Roughly two years ago, I worked with this amazing family. I believe it was a mini session and I remember Melissa and I falling in love with them. They had this wonderful connection and they were stunning to look at. Can I say that? Too late…well it is true. You could just talk and relate to them so easily. At their viewing session they mentioned that he would like me to work with him in a few years for his fini flight as they leave Kadena. I agreed and thought nothing more of it…
Until a few weeks ago when the call came. They were getting ready to leave and asked to work with me for the fini flight. This isnt just any fini flight – wait do you know what a fini flight is? A fini flight is the last flight that a flier will take at a school, assignment, and lastly of course for the Air Force. And that is just what this was. His VERY LAST flight for the Air Force as a Commander. Talk about an amazing experience…and he doesnt fly just any airplane either. He flies the F-15 fighters here on Kadena. Right away I loaded up on Top Gun and Popcorn and started my research only to find out I had my very own Tom Cruise who was going to helo me along the whole way.
So we sat down to talk details, placement, and the fun stuff and I started to realize this was going to be an amazing experience, and in order to get it all documented, I would need some reinforcement. That is when I called on girl pal and photographer extradonair AVIVA to the team. She had worked for me at THE Studio and I knew she had the creative eye to get the job done and compliment my overall vision. She agreed and the fun was just beginning.
The big day arrived and I knew we were in for some fun when ‘Dawg’ (my Tom Cruise) told our driver ‘Spyder’ to take us anywhere we want to get the shot…that there wasn’t a limit or a place we couldn’t go. We had ACCESS in a major way. At that moment I had no idea what that was going to mean in full until – wow- the day progressed. More on that later.
So we started getting the shots of him getting ready for his last flight. I couldnt help, being the emotional WOMAN that I am, to feel a little choked up. And mostly just honored, plain honored to be a part of it all.
I loved the way his wife looked at him….
I totally didnt mention that after he got ready and briefed we walked outside to a TERRENTIAL DOWN POUR of rain…I am not exaggerating. I think someone later said it rained 7 inches in that ONE HOUR! We didnt let that stop us, in fact I think Aviva and I both agree that it made it even more dramatic and fun…not to mention wet!
Before the flight he walked around checking out the plane and doing the pre-flight checklist??? I am completely guessing here! I was shooting one angle and Aviva got an AMAZING shot – probably my favorite of the day of her shots – it is of Dawg almost as if he is saying good-bye to an old friend…
Aviva went off to the bread wagon (our truck) to get some shots of him leaving while I stayed back and caught some of him getting ready for the flight.
Aviva was out and ready to shoot this amazing shot from the truck!
I think that guy up there may be jealous of where I am sitting….staying dry…cant say that I can blame him.
Now that is some dedication.
This is the part where the amazing access comes into play. Several times we were close enought to FEEL THE HEAT from the afterburners. We followed him right down the flight line in our little paddy wagon and it was breathtaking. I was so hyped up from adrenaline it literally took me 3 days to come down off the high. Here are a few more of take off and when they were flying…
And then the sun came out while he was in the air…a few more goosebumps followed for me. And Aviva snagged this awesome shot of them overhead.
And then it was time to come back home, this time for good.
Then it was time for the homecoming! Somebody was ready :)!
Then with tradition comes the soaking…
And then came the emotion. I love, love, love his connection to his family. You cant help but tell exactly where his heart is.
There are so many pictures that I havent even shared with you. What I cant get over is how everyone in his squadron looks at him. I have to say I have never seen it before. The wives all hugged him graciously and loved on Missy too. The tears were streaming and hugs were a plenty. It was a celebration. To end the day, everyone who completes their fini flight post their name on the WALL OF FAME…and so what a better way to end the day than with a final tap on the wall.
A great deal of thanks to go out here…first to Aviva – who worked graciously, soaking wet, and for long hours. I couldnt have imagined doing this with anyone else. We laughed and cried together…thank you.
Here you are soaked and still smiling! It is only fair if I post a soaking wet one of me too! Thanks for the shot of me too!
And to our AMAZING DRIVER…Spyder (Spiderman) who we know would much rather be driving us crazy girls around than flying his F-15 – admit it, you know its true! You were the best…couldnt have done it without you!
To Dawg, Missy and the kids…thank you for this amazing opportunity to capture this monumentous day. I feel honored to have been a part of it. I wish you years of happiness and fullfillment. Many loves and hugs…and I will see you again at the wedding! You know the next big moment….count me in.