The weather finally broke so at 05:15 Sharon and I were at Mono Lake with the new 800f5.6 AFS on my shoulder. I had my typical setup, Gitzo 5562GTS, Wimberley WH-200 with Moose Cam (Contour, with the only change being shooting with the D800 as my D4 and half of my gear is in for their annual CLA at Nikon. I was happy as a pig in clam shit to be out shooting critters! It was a brisk morning but not even a stitch of wind with clear skies. With the dirt still wet from the “storm” that went through, I figured the critters would be out and busy, making up for the days of snow, hail and rain. We walked and walked, looked and looked, nothing! Seriously?!
Carrying the rig over my shoulder as I always have, I swear it felt a little lighter than with the 600AFS but I know that’s because the 800mm rig is slightly better balanced on my shoulder. With time to kill, I started to check simple things like, how close can I get with the 800mm and focus on a critter? Manually focusing, I can be 18′ away from a subject and have it sharp. This is not how close it focuses with autofocus, but manually which is what I do most of the time when up close. At this distance at f/5.6, the DOF is bloddy narrow as I discovered when the first Violet-green Swallow appeared. Now being the middle of May, there should be a bucket load at the Tufas but all we had was this one. So as the sun came over the horizon, I had it in my sights and started to shoot. I was way too far away but it was the first bird we’d seen this morning so I wasn’t waiting. I wanted to photograph some critters in the worst way!
OK, I got a little closer, made some more clicks and then it flew off. Bastard! So there we stood, in the gorgeous light with no one to play with. So we kept walkin, lookin, checking all the normal haunts for swallows but with none in the air, I was feeling a little low. Then we came across some Canadian Geese with goslings! Goslings already, pretty big ones no less. While cute and all, shooting them with the 800mm seemed, well, a little anticlimactic after waiting three days to shoot so we just watched them as they strolled by. It was a gorgeous morning at Mono Lake though, looked like I should have been after landscapes rather than critters. We continued walking….
About 45min after sunrise and the nip disappeared from the air, I started to hear the swallows but didn’t see any. Then one came in from high above and landed. I now had two and then, lucky for me, a female showed up! Yeap, being spring and all, soon we had male swallows coming from everywhere to woo the one female and I could finally go to work. The swallows perch on the Tufas for brief periods as they do flight displays, fight with each other, all those male things they do in spring to get the attention of the female. The 800AFS had zero problems focusing from perch to perch as the swallows moved about. The AF speed is great and when the opportunity afforded itself, I would walk in slowly to get as close as I could to continue shooting. Only once did I walk too close that I couldn’t focus. That doesn’t count all the times the swallows landed so close I couldn’t focus no matter what. And was the Moose Cam on all of this time? It was running, I just haven’t edited it to post.
Sharon then saw another group of swallows on another set of Tufas so we wandered over to them. This is where I struck gold and had a male land on a Tufa right in front of me after taking a bath. For five or six minutes it groomed its feathers while calling to the other swallows flying by. On top of the Wimberley, the 800mm was real easy and fast to swing around to keep up with the action. You must be wondering if I was chimping all this time to see the results? Nope, didn’t check them until getting back to the office a short time ago and could see them on the 24HD Cintiq. That’s when I was blown away by the spooky sharpness of the 800AFS! I mean, this is one very sharp lens! It is also very obvious that the DOF at MFD is nothin, not even from the tip of the bill to the back of the eye on the swallow. Well, with these images in the can and the light getting hard, we started walking back towards the truck.
We spent time where we normally see Least Chipmunks but they didn’t want to play. Looked for the cottontail rabbits, none to be found. We kept walking back up the path. As were strolling up looking about, I heard the distinctive twitter (song not social media) of a Green-tailed Towhee. A second later saw it singing from the top of a big Tufa. While not a great perch, I walked to it. Then a female flew up from below it and they were off flying through the sage. I was just about to move on when the male came back and perched on a much better, smaller Tufa. I made a couple of clicks and moved closer. Made a couple of more clicks and then it sang! Those are the shots I love to get in spring.
