I’m writing and illustrating daily updates of the Reno Air Races at Warbirdsnews. You might find it interesting.
Tomorrow is the start of the 50th Anniversary of the Reno Air Races (and my 5th year in aviation)! This is the fastest motor sport and has to be one of the greatest events to photograph. We’ll be here all week and in fact if you come, you will see our first ever Peterson’s Flying Circus booth. Now I want you to come and when you find Jake and I, say hi. And if you have ~any~ questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. If we can be of any assistance in helping you get better photos, than we want to answer that question. Now here’s a hint for making the most out of Reno, pay the extra few bucks and get a pit pass. The pit pass permits you to shoot where we shoot the majority of the time at the T Rails. All you need is a 70-300 lens and solid panning technique and you’re good to go. It also lets you get into the pits are so cool. Hope to see ya out here!
Basically just like I talk about in the new chapter of Taking Flight, you show up and the flights happen. In this case though, Sharon needed the images for her work with the AZ CAF Airbase, so I was volunteered to show up which, really wasn’t all the bad. It was a great day at Osh ’13 to be flying as you’ll see in the video.
A little bit on the photography. I’m shooting with the D4 / 80-400VR3. The GoPro is mounted on the D4 via the hot shoe with the new NFlightcam Billet Mount (the red part unscrews and attaches to Manfrotto Ballhead) and has the “Bright” Aviator Lens Kit. The Aviator Lens Kit does not slow the shutter speed down enough for me, so working on improving for next flight. The video editing was done in Premier CC and the music, that help came from Roy.
There are times when I think video rocks (that’s never when I’m editing it) as a storyteller and this is one of them! Having friends in the right places really helps in aviation photography. The pilot of the C-53 is a dear friend and when I requested to attached the GoPro Hero3 to capture the skydivers exiting the plane, he said let’s make it happen! Na, the video and editing are not perfect, this is a first for me in a couple of ways. First, never worked a flight with jumpers. Second, never got fancy and included music (thanks to Roy at Triple Scoop Music). So with all of that, here’s a little fun for you to watch.
A little bit on the photography. The Hero3 is set to Protune which creates a huge file, in fact this flight it made 9 files. Why do I go so big? I have NO clue how this might be used in the future or what technology will come down the road. With storage space so inexpensive, it seems like a no-brainer. The GoPro is mounted on the wing with the new NFlightcam Billet Mount (the red part unscrews so can be attached to hot shoe ballhead, sweet) and has the “Bright” Aviator Lens Kit. The Aviator Lens Kit does not slow the shutter speed down enough for me, so working on improving for next flight. The video editing was done in Premier CC and the music, that help came from Roy.
I called out the directions and Kevin being Kevin, just followed them. I kept telling the group we were going to see Ms. Piggy. Now if in Hollywood, such an adventure wouldn’t be thought of as odd. Up in the tundra of Churchill, Canada, odd is putting it mildly! We’re there in May to photograph birds, not some Muppet character. We make the turn and leave the main road (which is dirt) and take another dirt road. We “run” through the snow patch on the road, get past the junkyard dog, we bumped down the rock strewn road and barely make the left that brings us up to a semi “parking” area. They look around and then I point up the boulder ridge and there is a gasp in the car. That’s because one wouldn’t think a C-46 Commando could “blend” in the tundra. Ms Piggy as it’s been called as long as I’ve been heading up to Churchill is an old cargo plane that landed a tad short of the runway.
