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Capturing aviation through Ethan Wong’s lens

Lilly Wu
Sophomore Ethan Wong strategically positions himself before clicking his camera to capture the Lockheed Martin F-35C as it flies by.

Standing just 50 feet away from the runway at the Naval Air Station Fallon, sophomore Ethan Wong strategically positions himself before clicking his camera to capture the Lockheed Martin F-35C as it flies by.  As the training facility of the United States Navy that inspired the movie “Top Gun Maverick,” the NAS Fallon was just one of the many places Wong visited to practice his aviation photography. Through his Instagram account and online portfolio, Wong shares images of different subjects ranging from aviation to galaxies.

In 2022, Wong started his journey with his iPhone camera, taking pictures of everything and anything around him. After realizing his father owned a Panasonic LUMIX G DMC-GF3 camera, which was even older than him, Wong began using it to propel his own photography journey. As he progressed into this hobby, Wong eventually bought higher-quality equipment, with the Canon EOS-5D Mark IV as his main camera and the Canon EOS-1DX Mark II for backup. Since he always had an interest in planes from a young age, Wong quickly gravitated toward aviation photography, or “planespotting,” and has continued the hobby ever since.

“I remember scrolling through Instagram and seeing many people posting photos of planes and found it interesting,” Wong said. “It wasn’t necessarily the easiest subject to start out with, but it allowed me to develop the skills I have today.”

To take these photos, Wong frequents many airshows or military bases in his free time. One of his favorite airshows occurred in April 2023 at the March Air Reserve Base in Los Angeles, where he had to take two flights to make the one-day trip to the venue. 

Wong is able to share his photography through his Instagram account Since launching the account in October 2022, Wong consistently posts about three times a week, featuring new batches of photos from different events or trips. 

“I thought Instagram was the best place to share my photos with others,” Wong said. “Everything on my page is designed by me; I just like putting it out there for people to enjoy.”

Through Instagram, Wong has met and befriended many other local photographers. One is junior Jonas Rossiter at Archie Williams High School, another fellow aviation photographer from the Bay Area, who met Wong through a mutual group chat. Despite never meeting in person, the two bonded over exchanging feedback on their photos and chatting about photography.

“I really like Ethan’s photography,” Rossiter said. “There’s a lot of variety in how he takes pictures and he is always able to find unique angles and ways to make a subject look interesting, which is especially difficult with aviation photography.”

After posting on Instagram for several months, Wong realized that Instagram reels were receiving much more engagement than the photos he usually took. As a result, he began using his father’s drone to film videos of places he visited to post on Instagram reels.

“I decided that since I have a drone, why don’t I make good use of it?” Wong said.  “Recently, I went on a camping trip with my Boy Scout troop, and I made a reel from the clips I took there.”

Despite aviation photography still being his main focus, Wong plans on branching out to new subjects to photograph such as the components of the natural world. This led to his interest in astrophotography, which involves photographing the stars and sky.

“I really want to get into astrophotography even though it’s the hardest type of photography,” Wong said. “Some shots are actually thousands of photos stacked into one, and I want to learn the process just as a way to challenge myself. However, I won’t be able to do so just yet until I get the right equipment. If I had $650 with me right now, I would spend it on a Leofoto LS-224 Carbon Fiber with LH-25 Low Profile Ball Head and an iOptron SkyGuider Pro EQ Camera Mount.”

In his Photo and Design class at school, Wong dives into portrait photography of people while expanding his skill set.

“Portraits create a greater meaning than just a piece of metal in the sky,” Wong said. “I like how people can show emotion in portrait photos, and after all, these are the types of photos that people pay for.”

In the future, Wong hopes to continue pursuing his hobby. As for his career, Wong plans on using his connections from aviation photography to become a pilot if he is provided with the opportunities to do so. With the Air Force Academy as his dream school, Wong finds it useful to help serve his country while doing something he loves.

While looking back on his own photography journey, Wong reflects on the mistakes that he has made along the way and considers what advice he would give his younger self and other aspiring photographers.

“In photography, it’s okay to mess up as long as you learn from your mistakes,” Wong said. “Use photography as a way to express what you are not able to communicate with others. It’s also important to remember that it is you who takes the photo, and not your camera.”

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About the Contributor
Lilly Wu
Lilly Wu, Opinion Editor
(she/her) Lilly is a junior and the opinion editor for the Epic. Some of her hobbies include dancing, watching cdrama and going to amusement parks.

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