The official photo blog of J. David Buerk Photography.

DCA Planespotting - May 16th, 2019

Last week after a photoshoot at DCA, I dropped by Gravelly Point for a few minutes since I was feeling up to it (I am recovering from a shoulder injury). I didn’t stay long, but couldn’t resist the beautiful weather. I snapped some photos, but really wanted to try the EOS R shooting 4K through a 400mm lens, which equates to 700mm with the EOS R’s 4K crop. In short, 700mm handheld makes for great photos, but is really hard for video (duh).

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The Arc of Northern Virginia - Housing Choice Voucher Mini-Series

Last year I was hired to film a short documentary series that quickly became the most meaningful project I've ever worked on in my professional career to-date.  That project was The Arc of Northern Virginia's Housing Choice Voucher web series.

I first became familiar with The Arc during my time filming the Wings for All program, which is a simulated commercial flight experience so individuals with disabilities may learn and practice what it's like to navigate an airport, get screened by TSA, and board a real aircraft.

After my work on several Wings for All events, The Arc of Northern Virginia tapped me for a new video project - a documentary web series portion of a grant in partnership with the Virginia Housing Development Agency and Virginia Housing and Supportive Services.  Each short film educates viewers about the Housing Choice Voucher option offered in Virginia.

Housing Choice Vouchers give individuals with disabilities affordable access to independant housing, which increases quality of life and satisfaction over other housing options, such as group homes.  This allows other sources of income, such as Medicaid waivers, to go further in paying for other necessary services such as in-home caregivers.

Filming the series took place over the course of several months, in various locations across the Northern Virginia region.  Filming this series introduced me to many vibrant people with incredible stories, and all do great work in the local, state, and even national community, which you'll see in the series itself.  This series was truly and incredible experience to work on, and even though it was definitely the most challenging project I've taken on to-date (this series required an immense amount of post-production; each interview was about 1.5 - 2hrs long), this documentary series is by far the most meaningful project I have ever completed - I am truly proud to have been a part of it in cooperation with The Arc, and I truly look forward to more projects similar to this one.

Before we get into the series itself, I'd like to share some useful links which will help you learn more information about Housing Choice Vouchers in Virginia.

And now, here are all films in the series.

Housing Choice Voucher 2016 Series: #1 - Brian

Brian, his family, and caregivers detail how his life has improved thanks to the Housing Choice Voucher following his traumatic brain injury.

Housing Choice Voucher 2016 Series: #2 - Gail and Esther

Gail and Esther are best friends who live independently in the same apartment complex, and have technological aids to help them.

Housing Choice Voucher 2016 Series #3 - David and Rory

David and Rory live together in spacious apartment, and are now able to cook their own meals and travel their own community, which was impossible in the group home setting they both lived in before receiving their Housing Choice Vouchers.

Housing Choice Voucher 2016 Series: #4 - Rogan

Rogan's Housing Choice Voucher has helped provide him with a stable home with a live-in caregiver, as his parents begin to age.

Housing Choice Voucher 2016 Series: #5 - Theresa

Theresa Rankin was homeless from the medical expenses following her traumatic brain injury, but a series of events turned that around and now she has an apartment where she lives independently.  Theresa then founded, a national non-profit organization in partnership with PBS specializing in preventing, treating, and living with traumatic brain injuries.  Theresa continues to be a National Community Educator with Brain Injury Services.

Housing Choice Voucher 2016 Series: #6 - Robert

Robert was able to receive a Housing Choice Voucher even after a legal misunderstanding resulting from his disability, after he completed a Reasonable Accommodation Application.

Finally, I have to thank Kymberly DeLoatche, Lucy Beadnell, Rikki Epstein, Janene Shaw, and everyone else who was instrumental in making this large, technical, and wonderful project a reality!  Thank you for all your help!

SOARING - A Short Film by J. David Buerk

Recently I accompanied my friend Ellen up to Connecticut to help her buy a new car - a metallic green Nissan Xterra.  In this case, one of only two green Xterras for sale on the East Coast.  After buying the car, we convoyed back down to Blairstown, New Jersey, a small township roughly 60 miles West of New York City.  Blairstown is home to Blair Academy, a prep school, and Blairstown Airport, a single runway public use airfield that is a base for Jersey Ridge Soaring, a glider business owned by Ellen's parents.

It's long been a dream of mine to get a pilots license and learn to fly an aircraft recreationally.  I flew twice that day; my first flight was scenic, and the second was an actual flight lesson where I was on the stick most of the flight - my first time actually flying an aircraft!

Without further ado, I present to you a short film I assembled from the bits of footage I gathered that day.

For months Ellen has been begging me to come and try flying in a glider, and for months I've told her, "aircraft are supposed to have engines." I've been in small aircraft plenty of times; mostly helicopters, but even a hot air balloon, which of course isn't powered.  If anything, I finally realized gliders are safer in that you can actually steer them.

My first flight was scenic, encompassing the photos and video footage you see here.  My second flight, after gaining just 500AGL, I was told, "Ok, follow the tow plane!"  Basically as soon as we were off the ground I was given control of the aircraft.  There were only two instances where it was a bit too much and I gave back the controls (beyond departure and landing); once while getting kicked around during towing, and once when a thermal became a bit too strong for my (lack of) skill level.

I'd managed to find and get centered in a 400ft/min thermal, gaining over 1,000 feet in altitude, before the updraft mixed with the crosswind was getting too dicey for my own inexperienced comfort at the controls.  That's a pretty solid thermal to latch onto, and a far cry from the first flight, which hardly had any thermal activity, lending itself to a short, ~40min flight.  The second flight was a little under an hour long.  What threw me off the most during my stick time was the lack of feedback through the stick, as well as how much movement it had available; at some points it felt as if my legs were in the way of the stick.  Also, there was the slight delay for inputs which also befuddled.  I found it interesting that the gliders' airspeed is in MPH instead of knots.  Both flights we were towed up to 2,500ft before releasing, and reached a max altitude of ~3,500ft on the second flight.

Glider aircraft are also called sailplanes because of their similarity to sailing a sailboat; wind currents are your friend, but you must know how to use them.  Flying in the sailplane feels like flying in a sky kayak.

I skipped over it, but immediately after buying Ellen's truck, we all got dinner at a Texas Roadhouse in Connecticut - Alyssa had driven over from Woonsocket, Rhode Island to catch dinner with me and my friends (you should have come flying with us!).  After dinner, we departed for Blairstown for a weekend flying, which you just read about.

Gliders are definitely something I will be doing again, though I find it ironic that I still have not been up in a single-engine airplane.  I can't wait to get more flight time in!