make for the best photography! My rule of thumb is, if I can handle the weather, so can the camera. In this case though, we needed the assist of a big ass hangar. It was Sunday of the Wings Over Houston airshow. As is normal, we got to the Texas Flying Legends Museum hangar well before sunrise to get to work on the sunrise shoot. Driving to the airport, saw the lightning in the distance and looking at my favorite lightning app, RadarCast, I saw a whole lot more was heading right for the airport. We pulled in, got our gear into the hangar and the skies opened up, oh my, did they let loose!!!
The hangar doors were wide open and chairs set up, SOP. Grabbing a hot cup of coffee and watching the run rise behind all the aircraft with friends is a simple joy, but that wasn’t going to happen this morning. Within minutes, the rain was coming down so hard, it was bouncing up off the tarmac and bouncing into the hangar pushing us back at least ten feet and making us partially close the hangar doors. The heavens were putting on one helluva show, lightning bouncing every which way. As is typical pilot nature, I turn to see everyone standing under the wing of the Shrike even though we were all in the hangar. Then I see Jake setting up his camera … it was one of those Duh…. moments!
With the D4 / 80-400VR3 set up, I focused on the FG-1D Corsair parked right outside the hangar. It was to be the sunrise shoot but that was scrubbed at this point. What you see here are the photos taken during this time. They are 15sec exposures with all the lighting a combination of lightning and vehicles driving past. The rain pouring so hard created what appears to be ground fog and the long exposure with all the mixed light did the rest. No two images look anything like the next other than the Corsair which didn’t move.
What if there was no hangar? In this case, if I couldn’t find a wing to stand under, me and my gear would have been tucked away in the truck still. Those times when I can work in the rain, I don’t cover the gear with anything. I do have with me a dry, white towel that I will BLOT my gear dry (never, ever wipe). The thing is this, whenever you have a camera and you wonder if, follow that if especially in bad weather. If you wonder if there is a photo there, go for it! The least that might happen is, you delete that if. And the most, you’ll have a photo to always remind you of that wonder of nature you were able to capture in that click. The worst weather does produce some of the best photos!
Combining the Elements to Tell the Story, Chapter 5 is now available, FOR FREE (how anti Black Friday, right?)! Thanks to our friends at B&H Photo, my iBook Photography FUNdamentals is ALL free which includes this new chapter.
Chapter Five is all about bringing all those elements that go into a photograph together to tell YOUR story about the subject. Some might summarize it in the one word, composition, but I feel there is so much more than some rules. And the beauty of being an iBook, this entire chapter is all video.
It’s a total of a two hour slideshow where I talk about the strength and weakness of an image, using elements like Light & Bright and Sharpness to move the eye around in the frame. I go into how this lens worked for this subject, minimum DoF worked for that. There are birds, mammals, rocks and water, grand vistas, people and I think even a macro shot in the chapter. Being a video, you can pause, repeat and go back over and over again as you teach yourself the best way for YOU to tell YOUR visual story. If you’re looking for rules and formulas, those are not included. The story is yours to tell visually your way. This chapter is how you empower your passion in your photography taping your heart more than your head. Power up the iPad and if you already have Photography FUNdamentals, you’ll be prompted to download the update. If you don’t have it, click on the link above and you can have this iBook FOR FREE!
Note: Yes, Andriod versions of all our iBook / iMags are in development. Look for them in 2014.
A common question I’ve been receiving recently has to do with the image I post. The majority of the time, it’s about the action shot and how I get all the elements I desire in just one click. The most common question is, “Do you previsualize the photo?” Yes and no is the honest answer. The light, gesture and color are very much previsulaized but the most important element in this famous formula, gesture, often requires the motordrive (I know, we technically don’t have motordrives but I’m an old fart) to capture. I’ve post a typical example of what I’m talking about to explain my “technique.”
We’re over the Galveston Bay with Ray’s gorgeous T6 and as you can see, its yellow could be seen half a globe away. We’re flying near sunset (remembering the sun sets later at 500AGL than is does on the surface) to take advantage of that soft light. Than there is the gesture which comes from two separate elements that we want to combine into one photo. The subject itself has gesture in it’s wing position, prop blur and how it is placed in the frame. At the same time there is the background which either plays to the gesture of the subject or does not. In this example, you look at the Photo Mechanic light table view, you’ll see I blasted over 29 images on this pass. This is one of the MAIN reasons I shoot with the D4 loaded with Lexar 128GB CF card (lens was 80-400VR3. The D4 loaded with that big ass Lexar card permits me to lay down the hammer and capture at 11FPS this six seconds of the flight and than back in Photo Mechanic, select the ONE photo that represents the light, gesture and color creating the best capture. You see, when action is happening this fast, for me at least, it is really hard to see THE image, tell my finger to push the shutter release and the camera to actually capture THE photo. That small spear of land in the background, the slight tilt of the wing and placement in the frame comes together in just the four of the frames (you can see them tagged in red). So the image was previsualized in a sense, set up for success but it took the gear and finally the photographer’s eye to make the one image come to life. What if you don’t have this experience, this gear or this opportunity, are you screwed? Hell no!
