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Duane Pandorf

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The main reason why I photograph with a Leica camera:

“I want simplification, not amplification or complication…I just want light controls … because photography is about light.” – Thorsten Overgaard

“A camera that gives me the joy of ownership and the joy of shooting is much more important than one with the highest number of megapixels or highest ISO performance.” – Yukio Uchida

“A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed.” ― Ansel Adams

“You just have to live and life will give you pictures.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

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Yesterday, March 04, 2013, I had a trip out of Thermal, California and while waiting for our owners to arrive a DeHavilland Beaver taxied in.  A beautiful aircraft with a lot of history, especially in the Alaska bush country.  The Beaver looked a little out of place here in the desert with no water around.  Well there is the Salton Sea nearby but not your “normal” type of water you’d see the Beaver flying in and around.  You see the owner of this model recently removed the floats.

DeHavilland Beaver

DeHavilland Beaver | Leica M-E, Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 pre-ASPH

I only had a few minutes to shoot, as I said, our owners were due to arrive at any time.  Of course, the sun was very bright and right overhead, we’re in the middle of a desert.  So not your best light so to speak for photography.  But I wanted to try and capture some of the unique features that grace this bird.

DeHavilland Beaver

DeHavilland Beaver | Leica M-E, Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 pre-ASPH

First off, you know a “manly” aircraft of past has arrived when you hear the nine-cylinder Pratt & Whitney R-985 radial engine running.  There’s really nothing like the sound of a big radial.

(The sound of Beaver taking off)

DeHavilland Beaver

DeHavilland Beaver | Leica M-E, Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 pre-ASPH

The detail in the design of a radial engine is amazing.  I was in the last class of “Naval” aviators that could pick the T-28 to fly for our initial “Primary” flight training.  I decided to fly the T-34C instead as I didn’t have any prior aviation experience and the T-34C was an easier aircraft to fly.  The T-28 was a much more sophisticated aircraft to fly than the T-34C.  Two of my 4 room mates completed their initial training in the T-28 and of course had major bragging rights with their experience.

DeHavilland Beaver

DeHavilland Beaver | Leica M-E, Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 pre-ASPH

The bright light was a major challenge.  I shot all of these images mostly wide open with my Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 with a Hoya HMC 3 stop neutral density filter.  I utilized the large aperture to isolate the different engine and cockpit instrument components.

DeHavilland Beaver

DeHavilland Beaver | Leica M-E, Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 pre-ASPH

DeHavilland Beaver

DeHavilland Beaver | Leica M-E, Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 pre-ASPH

DeHavilland Beaver Cockpit

DeHavilland Beaver Cockpit | Leica M-E, Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 pre-ASPH

DeHavilland Beaver

DeHavilland Beaver | Leica M-E, Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 pre-ASPH

9 comments on “DeHavilland Beaver – Thermal, California

  1. Jim Rosencrans says:

    A wonderful blog with terrific photography of an aviation classic! The radial engine always was as much a work of art as a centerpiece of aviation history. The rugged lines of that De Havilland is a contrast the grace of that engine. This is worthy of publication in “Air and Space”. Nice work!


  2. You’re too kind Jim! Thank you for the very nice complement. Its a joy to see such a fine piece of old machinery these days that’s been well maintained but still used, especially an older aircraft like this one!


  3. Dave Powell says:

    Great site. I have the cameras but not a plane… need to get plane.


    1. Thanks for stopping by Dave. I have spent some time over there at your place on the net ( and what you’ve done with the Leica M9 helped me make the transition to my M-E.


  4. Craig Melvin says:

    Wonderful photos. I was forwarded your site because the owner/pilot is my neighbor in the San Juans.
    I just got a plane and I am learning to fly. Much of my career dealt with photography. I started in my father’s darkroom 60 years ago. I love the black and white and quality of your work. I did a lot of work with large format film.


    1. Thanks for the nice comments and stopping by Craig. May I ask what kind of plane you’re flying? I have to complement you on learning a new “craft” later in your life. I’m sure it could be challenging for some and wish you well in your flight training.

      I would also be interested to hear about your work in large format photography sometime. That’s an area of photography I really know nothing about other than enjoying the photos taken with that format.


  5. Craig Melvin says:

    Hi Duane, I was with the LA Sheriff’s Department for 29 years. 12 of those years was spent undercover and i supervised the surveilance section. We did arial photography, extreme long range, night time and produced documents for our undercover people. I used mostly 35 mm Pentax motor drive, but for high quality we used 21/4 format with Haselblads and 4×5 work for documents. All of this was in are own darkroom. Keep in mind, however, this was back in the late 70’s and early 80’s’ Now being retired, I have joined the digital world with Nikon equipment. I have an Epson large format printer and assorted lenses and telescope. All my old cameras are on display including a box and bellows camera. I did many weddings and retirement parties with a twin Mamiya 330. Even back then a 5×5 proof cost one dollar everytime you pressed the trigger.

    I am in a partnership on a Cessna 182. I am in Friday Harbor, San Juan Islands WA. I got into the plane before I started lesssons. Having the plane gives a lot of incentive to keep going. Living on an Island the plane is going to make it a lot easier to get to Costco


    1. That’s awesome Craig. I did spend some time in southern California as I was based at El Toro in the 80s flying Marine A-4s then in San Diego during the 90s flying A-4s and C-9s at Miramar and North Island.

      My photography is a hobby that keeps me busy while I travel. However, I gave up on DSLRs over two years ago due to size and weight and have found a love affair with the Leica M rangefinder.

      In fact I was just invited to the Leica Store in Miami’s grand opening that I attended last night. What a neat event.

      Through my travels with my job at Netjets I don’t get to Seattle, Washington area that often. I seem to spend most of my time going up and down the east coast when I’m not traveling overseas.

      I hope you’re enjoying your “retirement” up there in God’s Country. The few times I’ve flown in and out of Whidby Island I could see myself hanging around there.


  6. Craig Melvin says:

    Not fully retired. I have moved on to being a professional boat Captain. I have been up and down the Pacific Coast as Captain an several boats. I have been in every port from Mexico to Alaska. I am now in my six year driving whale tour boats here at Friday Harbor.

    The other realm of photography I dealt with was macro. I was a forensic expert in audio tapes and I would photo the
    magnetic markings on cassette tapes with bellow lenses to see if they were authentic.

    I learn some of this skill working in the flight test program at Lockheed Aircraft on the L-1011 from 1969-1973.

    It has been nice chatting with you. I resume my flight lessons on Monday.

    My email is if you would like to chat more.


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