Jim “Hazy” Haseltine – Don’t Let the Call Sign Fool You!

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Jim “Hazy” Haseltine has captured many of the world’s most stunning air to air photos of military aircraft. A lot of planning and technical expertise go into his finished products that you’ll see here at Photorecon.net, in his “Hazy’s Friday Photo of the Week” feature that we’re rolling out today. Every week, another one of Jim’s favorites will appear on the front page of our digital aviation magazine. Links will be provided for you to see his HIGH-G Productions web site, and even purchase one of his calendars, filled with even more of his aerial artistry. Here’s a multi-part series about how Hazy got into the business, what his preferred equipment is, and what it takes to produce his world-class images.

Jim has been immersed in aviation, especially military aviation, since he was born in Houston Texas. His father, who was a twenty-five year Air Force veteran, was stationed at the Johnson Space Center in that city. Soon, Jim was on the move, as his father was reassigned around the world. As he says, Jim Haseltine “was born into the Air Force Blue”. He remembers going to all of the bases’ air shows as a kid, where he developed a certain skill for getting up close to the action. At some bases, he’d befriend the son of an Operations Group Commander, and after a bit of time, they’d be driving around the tarmac to see an aircraft launch, or to view a brand new aircraft type. Jim was definitely bitten by the aviation bug, and was plane crazy!

The first camera he remembers using was his Mom’s 110 film up through high school. He also bought a Kodak Disc camera and had some success concealing it and taking some memorably close concert photos of some famous performers like Eddie Van Halen. Getting results from being that close to the action became a priority, and he learned that success followed each time that the subject was near – it didn’t matter whether it was a performer or an airplane.

His road to success has had a few twists and turns, both planned and unplanned. Besides his Air Force proximity, another one of his more memorable and formative opportunities was sports-related. As an avid Pittsburgh Steelers football fan, Jim wanted to see a live game. As a high school Junior, he got his chance when the Steelers were playing against Kansas City Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium. True to form, Jim wanted to get close to the action… and scope out where the teams arrived for gaining a good vantage point for autographs and being the first one inside the stadium. He talked his father into dropping him off early at the stadium, and would join his parents just before the game began.

Before he did much scouting around, a man heading into the stadium stopped and asked Jim what he was doing. A short conversation later, the head producer of NFL Films that day had asked Jim if he wanted to work with him on the field during the game! He learned how to be a camera grip and was credentialed so he could get on the field in the few hours remaining, and just before the game, he walked out to the center of the field with the film team to capture the coin toss. His mother (his parents didn’t know where he had been after dropping him off) realized that he was not just watching the game, but Jim was on the field. His parents breathed sighs of relief knowing where he was, and at halftime, he got the chance to tell them what an opportunity he had been given. That one unplanned apprenticeship led to six years of working with the film crews doing home games for the Chiefs.

A few years later, Jim got involved with the University of Nebraska, filming their football games too. Another job landed him at AVI Systems, where he learned more about broadcast video production and the television industry. Along the way, he decided to study still photography in earnest, and his first class was in black and white pictures. His first project’s subject was an aircraft he was interested in at Offutt AFB in Nebraska. After this, his instructor told him “do not film airplanes”! Luckily for us, Jim didn’t follow those directions, and never went further in that program either.

With all of this motion picture technical experience, Jim still balanced his time with still photography, still fascinated with military aircraft too. He decided to specialize in this field. His soon had his first commercial successes, and one of Jim’s stories went like this…

During the early 1990s, Jim gleaned all sorts of aviation information out of the popular (and his favorite) McGraw–Hill magazine Aviation Week and Space Technology (AW&ST). He realized that he wanted to go out and take more pictures, go flying, and get published. One name kept on showing up on many of the attention-grabbing photos in the magazine was that of photographer Randy Jolly. One day, while talking to his wife while sitting in his living room and looking through the magazine, he realized that he was talking about “all of these cool pictures that he really liked” and that they were all taken by Randy Jolly. He told his wife of his dream: “My goal is that I want some day for Randy Jolly to be sitting in his couch with his wife and reading Aviation Week and go “man, I never get my pictures in this magazine any more, all these pictures say Jim Haseltine”. “ And, he’s been able to make that dream and many more happen through hard work, talent, and some great opportunities. In 1995, he had his first photograph published in AW&ST, and two years later he had his first cover photo in the magazine.

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Jim uses Cannon equipment, and has for all but a short time during his career. His first true professional camera was a Minolta, but because of his work in the film industry, he knew about a large “photo house” in the Midwest and began renting equipment from it. Soon, he settled on the combination of Cannon equipment and Fuji Velvia 50 ASA film, although occasionally Velvia 100 ASA was his choice. Jim’s eye was attracted to that film’s deep blue hues, while other contemporaries chose Kodachrome 64 slide film. Soon, he invested in his own, top of the line equipment. In 2005, he switched from film to digital cameras.

So now you know a little bit of background about Jim “Hazy” Haseltine. There are so many more items of interest that have shaped his passion for aerial photography too. Like his favorite airplane? He says that to name one would do so many others that he likes an injustice, but mentions two anyway. When he was young, his father was a member of the Strategic Air Command. B-52s fascinated him, and he (well, his father) was fortunate to have lived at Guam’s Anderson AFB for a while, where the big bombers were based. Some thirty years after living among the big jets, in 2012 Jim got the chance to fly in a B-52 and photograph a mission out of Andersen AFB with the bombers, a very satisfying event for him. Jim also mentions the F-16 Fighting Falcon, in which he has flown more than three hundred hours as an aerial photographer. The visibility is great, and the maneuverability can put one in a great place for breathtaking photos too.

In the next part of this series, we’ll explore what it takes for Jim to plan and produce these photos, where he’s been around the world, and maybe even include a few technical photography tricks he uses to present aviation in its highest art form.

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Ken Kula

Assignment and Content Editor, writer and photographer A New Englander all of my life, I've lived in New Hampshire since 1981. My passion for all things aviation began at a very early age, and I coupled this with my interest of photography during college in the late 1970s. I spent 35 years in the air traffic control industry, and concurrently, enjoyed my aviation photography and writing adventures, which continue today. I've been quite fortunate to have been mentored by some generous and gifted individuals. I enjoy contributing to this great site and working with some very knowledgeable and equally passionate aviation followers.

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