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Jim Koepnick

Coming full circle

Cirrus is a regular client. Here they race against the clock during an early morning shoot off the east coast of Florida, a favorite shooting location for the manufacturer. Photography by Jim Koepnick.
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Cirrus is a regular client. Here they race against the clock during an early morning shoot off the east coast of Florida, a favorite shooting location for the manufacturer. Photography by Jim Koepnick.

Longtime Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) photographer Jim Koepnick is as versatile as he is skilled. Which makes it all the more surprising that airplanes aren’t necessarily his passion. It’s the people in aviation he most connects with. “After about 40 years of photographing airplanes, it is a big part of my career and my life, and I am grateful for what it has given me, the doors it has opened for me, and the friendships that have formed over all of those years,” he said.

Koepnick is an Oshkosh, Wisconsin, area native who grew up loving photography. He started at the Oshkosh Northwestern newspaper in 1979 and learned aviation through covering EAA AirVenture. In 1984, he was hired as chief photographer at EAA where he worked for 28 years. Today, he’s freelancing for local media, aviation magazines, and as an ambassador for Sigma photo lenses. Koepnick’s career has grown from quick-turnaround photojournalism with a 35-mm camera to a range of formats and technologies at EAA, into the hybrid area with digital, to full digital, and now a range of artistic shoots as a brand ambassador. “I’ve sort of seen it all,” he said. “It makes me feel old, but it’s pretty cool.”

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koepnickphotography.com

Jim Koepnick

  • Jim Koepnick
    The blank background of Lake Poygan near Oshkosh makes a perfect canvas to show off Mike Hoy’s beautiful one-off Monosport 360. Mike Hoy in his Monosport 360. We just went up and played. There was no pressure, and we were just doing it for the fun of it. Getting the lightning effect on the prop is just a matter of getting the angle to the sun correct. Mike is in the top 10 of people I’ve ever shot with, and he knew what I wanted and delivered.”
  • Jim Koepnick
    Jim Koepnick. Shooting now for the weekly paper and convention bureau is fulfilling because I get to be more creative than I used to be. Even my Sigma lens partnership, who picked me up for aviation, has grown into street photo, portraits, and photojournalism. It lets my creativity run wild. It’s about capturing the moment. I think I did that in my early newspaper days, and I think I do it now with most of the freelance work I do. But I also think I do it with aviation photography. It’s not just a snap of a plane in the sky…it’s the moment the plane finds the right spot against the background; the moment the wing is at just the right angle; the moment the sun just kisses off the propeller.”
  • Jim Koepnick
    The Appleton International Airport at dawn, as seen from a lift. Shot for a local restaurant. Koepnick said the airport is an iconic part of the city. Shooting now for the weekly paper and convention bureau is fulfilling because I get to be more creative than I used to be. Even my Sigma lens partnership, who picked me up for aviation, has grown into street photo, portraits, and photojournalism. It lets my creativity run wild. It’s about capturing the moment. I think I did that in my early newspaper days, and I think I do it now with most of the freelance work I do. But I also think I do it with aviation photography. It’s not just a snap of a plane in the sky…it’s the moment the plane finds the right spot against the background; the moment the wing is at just the right angle; the moment the sun just kisses off the propeller.”
  • Jim Koepnick
    Mike Hoy, up close and personal, in a PT–23. Shot with a Sigma 60-600 mm at 295 mm and 1/80 of a second. I think of this in-your-face close-up as my classic look. When I developed it, we were going through magazines to see what others weren’t doing. Not everyone was shooting tight and getting full prop arcs back then. In focus was a plus at that point. For this shot, Sigma had given me a 60-600 mm lens. We were on our way back and I was experimenting more than anything. Everything just came together.”
  • Jim Koepnick
    F–22 during the EAA AirVenture night airshow. This was early in the morning at Sun ‘n Fun in 2012 going out to Lake Hancock to shoot. Flying with Bruce Moore, he popped his window up and I got this before we even got into position to start the shoot.”
  • Jim Koepnick
    Ted Davis spreads his arms with joy while flying his New Standard at the Brodhead fly-in. At the Brodhead fly-in I went up for a ride and thought it would be cool to shoot the pilot, Ted Davis. I was doing cool portraits of him shooting off to the side, and then coming back in he’s having fun, and he just put his arms out on a whim. I see that shot and know that I cut off the wrist and it’s not centered, but technically it doesn’t have to be correct if you like the feeling of it in the moment.”
  • Jim Koepnick
    Waco AGC-8 near Lakeland, Florida. This photograph won the award for Best of the Best from Aviation Week & Space Technology. This was early in the morning at Sun ‘n Fun in 2012 going out to Lake Hancock to shoot. Flying with Bruce Moore, he popped his window up and I got this before we even got into position to start the shoot.”
Ian J. Twombly
Ian J. Twombly
Ian J. Twombly is senior content producer for AOPA Media.

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