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.
We were incredibly fortunate to have the guys from the Florida Historical Preservation Group or as their Facebook page states, the Florida Flyboys. They were simply amazing adding to the Precon a great level of authenticity to the WWII scene created by the folks at Fantasy of Flight with their aircraft. Between the planes, the guys and the jeep, we had hundreds of possible set ups we could shoot and have fun with. Here they are out with the Stinson L-1, first time the L-1 had been out after many years of complete restoration. Everything in this frame could have easily been seen exactly the same way 70yrs ago during WWII!
Since I was working the field helping the students so I didn’t have much time working any particular situation the Florida Flyboys would set themselves up in. So when I saw this scene in the shade of the wing of the C-47, I ran over before they could move. Shooting with the D4 and 18-35, I got up close shooting at 18mm (notice how little distortion there is at 18mm). Then shooting on the fly with only moments, I made the three clicks you see moving them slightly in the corner to make the selection which one I liked best back at the computer. Because after these three clicks, I was out helping a student.
Now shooting on the fly, I didn’t have flash out (should have!). So finishing was done in post with ACR used to open up the shadows which should have been done with flash. The only other thing done in post besides ACR was using Pro Contrast in Nik’s Color Efex. I want to thank the Guys for being not only great sports, but for helping preserve and share our history!
At our Precon for Photoshop World last week, we were at Fantasy of Flight where they had pulled out a number of aircraft for us to photograph. One of them was the B-26 Marauder, a rare bird indeed! The B-26 is normally in the back corner of the hangar with all these other tugged in under its wings. I’ve never gotten a clean shot of it, not even one I could clean up in post. I check it out every time I’m there, but I had no photos of it. So when I saw it on the line, I was really excited to spend some time shooting it on a gorgeous Florida day!
I had the D4 with 18-35AFS (fabulously sharp lens!) and went to work. I shot knowing that I was going to remove much of the distracting background in post. That is key! I selected my angle for the shot, raising the camera up and down to maximize the background while minimizing by post removal.
Nope, I’m not sleeping on the job like our guy at the Photoshop World Precon, just jumping, running, smiling, exhausted and exhilarated here at Photoshop World to get blog done. What our reinactor is acting at sleeping under (he said he was acting) is the only airworthy, flying L-1 in the world. My bud Paul rolled it out for the first time on the grass for me to photograph and as it turned out, our whole group was able to enjoy this great aircraft and experience of a rollout. It’s a real simple click made with D4, 18-35AFS using a SB-900 on a SC-28. Well, gotta jump back into the mix and the fun here at PSW!!!
Talkin light, I put one of our GREAT reinactors under the wing of the L-1 and the other, well he just kept sleeping. The set up was not meant to be a simple, easy shoot. It was set it up basically like what you typically find at an airshow and how to solve the lighting problem by yourself with a single flash set up. We started by learning how to use the camera to tell us the range of light (more than 8 stops here) and then using the camera and flash to compact it. What you see here is the before and after. If this is a lesson you which you could participate in, well you need to get yourself to Photoshop World
Today was the start of Photoshop World, for many at least because this was Precon day. This is when workshops with small groups explore a whole lot of topics, mine today was light and aircraft. After a classroom session, we headed out to Fantasy of Flight for an epic afternoon. We had GREAT folks join us in the field and the GREAT folks at Fantasy brought out a dozen aircraft for us to work with. They weren’t just any old airplane, oh no! Here’s the gorgeous P-51C “Red Tail” that like many of the aircraft was out on the grass just like during WWII. This is a simple click taken with D4 / 18-35AFS and finished using the techniques taught in class. It was just a marvelous day and want to thank ALL who made it so memorable!
Major Thomas Griffin past away 26 February, one of the remaining five Doolittle Radiers. While I only meet him twice, it was a pleasure to spend just a little time with the gentleman. If you’re not aware of this national hero (though doubt he thought himself as such), I highly recommend you take the time to find out. He was a very important part of our history. Safe flight West Major!
The above photo taken at 70th Doolittle Radier Reunion, 2012 OH.
I had just gotten my Nikkor 400f5.6 EDIF. I got it mainly because of this photographer’s gorgeous photograph that he stated he had made the photo with. That was good enough for me, that was the lens I had to own and after shelling out $1k I didn’t have, I was ready. For the next six months, I spent hundreds of hours trying to make the photograph. While I got shot of the bird, they were nowhere close to the photo I held in such esteem. It was incredibly frustrating and I felt as if I was just the dumbest photographer. I had the gear, bird and time, why couldn’t I make the damn image?!
Then I went to a presentation by the photographer and I saw even more gorgeous images like the one I was trying to emulate. I was going downhill when it was time for the half way break. The photographer, a real people person stood and took questions during the break. Another participant came up to the photographer and started to talk to him about the photograph I was trying to get. My ears perked up and I tried to find that missing ingredient to the formula to get the shot. After a couple of minutes, the photographer said he used a duper and made a cropped duplicate slide!
The photograph I was going after wasn’t what the photographer had seen in the viewfinder. It wasn’t the photograph he had gone click and captured. That revelation stung and I wasn’t alone. The other participant who had asked the question demanded his money back, accused the photographer of being a fraud and stormed out. His point was simple, the photographer was passing his work off as being what he shot and it wasn’t. (So obviously that quality was important to the photographer that he lied about it.)
I personally don’t care if photographers crop, I really don’t because it’s not my photograph. It’s there’s and they can do whatever they want that puts a smile on their face. That’s works for me! But for my own photography, this just isn’t good enough. I remember working and working to get that shot, which I thought, was out of the camera to come out of my camera. It took years and I finally did get it but it required a 800mm, not 400mm. And it set in my mind another reason for the standards of quality for my photography I still must shoot by.