By knowing the possibilities, you know a direction to head with your photography. And by understanding by putting in your time (in my case over 25yrs), you put yourself in the position to have these opportunities. By being aware of these techniques, you start to practice now so when the opportunity is in front of your lens, you’re ready to take advantage of it. In my case, my decades shooting wildlife and landscape exercised my mind’s eye for this shoot of a T6 over the gulf. It’s all powered by passion, something that comes from within and is shared through THE photo.
Our fall B&H Photo / Lexar Moose Cruise was just a blast with a boat load of great folks! There was a father/daughter pair from Australia who were all smiles as we cruised. Now Chloe caught my attention right from the start. Now you might be looking at Chloe’s photo above (which is really cool) and thinking, “Photoshop” but such is not that case. And that’s how Chloe caught my attention.
Here, you can see one of the photos in the LCD and below, you can see Chloe’s technique. Yeap, the photo is a reflection that she creates on the surface of her iPhone and in one click, makes the photo. Now when I was across the deck looking at what she was doing, it really, really, really had me scratching my head. So I walked over and asked and got an education. Chloe’s smile the whole time she was shooting is what really told the whole story and whenever you see a photographer smiling like that, you know only good things are coming forth. Chloe, I applaud your creativity!
The more and more I use and play with the Coolpix P7800, the more I really like it! The image quality for such a simple capture device is simply amazing. And it’s so much fun to shoot with, I went and got WU-1A Wireless unit. It’s a small unit, I mean small and it runs off the batter of the P7800 so it’s not got a huge range. But when using with the Nikon WMU App, you can remotely fire and if you wish, upload images to your smart device.
Neither the WU-1A nor the app are meant to be or are as sophisticated as say the Cam Ranger for the D4, nor are they the same price. How could you make great use of this simple technology? You could place it as a remote on a bird feeder to get them use to a camera while at the same time spying on who is coming in. You could set up the P7800 behind you and take BTS, project in progress photos. You could even place it in the cockpit of a plane and do remote pilot photos. And if you’ve never done remote work before, here’s a great, simple way to start.
Set up of the app is no more than making sure the WU-1a is active, turn on your wireless (I’m using the iPhone 5) on your smart device and select the WU-1a network and than tap the app. You will see right through the lens on your smart device and there is a button to fire the camera. It’s really just that simple and fun.
There is a magic to the color of white when you find it in landscape photography. The eye grabs on to it and than takes every other color in view and puts it on a higher level. Working the hoar frost in Yosemite, the icing lining all the meadow grasses along with the ever changing mist made for simple killer images. Standing on the edge of the meadow, shooting in with the D4 / 80-400VR3, we simply looked for the pattern that worked and shot.
I don’t profess to have the answer, but at least for my own photography, I have a hint. I’m using as an example these two photos with the simple topic, fall color. When it comes to telling the story and keeping it simple, quantity comes into play. Quantity comes in many flavors, quantity as in percentage of area and quantity as in sheer numbers. We can use either one of these by themselves or in combination but that danger is the lack of or over use of the subject. And I think the answer I like to use in solving this question is your imagination. I think that the more we can tap into the viewer’s imagination, the less we can have of the subject and still smack them between the eyes with the subject. The more the imagination, the more the storytelling takes over. Both photos were taken D4 / 58f1.4AFS so they are “normal” and they both have the same subject. But they both have different quantity. Which brings the subject to life? It’s for you to answer in your own photos.
A few weeks ago, the opportunity of my lifetime, ever!, was afforded me by some of the best to do what I do best, tell stories. The Texas Flying Legends Museum made it possible for the Kelby Training crew to tag along with me and film our first documentary. The subject of our film, well I can honestly say it has nothing to with f/stops and shutter speeds. Nope, it’s about a higher plane of photography and life, sacrifice above self. How the today’s legendary pilots flying legendary aircraft honor those legends from the past.
