One of my all-time favourite candid people photos, taken maybe a decade ago at Oakland Airport’s Old-T’s hangars. Lou — CDR Louis Fields, USN (Retd.) — was a flying mentor of mine who died a couple of years ago and had a great memorial send-off on the USS Hornet in Alameda. He’d served in WWII, so he wasn’t exactly young when I took this photo, but he was still mentally very sharp and physically active; he was just about to fly his little “Thunder Chicken” (a well-maintained Aeronca Champ fitted out with GPS, etc.) to Rio Vista. He’d just said something drily funny about my aerobatics flying — he was an accomplished aerobatics pilot as well as a senior flying instructor and FAA Designated Examiner (DE) — and I had my Nikon D100 handy, so I took this photo to poke fun at him (he was also kidding me about my wielding a camera around the hangars all afternoon).
The original image off the camera is of course in colour, but I’ve always presented the finished version in black and white, as I think that emphasises the wonderful strength and character of his face at this age — a face that could simultaneously deadpan a joke and express obvious amusement at something you’d just said, or that could look seriously serious if you did something stupidly wrong while he was in the instructor’s seat next to you as you were landing or something. I also think this image evokes something important about him for me that I really liked: an amused active tolerance for (or, more accurately, encouragement of) all sorts of views and people that you might not expect from an older Navy officer (anyone at his memorial service would have been impressed by the diversity of people there — in short, a typical Bay Area crowd…).
This picture brings him back very strongly for me — I can hear his distinctive voice whenever I look at it. I was particularly gratified that this image was used for the memorial service booklet.
For a slightly longer appreciation of Lou, see Lou Fields, RIP on my flying blog.