For the next ten minutes I was able to work the towhee, getting closer and refining the background. The 800mm focal length has always been my favorite because of the ease of manipulating the background, in this case grabbing rabbit brush way off in the distance just getting its spring green. Now as my good friend Kevin pointed out this morning, the 600AFS with 1.4x gets you to the same place and this is true. Well, not too long that female reappeared and my subject jetted off through the sage in hot pursuit once again. So ended my first outing with the new 800AFS lens. Sitting now at my desk looking at the results, there is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that Nikon did an amazing job with this lens! This morning’s shoot was just with the 800mm itself, I didn’t attach any teleconverters to it. I will in due time but for now, I want to learn just what the lens will do on its own. mtc.
Yeap, while it was snowin outside, I was in my comfortable chair working on images from the weekend on the new Wacom 13HD. I thought while I was there, I’d record a little more on how I make use of this marvelous and important tool in my digital darkroom.
After posting a photo of the B-26, I received an email from a reader. It told telling me about his father, a WWII vet and B-26 pilot who really liked the photo I had blogged. I sent the dad two prints of the aircraft, a small gesture of thanks for his service. …this is why we must share our photography!
I wanted to let you know my father received the prints you mailed him. They are absolutely gorgeous and he was so excited and happy to see them. He pours over every detail and keeps telling me what a good airplane that was. I asked him what he liked best about flying. He got very still and quite for a long minute, then smiled and said “cloud hopping, the sense of speed”. For a moment he was back in 1942, young and strong and confident, a 21 year old Citadel cadet, flying the most advanced aircraft in the world with all of life still ahead of him. He wasn’t just remembering his youth he was reliving it, feeling what he felt over 70 years ago. What is such a moment worth when you are 92, nearing the end and in constant pain from arthritis and cancer? Everything.
Spring weird weather is going to make it great!
Call Sharon 760.924.8632 / 661.204.1506
I DIDN’T even see this photo! One of the BEST parts of the weekend was shooting with my favorite partner, our son Jake. He is always looking for the something different photographically to tell the story and does a great job of finding it. And thankfully, he shares with me what he finds. In looking for those photos that says Lightning Strikes Chino which is the theme of the airshow, this image does a pretty cool job of it. This is the P-38L “Glacier Girl” and the Chino tower just as the sun is thinking about making an appearance. It’s again another simple click from the morning, shot with D4 / 18-35 with the image right out of the camera. I just to thank Jake for sharing with dad what he sees and having the great willingness allowing me to take the same basic image. I realize he got the best one, but I like mine too
Jake & I got the Sunrise Pass for the Planes of Fame airshow and so glad that we did! You have to get to the flight line by 05:00 which is some time before the sun rises so you have some time to kill. We started to walk the line looking for possible opportunities even though there was no, zero, nada sunlight even hinted on the horizon. We got up to the P-38s which are the theme of the show and started to scratch out heads wondering what if ….
So with the D4 / 18-35 on at the RRS Tripod, I dialed in -3 exp comp and went click. I hit the LCD and wow…cool! The sodium vapor city light way off in the distance were doing this cool magenta wash thing in the thick cloud cover. The D4′s AWB nailed the color balance of the field lamps so I just had to design the photo in the viewfinder and go click. These are simple images right out of the camera.
No, these are not your typical aviation photos. No, I won’t be making prints of these images and putting them up on my wall. But when you have nothing to loose, clicking can often pay off. I mean, the worst thing that could happen is you delete the file. But the most is you simply have a little fun trying something a little different. And since I am different, it fits right in with me. You simply never know!