“Betty’s Dream” is making a run on enemy transport like it has done so many times in the past, having racked up an impressive score sinking enemy ships. All of a sudden it’s jumped by a zero. Betty’s top turret spins into action and is blasting away at the Zero when a P-40 appears that was flying top cover to make the final kill. While I love to tell that story verbally, I would much rather tell it in a photograph. Lucky for me, when I proposed this idea to Warren (pilot of the Zero, great pilot and friend), he said, “Ya, let’s to that!” The skill of Alan Miller at the stick in “Betty’s Dream,” Warren Pietsch in “Last Samurai” (A6M Zero) and Doug Rozendaal in the P-40 “Aleutian Tiger,” we were able to create the dog fight in real time in the air (my pilots in my Bonanza photo platform, Flydaddy & Scottie had a HUGE hand in the success as well). As all the pilots said, “they’d never seen that ever done before!” That’s just a itty pitty taste of the 11k images we shot in the air that day with nine aircraft. And that’s only one part of the documentary.
While the still photographs are the visual storytelling, where does the story itself come from? It comes from our experiences as life unfolds. For this image to come to life, those who lived these moments had to share their story. You see here just a couple of the amazing WWII vets who are also part of our documentary, LtCol Dick Cole, right seat, 1st plane of the Doolittle Radiers and Bud Anderson, Triple Ace and test pilot having conversations with me on camera. Others like three Tuskegee Airman, navigator for “Betty’s Dream” during WWII, George Preddy’s wingman when he was shot down. Even had a conversation with the pilot for the 3rd B-29 scheduled drop the atom bomb, a known suicide mission at the time which we now know from history, didn’t have to fly its mission. And so many more! The inspiration for the Texas Flying Legends Museum, the inspiration for my storytelling and therefore photographs come to life for you as these greats tell their story.
Photography is never what you think it is, noticed that? I’m incredibly fortunate the Scott Kelby understands this better than most and when I proposed this concept, they not only jumped on it but upped the anti to create their first documentary. Because photography has to be more than f/stop and shutter speeds, it must contain not only commitment but an driving passion. Having put in the most amazing week of no sleep photography in my life and seeing everyone else putting in the same 110%, I know you’ll see it come out. I want to thank all the pilots and the Kelby Training crew for their hard work and dedication. And want to especially thank ALL the vets who shared their stories on camera. Be watching for it next year, it will be an experience in visual storytelling you don’t want to miss!
Rode just introduced their newest mic, the Rode VideoMic Go and it’s a tool YOU should check out! This small, light, very inexpensive shotgun mic (under $100) is a great BIG way to improve the sound recording in your video. I don’t have a sound sample for you, but here are the specs hinting at it’s ability.
Lightweight at Only 2.6 Ounces
Rycote Lyre Suspension System
Powered by 2.5V Camera Plug-in Power
Integrated Shoe Mount with 3/8″ Thread
3.5mm Mini-Jack Output
Foam Windshield Included
Reinforced ABS Construction
3.5mm Coiled Output Cable Included
Once I have sound samples I can post, I will so you can hear its ability. It might be the perfect stocking stuffer
Now I’m obviously not referring to crawling under a griz to photograph its belly. I’m talking more along the lines of every coin has two sides kind of thing. Many photographers look at a good subject, but it just doesn’t grab them. It happens to me even though I know it’s a good subject. So perhaps by simply looking at it’s other side, the way to take the photo that excites you might appear. This is true for nearly everything from as large as Half Dome to a as small as a flower. Many photograph Half Dome from the valley floor, few find it from its eastern view. Shooting from the sky down on flowers common, the cool photos though come from those shooters who shoot from the bug’s eye view. In this case, the background wasn’t cutting it shooting down on this gorgeous polished T6 Texan. By changing my point of view, the background is improved the the subject shines. Shooting the D4 / 24-70AFS / Vulture Strap and a couple of hand signals and we made the shot. When you’re just not feelin the love, shoot the other side.
I’ve become pretty obsessed with capturing video of all our aviation flights. Making them better and better, more and more unique is all part of the program. This means pushing the given to the custom. Here’s what I’ve got going currently. The main cameras (yes, more than one at a time) is the GoPro Hero3 silver. It’s straight off the shelf, using its wireless and the GoPro App on the iPhone for set up. When it comes to starting and stopping the camera, I still do it manually at the camera.
When it comes to attaching it to external surfaces of an aircraft, I’m using the NFlightcam Billet Mount (the red part unscrews so can be attached to hot shoe ballhead, sweet) and has the “Bright” Aviator Lens Kit. The Billet Mount works GREAT! A talk with the pilot comes first, discussing with them where I would like to place it and verifying that’s flight worthy. The Lens Kit is NO WAY dark enough to slow the shutter speed to remove the slap, slap, slap look of the props. I bought addition Neutral Density Material that I cut and have now mounted inside the lens port of the Hero. I had to purchase the GoPro Standard Housing Lens Replacement Kit for the tool to remove the screws to insert the neutral density gel. And that’s how the Missing Man video was shot.