There are many things that are very cool about Ms Piggy, one being is you can see it from the road and at quite some distance. But someone has to point it out the first time otherwise, this big “bird” does just blend in. Another thing is when you walk the wreckage, it appears like the plane was just “dropped” in place and didn’t “crash land.” Here’s the story of the crash:
This is a crashed C-46 aircraft that was operated by Lamb Air. She is found on the scenic route road along Hudson Bay shortly before it ends, close to the Institute of Arctic Ecophysiology. She is called Miss Piggy because she was able to hold so much freight and once did have pigs on board. On Nov 13, 1979 she was flying a cargo of 1 ski-doo and many cases of pop for the Arctic Co-op from Churchill to Chesterfield inlet. She lost oil pressure in her left engine shortly after departing Churchill. The crew of 3 tried to return the aircraft to the Churchill airport. They clipped hydro poles with one wing just before the IAEP lab and crash landed on the rocks there. 2 of the 3 crew were seriously injured. Investigation of the failed engine only revealed small metal chips through out. Her original paint of white and red with the Lamb Air markings has been painted over with gray for a movie
I really don’t know how many hundreds of photos I have of Ms Piggy, but I have more now. The clouds were perfect when I first said, “Let’s go photograph Ms Piggy” (wish I had a picture of the faces in the van when I said that) but once we arrived, well, you see them. But I was thinking B&W the entire time which is also partly why I picked the time of day. Shooting was really straight forward, D4 / 18-35AFS. The metering was straight forward as well since the D4 does so well in these situations. Then in the DD, it was ACR and Perfect B&W using the InFrared moving the Blue and Yellow sliders to modify the default. And in case your were wondering, yes, I was dying to do some stupid post about this was the plane we took, rough landing and the like but hey…
With that smile, how could you not want to go up and meet Clancy. He sucked me in instantly and we became fast friends from the first hand shake! He was one of the featured vets the Texas Flying Legends Museum brought in to speak at Warbird Alley at Oshkosh. Clancy has one helluva life story and he’s not shy about telling you it if you want to listen. I couldn’t get enough of his stories because he not only is a WWII Vet, flew in the TBM a lot (a favorite plane) but was also a navy photographer. Many of the iconic WWII Pacific photographs we see today are Clancy’s. When we were setting up this portrait, Clancy was telling me stories the entire time (you really can’t stop him). In fact, he didn’t stop talking while I was shooting which was a hoot. When I finished a few seconds later, I went up to him to thank him. He said, “nice light, you worked the nice light well.” Clancy and I became fast friends, talking a lot over the next few days. And whenever he saw me shooting, we would light up and acknowledge my shooting. You’ll be hearing a lot more about Clancy from me in the future, there are lots of stories to tell. Working with vets and recording their stories and getting them out has been one of the great joys photography has brought!
On the photo side, because of the environmental factors, it’s a simple click. Shooting with the D4 / 18-35ASFS, I took advantage of the clouds floating by. We are standing on a bright, white cement pad which is a giant bounce card. Being 92 years young, I brought Clancy to the front of the TBM (his plane) when I saw the clouds floating between the sun and us. Then with the cement acting as a fill card, I went click without the need of flash. It’s fast, simple and works great for not just Clancy but the whole scene. In post, just removed a person on the left and done. Except for the stories, we talked for another 45min until he went back on stage to address the audience.
After posting the photo of the P-40 flying in front of the Wall of Fire, a whole bunch of comments came flying at me. The main one being, “What the hell is the wall of fire?” The last night of Oshkosh, Jake & I found ourselves in the Airshow Performers show center box watching the amazing Night Show. The closing act was the Wall of Fire. So I put the D4 / 18-35 up, hit the video record button and shooting at 18mm, this is what we saw. The Wall of Fire is at the END of the video. Enjoy!
As Jake puts it, “Small Bragging Rights” but it is really much more than that for me today. There are many rewards photography has brought to me, I’ve been incredibly fortunate. One was the ability to spend so much time with my boys as they grew up, it was a priority of ours. Next, photography provided us the ability to share so much of our natural world with our boys in very personal and unique ways. And lastly, photography has provided a vehicle for Sharon & I to continue to be with our boys now that they are no longer boys but men. The current issue of Dispatch Magazine is a one – two – three Peterson punch as we dominate the page real estate (the two page pano assembled for me by Brent as part of our cockpit pano series). Having our boys in the business and part of our business was never the plan but there is no doubt, it is the BEST reward photography has ever brought! Proud of you boys!
It’s no secret I’m really into backgrounds. Nor a secret I’m really into clouds (as my bud McNally calls me, Dances with Clouds). When you combine those two thoughts to aviation, you then not only give the subject a place in space, but influence the story you’re telling with your photos. Here are two examples of what I’m talking about, taken literally just seconds apart as the B-17 made a pass during the recent Oshkosh airshow. It was part of one of the Tora Tora Tora shows, representing the flight of B-17s coming into Pearl as the Japanese attacked. Shooting with the D4 / 80-400VR3, I just let the shutter fly as it made its pass.