This is a very common and understandable question that I receive. I was asked it a lot this week as many are heading out to airshows. So I thought I’d cap the most common ways I like to put action in my stills. Realizing most learn best from watching rather than reading, you can head to my Kelby Class on Aviation Photography for more in depth explanations. But just because you see planes here, these techniques apply to ALL moving subjects! Start with understanding that shooting unrestricted is essential! My airshow set up this year is the lightest ever consisting of the D4, 80-400AFS and 18-35AFS and that’s all. I love it being so light as that permits me to easily carry it all in my slingbag along with iPad (to show previous images to pilots) and business cards (to give pilots). The less you carry, the more mobile you are, the more mobile and limber you are, the sharper the photos and better composed they are (here is a complete listing of the gear that’s with me, most in the vehicle just in case). With that in mind, here are some tips that you can apply to any action photography and in particular airshows.
Put yourself in relationship to the action in a position where it performs around you. At airshows, aircraft often make a “photo” pass which is often done in what’s called a “banana pass.” If you can picture a banana with your being inside the curve of the banana, that’s basically a banana pass. When you’re on the INSIDE of that curve, the aircraft or athlete or motorcycle will will be MOVING into your frame which gives a feel of not only speed but also intimacy. Keep in mind that being on the inside of the curve, the subject will be going faster in relationship to your position so your panning has to be spot on.
Taking your shutter speed down below your comfort zone is key! Shooting in Shutter Priority to be in control of shutter speed and then the blur puts action into your still. In some cases the shutter speed is arbitrary based on how you feel. In some cases it could be a very specific shutter speed to blur props of aircraft or blades on a helicopter, in this case 1/20 to blur the blades of this Cobra. Keep in mind that your panning blurs the background and the degree of that blur is a function of how fast you’re panning vs. your shutter speed. Now if your background is all blue, bald sky, there is not a slow enough shutter speed to show motion. You need something in the background to scream movement.
When you’ve got the light, forget everything else! Ya, there are lots of rules, ideas, suggestions and sexy action that can grab your attention but when you’ve got light, ditch them all for that light. I love this example of just that because many tend to not photograph the bellies of aircraft. This belly shot is of a Hawker Sea Fury Race 232 which ended up in the victory circle in the 2012 Reno Air Races. On the afternoon this shot was taken, it wasn’t this fact that is was a winner that had me trained on 232 but rather the way the light played on its red color against the great blue / white background. The angle of the light makes all the rivits pop and creates a shadow that just makes it seem like it’s going faster. You can’t go wrong with great light!
Go for the ass! Any subject that is going away from you in the frame sets the mind to thinking movement. While this seems obvious, ass shots in themselves can be tricky. There is the matter of proper social protocol (not my speciality) along with attractiveness. There are a couple of aspects of subject positioning that goes along with this. Lower and centered in the frame is the place to start and then based on other elements in the frame can be moved about accordingly. When shooting the ass of an aircraft, the blurred prop is required to speak of movement. The slower the shutter speed, the more blurred the prop and the more blurred the prop, you change the position of the aircraft in the frame.
This one is real simple. When you have a great background, think of smaller subject size in a slightly awkward placement in the frame. Yeap, that’s all it takes for the mind to see the placement and move the subject through the frame against that background. I like simple!
Let the path set the movement. A track, street, sidewalk or trail of smoke communicates movement when you place the subject on that path. This again is another real simple one to employ but to take it to the next level, put the subject on the path again in a slightly awkward place.
Low angle with a wide angle is a great way of communicating motion! Here is a classic example considering the only thing moving in the frame are the props. The rule of thumb is to leave enough room in the frame in front of the subject for the mind to give the subject motion. You can enhance this mental path by getting down low with a wide angle. This technique is great when in reality, you’re crammed up in a crowd and can’t get physically where you want to. In the case of aviation, think of slow shutter speed and not keeping the horizon plum. Here, it’s slightly slanted up hill and the sun is included (lens closed down all the way for a sunburst) to finish the feel.
