The official photo blog of J. David Buerk Photography.

DCA Planespotting - May 4th, 2018

Despite all the aviation photography I capture, I've only been to Gravelly Point a handful of times; twice on dates, and a few other times just to stop in the parking lot and check my phone before hitting the road after leaving a photoshoot at DCA proper.  This may be shocking to you, but I've never photographed at Gravelly Point before.  Never.  I've just never taken the time to, since I normally am photographing on assignment on an active airfield for my aviation work.

Friday, Star Wars Day, was no different; I had left DCA after a full day of photographing and decided to stop and respond to a few texts before hitting the GW Parkway, except this time I actually had my telephoto with me and was in no rush, so I decided to hop out and see what I could capture for a few minutes.  Plus, it was odd lighting; the sun was setting, but a storm was moving in at the same time.

Before I left DCA I did spot one of these HC-144 Ocean Sentries; I heard there was a whole group that had flown in while I was there, but I only saw this one taxiing.  That was before I left DCA though.

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Now enjoy these photos I captured in a span of only 20min at Gravelly Point.  Gravelly Point geographically lies just over 1,000ft from end of R/W 19, squarely below the runway's glide slope on the Potomac River, giving an impressive perspective of aircraft turning to final only a few hundred feet overhead.

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The park also offers some great views of the DC skyline, though I didn't venture very far off the runway centerline; I have still never been to the waterfront at Gravelly Point, so I don't know what other views it may offer.

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I also decided to try catching video of one of the arrivals; with the storm moving in, all aircraft were performing crosswind landings, which, while routine flying for experienced pilots, is still impressive to see, especially to the uninitiated like some of the other onlookers enjoying the finally-warm weather in the park.

A Planespotter’s Dream Gig: A Look into the Life of an Airport Photographer

This morning, features a profile of me, highlighting my aviation photography, and giving a glimpse into what it’s like when I cover large-scale corporate events.  I invite you to read the full article on the AirlineGeeks website by clicking here or the article preview below.

It is an immeasurable honor that my photography has inspired a profile to be written about me and my work. I’m proud to work so closely with so many people at Dulles International and Reagan National airports, amongst the Airports Authority, the airlines, and their partners, all of whom work hard to keep the DC airports operating smoothly, and welcoming passengers the whole-world over.

I especially have to thank Ryan from AirlineGeeks for shadowing and interviewing me during the Air India inaugural a few weeks ago. I also must thank Airport Operations; without their skilled assistance, I would never be able to cover airfield actives with the depth I capture. Finally I must thank my many partners in the numerous PR, marketing, communications, and media departments and outlets I have worked with over the years - it is because of their efforts on many projects that my photos have been presented to a global audience.

Thank you to everyone who has helped me in growing my career to where it stands today - today marks a true milestone; I can’t begin to describe how honored I am to be receiving such recognition, and I am excited to learn the next heights my career will take. Thank you!

Air India at Washington Dulles International Airport

On a warm, drizzly Summer morning, Air India's inaugural flight between Delhi, India, and Washington, DC landed at Washington Dulles International Airport, greeted by a delegation from the Embassy of India, distinguished guests, and a crowd of media who gathered alongside the runway.  Upon landing, the 777-200LR was welcomed with a ceremonial water arch, and the aircraft blessed upon arriving to its gate.

Following refreshments, a press conference commenced with performances of Jana Gana Mana and The Star-Spangled Banner, national anthems of India and the United States, and a traditional Indian dance.  Speakers included Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser, Ambassador of India to the United States His Excellency Navtej Sarna, Air India’s Chairman Ashwani Lohani, and representatives from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority to include Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Margaret McKeough, and Executive Vice President and Chief Revenue Officer Jerome Davis.  After remarks from each of the speakers, a ceremonial cake cutting and exchange of gifts was enjoyed by the distinguished guests.