The top photo, the B-17 is starting to make its run. The background is full of smoke from the “Zeros” that made the pass before it. While you can’t really identify what’s going on, it still leaves one with the feeling that something isn’t right. Then as the B-17 continues it’s run, it’s in front of simply pretty clouds and that relates a totally different feeling telling a totally different story. And finally it comes up to the infamous Tora Tora Tora “wall of fire” smoke and than there is not question a battle is going on. The plane is the same, the time is only seconds apart but with the total change of the background, you change the story. Paying attention to backgrounds, even to the slightest change can totally influence your story!
I’m real fortunate and get to work with some of the best. It’s not only rewarding, but a ton of fun! On my flight to photograph Texas Flying Legends Museum’s C-53, I had the great fun of working with Adam White of Hemolock Film and Xavier Meal, a great, crazy French photographer.
The marvelous time lapse you see here Adam created. When I saw him attach the Silver Hero3, I was thinking video since, he’s a video guy (really good one!). But Adam like I said is good, he set the Hero3 to do a time lapse which was genius in action! What you see above is that time lapse and a great demonstration of professionals in action. Adam & I had the job of photographing the TFLM C-53, Xavier was to photograph the FG-1 Corsair. We all needed to do this through the escape hatch that was opened on the side of the TFLM B-25J “Betty’s Dream.”
To accomplish that, we had to take turns shooting out the port when the subject we needed was at the right place in our orbit. Being all professionals, you can see how without any effort, we all moved through the port to get our shots, working together to get the shots we needed. Now “moving through” is a relative term, probably better put by Adam as the Photographer Shuffle. It was a great flight, great images, a lot of laughs and the simple pleasure of working with professionals. I want to thank Adam for providing the video. Simply genius!
On a photography note, what you see me shooting with is the D4, 80-400VR3, Hero3 (in the shot shoe) and Vulture Strap. And all that video I shot during Oshkosh? It’s filed and backed up but definitely edited and ready to post. Maybe by Christmas?
Been home a few days and haven’t left the Mac Retina / Wacom 13 yet! I’ve crank through about 900 images so far, but I now know why I don’t do portraits for a living. My eyes are so tired from retouching, I can barely see this screen to type and I’m wearing my glasses! Really, how do portrait photographers do it? I know why they seem to all wear glasses though. With aviation photography, I push myself hard to get images finished and off to friends, pilots and clients fast if for no other reason than to say thanks. You’d be surprised how that one little word, thanks, can make all the difference in moving your career forward. Well, in the process of finishing, I tend to work starting with the first image taken and work through them in the order they were taken. It’s just a logic so I can find easily where I left off in my finishing. Well, after doing so many portraits, I find images I took that were, “What ifs” that I go and finish you could say, as a treat after hours of dealing with wrinkles.
These are two such images. I had rented a D4 from Borrowlenses.com which was my primary, on the strap, quick shooting body (others were attached to big lens and for video only). This D4 had the 18-35AFS all the time for shots like this. I just really like the B-25 “Devil Dog” so I’m always looking for unique static images since I’ve not meet the crew yet to take it further. This morning, I went for the “sun burst” shot forgetting the main rule, clean your front element first! Even though the sun was already up, I simply squeezed it under the tail at the same time shooting with the lens closed down. Then in post, I opened up the shadows with ACR8 and done. The other photo was taken with the D4 / 200-400VR2 is of the Ford Tri-Motor that basically flies all day taking folks on rides. Being a cool, old plane and with the skies, I used Perfect B&W (love that plugin) to make the photo look old by going B&W.
On a photographic side note, two things. Lugging the 200-400VR2 around for 15hrs each day, it gets heavy. I lighten the load using the Sun Sniper strap. And to protect the lens as you “bump” through the crowd, the 200-400VR2 wears a LensCoat. Both of these accessories make working the flight line just a little easier. And with that daily trivia, it’s back to retouching portraits. sigh….
