I’m the kind of portrait photographer who has to see the portrait unfold. Since day one working with biologists, I shot journalistic style, taking the portrait as the project unfolded. Setting up the portrait is just not my strong suit and knowing that, I’m working on uping my game. As I work with all these hereos, WWII vets, I feel the pressure to tell their story in their portrait. This means pushing myself and it’s hard. Where my bud McNally can meet a stranger on the street and five minutes later have them posing naked, it takes me a hour just to screw up the courage to say hi. So I start by learning a little bit about the vets prior to saying hi. In Houston, I had the added stress of knowing I’d be having a conversation with these vets on camera for our documentary. Can you say … panic!
I started where I knew I was safe, behind the camera. A few of the vets took the stage to tell the four hundred folks gathered in the Texas Fling Legends Museum (host for the reunions) hangar a little of their story. There is a giant American flag on the back wall and to incorporate it in the portraits, I had to stand way off to the side. From that angle, I had all sorts of “stuff” in the frame that made a clean shot a challenge. The top two images, I went vertical because of the “stuff” (mostly folks with pocket cameras) but I didn’t like the results. When I put the pressure on myself to do better, I push myself because of the importance to telling that visual story. I had to do better!
When Jim took the mic, I knew I had to make the shot. I kept inching myself up towards the stage. I didn’t want to get in the way of those there to listen, it was a reunion and the room was filled with family of these vets. It was their day, not mine. Shooting with the D4 / 80-400VR3, I was slowly able to move forward ten feet and that was all I needed to make the horizontal shot I wanted. In my own mind, after listening to some of their story (they have so much to share with us!) and watching them through my lens, I started to feel more comfortable with them. With that, I was able to approach them and start a dialog which led to the portraits. I already knew Joe, but the other gentleman I had not made their acquaintance yet. By the end of the weekend though, we’d all become fast friends and had a great time with them on camera for our documentary. And yes, I made more portraits of them as you’ll see. The moral of all of this, you simply gotta push yourself beyond your comfort range if you want to up your photography. Success comes from failure to some degree. Just don’t settle!
We’d been on for 6 days, up at 0430 and not hitting the sheets until 0000 so we took a morning off. We decided to see some of our history, play tourist and tour the Houston Control Center. Having grown up in the era of moon walks, having an uncle very much part of the program, it was a must see. And it didn’t disappoint! I wanted to take photos but I wasn’t wanting to carry the D4 / 18-35AFS un the Vulture strap, I wanted to play tourist but wanted Raw files knowing the tour would be quick, lighting varied. I had the perfect answer with me, the Coolpix A.
The Coolpix A simply slipped into my back so carrying it worked great. It has a fixed, 28f2.8, amazingly sharp lens which worked perfect for the tour. Now you might be asking what one does when 28mm is too narrow. It’s a old photography technique, physically move closer. The framing than was done by simply moving closer or further away from the subject. The first two images were actually taken through the plexi separating folks from the rooms. Even with that, I was amazed by the results. One cool thing on a side note that most think about but I didn’t until I was shooting. There is not noise, you don’t hear the shutter! Keep in mind I’m the guy who likes to rip the shutter of the D4 because I like the sound. But in this environment where folks are listening to the guide, that shooting style just isn’t appropriate. The Coolpix A just rocked!
Now I got the Coolpix A to be the Moose Cam. It had plenty of action in those regards the prior week. I’ve not even edited all the video it shot but I learned one thing I want to pass along. It had a great Auto ISO mode which works great shooting stills or video. But if you want to control the Shutter Speed when shooting video, you need to go to Manual Mode where you can manually set the ISO. Videoing aircraft, I want the prop to blur so you want a shutter speed of 1/60 or less. Otherwise, you’ll see that “prop slap” as I call it. I’ve had A LOT of Coolpix cameras in over the years and I can honestly say that the Coolpix A is the finest one I’ve ever shot with!
Had a few inquiry what’s up with the blogs the past week. We were in Houston in part to participate in the Wings Over Houston and in part, shoot the Kelby Training documentary on air to air photography. That’s hardly describes all we did but during all of that, I ended up filing just shy of 18k images. I barely had time at night to upload and backup, never got to edit or file. It was crazy good but something had to give and the blog was it. This photo is from one of the many air to air missions I did during the week. There is a lot more to come next week but for now, gotta get back to processing.
Flypast magazine has brought out a special US edition and I’m quite honored to have the cover article. Here’s what the editor Nigel has to say …
“The 124-page November issue of FlyPast – one of the World’s best selling historic aviation magazines – features a superb Moose Peterson B-17 Flying Fortress photo on the front cover! Moose’s brilliantly illustrated feature on the CAF’s AZ Airbase B-17 “Sentimental Journey” also runs to five pages within the magazine. Packed with warbird news and features, this special issue also looks in depth at the North American P-51 Mustang – 24 pages of it!”
