by SrA Maeson Elleman

A U.S. Air Force Airman from the 909th Aircraft Maintenance Unit stands in front of a U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker aerial refueling aircraft early in the morning on Kadena Air Base, Japan, Aug. 27, 2013. For seemingly endless hours each day under the hot Okinawan sun, maintainers from the 909th Aircraft Maintenance Unit inspect, bolt, grease and polish an assortment of parts and pieces to ensure each and every mission goes off without a hitch. (U.S. Air Force picture story by Senior Airman Maeson L. Elleman/Released)

Photographer's Narrative


When it comes to photography, it’s arguably a combination of two primary factors aside from equipment: 40 percent is skill, and the other 60 percent is timing. I had been out on the flightline with the KC-135 Stratotanker maintainers from the 909th Aircraft Maintenance Unit for two days trying to get the perfect photos for some training I was doing, and I was bound and determined to get a good shot. I grabbed my gear and got on the flightline that day at 5:30 a.m., waiting for the sun to rise, but I was out all alone, and I wasn’t sure which aircraft was getting the maintainers’ attention at the time. I grabbed a few test photos as the sun came up, but I noticed my window of opportunity was closing fast. I looked down the flightline and saw an Airman pushing a fire bottle toward the aircraft. The only problem was that I was about 200 yards away, and he wouldn’t be there long (the 60 percent). I started sprinting with my oversized camera backpack, praying security forces wouldn’t see me and get nervous, and I got there just as he leaned forward on the bottle.