Capturing the World from the Sky: Renowned Aerial Photographer Jay Miller Shares His Craft at the 2019 Jalonick Lecture Series
Capturing a beautiful shot at just the right angle at just the right time with just the right lighting is challenging enough, but doing it while hanging out of an airplane can only be pulled off by someone accomplished and experienced in aviation photography – like Jay Miller.
Miller, an award-winning aviation photojournalist specializing in air-to-air and interior photography, spoke to around 200 guests at this year’s George W. Jalonick III and Dorothy Cockrell Jalonick Memorial Distinguished Lecture Series held in the UT Dallas Davidson Gundy Ballroom on Saturday, Sept. 14. During his talk, “The Art and Science of Aviation Photography,” Miller discussed the history of aviation photography, issues related to safety and the risky business of aerial photography and showed the audience select pieces of his equipment – including gyrostabilizers, harnesses, tethers and communication headgear – all to illustrate the unique requirements for what he does for a living.
After welcoming guests to the 31st Jalonick Lecture, Dr. Ellen Safley, dean of the Eugene McDermott Library, talked about The University of Texas at Dallas’ rich history and the important part the McDermott Library is playing in the University’s 50th anniversary by offering faculty, students, staff and the community events such as the Jalonick Lecture.
The Jalonick Lecture Series, hosted by the McDermott Library’s Special Collections and Archives Division, was established by George W. Jalonick IV and his wife, Mary McDonough Jalonick in honor of George’s parents whose names the lecture bears. Their goal was to enlighten and inform the community about aviation history by bringing aviation specialists to campus.
“You’re in for a treat today,” Safley said before introducing Miller to the stage. “Jay told me a couple of months ago that he is one of approximately 15 people globally who hangs out of airplanes taking pictures with the heaviest equipment you can imagine, and he has my admiration for that. He uses state-of-the-art equipment that many people might covet to take his stunning photographs.”
To say hanging out of an airplane taking photos is a unique and risk-taking career choice not for the faint of heart is an understatement, but Miller told the audience he may have been destined for this profession because of his passion for aviation and photography aided by his father’s encouragement. His father served in the Air Transport Command during World War II aboard C-46’s, C-47’s and C-54’s.
“My dad wasted no time introducing me to airplanes,” Miller said as a slide showing the two of them together when Miller was only 1-year-old appeared on the screen. “He was an in-flight engineer and accumulated well over 2,500 hours during that time, primarily in North Africa and while flying missions across the Atlantic to South America.”
His career as an aviation photographer started during the late 1960s while writing a weekly aviation column for the Odessa American, his hometown newspaper. At the time equipped only with an old Argus C3, he did his best to cover the local aviation scene and produce images suitable for the stories he was writing. As his passion grew for the field, he upgraded to Nikon F3s and a variety of Nikkor lenses.
Miller, who has shot photos not just from airplanes, but also helicopters, hot air balloons, sailplanes and high-performance military fighters, showed the audience some of his favorite aircraft photos taken throughout his 50-year career, among them a beautiful sunset shot of Red Bull’s polished aluminum Lockheed P-38 “Lightning.”
His career has taken him to many different places across the globe and he has had the privilege of meeting many different people while photographing everything from promotional materials to office decorations to technical or historical documentation to publication art.
“I do a lot of work with the doors off of my aircraft, either that or the canopy is off or we open the doors, or on occasion I shoot out of the baggage compartments and take the baggage compartment doors off. It’s a little more cramped, but when that’s all you’ve got, you go with it,” Miller said.
The Texas-based aviation photographer is also a historian, journalist and author who has written 36 books and more than 1,000 newspaper and magazine articles. Miller is also the retired director of the American Airlines C.R. Smith Museum and the retired director of Paul Allen’s Flying Heritage Collection. He has appeared on numerous television programs including 60 Minutes and the Wings series on Discovery Channel.
Miller has received many accolades for his writing and photography including the International Society for Aviation Photography George Hall Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018. The award recognizes outstanding individuals whose initiative and dedication to aviation photography has improved the profession and positively influenced others.
Image: Photo by Jay Miller
Come see Jay Miller’s photographs!
Selected photographs from Miller’s archive are on exhibit in the Nebula Gallery on the third floor of the library in Room MC 3.504 through Oct. 23, 2019. Visit the gallery between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday to view the “The Art and Science of Aviation Photography” Exhibit.