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The official photo blog of J. David Buerk Photography.

Christmas in St. Louis 2016

Not every year, but most years, my parents and I travel to St. Louis to visit our family; most of my extended family is from and lives in St. Louis, Missouri - as a result, St. Louis is something of a second home to me.  This year was no different, especially as my last remaining grandparent pushes past 96 years old.

Since this is more of a family trip, I'll be sharing some highlights of the trip.  I think the most logical way to do this is to break it up by day, since every day holds a different event.

Last Photoshoot of the Year

A lot of what I do for the Airports' concessions program is documenting events and brand activation.  This is exactly what I did for my last three photoshoots of the year... with Santa Claus.

After completing that and some photos of new retailers, I popped in to the Airport Managers Office (I used to work in this office at Dulles) to wish all my friend there a Merry Christmas before I left town the next day.  In Dennis' office (this actually used to be my physical office), I found a giant photo of Dennis' head that was apparently left over from some pranks - I had to get a picture with it.

I haven't determined yet if the head is from a picture I shot - my hunch is that it is :-)  This joke head will mean the most to folks in the Dulles aviation community

I haven't determined yet if the head is from a picture I shot - my hunch is that it is :-)  This joke head will mean the most to folks in the Dulles aviation community

Arrival

Usually the trip by car has poor weather and slow pacing, but the weather is unseasonably warm and dry, and the trip was made in 15hrs non-stop (barring gas / bathroom breaks and driver swaps), making it one of the rare time the journey was made non-stop on the way there.

In the middle of nowhere Illinois I woke up from a nap and looked out the window to see the most stars I've ever seen all at once in my entire life.  Light pollution really is a shame, and even though I travel this route almost every year, I've never seen such a clear sky - usually the sky is threatening snow this time of year.  The biggest reason I moved to a 1D X years ago (rather than the 5D Mark III at the time) is its incredible low-light abilities.  On a whim, I tried shooting the stars from a moving car.  Even though I really dislike the 24-105mm f/4 IS USM lens (for reasons I may get into in another blog post - I only purchased it to do video work earlier this year), I've found it to be the most versatile zoom lens I've used... so despite its many shortcomings and my many frustrations with it, it is a good travel lens; this is what I brought with me on this trip.

The one thing that does shine on this lens it the image stabilizer, which allowed me to shoot 1 second exposures handheld wide open at ISO 51,200 to capture the stars.  Remember, this is from the backseat of a car going 80MPH - the image stabilizer combined with the fantastic sensor of the 1D X allowed me to really push the limits of what is possible; I ended up with a pretty good picture considering I did it under the most adverse conditions for night sky photography.

1D X • EF 24-105mm f/4 IS USM • 24mm • 1s • f/4 • ISO 51,200

1D X • EF 24-105mm f/4 IS USM • 24mm • 1s • f/4 • ISO 51,200

Christmas Eve

It's been quite a few years since my family attended Christmas Eve mass; as my parents and relatives age, it's made more sense to choose an earlier vigil mass time.  Christmas (Eve) mass with my family at All Saints Catholic Church in St. Peters, Missouri is a tradition I look forward to every year because how beautiful the small church always is at Christmas.  This is the church where my parents were married, I was baptized, and most funerals in my family have taken place. The priest who celebrated this mass actually knows my family very well, since he visits my grandfather (who was a eucharistic minister for this parish until he aged to a point where he can no longer leave home).

Christmas Day

Christmas in my family always works out pretty conveniently.  My mom's side has always had Christmas in the morning (after Christmas lunch), and my Dad's side has always traditionally had Christmas in the evening (after Christmas dinner).  This works great, because it means we can attend both Christmas gatherings without missing any of the festivities from both sides of my family.

My grandfather on my mom's side has always been fascinated with flight, although he never got a pilot's license; he's like me in that sense (though I hope to one day).  He sees all the stuff I get to do with aviation and in a way lives vicariously through me.  This year, someone showed him video from my glider flights, and he's been asking for prints of the photos ever since; this Christmas I brought him prints of the glider flights, plus photos from other helicopter flights and my trip in a hot air balloon.  My cousin's kid Alex always loves to take pictures with my camera, so I asked him to get pictures of my and my grandfather together.

Fumbling Towards Ecstasy: Winter of 2017

I always let him play with my camera, so here is a small selection of ones Alex shot on my camera.  I of course edited these for color to match my own eye, but he's pretty good - no other edits were needed.

