Aviation Photographer Frank Crebas Talks About Camera Choice, Air-to-Air Techniques And Backseat Experiences

An image taken by Frank Crebas. On the right, a screenshot of the live story chat.

In a great Live Story on Instagram, Master Photographer Crebas talked to The Aviationist Founder David Cenciotti.

If you’ve seen a breathtaking aerial photo of an F-35 Lightning II, chances are it was shot by Frank Crebas. Frank Crebas is one of the world’s most renowned and experienced aerial photographers along with names like Katsu Tokunaga, Jose’ Fuji Ramos, Jamie Hunter and select few others. Among Crebas’ most famous photo projects have been his work with the Dutch F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program and the amazing images that resulted from his creative vision.

Crebas was interviewed on April 22, 2020 by founder of TheAviationist.com, David Cenciotti on Instagram Live.

Frank Crebas in the back seat of a two-place F-16 during a photo shoot.

Crebas told TheAviationist, “We are pretty much at home all day long, we have what we call an intelligent lock-down, most businesses are closed, we are encouraged to work from home, schools are still closed but shops are still open.” When Cenciotti asked Crebas if he had been able to get out to photograph at all, he mentioned, “I couldn’t resist going out, I needed to see an F-35, so I went to Leeuwarden, which is only 15 minutes away from my house and then I took a chance, and I saw that jet landing and it really made me happy.”

Crebas says he has not counted the number of photo missions he has flown, but that he maintains a log book. He says he is most interested in the pictures that he takes, not the number of hours he has flown or the type of aircraft he has flown in. “It sounds a bit weird but I am not interested in how many hours I fly in a specific aircraft.”

Two F-22 Raptors (All images: Frank Crebas)

Among Crebas’ inspirations in aerial photography are Jamie Hunter, editor of Combat Aircraft magazine, John Dibbs of the Plane Picture Company and Rich Cooper of the Centre of Aviation Photography. “No matter what the light, Rich [Cooper] gets the photo. Remember his photos of the F-117 with the light behind them, silhouetted? No one else could do that.” Crebas also named Jim Haseltine and Ted Carlson as aerial photographers who have influenced his own vision.

Afterburners glowing in the darkness of sunset.

When we asked about camera equipment, Crebas showed us his aerial camera rig fitted with a large flexible hood for eliminating canopy glare. As for specific camera setup, Crebas told TheAviationist.com he uses, “The Canon EOS 1D Mk II with a 24-105 mm lens. I’m a Canon photographer, but it’s about the composition and not the camera you use. I might want to switch to Sony in the future because those cameras are really neat.”

David mainly uses a 28-135mm and he’s a Canon user as well (he currently uses a 7D Mk II).

As far as preferred aerial photography platforms, Crebas said the two-seat variants of the F-15 Eagle are the aircraft he would choose to shoot from in most tactical air-to-air photoshoots. He told Cenciotti that, because the two-seat F-15s, like the F-15E Strike Eagle and the F-15D, have a lot of room and are rarely flown from the back seat, the canopy tends to be in good condition, with no scratches. Other two-seat tactical aircraft can have visible scratches on the inside of their canopies from night vision goggle mounts pilots use. During hard maneuvering, these can damage the inside of the canopy. Crebas related one memorable flight when numerous aircraft showed up, lighting was good and the action was happening but the images were not good because of the bad condition of the canopy.

A stunning action shot with an F-15 and a Romanian MiG-21 Lancer.

Crebas told Cenciotti that among his most memorable moments were an in-flight emergency in Ukraine where his photo aircraft had to use runway arresting gear to land. David mentioned his flight in the Eurofighter Typhoon as one of the most exciting and interesting flights.

Our own David Cenciotti also shared some really interesting flying experiences literally piloting a Frecce Tricolori jet or flying in the F-104 Starfighter. The different approach to a flight opportunity for David and Frank is worth a mention: while the first is a journalist who loves to take part in real missions so that he can catch all the technical details to be used in his stories and reports, leaving just a few minutes to the photo shooting part, Frank takes only part to photo-sessions and considers anything not strictly related to shooting photographs (like piloting the plane from the backseat) “wasted time”.

Both consider the preparation to the flight even more important than the flight itself!

TheAviationist.com will continue our ongoing Instagram Live video series of features and interviews with notable people in military aviation and topics related to all aspect of military aviation. Follow TheAviationist on Instagram @theaviationist to see all of the content and photos.

About Tom Demerly
Tom Demerly is a feature writer, journalist, photographer and editorialist who has written articles that are published around the world on TheAviationist.com, TACAIRNET.com, Outside magazine, Business Insider, We Are The Mighty, The Dearborn Press & Guide, National Interest, Russia’s government media outlet Sputnik, and many other publications. Demerly studied journalism at Henry Ford College in Dearborn, Michigan. Tom Demerly served in an intelligence gathering unit as a member of the U.S. Army and Michigan National Guard. His military experience includes being Honor Graduate from the U.S. Army Infantry School at Ft. Benning, Georgia (Cycle C-6-1) and as a Scout Observer in a reconnaissance unit, Company “F”, 425th INF (RANGER/AIRBORNE), Long Range Surveillance Unit (LRSU). Demerly is an experienced parachutist, holds advanced SCUBA certifications, has climbed the highest mountains on three continents and visited all seven continents and has flown several types of light aircraft.