tower life building flyover

Memorial Day Flyover

Wind and rain pause

So it was a very wet night of storms and rolling thunder, rain torrents even continued a few hours in the early morning. Being a Memorial holiday Monday I was home and off work so I had made plans to see the WWII planes flyover downtown organized by the Lewis Air Legends.

While their starting point was not far from where I live there are no real historic buildings or landmarks for which to pair with these planes in a photograph. Lucky for me the rain stopped and twitter lit up with our city mayor confirming that the flyover was still on.

While I should have studied their flight plans harder and maybe been somewhere between downtown and the Pearl district I went to my tried and tested spot of the Tower Life Building from a parking lot a few hundred feet southeast of the building. The Tower Life Building was completed prior to WWII. So it is also period-correct to when these airplanes were new and in active service in the airforce and training pilots to fly them from Kelly Airfield, in San Antonio’s south-west side.

I only took one lens, my trusty Sigma 70-200mm 2.8, yet I had it cranked up to f/11 to try to get as much detail as I could with the buildings and moving objects. I knew I would not have time to change the lens and while I might have gotten better plane shots by renting a 150-600mm or something it would not really give the planes any scale or narrative of where they were flying over.

I was a bit early and as it got towards noon I did see other amateur photogs showing up in other parking lots and riverwalk bridges waiting for the planes to fly by. One guy rolled up in his convertible Lexus, put the soft-top down, and waited with his mobile phone to make videos of the event.

They came down on the western side of IH-10 highway and I was afraid we were not going to get very many close shots. Being downtown, FAA rules, broadcast antennas, etc. Getting a green light to fly over a major city post 9/11 is quite a feat in itself.

In the end the “money shot” was a very solum shot. Gray sky, 100 foot flag at half mast and totally still, with only the 4 planes breaking the stillness of the day as if in respect and reverence.


Being a gray sky I post-produced it in B/W and added a little radial on it so that the building and planes were, even more, the focus. While the sky was very dramatic in its entirety that morning, zooming in at 200mm the clouds in frame tended to be very much all the same texture/color tone as a background.

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