradually disappeared from the sky, then from the bases where they were stored and later sent for scrap. Somehow, time lost its patience with these “ steel birds” from the Cold War. For me it was a unique chance to capture on photo paper a world that no longer exists today; and although time has left its mark on the photos they are still here … they are the first aviation photos that I took.