“Why did you go that way?” Damn good question for lots that I have pursued with a camera over time. The Cockpit Panos we’ve posted seem to be the cause of a lot of work time spent lost goofin with them. At the same time, questions keep coming in with this being the latest. Why? The answer was pretty simple when you look at my early cockpit portraits. OK, light is OK and the clouds so so but then what? You really can’t get a feel for the cockpit since you don’t feel like you’re sitting in it. You can really read any of the instruments. It’s, just there! Thought shot with the same 16Fish, you the viewer don’t really get much an experience from it and that’s the whole idea.
Both of these are hand held HDRs, 5 image captures taken at f/2.8 because I was too lazy to get a tripod. That’s because I knew that the end results would be what you see here. What you’re seeing here is the Lone Star Flight Museum’s DC-3, a gorgeous plane you see on the airshow circuit. You’ve got the main cabin and the cockpit here. As the viewer of the image, how are you to get a feel for this romantic period in flight from these photos? (Can you imagine getting our carry-ons on this plane?) It was parked in a hangar when I made these clicks and there sure is a lot more PS craft then camera craft in these couple of images. Since that’s not my style and they really don’t convey the whole experience, I had to find a better what of communicating that experience. That’s how I went looking for what we now call our cockpit panos.
Yeap, I think my FlightTrack map for February pretty much confirms, I’m on the road a helluva lot. Many are now thinking about their travels for 2012 as well, I know because I get the emails asking what to take and how to carry it. This has always been one of the top five questions emailed to me. A vast majority of my site is devoted to help answer this question. You can find what camera gear I have and what I take on projects on the Moose’s Gear page. You can see what I take for wildlife, you can see what I take for aviation, you can see what I take for landscapes and what I take just around town. Not only is there a list of the gear, but nearly every piece of gear has a text explanation as well as a video. These are not sales pitches, these are just explanations why I have this tools with me. You don’t have to own any of this gear to be successful, it’s just what I’ve found works for me. As for the travel, that’s not necessary for success either. I’m just very fortunate I get to follow my passion to many locales either sharing them with others teaching or posting images here on the blog.
The phone rings, Paul’s on the other end wanting to know if we’re home, they want to drop by and give me something. When the flight director of the Space Shuttle Program who lives in TX says he wants to drop by, you make sure you are home! We had done an air to air shoot with Paul & his lovely wife Louise in their RVs a couple of month back and as I always do, I sent them like I send all pilots prints as a thank you for their time and skill. They came over and we talked for a while, got caught up on plane stuff and made some new plans for 2012. Paul had walked in with apparently nothing in his hands so my mind was wondering what was up. Then Paul reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out something which he placed in my hand. “We had a couple of these made up special using metal that flew in the Shuttle for a few million miles” he says as he lets the challenge coin drop in my hand. WOW!
It is really easy for me to pull heartstrings when I throw up a photo of a bunny. Everyone loves Peter Cottontail so it’s easy to hit home. I can throw up some moody shot of a landscape with a little color here, a rock there and clouds everywhere and most of the time it hits its mark in the heart. But throw up a photo of a craft made of metal (or in this case plastic) and grabbing the heartstrings has a whole new challenge about it. It’s been a week of gift receiving with plane owners sending a book they created about the restoration of their aircraft in which I was involved in, an Air2Air Workshop student sending a gorgeous calendar of his images to say thanks, a facility manager thanking me for an article and then the challenge coin. It all comes from a passion for photography AND sharing it!
I firmly believe the #1 person who must be thrilled with your photography is YOURSELF! I’m not suggesting we fall in love with every click but I am saying we must be in love with photography and our photography for where it is at this moment in time. We should be able to grab our own heartstrings with our clicks so that we not only find enjoyment for what we did today, but find the inspiration for what we want to do tomorrow. That’s how you keep the passion alive!