Next was Christmas for my Dad's side, at my Aunt Diane's.

My cousin Scott has a new 3 month old puppy, Danica (named after Danica Patrick, of course; Scott is a huge NASCAR fan).  She's a sweet Jack Russell Terrier with energy abound; she made friends with my cousin Sarah's dog Oliver, and the two dogs played non-stop all day.

So here is me with all my cousins on my Dad's side.

Mom's Birthday

My mom's birthday is right by Christmas, so traditionally it marks our last day in town so she can celebrate her birthday with family.  This year, like the last prior few, has been more subdued, and more-so focused spending time with my grandfather, whose age is beginning to catch up with him; that hasn't stopped his sense of humor though.

Departure

The trip back home was pretty regular, and we actually made spectacular time.  During a stop I watched one of the most beautiful sunsets I've seen in my entire life... ruined by gas station and power line sprawl.  And conditions were great until they weren't hitting a snowstorm bounding in the mountains of West Virginia; you'll have to watch the video for that.  We did make it home safely and in still in record time for the return trip... I still prefer flying this trip though.

Video Footage

Something I've done a bit more work with over the last year, as you may know, is video; as a result, I've been incorporating video into my personal work a little bit more as well.  Some pretty cool footage of the West Virginia snowstorm at the tail end!

Leo and Chelsea: The Proposal

Leo and Chelsea have been dating since 2008.  The two met each other through friends at George Mason, and in the early times of their relationship, including their first date, they spent hours standing by the Reston Town Center skating rink talking into the wee hours of morning.  The two have been inseparable since they met and got together.  They graduated together; Leo watched Chelsea start her career with the Fairfax County Park Authority, and Chelsea watched Leo become a Fairfax County Police Officer.

Leo and I have known each other since high school; we had a math class together, and I always admired his car since we parked right by each other.  Incidentally, I met Chelsea in a psychology class at Mason.  So when Leo contacted me and told me he's popping the question, of course I was going to be there for them!

Because their relationship began in the plaza by the skating rink, it's only natural that that's the spot Leo had chosen to drop to one knee and pop the question.  The plan was simple; take Chelsea on a little date before Leo's family's weekly dinner... little did Chelsea know that it was just a ruse to get her back to the spot where it all began.  But that wasn't the biggest surprise Leo had in store for her; he had both their families and friends standing by waiting so they could all be witness to this big moment in their life together.

Leo had been giving me updates all afternoon, and when I spotted them, I hid behind some columns alongside the skating rink, just across from where they'd stopped.  Leo and Chelsea's longtime friends Emily and Ted had positioned themselves just across from me behind a directory to secretly film.  Finally it was time; Leo pointed out their family and friends, and even their dogs Calvin and Ollie, hidden in plain sight across the street, and dropped to one knee.

She said yes!

Some of the skaters had noticed what was going on the instant Leo dropped to one knee, and when he slipped on the ring and the kissed, the entire skating rink cheered for newly engaged Leo and Chelsea along with their family and friends.

Weddings

Coincidentally, while waiting for Leo and Chelsea to arrive, I spotted another couple get engaged; you never know if a couple has a photographer for marriage proposals, so I snapped away when I spotted the gentleman dropping to one knee, and got them my contact information before they walked away.  If you are this couple, please contact me so I can deliver your pictures.

The Shaw Family

The the airport community, the Shaws are well-known friendly faces; Joe recently retired from his many years with the Airports Authority, and Janene can still be found cruising the runways for Airport Operations.

This past weekend the Shaws joined me on the waterfront for some family portraits as Autumn rushes into the region.

2015 Dulles Day Plane Pull and 5K / 10K on the Runway

Dulles Day 5K / 10K On the Runway

Since 2013, the Plane Pull's 20th Anniversary, Dulles Day has begun with a 5K and 10K "Run on the Runway."  2015 continued this new tradition, with runners arriving at the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum to run along Dulles' R/W 1R / 19L, and adjacent taxiway.  Similarly to last year, United towed the stationary aircraft runners passed on their run to its position in the fog at sunrise.

If you're looking for the video footage, scroll to the bottom of this blog post.

