The official photo blog of J. David Buerk Photography.

2016 Dulles Day Plane Pull and 5K / 10K on the Runway

Dulles Day 5K / 10K On the Runway

In 1993 Dulles International Airport held the World's very first Plane Pull, a charity event in partnership with Special Olympics, that began a phenomenon of other plane pull charity events worldwide.  In 2013, Dulles added a 5K (and in 2014 a 10K) to Dulles Day.  While technically the 5K / 10K is a separate event from the Plane Pull, it is always held on the morning of as the newest annual part of Dulles Day.  Each year 2,500 participants are able to run on R/W 1R and return to the Start / Finish via T/W K.  It is one of Potomac River Running's most popular runs, both because it offers the unique opportunity to be a pedestrian on an airfield (and run under the wing of a United 777), and there is no other run of that distance which offers a perfectly flat venue other than a track.

In previous years I've been on the ground for photos (thank you to Airport Operations for always providing me with speedy transport anywhere I need to go), but this year I was in the helicopter circling the event to capture new angles and promo photos I haven't gotten for this event before. In contrast to the other photographers at the event who are tasked with capturing each runner's photo, my assignment for the Plane Pull each year is to document the entire day and capture marketing photographs in a photojournalistic manner.

Thanks to an unexpected, last-minute delay of the race start, I was able to capture some great photos and video footage of the Smithsonian's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center before the run got underway.

Also visible is Washington Dulles International Airport's Concourses and Terminal, ATCT, VMF, and R/W 12/30.

Huge thanks to Bussman Aviation and all the fine folks in Dulles Airport Operations who make aerial photography and the entire day possible!

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

Dulles Day Plane Pull

The Dulles Day Plane Pull is a Summer festival suitable for all ages, and is great for families and aviation enthusiasts alike.  There are food vendors, games, giveaways, booths and displays, demonstrations, a classic car show, ARFF and Mobile Lounge rides / tours, live music, and ~50 private, vintage, and military aircraft on display, but the main attraction is the Plane Pull itself; ~100 teams compete in pulling a FedEx 757 or a United A320.

The first pull to kick off the day every year is always the Special Olympics team.  This year they had a little help from Superman!

Another notable team is the Fairfax County Police Department.  Dulles's property crosses over between Fairfax and Loudoun Counties, and many of the teams that compete are police and sheriffs offices in the surrounding communities.  The police community is already a tightly knit brotherhood, and that family is brought together every year with this friendly competition amongst neighboring jurisdictions.

Something of my own tradition I've begun since I began documenting the Plane Pull in 2013, every year I capture an aerial portrait of Eero Saarinen's famous Dulles Main Terminal Building.  This year’s Plane Pull was overcast - excellent for pictures of people and scenes, but not the most flattering light for glamour shots of buildings.  The iconic Main Terminal Building is seen here with ongoing construction for the Dulles Metrorail Project entering the bottom of the frame, including excavation and two cranes.

For 10 straight years now eyes have been on the Chesapeake Sheriff's Office; the team with an outright dominant reign as the Dulles Plane Pull's fastest.  They successfully defended their title for the 10th year in a row, with a time of 4.872s; 2016's fastest pull, however just short of setting a new Plane Pull record - a record of 4.753 they set in 2015.

The Dulles Day Plane Pull is also a planespotter's / AVGeek's dream; ATC does their best to route as much international, heavy, and otherwise interesting traffic to the nearby center runway.  Guests are encouraged to bring their cameras, and it's common for folks to come just to grab a lobster roll and planespot alongside the taxilane the entire afternoon in anticipation of spotting a jumbo like Lufthansa's 747-8i or Air France's A380.  This is completely in addition to the static private, vintage, and military aircraft on display.

Once again, I have to thank Bussman Aviation and all the fine folks in Dulles Airport Operations who make aerial photography and the entire day possible!  I rely on these fantastic folks to get me from A to B in speedy fashion, and what I do wouldn't be possible without them!

Video Footage

Here is a collection of the video footage I captured at this year's annual 2016 Dulles Plane Pull benefitting Special Olympics Virginia. Still photographs are my main focus, so this is content I captured between the still photos I captured to document the day.

Eero Saarinen's Dulles Airport Main Terminal



This January I was commissioned by Washington Dulles International Airport's Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority to photograph Eero Saarinen's historic Main Terminal building.  When MWAA employees retire, they are presented with a commemorative photograph of the Airport's Main Terminal, normally signed by other employees who worked closely with them, giving support and leaving their good wishes.  Even I received one when my 7 years with the Airports Authority came to a close.

This photo is, however, dark, out of date, and no longer known where the negative is for reproduction.  The Airport wanted an updated version; a portrait of the historic Airport at its 50 year anniversary.  One that is bright and shows how the Airport has flourished.  It's a pretty picture; I like it a lot!... but it's reached its time, and I was tasked with creating a suitable replacement.  Quite an honor!!!

The photograph was taken from an unusual angle not often seen; most photos of the Terminal are shot from the West, given the ease of access to Daily Garage 2.  The retirement photograph is shot from the East, which requires access to the Signature Flight Support hangar's upper rooftop - the decision to shoot from this same angle was easy, as it is so unique.  Weather was a constant factor, and it took 3 attempted shooting days to get the final image.  Below are some of the shots I took while on the rooftop, waiting for the perfect lighting, chronologically from my first attempts to the final image.



It was very strange seeing an aircraft depart for Germany that I know I've been aboard, and was present for its very first landing at Dulles.



Finally I had the shot I was looking for; dramatic sky, and a brightly lit Terminal.  The lighting on the Terminal wasn't quite warmed up yet, so the final image actually is a composite of two exposures to bring the dynamic range back to what was visible at shooting.  I had been focusing on wider shots since that was what the previous photo had been, but I quickly noticed that a zoomed view offered greater perspective and overal character to the image.  My gut was right, and the Airport unanimously chose my final shot of the Terminal; zoomed in to 140mm, with vibrant streaking across the sky.

The final photo is available for print purchase on my client site here.



The Airport LOVED it.  Absolutely LOVED it.  I was shocked how much; I actually got hugged when they saw it, and it quickly got around to other offices - the Finance Department will actually be using the image as the cover for Dulles' latest Annual Report, along with several other of my images inside.  The photo was an exercise in Photoshop as well, as there were two large utility trucks parked in front of the Terminal that proved challenging to remove; the end result is quite stunning!

Finally, as I turned to leave, my gear already packed in my bag, I saw the new full Moon, orange on the horizon as it had just risen as the sun set; I quickly set my gear back up and got a moon shot before retiring from the Signature Flight Support rooftop, a new portrait of Dulles saved to my camera's CF card.



Dulles Welcome Billboard

Think BIG! Have you been to Dulles lately? If you visit the B Concourse's Passenger Walkback Tunnel, my panoramic is currently on display above the escalators, welcoming passengers as they approach the Main Terminal. This canvas banner is almost 50 feet wide, preserving the details of my 88 megapixel photograph. It is clear enough to read text on signs and vehicles parked alongside the Main Terminal as you descend down the stairs.

This welcome banner with my photo will be in place during times when no other sponsor has leased this JCDecaux advertising space. Thanks to JCDecaux for making sure my photo looks great on large format canvas print!



Here is the original photograph, and below it the final proof of the print now on display!