I also believe that this process only succeeds when we get past our satisfaction and start reaching out and touching others with our photos. I’m not talking about those comments you receive when you post your image to some web group, I’m talking about placing your image in the hands of someone and all you see is that smile. You know what I’m talking about, you’ve all seen it, that warm smile that comes from the heart. That’s when you know, you know you are reaching out and saying something with your photograph. Paul wanting to fly with me again was thanks enough, telling me two of my prints hang on his office wall in Houston, that’s over the top! But to come all this way to put that coin in my hand…. And then when the recipient of your photo is so moved by them that they in return feel they need to give you something in return, well, there simply are no words for that satisfaction.
It is truly easy to get wrapped up in the latest gear, newest post product or technique but don’t ever forget that it’s the passion that you put into that click that is revealed with all of that stuff in that final image! While we don’t hit the mark every time, it really only takes those couple that hit the bullseye dead center to keep you clicking to reach that point one more time. While gifts are great and a tangible means of knowing you’ve reached your goal, the best gifts often go unspoken except by the heart. Don’t let f/stop and shutter speed get in the way of the main target of your photography and that’s reaching out and telling the story of your great fortune to others. Remember, heartstrings are the target!
One of the ways I try to push my photography forward is to look at previous images. I routinely do this when I’m about to head out for a shoot. Be it wildlife, landscapes, people, aviation, I find ways I can improve by looking at images I’ve already taken. Just gotta push constantly, I don’t know any other way. Right now, I’m getting my presentations for the next two months prepped and created so I’m looking at my files for teaching images. Looking for images that are before and afters, showing the ying and the yang as it were. It never fails that when I do that, I see a couple of images that didn’t catch my imagination at the time but do now. Ever do that, ever wonder why?
I know for myself, this typically happens simply because of emotions. There are always images that represent for me that moment of shooting which, after the emotional high calms down, other images with subtle impact can be seen. One issue I have is a shoot so much all the time, I don’t afford myself the luxury of time to always go back and look for those images. That’s why I always look forward to and allow extra time when looking for teaching images. I always find those images missed before.
These are just three of the images I came across yesterday pulling images for presentations that fit this category. While what you see is what I saw in the viewfinder when I went click, they didn’t have the finishing polish yet. Looking at “older” images, I tend to look at them with my current digital darkroom finishing eyes. That makes a huge difference because more and better ways to pull out subtle detail (lots of subtle detail adds up to being drama) is becoming available to us like this:
Along with that, Nik’s Color Efex 4 has vast improvements which I like. These three images were all finished using CEP4′s Detail Enhancer & Pro Contrast. Those two filters brought out the subtle detail I was looking for to make them pop. One of the best things about photography is the knowledge that tomorrow, we will be better photographers. The trick is to recognize those little things that do make us better and to keep working on learning from yesterday. Well, I’ve gotta get back to pulling images for new lessons to teach…
We are constantly amazed at the growing base of fans of my aviation work has brought us. Thanks! Many had asked a few weeks back about upcoming articles I had coming out. I wanted to let you know about this one because you can download the issue for free on your iPad if you’re not already subscribing to Aeroplane. You’ll want the March, 2012 issue. Enjoy!
Like many of you, I anxiously await the arrival of the D4 in my office. I have not been fortunate to hold or see one of the IP models that is in the states. I have received no less then just shy of 2000 emails asking me various questions about the D4. I truly wish I had all the answers right now, I really, really, really do but I don’t. I can answer some of the more general ones though like, “Did you sell your D3s (2 of them) in anticipation of the D4?” That’s a duh, having 5 camera bodies is a bit overkill. So that’s a yes, D3s out (all but 1) and D4s in. “What feature in the D4 makes you want to buy one?” It’s new! Sorry, cheap shot. I have a critter project where high ISO video would make the difference between getting the data the researchers need. So that’s a done deal for me. And a personal note, having the metering switch removed from the prism to me is worth the $6k, it drives me nuts on the D3 series! “Will the investment in the D4 make you money?” I don’t know but if it get’s the answers the researchers need for the critter then it’s worth its price 100 fold! “Are you going to get rid of your D3x?” Probably not, it’s what we use for all our cockpit panos. “Do you recommend the D4 to other photographers?” While I understand where this question is coming from, how can I recommend something not in my hands yet. “Do you know when it will be released?” I do not have that information but B&H is saying sometime mid to late February. You can preorder your D4 now and if you want it sooner rather then later, preorder now! Another common question is if I will create a D4 website like I did for the D3? Right now, I doubt it and the main reason is because there are so many other great resources now for that so I can put my time into other educational, informational resources for you in regards to the photographic problems the D4 can solve. After today’s Google+ live broadcast from Scott Kelby and the NPS guys, it is obvious there is a TON of features in the D4 that were left out of the brochure and spec sheet. I can honestly say that now, two weeks after the announcement of the D4, I am excited and anxious to get one. Come on Mr Ups…drop one off soon!
