In this edition of our Photographer Profile series we interview Dutch militairy aviation photographer Frank Crebas. You might know him from his ongoing coverage of the Royal Netherlands Air Force F-35s or his coverage of the final days of the Luftwaffe Phantoms, amongst other things.
Photography: Frank Crebas (Bluelife Aviation) Interview by Roger Kemp
Could you please tell us a bit about yourself?
I grew up in in de Noordoostpolder, a piece of reclaimed land from the sea in the Netherlands. Long story short: Initially I was looking for a career in the forestry but it became a career in harness horseracing as a assistant trainer and driver. After that I got involved in an internet company for about 4.5 years. Currently I am building a franchise concept out of personal training / vitality studio’s and I am a co owner at Netl, a recreational area. Obviously next to that I am running my aviation media company: Bluelife Aviation.
What is your favourite subject you were able to get in front of your camera?
Although I have had the privilege to have capture quite some exciting things, including the last ever air-to-air F-4F Phantom II photo flight that I had to honor to execute, but I have to admit that the work that I have done with the F-35 community, and more specifically 323 TES, the Netherlands Air Force F-35 Operational test squadron, is the one to pick for me. The squadron gave and gives me a lot of freedom in setting up photo shoots that almost go beyond my own imagination (even though I am a BIG dreamer!). I not only like to work with the team but I like the F-35 itself a lot too. I love the fact that there are a lot of angles to discover with this relative new jet. The lady has some beautiful shapes IMHO.
But also like to mention the ANG F-15 communities that I have the privilege working with. I love the ever-competitive attitude of those guys! ‘See ya at the merge!’
And what is still on your bucket list of things you’d really like to be able to shoot?
Definitely aerials of F-35 weapon employments. I also would love to see F-35 B’s and C’s at the boat too. But there are also ongoing projects that I’d like to keep for myself. The latter is a part of the business. You can’t always be open about what you are after because you might bring other guys to ideas as well. Yeah, I am definitely a competitive guy myself ;-)
How do you prepare for a shoot?
Preparation is an intense process for me. I play with model planes and eventually everything comes together in a PowerPoint document which is my photoscript and briefing document. In this document I describe how I want a particular formation to set-up and what maneuvre I have in mind. It needs to be simple and ‘pilot language’.
What are the ingredients of a perfect photo for you?
It's all about the light. I also prefer to be able to directive to get the ultimate shot as well.
Can you tell us about your typical editing workflow?
I use Photoshop Lightroom for cataloguing and editing my images. For Instagram I also use On1effects as well. I feel that images for social media need to pop a bit more and therefor I tend to edit my pictures a bit more than I would do for a printed publication.
Did you enjoy any formal education in the field of photography or are you a self taught natural talent?
No. or, well, I attended a few months at the fotovakschool in Apeldoorn. But I wasn’t too exited about the level of my co students that I decided to quit. It was at the level they needed to explain the very basics of photography and I though that it was a waist of time (for me). So, basically I thought myself with support of online classes of Kelbyone (Scott Kelby). I also study other people's images a lot. There is always something to learn and I am very eager to do so.
What equipment is in your camera back and why do you prefer your choice of camera and lenses?
I shoot Canon. I own a EOS 1DX and a 1DXmkII with a wide variety of lenses. For my backseat aerial photoshoots I bring a EF24-104 lens while for low level photography I use my EF 200-400 lens to highlight a few. But I also like the EF 11-24 wide angle lens a LOT!
But, despite the great kit I use I’d like to stress out that it is not about the gear, it's about composition. Most recent camera’s are good enough to take good photo’s.
Do you have any tips for aspiring aviation photographers?
Be dedicated, focussed and never give up.