Follow your subject in the viewfinder for its entire path! You just never know what surprises you might find in the viewfinder that if your eye is not up against it, you’ll miss. In this case this P-40 did a loop right overhead so a normal view of an aircraft from the ground, the top of it, was all you see in the viewfinder. A unique perspective to any common subject begins the journey of having a unique photograph!
Cramming action into a vertical creates lots of mental movement in a still! The tension of the subject looking like it’s going to run into the side of the frame can work with the rest of the elements are in sync. Other elements? Ya, light, blur, color, placement in the frame vertically, all those elements that together bring movement to the subject. Keep in mind that as soon as you turn the camera to vertical, your panning gets more difficult and composition more challenging. At the same time, the rewards for success goes up as well.
Never ignore the common! This little Piper is no warbird or screaming jet yet I would be really bummed if it weren’t in my files. When you can make the uncommon out of the common, your photograph always wins! In this case, since it’s an airplane and it’s up in the sky, the mind knows it’s flying and that in itself says motion. Use proper handholding and panning, look for the light and think motion with a big dash of fun and you will be successful! have a great weekend shooting!
Free Shipping! – For the month of May all orders placed on our website or by phone will be shipped for free, with no minimum order amount. We did this in December and sales took off!
2. Free 15” Laptop Bag with every order of our popular Airport Rolling Camera Bags (e.g. Airport International, Airport Security, etc.). In addition, we will give you an extra 5% commission on all sales generated by you of our Airport Rolling Camera Bags. This is similar to the program we ran last May and it was a phenomenal success.
My name is Moose….I’m addicted to Cintiqs!
Wacom just keeps bringing out killer new tools to speed up our workflow and increase the quality of our post production. Just announced today is their new Cintiq 22HD, the little brother to the Cintiq 24HD that I have sitting on my desk. Here’s the scoop …
By combining multi-touch with our renowned pen technology, the new Cintiq 22HD touch offers professional artists and designers an immersive on-screen experience and a more natural and intuitive way to work. Multi-touch will continue to be an important input method moving forward and creative software applications are embracing multi-touch and making it an important interface for professional creators of digital content. When multi-touch and pen input are used together on the Cintiq 22HD touch, creative control, comfort and productivity are greatly enhanced, thanks to both hands being able to work in concert. Wacom and its software partners keep pushing the envelope by offering a digital workflow that emulates a traditional media experience that helps to keep the content creation industry moving forward.
Yeap, I was there, sitting in the audience with my jaw hitting the floor and Sharon shaking me back to the real world as I heard him utter those words! And the scary part, what really concerned me was, the audience didn’t even hear him. They were way to tuned into comments that had dollar signs in them, what so many think is why photographers are in business. While it is a necessity, money is not why the successful and long term photographers are in the business of photography!
Dave’s class at Photoshop World on the business of Sports Photography was simply freakin great! I don’t care where you are in your sports photography business, or any business, he had inspiration and pearls in every sentence. Though he gave away the secret to success in photography within the first five minutes of his hour long presentation, it didn’t even come up during the Q&A, which still has me scratching my head!
First, understand that Dave is not only a dear friend, I hold him and his talent in the highest esteem! There simply is no one better than Dave so when he speaks, I listen! What’s the secret Dave let out of the bag? Well it had nothing to do with image quality though that is essential for longevity in the business. It had nothing to do with camera brands, how old or new your cameras are. It had nothing to do with how much camera gear you owned. It certainly had nothing to do with file formats. And while he didn’t say it in his words, every single image he presented during his talk screamed light and color so while not stated as important verbally, it sure in the hell was visually. Yet that’s not the secret Dave let out of the bag.
And I have to admit, I’m leery about giving away the secret here, now, since it was put out there and missed the first time. But I figure since Dave was the first to let it out of the bag, no one can point the finger at me. Yet, I wonder if my putting it out now, if it won’t just be missed again so why bother. Then I received an email from my last MLP, Bob, relating all his successes using this very basic yet primal element in a successful photography business and decided that if at least one photographer hears the secret and applies it, than it’s worth repeating.