The 5K / 10K sold out with 2,500 people running on one of the most notably flattest surfaces one could find outside of a competitive track.  Some familiar faces took part in the run, including some highschool and college classmates of mine with whom I ran track, as well as Dulles' Airport Manager, who has competed with his daughter in the run every year now.

Dulles Day Plane Pull

The Dulles Day Plane Pull is an annual fundraising event, taking place every year since 1993, which benefits Special Olympics.  Held the third Saturday of every September, this competition for charity draws 10,000 - 15,000 people each year, featuring dozens of display aircraft, games, prizes, concessions, and live entertainment, all in addition to the main event running all day, the Plane Pull itself.

Every year I photograph the car show first, since it is located right next to where I park my car on the apron as I cover this awesome event.  A few of these are regulars to the Dulles Day Car Show, as well as regulars to other car shows I frequent.

Dulles Day is kicked off during the Opening Ceremony, where the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Police Department Honor Guard present our Nation's colors, the National Anthem is sung, and MWAA PD Chaplain Grant delivers an invocation prayer.  Sponsors then formally present Special Olympics with funds raised, and the festivities kick off!

The first team to pull is always the Special Olympics Team.

Kids are also able to pull non-competitively; the 1-2-3 Junk Truck is on hand for kids to get a feel for what it's like pulling an aircraft, on a smaller scale.

Dunk-A-Cop is one of Dulles Day's most popular attractions with the kids.  Dulles Day would be impossible without the cooperation of countless police, fire, and rescue agencies which donate their time and energy to help organize the event and run attractions such as the K9 Demonstration.  In this safe demonstration, officers and their K9 partners search for real explosive material hidden in a suitcase - dogs sit to signal "alarm" indicating which bag the dog detects the smell emanating from.

For the last several years, I have been privileged to fly in the helicopter that covers the "airport's open house" from the air.  Thanks to Steve Settle, a very funny guy I worked with in Engineering, who is also very integral to the planning of Dulles Day each year, for snapping this photo of me before our flight this year.

Selfie.jpg

I do love my job with all my heart.  That's the Main Terminal in the background.

Each year I do this, I not only cover the event, but I make sure to request a flyby of the Main Terminal to grab aerial photos of it.

I also have a bit of video footage from the flight, but video is not my focus.  Scroll to the bottom of this blog post to see the video.

Eero Saarinen's historic Main Terminal Building at Washington Dulles International Airport, from the back and front.  This year, construction of the new Dulles Metrorail Station can be seen in front of Daily Garage 1.

In case you were wondering, this is the view if you look down from ~400AGL.  Depending on the tightness of the turn, you may look straight outward and this will be your view.

Some people think this is scary; I think it's fun.  And don't worry; everyone and every thing is strapped in, including cameras.

If you see just one pull, make it the Chesapeake Sheriff's Office, which are now the 9x defending champions.  This year they pulled a monstrous, record-setting time of 4.753s, once again beating out the Fairfax County Sheriff's time of4.946s.

Chesapeake gets fired up; everything they do is big.  Their heaviest teammate weighs in at over 500lbs.  Because they are the reigning champs, and hands-down the Plane Pull's biggest spectacle, they are always the day's last pull.

Just Plane Mamas is another notable team, defending champs for Most Enthusiastic.  They also won this year's Slowest Pull - yes, the Plane Pull awards everything!  It's about family fun!

After the awards were presented, the airport must return to full operation.  The public departs, and most of the display aircraft "go home."  This year, the President's Osprey was on display, and was quite a sight to see depart - this was my first time seeing an Osprey flight in person.

There is video of some of these aircraft departing at the end of this blog post.

As always, the 2015 Dulles Day 5K / 10K on the Runway and Plane Pull were huge successes, with impeccable weather.  If you missed it this year, you really missed it; but make sure to mark your calendar for September, and I'll see you all there again next year!

Video Footage

Photos are of course my primary focus, however I do usually shoot a bit of video because it is so unique and interesting.  Here is a reel of all my footage from this year's Plane Pull.

Sarah and Brigham: Married

Sarah and Brigham were married on a lovely May morning - this was the first Spring wedding I've ever shot at the Washington, DC LDS Temple, and I have to say that it was the most beautiful I have ever seen the Temple, between the bountiful tulips and the perfect gold morning light shining through the freshly blossoming trees.

Since there was plenty of time before their wedding, Sarah wanted to surprise Brigham in her dress, and capture his reaction to his first look at her.