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on Sep 20, 2012 in Aviation

Pushing Yourself can Pay

At this point in time, shooting static aircraft at sunrise at Reno is kind of a slam dunk. The hardest part is getting up after only 4hrs of sleep. After that, you simply look at the clouds in the sky (or lack there of), the aircraft, and the story you want to tell and go to work. The vast majority of the time the gear is pretty cut and dry as well. The lens of choice for me has always been the 24-70AFS which I use along with my feet to get the gesture I want in the aircraft. This year, I’ve moved to the D800 for these shots because if everything goes as planned, I’ll be making BIG prints from the final image. The only other important tools are knee pads (getting old sucks) and the Really Right Stuff Ground Pod with BH-40 head. While I feel confident I can do this and produce a clean image, it’s not really helping my photography move forward. It’s all well within my comfort zone. One of my biggest fears is that my photography fails to progress, that I stop growing as a photographer.

It’s no secret I’m a warbird guy, I just love them birds! (I’ll have a story about them later.) I had a special project this past week that took me as far from warbirds as possible working with what I’ve always called “plastic” aircraft (which is really not fare of me). We saw September Fate our first morning at Reno and it instantly caught our eye. Its gull wing form takes you right back to the Corsair. The other thing that caught my attention is, it’s freakin small! I mean, I could never fit in it! There is only 4″ of ground clearance for the prop and your ass when in the aircraft, well lets just say pucker when you land! Making the shot of it was a challenge for many reasons. The first was, getting down low enough to shoot up on it. I needed that angle for a couple of reasons, the first to show off the wing design. Next was the light, making it show off the shape of the Fate. And lastly, to get the canopy to separate from the mtns in the background. Now this is the worst of the photographs I made that morning, can’t post the best until they are published but it really pushed my button to make those images! The key was to start with what I had so well practiced in my warbird images. Then I had to push past that comfort zone, go beyond the pretty picture to the advertising picture and then zero in on the heart strings. Then I had to get my ass off the tarmac, the most painful part!

The shooting is everything, that’s where I always put all my attention because I don’t crop, straighten, fix in post! I do finish and in both of these images, HDR was used, the top is Nik HDR Pro and the bottom was Photomatix. Why the two? I see and more importantly “feel” a difference in the final image based on how they were finished. Many ask how do I know? The answer is, I do it a lot and learn from my mistakes. I don’t have a formula. Russell Brown released a new Extension at Photoshop World so when you save your image as a TIFF, you click on the Extension and it opens the TIFF in ACR. To me this is HOT and gives us the power of ACR to finish the file really fast (Nik & Photomatix do the heavy lifting, not the finishing). I am sooooo thankful I got this project because while at first, I wasn’t thrilled with the idea, it pushed me and my photography and that is always, always a good thing!