Nobody tells the story of a person’s soul in a click like Joe McNally. Period! He’s now taken his incredible talent from stills to video in The Blues in His Shoes. You just simply got watch it. But I bet you can’t watch just once! Oh, and be sure to check out the AMAZING still he took at the bottom of this page.
My bud RC has the perfect answer for those wanting to print but don’t have the budget for the Epson 4900 or 7900. Check out this intro video and the rest RC produced on the Epson R3000, a really excellent printer! Here’s where you can find all of RC’s videos on the R3000. And you might wanna check out RC’s blog post yesterday where he rips off and tells the world how I ship my prints, before I go to!
the best part of a snow storm is when the sun comes back out.
When multiple storms blow through the Sierra, winds plays a big part of the whole process. We typically know a storm is coming because winds proceed it. When we have multiple storms, the wind still comes but as it goes over the Sierra crest, it tends to create windows in the clouds. And these are just great subjects for B&W photography. I’m incredibly fortunate that I can, just like I did here, watch out the windows and when I see the light happening, step out and shoot. How do I know when to step out and shoot?
I look first for some blue sky and then a pattern between that blue and the clouds. I do this because I know this pattern when I do to B&W is what brings the eye into the frame. The Structure slider in Silver Efex Pro pulls out amazing texture and I’ve come to rely on that in these types of images. I first use the blue slider under the Luminance Tab in ACR to darken the blue sky which sets up the contrast with the white. This brings the drama to the B&W. It’s pretty much that simple.
“The driest winter since 1933.” That’s what was said about our winter here in the Sierra until Friday. We started off with rain which turned to a brief freezing rain then snow we call Sierra Cement. It gets called that because its moisture content is so great that other then looking like snow, you’d think it was water. It’s a horribly heavy slush that’s just murder to move. But photographically it works wonders. Sierra cement sticks like glue to trees and stays stuck until we have a real warm day. Snow on trees is critical in my book when photographing “winter.” Looking out the office window, the view is so calming it makes it hard to work. Photographically, it’s a real simple click that is then brought into ACR where I clean up the whites that are then finished in Silver Efex Pro (which was just updated). mtc
Our Cockpit Panos have become quite popular. We posted two new ones over the weekend, once from a Stinson V-77 Gullwing and another from Super Corsair #74. I really love the “steering wheels” in the Gullwing and truly appreciate the history in #74. I’ve been flooded with one question, “How did I light these cockpits?” It’s all done with one SB-900. Prior to actually making the pano, I determine the lighting for the entire cockpit using just the one flash. Why just one flash? Since I’m using a 16Fish, any type of lighting system would be seen in the frame. At the same time, most cockpits don’t have a whole bunch of space for much more then one flash. Some have asked for a behind the scene video which would be a great idea. That’s if I had a recipe to offer you but at this time I don’t. My original post lists what I suggest you can use to get started if this intrigues you. I was surprised how many emails I received asking about the gear used to create these. That’s listed below again. Thanks for all the love notes. Don’t fret, there are a lot more coming!
This country has known many great heros who have made it possible for us to enjoy the freedoms we have today. One group of men played a part in not just winning a war, but changing minds. It is amazing to me that today, their battle still seems to be on going. Even when one of the men was interned today in Arlington. The Movie Red Tails is released today telling the story of the Tuskegee Airmen and their contributions to WWII. I guess what amazes me that even after their sacrifice for their country, our country, it was so hard for Hollywood to get behind Lucas bringing out this story. There are many ways you can learn more about the Tuskegee Airmen. You might want to see the movie, I can highly recommend you check out the CAF Red Tail Project especially when you find them at an airshow. Learn for yourself this part of our history and make up your mind just how it impacted the world we live in today!
