When Liz Kaszynski rides in Lockheed Martin fighter jets, she is far more than just a passenger. She is the company's aerial photographer, taking pictures of the planes high in the sky as they fly in complicated formations. (Nicki DeMarco/The Washington Post)


The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter doesn’t have a lot in common with a cheeseburger. But when it’s time to shine for the camera, both are set up to look their best. Food photographers have been known to gussy up their patties with a dousing of hairspray so that its radiance whets the appetite. The F-35 gets choreographed in a stunning aerial ballet, designed to elicit awe, if not drool.

Like other fighter jet manufacturers, Lockheed Martin has a team of photographers and videographers to record images of the planes it produces. They pose them at dawn and dusk, against mountains and over oceans.

Photographers such as Liz Kaszynski chase the jets in trail planes, documenting test flights and training missions—at high speed and altitude. But at other times, she calls the shots, a director with a camera, calling for a barrel roll here, a dive there, all documented in a sequence of prepared moves.

“You’re looking to get the dynamic action shots,” she said. “You want them maneuvering. You want them going vertical, popping their flares, showing the excitement of what fighter jets do.”

The company has a massive archive of shots of gorgeous planes that don’t always receive the best publicity. The F-35 in particular has long been targeted by critics, who see the $400 billion program as a wasteful example of government procurement gone awry.

But sometimes the best way to counter the criticism is by letting the plane speak for itself, in image after beautiful image, where at supersonic speed trouble seems to slip away. Most of the pictures of the plane in flight have been taken by Lockheed photographers, which the company distributes for free. And so Kaszynski’s work has graced everything from the covers of magazines, to company brochures, ads and blogs.

“I see it all over,” she said.

Here are some examples of Kaszynski's work:

F-22 Raptors at Hickam AFB, Hawaii. Source: Lockheed Martin


BF-1 Flight 14. Pilot Graham Tomlinson. 2nd time opening all of the STOVL doors. (Source: Lockheed Martin)


F-22 Raptors at Hickam AFB, Hawaii. (Source: Lockheed Martin)