Servicio Nacional Aeronaval de Panama - Shooting with Panama's Pilots

All this week I'm in the Republic of Panama. Panama is one of my absolute favorite places in the world, and I'm so happy to be back after two full years away.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of shooting the pilots and crew of the Servicio Nacional Aeronaval de Panama, or SENAN. SENAN is part of the Fuerza Pública de la República de Panamá, meaning the Panama Public Force , and is the national security force of Panama.

Agusta AW139 departing Tocumen on a mission

Besides national security types of missions, the pilots and crews of SENAN fly medevac missions throughout the nation, search-and-rescue, drug-interdiction, and cargo missions, among other things.

Cessna Caravan departing for a medevac mission

Yesterday afternoon I headed out to the SENAN base, near the cargo terminal at Tocumen International Airport, and we began moving aircraft around for the shoot. We would be doing some group photos and a few individual portraits, and I photographed some of the regular movements of aircraft and crews arriving and departing throughout the afternoon.

It was evening, and overcast, so I decided to skip lighting and stay light and flexible. It was a risky move because it's a departure from my regular shooting style, but with all the activity on the ramp I needed to stay mobile for both safety and to not miss any shots. Sometimes doing things different is good, it was nice to have the freedom to turn around for a quick shot and not move a dozen lights to do so.

We began the shoot in the briefing room. I photographed a simulated crew briefing, and they spoke of the group photos we'd be doing while everybody was present. I focused in on the flags and patches in many shots to keep the context, the room was surprisingly well-lit for having only florescent lighting, so that helped me focus on just shooting.

After the briefing shoot, I headed back out to the flightline to help coordinate the aircraft positioning for the large group shots. We'd be shooting with the Aeronaval hangar, and several SENAN aircraft in the background - essentially taking over most of the ramp in the process. With so many different aircraft types in the fleet, we settled on placing an Agusta AW-139 on the left, a Cessna Caravan in the middle, and Bell 212 on the right.

When we finished with the group shots I went into individual portrait shots, and candid shots of the operation as the crews went about mission preparations and aircraft launches. I was impressed and surprised with the amount of flight activity constantly going on. I don't think a moment passed without an aircraft arriving, departing, preparing to depart, etc. Including a US government aircraft that departed shortly after we started shooting, a P-3 from US Customs and Border Protection.

The whole shoot was a lot of fun and the full cooperation of the pilots and crews of SENAN made everything go smoothly. Thank you Talito for helping coordinate everything. For more information about the Servicio Nacional Aeronaval de Panama you can check out their website HERE.


  1. Great shots! I have much interest in these small latin american air arms and your pics of Panama's AW139 and Caravan aircraft are the best i could find.

  2. Thank you, I can honestly say that I had a lot of fun shooting it

  3. Dear Matthew, can you contact me pm please?


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