I’ve been home only 23 days in 2013, the rest of the days I was on the road working. Now, this isn’t bragging, I don’t say this seeking sympathy. This is a simple statement kind of stating the success of my time behind the camera. It has everything to do with the secret to success. In fact, you could say it’s at the heart of it, which was almost the opposite of what the audience was seeking at Dave’s talk which is probably more why my jaw hit the ground.
What’s the secret, why have I made you wait this long to hear it? Well, I figured that if you really want to know the secret, you would read this. And if you really don’t, then you’re not even reading this now. And if you are just skimming this, I know the secret will remain the secret. Here is it, just like how Dave said it so matter of factly, emphasized with great images larger than life on the screen behind him. “Success comes from hard work! Why? Because few others want too!” Yeap, that’s it, that’s all there is to it.
As previously posted, I was part of the media day at Planes of Fame for their upcoming airshow, Lightning Strikes Chino. Not until late last night did I remember I shot video with the Moose Cam (Contour w/NightFlight filter). Shooting with the D4 with 80-400AFS attached, the Contour rides left of the viewfinder, attached to the shot shoe with the Manfrotto 492LCD Micro Ball Head. There are two reasons why I love the Contour: the rotating front permits you to level the image no matter the angle of the camera; it works Bluetooth with the iPhone so I can see exactly what the camera sees!
You will see just how much turbulence there was for our short flight as I bounce around. You can see the end of the 80-400AFS which was on its first of many air to air flights. I did an amazing job! My gloved hand is around the front to keep from scratching plex I’m shooting through (you can see scratches already there from others) and shade the plex as much as possible. It was an amazing fun, bumpy, great flight! I want to thank Planes of Fame and the pilots, John Hinton (P-51D), John Maloney (P-38J) and Matt Nightingale pilot of T-Bone for doing a great job!. Enjoy!
Ceiling broke and the winds picked up, there was three flights with three photo platforms each to get all the photographers air time. That meant we had about five minutes on station with 23 Skidoo and Wee Willy II. Its home base is Planes of Fame which will be holding their annual, phenomenal airshow 04-05 May in Chino, CA. I can’t wait, FIVE P-38s in one place, that will be so incredibly cool!
I lucked out that I had Scott in the back of the T-Bone with me. I couldn’t see squat in the rear seat (I had solid fuselage on both sides of me) so when 23 Skidoo pulled up to our 4 o’clock, he let me know so I could point the D4 with 80-400AFS around the corner and shoot. I was in Shutter Priority, 1/100, f/something, zero exposure comp, Auto Area AF with the VR on the 80-400 set to Active. And active is an understatement for the rough air we were in. I swear, I figured when we touched down I didn’t have a single sharp image! We were tossed about, the pilots doing an AMAZING job flying making the opportunity available to us.
The bummer in the whole thing was we were all shooting through the windows, the plex. Wearing gloves, I grabbed the front of the 80-400 when shooting for two reasons. First was to protect the window from getting scratched (it already had a dussey!). 2nd was to shade the plex around the lens to minimize glare from the plex being seen by the camera. Because of the gear and pure luck, I came back with a couple of image not only sharp, but that I like. This was my second air to air with 23 Skidoo yet my heart is still beating a mile a minute! There are no words to describe the experience to look out the window and see P-38 Lightning 100 feet at your 3 o’clock! You need to get to the Planes of Fame airshow and if you see me, say hello. And if you need an assist, don’t hesitate to ask. Jake & I are more than happy to help if we can.