The November issue is in Barnes & Noble stores – and other major book stores – across the US now, price at $9.99.
“Show up and you’ll fly.” This basics of aviation photography came true again for me this last week. At the Texas Flying Legends Museum working on the documentary when my good friend Rosie came up and asked, “available to fly?” The answer was obvious, “heck ya!” The photo mission though was to be one of the most unique ones I’ve had. My subject was “Dusty” from the Disney animation Planes. Our family are HUGE Planes fans so this was simply the coolest thing to do! “Dusty’s” pilot is Rusty (not makin that up) and is a really great guy. So Rusty, Dusty, Bernie (Cherokee / photo platform pilot) and I briefed the brief sunset flight and took off. It was such a hoot to watch ALL the kids go crazy when “Dusty’s” prop turns and then takes to the skies. So many smiles and waves.
The was literally the first (and might be only) time “Dusty” has flown with “Skipper” (the TFLM FG-1D Corsair in this case) in real life. We weren’t doing anything other than “purty” pictures for Disney for the sheer fun of being able to fly and make some cool images. Shooting with two D4s (one from Borrowlenses.com, thx guys) and 80-400VR3 and 24-70AFS, we took to the air about thirty minutes prior to sunset. To be totally honest, when the Ag Tractor (Dusty) and Corsair first appeared in my viewfinder, I had to wipe my eyes as we all laughed at the combo. Seeing an Ag Tractor in sexy light HIGH over water just seemed so out of place. But we had a great shoot with “Dusty” putting on a great show for the camera. It was one of those experience I soon won’t forget, I flew with “Dusty” and “Skipper” and have the photos to prove it.
Churchill birds, one of the most amazing places on the planet for bird photography. That’s what this issue is all about. The next issue is out and it’s a beaut! Brent did an amazing job bringing all the content alive in stills, video, live captions and more! It’s packed with all sorts of information from bird photography to travel, techniques to solutions. The pg28 videos has a special edition, Sharpening for Content, a vital technique for printing.
Coming in on a bomb run, the TBM Avenger is jumped by a Zero but before it can do damage, the Corsair comes in and makes its fatal shot. Yes, I have a very active imagination and when it comes to telling the visual story, it really helps. Also working with my good friends the Texas Flying Legends Museum who brought history to life before my camera! Shot 11k images yesterday working on a project that was filmed by the Kelby crew. Lots more to come but wanted to share at least one photo to tease to keep checking in. Shot with a D4 (thx Borrowlenses.com) and 80-400VR3.
No, this is not a great photo, not even good but it’s one I will always treasure. That’s because behind that TFLM Corsair is Houston Control. Being a kid who remembers where he was when Apollo 11 landed on the moon, having it in the background is darn cool! In TX shooting and having a great time. Home to get more posted. mtc…
Oh ya, we’re walking out the door on our latest project and Mr UPS walks up and hands me a B&H box containing a D610! Hot Dogs, I charged the battery on the flight and landed with the camera ready to go, Lexar 64gb SD loaded, and all my settings inserted (I’ll be posting my settings here soon). Than we dealt with really slow, slow, slow luggage, horrible traffic and when I could finally shoot, it was dark! Argh!!! So as you read this, I’m out shooting it up with this great priced killer camera. mtc.
You might have noticed, I travel a bit. Getting the back end, computers and the like, safely to the location is just as important as the cameras. I’ve been lookin and lookin and finally found the perfect combination for me and wanted to share it with you. The Think Tank Shape Shifter (black case) has been around for quite some while and is has a huge fan base (and I can see why), it’s great! It can carry nearly everything in my former briefcase along with a body and a couple of lenses. But Think Tank just upped the game with the newly introduced My 2nd Brain (gray case on right) and Powerhouse case (gray case on left). This combination frees my hands since it’s a backpack, it protects it all and easily goes under the seat of a plane and best of all, everything inside is totally and easily accessible. While a bit early for my Africa trip, this appears to be the perfect solution with its weight restrictions. Check it out, it might work for your traveling gear needs as well!
Note: I changed up the lighting for this product in a heartbeat switching to the Westcott Rapid Box Octa/ SB-910 / PocketWizard FlexTT5 setup just 20″ above the product. I needed a bigger light and had it instantly. I’m in love with Rapid Box!