We had some high, fast moving clouds and that got me to wondering. I’ve seen some marvelous images of very blurred clouds by static subjects. With the clouds I was seeing over our heads, I wanted to see if I could do the same. So we headed down the Merced to a classic view of El Capitan, I mean, can’t get more static that that big ass piece of rock! To get the shot, it’s the same basic formula as blurred water, you need a slow shutter speed so the fast moving subject blurs during the exposure. The question is, how slow and how to get there. With water, I have a pretty good idea where to start, but not a clue with clouds. You see, I’d never done it before but thought it was a good time to. Unlike water, the clouds are going to be lit by the sun, so extreme measures were required. Call in the, wait for it … Big Stopper!!! (you should be hearing that word reverberate on your computer right now).
Shooting with the D4, 18-35AFS and Big Stopper, (all on a tripod of course) started by composing the scene. This is important for besides the obvious, you need to set the focus and determine shutter speed. Once that is done, set the camera to manual focus, remember the shutter speed (aperture doesn’t change) and set camera to Bulb. Using this really cool app my bud Scott Kelby turned me on to when we were shooting at Lake Tahoe, NDTimer, you then calculate the shutter speed you need shooting through the Big Stopper. For example, it an original shutter speed of 1/13, NDTimer told me (and very accurately) I needed to use 1:18 exposure. How accurate is it, really? Within 15min, everyone else owned NDTimer and was using it. It’s that good! Unlike water, getting cool shots of blurred clouds is not really a slam dunk just because you have moving clouds. I don’t have a formula yet in my head, but with these tools, it’s pretty easy so I’ll keep playing with it until I do.
Oh man, what a week! It was simply a killer time in a gorgeous place with some down right really nice folks! Good food, laughs and photography sure does make the time fly. We had just one “moody” time in the valley so I took the group up to Glacier Point. Normally this time of year, the road is closed due to snow so regrettably while no snow, we had access. By the time we arrived at Washburn Point, the skies and light were perfect. The evening held a ton of promise for an amazing show. The clouds were wizzin by which always means great sunsets in the Sierra. When we finally arrived at Glacier Point itself and were in place, the wind and completely died and left the clouds stacked up and dark on our heads. It went from great to, OK at best but we still made the most of it. One of the best parts of the whole time was being with folks who had never experienced Yosemite or Glacier Point before. To see how big their eyes got when they looked over the edge, it was priceless! Another simple click made the the COOLPIX 7800
I have had A LOT of emails asking, why the 58f1.4AFS, Why f1.4? These are BOTH very valid questions and bring up the concept and implementation of DoF in our visual communicating. Depth of Field is one of our more powerful tools in arranging elements, commonly summed up as composition. Smacking the viewer between the eyes with the subject in part is done with the lack of, or the abundance of focus around that subject. And this degree of sharpness can be manipulated further with focal length and camera distance to the subject and distance between the subject and the background. In this pursuit, there are many lenses like the 24f1.4AFS all the way up to 200f2AFS that really make the most of the lack of DoF. In the animated Gif above, you can see with the new 58f1.4FS, when 8 feet away from the trunk with lichen (the focus point), how it visually “pops” when shot at f/1.4 compared to f/16 (as much as the 58mm closes down). It’s that focal length and that f/stop, f/1.4 that I personally like. I’ve tired the 35f1.4AFS and 85f1.4AFS and while they are sweet lenses, blazing sharp, the focal length doesn’t work for my style of photography. 58mm does and that’s why 58f1.4AFS for me. Hope this helps folks understand a little more about their own lens selection.
I had such promise. We were out shooting heavenly bodies when the first little puff of cloud floated in over edge of the valley. By the time we headed up the avenue of the giants, the scuz had settled in. When that happens (which causes the light to flatten out), I turn the lens to the trunks. I love design patterns in trunks especially in Yosemite where we have pine and cedar, naked and with lichens. All one has to do than is find the patterns that please your eye and shoot.
The shooting is pretty straight forward. Shooting with the D610 (which is doing a great job) and 80-400, I point in the general direction where I see the pattern and than with eye to the viewfinder, fine tune the pattern. What you don’t see in this photo is the yellow caution sign, happily removed in ACR. There was also a color cast from the dark, blue light, also removed via ACR. Otherwise, it’s a simple click making a little timber in the scuz. And yes, I love this type of photography!
Yeap, I’ve got a new Coolpix, the P7800 and it’s really cool! I have the 7000 and just updated to the 7800. Why? There are a couple of reasons, the first being the built in variable zoom going from 28-200m which permits me a little more flexibility than a fixed 28mm (but I love the small size of the Coolpix A still) along with a max f2! It also has the built in viewfinder which really helps me as well. And tested here, it has excellent low light noise quality. I’ve just started to shoot with it but I really like it so far. Mtc.