Everyone wants to know the story of Extreme Ross so before getting to that, here’s a quick history to get you started. A North Carolina native, I volunteered to go have everyone yell at me at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. After graduating in 1999, I went to pilot training and landed a job flying generals and senators in the C-21, a Learjet 35, based in Ramstein Air Base, Germany. After a few years of that, I interviewed for and was hired to fly the U-2 Dragonlady based at Beale Air Force Base in California. Besides a brief stint at a staff job roughing it in Hawaii, the U-2 was my home from 2005 to 2019, when I retired from Active Duty. I started bringing small point and shoot cameras with me early on and have gradually worked up to the Nikon D750 that I use today. A lot of trial and error (and many memory cards worth of photos) have been used to create the photos you see here
Ok, now to Extreme Ross. As with any pilot’s call sign or nickname, the stories vary depending on whether you’re talking to some buddies at the bar, or telling the story to your grandma. My stories vary from the short (I skydive(d), scuba dive, drive too fast, ski recklessly, etc) to much longer versions. The long version I’ll tell basically goes back to around 2002. The TV personality Ross Matthews used to do a bit on the Tonight Show called “Extreme Ross”. In it, he would do some sort of extreme sport (bungee jump, drag race, luge, etc). But the way each segment was announced by Jay Leno was “Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome…EXTREME ROSS!!!!” They would cut to a view of the audience jumping up and down wildly. One of my squadron mates, flying the mighty C-21 Learjet at the time, decided to start doing that every time I entered the room. It caught on and several years later, I was introduced to a future friend as Extreme Ross. That guy went on to fly U-2s and then introduced me as Extreme Ross to the rest of the U-2 community. Through a series of missteps (I won’t elaborate on) I had solidified my call sign as Extreme Ross.
Now I’m a mild mannered dad that’s not as Extreme (maybe) that just wants to take awesome photos. I’ve always wanted to bring my friends and family with me when I fly. In the C-21, I used to actually do that sometimes. I’ve discovered photography as the means to bring my world to everyone else. I’m always working on techniques to shoot and post process to create photos that make you say “wow!”