After the festivities, I made my way onto the ramp for one more aircraft walk around, and finally onto the runway to watch Air India’s flight depart Dulles for the first time on it’s new non-stop route back to Indira Gandhi International Airport.  Luckily the weather had cleared up during the press conference and the skies were now blue with heavy bands of clouds quickly moving across the horizon, creating additional dramatic effect for Air India’s first departure.

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We don't believe in walls; 

we believe in bridges.

Terry McAuliffe, Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia

The Retirement of Captain John Prater

This past Thursday, I was honored to help commemorate Captain John Prater's retirement, greeting him for his final flight arriving at Dulles from Paris.  Captain Prater began his aviation career in 1978, going on to be elected President of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) in 2006.

Captain Prater has flown cargo and commercial airlines, including DC-8s, DC-10s, A300s, 727s, 757s, 767s, and 777s, but would retire flying the 787 Dreamliner.  I was on the runway's hold short to welcome him on his final landing and ceremonial water arch (which the high winds caught, misted, and totally drenched me for!).

Thanks to all the fine folks in Dulles OPS who were so helpful in coordinating the logistics of this event with me and ALPA - as always, it would never be possible without all your help.

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Royal Air Maroc at Washington Dulles International Airport

This past Thursday, September 8th, 2016, Royal Air Maroc, the flag carrier for the Kingdom of Morocco, began non-stop service between Washington, DC, USA and Casablanca, Morocco. Royal Air Maroc's Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner will make the 7hr journey between Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) Mohammed V International Airport (CMN) three days each week.

Events at Dulles began with a reception for passengers at the gate waiting to depart, and the main festivities began when the inaugural flight landed at 9.55PM on R/W 19L.  The aircraft was greeted at the gate with a ceremonial water arch.

Moroccan Ambassador to the United States Rachad Bouhlal was made inaugural statements marking the occasion before a ribbon cutting ceremony prior to boarding of the first departing flight.

The new 787-8 Dreamliner flown on this route features 18 Business Class seats and 256 Economy Class seats, with an updated layout that allows for more legroom and space for passengers throughout the cabin.

Departing passengers were presented with gift bags containing a commemorative challenge pin, certificate of inaugural flight, Royal Air Maroc USB drive, and a pair of Moroccan tea candles.  The 787-8 Dreamliner lifted off for Casablanca twenty minutes before midnight.


My photos from this event have been featured on the front page of and have been distributed via PRNewsWire, a New York based newswire agency.

Behind the Scenes

I was fortunate enough to speak a bit with the departing Captain, who showed me around the Dreamliner's cockpit for a few moments during his pre-flight.  What a cool guy!

For the photo and avgeeks out there reading this, airfields are extremely dark at night; this is especially true for Dulles since the runways are so far away from the ramp's sodium lights.  All landing photos on the runway were at ISO 25,600, f/2.8, 1/125th in order to have just enough shutter speed to stop motion, but still have enough light to make the capture, and I still had to boost exposure by +⅔EV in post.  The 1D X handles these kinds of conditions very well; extraordinarily well for press usage as is the purpose here.

Photos on the ramp were at ISO 12,800, f/2.8, 1/250th, mainly because I am photographing while walking during water arches; the ramps are lit by orange sodium lights which can be counteracted with manual White Balance set to 2,100K; this setting shifts their amber light white, but will shift the 4,300K incandescent bulbs illuminating the Main Terminal a deep cyan.  You can see this same effect in my inaugural photos for Brussels Airlines, and a few of my weddings and portrait sessions where I purposely use this mixed-color-temperature situation for dramatic effect.

Departure photos were at a more sensible ISO 6,400, f/2.8, 1/60th.  In general I won't drop my shutter speeds below 1/125th unless dark lighting conditions or creative need arises, and I usually prefer to stay at 1/250th and above if I can help it without going crazy with the ISOs.  That said, I'm not afraid of pushing into high-ISO because I know the 1D X handles them very well (although this post isn't the best example of it).