Lyon Air Museum

February 14th, 2011 | Posted by Steve in California | Museums | War Birds

Hi All,

I was home for 8 days until Feb. 6.  My older son Aaron and I like to get out if possible for some photography so we were able to make it happen on the 5th.  Aaron brought along Jacob, who was almost 10 months old, while Angela had a day to herself.  Fran came along and we all met at the Lyon Air Museum next to the Orange County, Ca. Airport.

Information about the Lyon Museum is at  They feature WWII warplanes, antique cars and some German WWII vehicles.  Their exhibits obviously celebrate icons of the “Greatest Generation” and cover a period from the 1920’s to late 1940’s or early 1950’s.  Everything appears fully restored and functional.  Even better, they have a totally unrestricted policy on photography.  On Saturday Feb. 12 they flew one of their planes, a Douglas A-26 medium bomber which is shown below.

This is a view (snapshot really) of the museum from a walkway above the floor.  Immediately below the vantage point  is General Lyon’s B-25 medium bomber.


This is a view (snapshot) of the east face of the building.  I shot it from my seat inside a 737 on Sat. Feb 12 as we taxied into the terminal.  Details of that trip will be in the next email.


There are a lot of interesting things and great photos in the museum.  After walking around a little I became captivated with a 1941 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible Sedan.  It had a 346 cu in V8 good for 150HP.  It has 4 wheel vacuum assisted hydraulic brakes and has a 126” wheelbase.  Here are a few photos.

Technical info:  ISO on all of these are 200.  The overall view of the Caddy is with the 16-35mm f2.8 lens, shot at 17mm focal length, f14 at 1/8th of a second.  The close up is with the same lens shot at 32mm focal length, f11 at 1/6th of a second.   Both are with a tripod.

The 3rd photo is with my 15mm f2.8 fisheye lens.  It has a 180 degree field of view and offers exaggerated views of subjects.  This was hand held, f9, 1/40th of a second exposure.  The front of the camera lens is about 9 inches from the hood ornament.

The blue reflections on the hood are the skylights above.  The yellow reflections are the lights.  The tail of the museum’s B 17G is in the background.

A fisheye lens is a special effect lens.  It does not offer straight lines except through the center of the frame.  If the camera is not parallel or perpendicular to the ground then the effects seem to become even more exaggerated.  A vertical or horizontal line through the exact middle of the field will appear straight, but the distortion (cigar or football effect) appears to be greater and greater the closer to the edge of the photo a subject lies.

By definition a fisheye lens has a short focal length in relation to the camera standard.  That means wider apertures and/or slower shutter speeds can be used in low light situations and give sharply focused photos.  That also means tripods are less necessary because hand held situations give sharp photos in most situations.

Given these parameters the lens offers some interesting advantages to offset its short focal length and cigar or football effects.  Most useful, at least to my style of photography, is the lens gives a giant depth of field at even at wide apertures.

The field of view of my fisheye is 180 degrees or half a circle.  I think that is measured not side to side, but along the longest line stretching, for instance from the upper left corner to the lower right corner.  Just the same the field of view is, as my daughter-in-law from Ohio/Texas would say, ginormous (I spelled this phonetically then was pleased to see it confirmed by the Urban Dictionary.)  The biggest problem with the lens is making sure your feet don’t appear in the bottom of the frame.

Stopped down the depth of field covers just about everything from in front of your nose to infinity.  It is the first fisheye lens I have ever shot with and I find it to be great fun, especially when I can use it to good effect.  The lens is not stabilized, but at this short focal length that doesn’t matter.  Hand held shots are razor sharp even at 1/15th of a second.

Understanding these effects are absolute keys to using the lens properly.

Here I offer examples of a couple of photos shot with the fisheye.  The first is a self-portrait.  I am holding the camera arms length.  The photo is shot with available light, there is no flash.  The center of the frame or the field is at the top of my head.  You can see the farther a subject is from the center the more distorted it becomes.  That is not meant to be a comment on me, just what the lens does.


This next one was also shot with the fisheye.  Some of you have seen it before [and it appears elsewhere in this website].  The front of the lens was less than 3 feet from the tree, but the vertical plane of the tree and the vertical plane of the lens are parallel so distortion is not apparent.  This photo fools a lot of astute observers.  The distortion is only seen in a few places.  The ground is actually flat.  It is not out of possibility for a tree to be growing in a gully so almost no one catches that.  It is only the trees at the far left & right of the frame that give any indication of the characteristics of the lens.

A note here on Aaron’s style of photography.  He shoots almost everything with the camera mounted on a tripod and uses a remote shutter release.  This is probably a good habit for me to get into as I rely on my stabilized or wide angle lenses for hand held shots way too much.

Back to the Museum.  The next photo is a propeller and engine cowling from the B-17G on display.  This B-17 was delivered on April 7, 1945 so it probably saw very little action.  The Caddy is seen in the background.  I used the fisheye again for an interesting effect.   The banana yellow and black combination really grab the eye.

Technical info:  f9 at 1/30th of a second, hand held.

The museum has a number of automobiles including an old Helms Bakery truck, A 1929 Lincoln touring car, a 1947 Lincoln convertible and others.  For some reason I was not inspired by these & my photos show it.  If you want to see them you’ll just have to go to the museum yourself, but here is a snap of the 47 Lincoln.


In the middle of the museum is a 1934 Packard touring car.  I was happy with this shot of the front so here it is.  This Packard is a very nice automobile and has some great lines.  The grill is really over the top.  I should have shot more of the it, but I think I reacted better to the Cadillac.  If I visit the museum again I will spend more time with the Lincoln and the Packard.

Technical info:  Shot with the 15mm f2.8 fisheye, hand held, f4, 1/100th of a second.

Next is the Douglas A-26 Light Bomber.  This design saw U.S. combat service from 1945 until 1969 with 2,452 built.  The last ones in use were retired by the Colombian Air Force in 1980.  This one shows 22 bombing missions and the destruction of one railroad train and a few convoys.

An American Airlines DC3 Passenger plane & US Mail carrier is also on display.  The DC3 was one of the greatest of all airplane designs.  It first flew in Dec., 1935 and some are still flying today.  Over 16,000 were built.

But my favorite is from the walkway looking down…

Technical information:  Shot 1 is f9, 1/20th of a second hand held, 16-35 f2.8 Canon EF USM lens using a 25mm focal length, no flash.

Shot 2 of the nose is f5.6, 1/50th of a second, 24-105mm lens at 55 mm focal length.

There is a lot more to see at the museum.  I hope each of you is interested and if you ever get to the Orange County Airport you have time to be a tourist and visit the Lyon Air Museum.

The next email should be photos from my trip from Seattle/Tacoma to Orange County Santa Ana John Wayne Airport.



[A few days later I sent 4 more photos from Lyons out.  Here they are.]

Nose art & a more general view of the B-17.

Front view & nose art of the B-25 General Lyon flew.

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