AMAT student’s difficult fighter jet photo noticed by pilot team
AMAT student’s difficult fighter jet photo noticed by pilot team
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Kaylee Smith's photo of a Super Hornet in a vapor cone

Photography students in Northwest High School’s Academy of Media Arts & Technology routinely receive unique experiences, and the result of one student’s hard work recently paid off with recognition from her subjects: U.S. Navy tactical demonstration pilots.

Senior Kaylee Smith captured a photo of a Super Hornet fighter jet in a “vapor cone” – a cloud of condensed water that appears to engulf part of a plane moving at high speeds – at the recent Fort Worth Alliance Air Show, a difficult shot to achieve. To make the shot more impressive, it was her first time using a telephoto lens in her photography classes to capture subjects from great distances.

Kaylee said the photo was a combination of luck and skill.

“I’ve been to a couple of air shows before, so I knew what to expect – that helped me get the shot because I knew you’re supposed to track the plane for it,” she said. “I was taking as many photos as I could, that way I could manage to get enough good shots for one scene, because they’re not doing the same flight path over and over again; it’s always changing. I felt pretty lucky to get the shot – I was just trying to hit the right moment.”

Part of her success, Kaylee said, was making sure she was oriented in the correct direction to give herself the best chance at taking good shots. To do this, she and her classmates pointed their feet toward the landing strip and moved their torsos to track airplanes. They also pointed their lenses slightly ahead of the airplanes so they could photograph them as they came in view.


 
“I felt pretty lucky to get the shot – I was just trying to hit the right moment.”
 
KAYLEE SMITH, AMAT SENIOR
 

Kaylee’s hard work paid off after the show, when the U.S. Navy TAC DEMO team shared her shot on their Twitter account and Facebook page. On the group’s Facebook page, Kaylee’s photo is one of their most liked posts of the month.

When contacted by AMAT instructors and asked about the shot, Lt. Justin “Skinny Jeans” Wedel, a member of the TAC DEMO team, said he was hoping someone would capture the exact moment Kaylee managed to photograph.

“Your student was able to photograph one of the most difficult snapshots of the performance,” he said, “and the image I have waited all season to see, the vapor cone.”

Kaylee said the photo represented a fun challenge, as she likes to use her skills to capture a wide range of activities and settings.

Though she enjoys her photography classes and the practice as a hobby, Kaylee said the biggest benefit of AMAT is being able to expand her talents.

“I do plan on doing photography more as a hobby in the future, but I don’t think it’s what I want for a sole career,” she said. “I’m still deciding what I want to do, but I plan on using this in whatever I do for my career so it will help me by having a mix of skills.”

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