It’s very exciting to have more and more folks contacting me with questions about aviation photography. There are a lot of you out there and that’s great. While it’s not as many questions as I get about wildlife, but plane sightings are a little more reliable then birds since birds tend to just keep on going. So the exchange of information is two way and enjoyable. With my air to air photography getting more and more attention, more are asking what equipment is required to successfully pull one off. Keep in mind I’m a newbie to this, my first air to air was just two years ago this month, a T6 shoot over the Sierra on the cover of the current issue of Trade-a-Plane. I’ve done 26 photo missions now and I still am learning but I want to answer this common question. What gear is needed? This is my basic shooting gear is D3x w/70-200VR2 and TC-17e and D3s w/24-70 both on Sun Sniper straps.
Here’s the reasons for my selection because it’s not what you have to use. The D3x with the 70-200VR2 & TC-17e are my primary shooting system. The reason is because of the amazing amount of detail the D3x captures. Seeing every rivet is important to me so if I make a sharp capture, then they are all there. A drawback to the D3x I truly appreciate and think of as an asset shooting air to air and that’s the slow FPS. That because it forces me to slow down and make the shot. I get way to excited and it’s real easy for me to just hit the hammer with the thrill of the whole adventure and fill the buffer. Even with my selective “sniper” shooting, I still fill the buffer. It’s at those times or, when doing a move that I know will go fast like dragging a plane down the runway like this F2G-2 Super Corsair, I pull out the D3s with it’s 9FPS. The lens choices are pretty simple. The 70-200 w/TC-17e permit me to have the subject aircraft a little further away from the photo platform. That extra space provides a little more safety and at the same time more flexibility in the subject aircraft to perform other maneuvers. The 24-70 is just a pretty standard air to air lens permitting you to photograph the whole aircraft. Both rigs are strapped which are strapped to me so nothing goes out the door. That includes me who has his ass safety harnessed to the floor.
There are many other options you can use with great success, you don’t have to use these bodies or lenses. That’s one of the cool things about aviation photography, camera gear wise you can have pretty minimal gear and still capture killer results. There is one other piece of gear that’s must and that’s where the budget takes a hit. That’s the shooting platform. The one I use the most is a A36 Bonanza owned and flown by my bud and PIC “Flydaddy.” One thing I do differently is I actually have two PICs in that the second seat is another great pilot Scottie (who just piloted the first test flight of the new Cessna Ten, congrats!) who’s job is to choreograph both aircraft to maneuver according to the shot list Scottie and I went over prior to the flight. The plane and pilots just isn’t something you can order from B&H and take with you in your carry on. I hope this answers your questions and gets you more excited about getting involved is this amazing photography. If you want an idea where to start, you might take a gander at the Kelby Training class is did on aviation photography. Hope to see you on the flight line!
Many have asked what the lack of snow in the Sierra this winter will do to the wildlife. It’s a valid question considering a week ago we had wildfire warnings in the middle of winter! As of right now, we have zero snow on our property. There is a prediction of big snow this weekend. We need all the moisture we can get but will it be enough? How will it effect the wildlife? I really don’t know those answers. Typically winter causes issues with my projects by raining them out. That has not been an issue this year. This photo from our San Joaquin Kit Fox project was shot two years ago and shows the normal winter scene, dead grass, In a few months, if the rain comes the grasses will turn green and the pups will emerge from the den. And if not, the real possibility that not all the pups will survive. As for the Sierra, the lack of snow right now means no water this summer. That causes two things possibly, less fishing and poorer fall color. Water is a vital resource, hopefully this weekend we’ll get some really needed snow. Time will tell.
I just got this in…thought I would share it with you. The video below tell you how I use this product.
I run a photography deals site called PhotoWhoa and we just partnered with Tal Ninio at PSKiss for a really large discount on their software until the end of the week – basically, $59 for a $130 product for a few more days. Since you did previously recommend their software, I thought it might be good to let you know about this. The deal page is here: