Picture a two-week old baby sleeping in a basket covered with a little white blanket. Now picture this same baby in the back of a Cessna 210 Centurion flying across Kansas. That little infant flyer was me, and the pilot was my grandfather.
Fast forward a few years later and I found myself spending many Sundays with my grandfather at the Pratt Airport (former Army Air Corps B-29 Base during World War II). Some days we would tinker with his airplanes. Some days we would ride go-carts around the hangar. The best days would involve flying around the Kansas countryside in a Cessna 172 or 182. We would never have a destination in mind; the journey of getting in the air was always the destination.
My grandfather flew aerobatics in his homebuilt KR-1 for the local airshows. As a young lad walking the ramp, this is where I got my introduction to warbirds. I even “flew” formation in a three-ship pedal plane aerobatic team. All this exposure set into my mind that one day I would become a pilot. I just never expected that it would be nearly 20 years later before that would happen.
As I grew older through middle school, high school, and college I was always interested in aviation but the passion I had as a young lad had faded. It all came rushing back in the winter of 2008 when I had the opportunity to fly to Wisconsin in a Hawker 800 on a business trip. Upon returning from this trip, I made up my mind that if I was ever going to get my Private Pilot Certificate, I needed to start immediately before life completely got in the way. I found myself training in a 1982 Cessna 152 with a 6’-6” tall instructor. We spent all spring, summer, and fall flying all over south central Kansas. On a cool evening on November 23, 2008, I emerged sweating from a Cessna 172 in Salina, KS after flying my Private Pilot Checkride. A Designated Pilot Examiner told me, “You have a lot to learn, but I believe you are qualified to fly safely and keep learning on your own.” That night I flew solo home for the first time as a Private Pilot with the ink hardly dry on my certificate. My passion for aviation has only gotten stronger since that day.
I purchased my first DSLR (Nikon D40) camera in 2007 prior to a vacation in New York City. Later that summer I attended an airshow in Alva, OK with my camera for the first time. I had no idea what I was doing but found myself very interested in the photos that I was taking. I have also had the privilege of attending EAA Airventure in Oshkosh, WI since 2008. This is Mecca for an Aviation Photographer. The action is non-stop and the airshow variety is amazing. As the years passed I upgraded my equipment but most importantly, I upgraded my knowledge of how to operate my equipment. (I currently shoot a Nikon D600 with various Tamron and Sigma lenses). I compared my work to others who were doing it much better than I was and decided that I wanted to learn to be “that good”. I knew that the only way I was going to get better was to practice. I found myself shooting any aviation event that I could find locally. As time went on, my photos continued to became sharper and my composition continued to improve. I finally decided in late 2015 that I wanted to take my photography to market and started Gravity Images.
Social media has always pushed me to get a little better everyday. I have had the privilege of getting to know some amazingly talented people via Instagram, Facebook and Twitter over the years and I am thrilled to be able to call them my friends. My colleagues here at Full Disc Aviation are the epitome of good people with extreme photography talent that I am thrilled to be associated with.
Last but not least I must mention my family. I have an amazing wife, Tiffany, who not only puts up with my crazy obsession with aviation photography, but she embraces and encourages me to do it. She has even been one of my subjects in a recent air-to-air shoot with a Stearman. My two boys, Collin and Mason, do their best to keep me on my toes and I do my best to share the joys of aviation with them as often as I can.