6 June, 1944 allied forces were landing on the beaches of Normandy. The 8th Air Force along with many others had been bombing occupied Europe for nearly a year but now American, British and other countries were putting forces on the ground to battle the war. It’s hard to imagine the chaos, panic, fear, emotions and drive to take those beach heads. The soldiers on the ground would be attacked from the air as well as the ground. But how would they in the heat of battle be able to pick out the enemy aircraft from their own?
Quick, easy, obvious visual identification was required. All aircraft, enemy and friendly had lots of markings already from country, unit markings to camouflage, something was required permitting rapid identification saying it was friendly. A plan was hatched to apply large black and white stripes on the tops and bottoms of wings and on the fuselage. All aircraft except four engine aircraft (because the Germans had no 4 engine heavies) were to get what became known as “invasion stripes.” But the invasion was a massive secret in which Herculean efforts were made to protect. Approximately 2500 fighters, 700 medium bombers, 870 gliders and tow aircraft were given invasion stripes.
All these aircraft were painted in the previous 48-72hrs to the landing but up to that moment, to preserve the secret of the invasion, no one knew they were going to paint all those aircraft. There was no stock pile of black and white paint let alone brushes to apply it all. It has been estimated that 30,000 gallons of paint was used for the paint job. Mops were the common tool for applying the stripes. And there was no time to scrounge up all the supplies let alone to paint perfect strips, it was slop and go!
We see many of our warbirds these days with perfectly painted invasion stripes, and while the stripes are historically correct, their perfect nature is not. At Oshkosh last week, the Texas Flying Legends Museum brought history to life in what I still feel is one of the bloodiest cool things I’ve ever been a part of. Their newly painted C-53 was brought to Warbird Alley and the reinactors painted on the invasion stripes in front of the crowd just like they had done 69 years ago. Eric (of Aircorp Aviation) and vets did an amazing job relating the story of what we were witnessing. In just over an hour, the C-53 had its invasion stripes. Now when you walked up and looked at the stripes, you saw the horrible job it was with brush bristles and mop strings stuck all over. There were no straight lines and the coat was anything but thick and even. And once “The Duchess of Dakota” was in the air, the stripes looked perfect. It was history coming to life right before our eyes, one of the most amazing events you can imagine!
On the photographic side, it was like shooting fish in a barrel. I shot over 1000 images of the whole event with the D4, 80-400VR3 and 18-35AFS. As you can see, we had puffies floating by which provided great soft light. The C-53 was parked on cement which reflected up light filling in what shadows were around. The first half of the painting I was literally stuck in one place so let the 80-400 do all the walking and then on the second half of the aircraft, I was able to zoom with my feet. When it comes to the portraits, the reinactors quickly got into character and took to the task with the same intensity as must have been felt on the airstrips of England 69 years ago. The photos were in their faces, just had to look for the expression to tell the story. The best part was the response of the crowd who were present while history was brought to life. It’s just another small piece of the puzzle of why we have the freedoms we do to pursue the magic of photography today!
As little as possible! Seriously, when you walk 6+ miles each day, too much gear just kills so this is where less is more! At the same time, I need to have the tools for the known and unknown, for the given and the imagination. With that in mind, you’re probably going to think I have everything but the kitchen sink. I’d have that but I’ll be in a tent. Here ya go:
- D4 (3x 1 rented from Borrowlenses.com)
- GoPro Hero3 (2x)
- Lexar 128GB 1000x CF (6)
- Lexar 32GB & 64GB microSD (6, at least until I loose them darn small things)
You might be wondering why I have both the 200-400VR and 80-400VR3. There are a number of reasons, the first being I can put teleconverters on the 200-400 and easily work. Next, the 80-400 is a dust pump (dust pump is an old term (cause I’m old) that dates back to old Vivitar Series 1 zooms. it refers to external zooming lenses) and when it comes to carrying a heavy lens vs. some post dust removal time, I’m torn which to take. Why are the bags and straps listed? They are essential to make it to the event and than through the entire event. In the heat and humidity, carrying a lot of gear will beat you down (and one can only eat so much ice cream). This is of course the list of the main gear, there is as you might imagine a ton of support gear. Spare batteries for everything along with chargers. Mounts for the GoPro & Contours and app on the iPhone & iPad. And all of this has been cleaned, tested and gone through this week before being backed to go. Hope this helps if you’re going. And if you want some shooting ideas, give this 10 Tips – Putting Action into Your Stills a gander. It might help as well.