Video capture keeps getting better and better so I wanted to up my Moose Cam game. And in the beginning of my search I was just thinking video but than I thought there might be more to the Moose Cam than just video so I broaden my search. I moved up to the Cooplix A as my Moose Cam because of that. Why the Coolpix A? There are a number of reasons, the first is its image quality which I like coming from the combo of its sensor and its 28f2.8 lens. This goes for the stills as well as the video. It shoots Raw, you can add a SB-910 to it (I’m not going there), it has a menu system and features much like the D610 which makes it familiar, flexible and fit in with my system. And it has a response AF and shutter release that I can operate wearing gloves. And it’s built like a tank with an all metal case. I’ve already taken in on a few road trips and this week I’m throwing it into the deep end and have all the faith in the world it will deliver. Now, if I can just get to editing all I’ve shot … argh!
This coming weekend will be one of the biggest gatherings of warbirds for quite some time and I can’t wait! I hope I cya there and if you see me, please say hello! I’ll be jumping around like a crazy man working on four separate project, the most exciting is a new Kelby Class (but it’s not a class) on Air to Air photography. I’m so pumped now I can hardly concentrate on work I need to do to go. But I want you to be prepared so you might want to check out this post Ten Tips and this post and of course the grand daddy of posts, our BIG Post
This is simply cool (you know how I love
toys, tools)! The Vello Wireless ShutterBoss works up to 250′ away from your camera giving you cast control over operation and firing. You truly need to read the instruction book on this remote, it does that much! Here’s the short list:
- Works with mutiple brands (need correct cable)
- 99 Possible Radio Channels
- Up to 250′ (80 m) Range
- Trigger Camera Wirelessly or Wired
- Dual-Function (Focus & Trigger) Release
- Delay Release Function
- Multi-Exposure Mode
- Interval Control
- Long Exposure Control
- LED Indicators–Pre-Focus & Exposure
Photographers are challenged by all they read about Depth of Field and how to apply what they’ve read. Personally, I still prefer to think of it of how I was taught it back in the dark ages, Depth of Focus. You might want to get our FREE iBook Photography FUNamentals if you’re feeling frustrated by DoF. At the moment, I want to talk about DoF and infinity. While in science, infinity has one meaning, in photography it’s much easier to visualize. All you have to do is set you lens to infinity and look through the viewfinder, you’ll see what is and what isn’t in focus. In this example, the Tetons are miles away from the camera and whether shooting with a wide angle (above here using a 18-35AFS) or long (below 80-400), closing the lens down to gain DoF is a waste of shutter speed. Infinity while mathematically has DoF, in practice, you gain nothing.
This is photography so of course, there are caveats. In both of these photos, there is nothing else between the camera and the subject that we want in focus. For example, in the top photo, if we put a person in the foreground to take their portrait, than yes, DoF matters very much. Shooting with a wide lens, DoF is pretty simple. Shooting with a long lens, DoF can be a challenge. But I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about the subject being at infinity and the belief that shooting at f/32 is going to help with the sharpness. It will not, you can shoot at f/5.6 as these were and be good to go. You can test this for yourself and I hope you do. It might help you move down the DoF road and make it work for you. In this case, opening up the lens, having a faster shutter speed and just a tad more fun.
As visual communicators, there is a lot of things we need to know. Among the top of the list is #1 – the mind’s eye goes to light and bright and #2 – the mind’s eye goes to sharpness. The focus on the subject and the depth of focus around that subject (also known as depth of field) is often what determines what lens I’m going to shoot with and the aperture desired. This all has to do with #2, grabbing the attention of the mind’s eye. The rest of the elements in the photograph tell the story, but subject is the same as a noun in a sentence and it has to be sharp. It’s what the whole photo is all about and we use sharpness to take your to the subject first thing. With that said, my camera’s are nearly always in Aperture Priority, were I control the DoF with the aperture and the camera sets the shutter speed. I want to control where the mind’s eye goes in the photo so I set the Aperture. This is the first reason I feel Aperture Priority is a photographer’s best friend.
The second reason Aperture Priority is your best friend is speed. The camera’s computer can come up and recommend the best shutter speed much faster than we can permitting us to keep our attention on the subject. Of course, you must use exposure compensation to use exposure to express the emotion you want to convey. And with that input from you the camera is lightning fast. Keep in mind that in Aperture Priority, the shutter speeds are stepless. If you don’t know that term, you need to learn it because it puts accuracy with speed in your back pocket. Sure, there are times when Manual Exposure modes might help you, but I’ve never understood why folks spend thousands of dollars on a computer just to turn it all off. Every time you can remove any variable in making a photograph so you only concentrate on the subject, your photographs will improve. It is up to you what tools work best for your photography in this pursuit, but keep an open mind. You might find that giving exposure control to your camera actually gives you more control over the photograph.