I’m working the first airshow with media credentials, a first for me. I’m down at Planes of Fame for their amazing show 4-5 May shooting for EAA Warbirds (really great folks!). I arrived at Planes of Fame early to the typical SoCal overcast skies. It typically burns off so I wasn’t worried but for the immediate moment, there wasn’t a thing to click. It was that way for the next two hours so like all good photographers, we got in a huddle and started to tell stories. I’ve yet to figure out how we got on the topic of Bigfoot….Mark
We were at PoF a week early for the media air to air. The theme this year for the airshow is Lightning Strikes Chino with five P-38 Lightnings flying at the show. Our air to air was with 23 Skidoo you see pictured here. With space in the photo platform limited (I flew in a T-Bone), all I had was the D4 with 80-400AFS attached and the D800 with the 18-35AFS (I tell you these are sharp lenses?!). These photos were taken with the D800. We were still just standing around waiting for the weather to fly when the skies started to break. I wanted to take advantage of them so I got close, low and shot at 18mm. If you looked at the LCD on the back of the D800, you would think the skies were a tad overexposed and Skidoo underexposed. But by using the Highlight Slider in ACR, you can see I puled down the sky. And with the Shadow Slider, brought up the shadows (a common technique of mine with aircraft). I mean, I could only talk about Bigfoot for so long, had to make some clicks to limber up for the main event coming up next.
Is it sharp? This incredibly important question is asked of me almost hourly as photographers look for filtering on what they should and should not buy. It’s pretty simple, we must have a sharp lens because we must have a sharp image. We can never forget that the second element the mind’s eye seeks out is sharpness. At the same time, one of the prime reasons we delete a file is because, it’s not sharp. So sharpness is very important to our visual communication! The main tool we use to achieve sharpness is the lens. So it’s ability to resolve what we focus on as sharp logically makes the lens very important. And for this reason, we spend alot of money, many spend countless hours shooting charts and reading reviews on the web, and send poor Moose emails asking if the lens he is shooting is really sharp. To the last part, I can answer with some simple logic. While you wouldn’t know it by how much I blog, I actually do have a photography business and one that after 30+yrs, is still going very strong and growing. That is because I deliver to my clients in part, a very sharp image. No sharpness, no clients, no business and, no blog. So the lenses I depend on have to be sharp, it’s real simple business.
Yes, I’ve heard, read and been sent many a lens report telling me the lens I’m shooting isn’t sharp. That’s because those folks snuck into my office and tested my lens for me. Really? I think Adobe’s “new technology” preview at Photoshop World tells the story more accurately. Adobe is working on a future technology called “anti-camera shake” that when boiled down takes care of an ancient photographic issue I call pilot error. Simply, the camera wasn’t held still when the photo was taken. This causes an unsharp image that is not the lenses fault. In all of my years, I’ve only seen three lenses that were themselves unsharp. All the rest of the problems put before and lenses sharpness where in fact, pilot error. Either in the capturing of the photo or in the post processing of the image. I’ve been pounded of late with the question if the new 80-400AFS (top image) and even more, the new 18-35AFS (bottom image) are really sharp lenses. The 80-400AFS question comes from the lens is replaces. The 18-35 comes from its price. Photographers by their very nature are, well, let’s say skeptics to be polite.
Yes, the lens used is a very important part of the sharpness equation, there is no doubt. I bigger and more important of that equation though is the photographer! There is only one time you can sharpen a pixel and that’s when you focus the lens. And to that you can add DOF, depth of focus which most call depth of field. How can you truly measure if a lens is really sharp? To be honest with you, I don’t know the perfect, 100% technical answer. For myself, the 24×30 print has always been my measuring stick along with the checks from our clients. I want to leave you though with this thought. How many photographs have you seen in print that were not sharp? I’ve seen a lot which begs the question, is sharpness as life or death as some make it out to be? Can a photograph tell it’s story is the image isn’t tack sharp but just sharp? Sharpness is important, don’t get me wrong but I just don’t think it’s worth having a heart attack over worrying if the lens you have or want to be is the “best.” If you, the photographer behind the lens is doing their best, then that lens will be the best. That is guaranteed!