Jake & I head out tomorrow for one of the funniest events of the summer, AirAdventure in Oshkosh, WI. This will be my third time to Osh and really looking forward to it. I’ve gone for the first part, I’ve gone for the last part but this time, we’re going for the WHOLE thing! I’m volunteering to shoot for EAA Warbirds so really looking forward to getting into the trenches doing some spot assignments. There are many of YOU heading there and I would love to shake your hand! So if you see me, please introduce yourself. If you have questions, please feel free to ask. Just understand, and you might not realize it, I might actually be working when you see me. So if that happens, my apologies, just bare with me. But please say hi!
Being where internet is so impacted, I have all of next week’s blog posts up and ready for you. Each day is a new critter blog with video, stills, text and gear. In a way, I’m hoping you don’t like them because the time to produce each post was really, well, it took most of this week for have them for next week. Hopefully though they will educate, enlighten and inspire. Hope to cya at the greatest airshow on the planet! Have a great week, be sure to fill them pixels with passion!
As the sun slipped below the horizon, the Waco & Cub were tucked back in their hangar and the mosquitoes took over the skies. I feel in love with the North Dakota landscape! While it seems flat, there is a lot of topography to it and its placement on the continent, lots of weather forms around it. I was to soon learn that as the sun slowly slips down (sunrises and sunsets are real slow that far up), start looking for the photograph because you’re in for a show. Warren has probably the only Meyer MAC-145 that’s flying so I checked it out (they have a Oscar stuffed animal in the back window, I’ll let you figure that one out). This funky lookin aircraft is actually pretty darn cool. While its shape isn’t your classic looking aircraft, it had a ton of potential for a great subject for the sunset. So I waited.
Armed with just the D4 / 18-35AFS (an amazing lens!) and a giant fly swatter, I watched the color form across the west. Based on the balance of color and light, I choose the angle for the photo. Being true to the Meyer wasn’t the goal, I was working it more as a sculpture out on the prairie than an aircraft. I liked the challange, taking industrial art to create more art.
You might be wondering if these are HDR as that seem the norm anymore when you see such images. Nope, these are one image clicks finished using just ACR 8.0. The key to making this work is three fold, shooting with the D4 with its six stop range, knowing how to expose to make the most of the Shadow / Highlight Slider in ACR. The color is from Mother Nature, I have twenty witnesses to its beauty that night, all I needed to do was concern myself with shadow and highlight detail. It’s pretty easy stuff when you ask yourself “What’s the subject” and then “What’s the Story?” and shoot accordingly.
I shot for about a half an hour, having a great time (except for the biting bugs as I was wearing shorts) working this crazy lookin plane. As the sun faded away, totally different opportunities appeared I needed to react to. Is there one image that I liked more than the rest? Sure, I like the ass shot, I just have a thing for ass shots. I really like this funky aircraft and being a “one of a kind” in a way, love having the opportunity to photograph it in a unique way. When you have an unique subject and special light, photography just happens.
When Warren Pietsch asks standing next to his Waco at his airport, you grab your camera and go!
Winner of the 2005 “Bill Barber Showmanship Award” asks this, of course you say yes!
It’s gorgeous with all sorts of wildlife
Sure, a little air to air with a 16Fish sounds like bigtime fun!
As if the whole experience hasn’t been totally amazing already!
More fun than one can ever imagine or express!
Photography has afforded me more amazing opportunities like this than one could ever expect in a lifetime. While being in North Dakota for the 4th was planned, being with friends was planned, all the great flying was not. All I had on the flight was a D4 / 16Fish, and that’s all I needed besides the good friends. In the wide open, private space that being in this country makes possible, this kind of flying can be enjoyed and with great pilots and friends, shared. It seemed only fitting on the 4th to have such a meeting with freedom!