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on Nov 3, 2010 in Friday Thoughts

Lessons of the Osprey

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In many ways, I’m like a little kid on Christmas even when I’m out shooting. The night before a shoot, my mind is busy thinking about what I’m going to shoot and after I think through all the possibilities, problems, solutions and the gear I have packed, the excitement of the shoot grabs hold. Often I can’t sleep for hours if it’s something I’ve long wanted to photograph. Be it a location, a critter or in this case an aircraft, the knowledge of the possibility of making images of it the next day just kicks on the little kid switch. When we were in Oshkosh in July and I was told the next morning the V-22 Osprey would be flying in and its flight path was right over our campsite, I was so excited! I have no clue why this very unconventional aircraft has so caught my imagination but it has. In case you aren’t up on your aircraft, this is a plane that can take off and land like a helicopter. It’s pretty darn cool, it’s pretty darn weird, it’s pretty and I was going to be able to photograph it the next day. I couldn’t wait. The next morning I woke up and looked out the tent and my heart sank. It was foggy with a solid overcast above that. Not the optimal backdrop for a military gray aircraft.

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Right on que, the Osprey flew in and as you can see, I photographed it. You might also notice these photos are on my site. Some of my more observant and inquisitive readers pick up on these things at time and ask the very valid question, why? Why take the photos, why file the images, why edit them and why revisit them when time is so precious? Whether you’re photographing a pond, a leaf, a lizard, an elk, a sparrow, or eagle or plane or football player, be it your passion or someone else’s there are always lessons to learn. Those learned lessons will most definitely some day save your butt so you are ready to make the photo of the subject. The trick is to learn and if you don’t shoot when it sucks or if you delete images that don’t work, how can you learn? At least for myself, I have to revisit mistakes, unsuccessful images to move my photography forward. Storage space is dirt cheap so I keep sharp images that fall in this category. So what did I learn from the Osprey?

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The first thing I wanted to know was what shutter speed to use to blur the props/rotors. If you do a quick search on the web for photos of the V-22, you’ll see the blades are normally frozen like a model hung from the ceiling on string. One key aspect of photography many miss is, we are often photographing living, moving subjects at 1/500sec. We’re freezing life that’s bursting to move! Aircraft when in the air need to appear and feel in the photograph as if they are flying so blurred props/rotors are a must for me. These photos where taken in Shutter Speed priority at 1/90 and I’m not really pleased with the blur (click here for reference). When it comes to post processing, the one think that bugged me was the color cast. It was a dirty blue/tan like a smoggy morning in Los Angeles. I have a number of methods in my arsenal for removing color cast and for aviation, I prefer using Nik’s Color Efex Pro White Neutralizer. There is no guess work with it and it’s really, really fast. By having “bad” images like this in which I need to find a “fix” to make lemonade, I have all these tools when the time comes to make an image work. All of this comes from a discussion I had with a photographer yesterday again stressing that deleting all your “bad” images can be a bad idea. We never have all the answers, we never make the great click, we are all, always learning and there is still no better place to learn then in our own images. I have an opportunity shortly to again photograph the Osprey and with the photo gods willing, I’ll have the right conditions to put to use what I’ve learned from the past.

Photos captured by D3x, 200-400VR2 on Lexar UDMA digital film