A beautifully restored Wichita-built Stearman biplane shoots nearly straight up into the air, stalls and begins to plummet back to earth, trailing a plume of smoke the whole way. It pulls out at the last possible second, of course, and goes on to perform a succession of aerobatic feats.

On an absolutely perfect Saturday, several Greteman Groupers spread a blanket at the Wichita Flight Festival and sat back to watch the amazing performances.

I took the opportunity to see if I could capture even a hint of the excitement with my camera. It’s a challenge. I took dozens of photos, trying to get a feel for the fluid movement of the aircraft, hoping to catch a moment here or there that told a bit of the story.

Those planes are moving. I’m thinking – if it’s this hard just to get a picture, how hard must it be for the pilots to learn these precision moves? In some of the photos, the nose or the tail are off-frame. Or the light isn’t right, or the composition is boring.

Fortunately, I got a few shots that I was happy with. But even if I hadn’t, it would have been a great day with friends who happen also to be colleagues – a group that appreciates the wonder and beauty of aviation at its best, and the joy of a glorious Kansas summer afternoon.

Click here to see a few of the photos from our weekend outing.