Bill Spence


Bill Spence, another Pan Am Professional Flight Engineer/Pilot is a very interesting person whom I met him when I first moved to California to fly for Pan Am. He was a musician, who played guitar, but was not a vocalist or singer. We shared the same love of music so my wife and I decided to locate in the same city where Bill and his wife lived, and became long time friends.


He was learning to play guitar, but we didn't do a guitar photo in this series. We actually did a laid back retiree type picture because he had just retired from Pan Am. I can't locate the proof so we're just showing two photos here.


I introduced Bill to Judo, which I was studying in around 1968. Bill went far beyond Judo, studying both Tai Chi and Karate, and as you'll see below, he earned a black belt in Karate and did some instructing.


On his layover on Pan Am flights, he would practice Tai Chi in the hotel hallways near his room. Can you imagine leaving your room and coming face to face with someone in a Tai Chi stance? He said he knows he scared the hell out of a few people, and had to quickly get out of the stance and apologize.


With a 4 x 5 camera you can't just do a lot of fast shooting like you can with a 35 mm camera. You have one negative in place, then you get the focus at the point where you want the photo to be the sharpest. You have this hood over your head to block out the light so you can see the plate in order to get the focus right. Then as he delivers the punch you have to click the shutter at exactly the right millisecond.


In the photo below, I wanted to focus on his eyes and have his fist blurred to show the motion and power of the punch. This was right at the end of the very powerful punch where it would connect with the opponent. And he is doing the Kei, or sound that ties the whole body together as the punch is thrown.


We had to practice this a number of times because he had to take two steps to get to the point of throwing the punch and his face/body had to end up at the exact focal point that we had chosen; And much of this was being done under the hot lights. You may be able to see that he has worked up a sweat.


There is continuous motion up to the point where the fist reaches the opponents body, which is where the fist is in the photo. It was worth the hard work he did because we ended up with what I feel is a great shot.

In the Pan Am pilot uniform photo, I see what appears to be a friendly, mild mannered, and professional looking Pan Am pilot that most people would look at and say " I would be comfortable flying on a plane with this pilot".


In the black belt karate photo, I see a completely different person. One who is extremely focused and controlled, who could "ruin your day" if you pushed him too far. However, Bill is a mild mannered, gentle fun loving person, who becomes focused in whatever he chooses to do.

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