This photo of a Morane-Saulnier MS.230 was not easy to make. On one of those flukes that is the aviation biz, I was at its first flight after seven years of restoration. Better than that, we were at an unrestricted airfield and it was a grass one too boot! I could drive my vehicle right on the field and set up on the runway to get the shot you see. I was going to take advantage of the opportunity. Well, I pushed the limit and pulled out the big gun, D4 with 600VR2 to get a shot of the Morane-Saulnier down the throat shot.
While it’s not perfect, it’s the best I’ve got so far so that makes me happy. And learned a couple of things which will make me better next time. And a point of pride, what you see is what I took and I take that very seriously. I know others look at my photos and say to themselves, “I want one like that.” It’s my hope that with my standards of quality, you can take a little comfort in knowing that if Moose could do it, you can too! And this is just another reason why I don’t crop.
And then there are times when I simply use what’s around me to make the light happen. Here you can see Stu outside of the plane with the original rib that is damaged and needs replacing, the new rib he made the the pattern he made to make that replacement. At one of his workbenches with his tools putting the final touches on the rib, I made a real simple click of the craftsman at his craft. I only had a minute to make the click.
Working in a hangar has lots of pluses to this process. The background light is really soft, big hangar doors facing to the north bounce in soft light. Behind us is a part of an aircraft, I think it was a nose all polished metal. I wanted Stu and the new parts lit, not the workbench foreground. Holding the D4 with 18AF vertically (gotta love them vertical firing button), the SB-900 on the SC-28 was held up and turned backwards to bounce light off the aircraft. The foreground shadow was created by me, perfect to darken it. I didn’t take time to think about the lighting, just reacted. I can do this one light thing fast and easy. Add a second flash or ask me to draw it all out and plan in advance and then shoot it, I’m screwed! Hope this helps.
After a recent presentation, I was asked a bunch about my very simple, shooting on the move lighting. A little background, when working with biologists and pilots, I can’t stop them during their work, ask them to backup, set up a shot and go. I have to shoot on the go and get the shot when it happens. I really prefer being transparent and if possible, not even use flash so the subject doesn’t know I’m shooting. There are times when that is simply not possible so the flash comes out. Working with these folks, space is usually part of the equation. There isn’t much which is a plus and minus. The plus is I don’t have to have much light. The minus, me and the gear gotta squeeze into that space. With that said, here’s one example.
I’m photographing Stu, an amazing “metal” guy busy fabricating ribs for this aircraft as he restores it to airworthy. It’s an fascinating craft and art that I love to watch (and ask lots of questions). What was once done in mass production is now done one piece at a time, often with no blueprints. Stu is working rivet by rivet in this section matching up what he hand made with the side of the aircraft just like it came from the factory. He has one high powered work light on the right side that is a source I have to take advantage of. In the background is the roof of the hangar lit by daylight from the open hangar door. The rest of the scene is dark as sin as far as the camera is concerned. Shooting with the D4 set to ISO 800 and with CS e4 in use, shooting with the 18AF (A favorite lens) and SB-900 on the SC-28, I pop up through the hatch (still have a lump from that!). I need to underexpose the ambient light (roof & work light) and light the rest of the tail section & Stu. To do that on the fly, exposure comp in the body is dialed down -2 and the exposure comp on the flash is zero. The flash it turned backwards otherwise it would have lit the tail section like a tunnel, bright closer to the camera and darker back at Stu. With CS e4, the comp dialed into the body only effects the body or ambient light exposure and does not effect the flash. I find this Custom Setting SUPER valuable in my work. I hope this makes some sense and helps you get an idea of how I work on the fly on a project shoot.
The challenge is to keep it moving forward!
With the huge response to the Epson Finish Strong campaign that we were a part of, one question keeps getting asked. “Which is your favorite?” Great question with the perfect phrasing because “favorite” is exactly how I look at my images. Not the best, but my favorites. I had the amazing great fortune to work with the one and only Larry Perkins, pilot of #57 and my amazing team Kevin Crozier & Scottie Foster and of course, Jake. So it was really pretty easy to do the shoot. It was 90min of flying nirvana as we warmed up then got into position and then made the shot you see in the ad. During that whole time, I brought back and filed over 3000 images so narrowing it down to my favorites is no minor feat. This top image taken with a D800 (loaded with Lexar 128GB 1000x cards!) and 70-200VR2 is one of them because it’s the shot I was going for. Everything you see in the photo from the mountains, sunburst and gesture of the Super Corsair were all in my head before we left the ground. There is a certain satisfaction when what you conceived of months before and sold to a client actually comes to life in the viewfinder. If only critters would do the same thing!
And then there is this shot. When we did this shoot in July ’12, there were two airworthy Super Corsairs, #74 & #57. Both of them restored and flown by the legend Bob Odegaard, the man responsible for so much more in my short aviation career. Two days after the Epson Finish Strong ad first broke in Sept, Bob died in a crash flying #74. This photo here with Larry at the stick, I see in #57 a number of little things Bob pointed out to me in how he restored #57. In the gesture of the Corsair, the light, the background, all remind me of how Bob so loved to fly and work on these pieces of history. Right after the shoot in July as I filled all the images, this one didn’t stick out to me. It was later, after Bob passed that it struck me. There is in this image more than just a plane and a pilot to me. So in answering the question, which is my favorite, I have two. One is from the accomplishment and the other in remembrance of a dear friend.
I sat down by the fire last night with the latest magazines from Mr. Postman and the first one I opened, I said, “I recognize that photo.” Sure enough, the great front and rear cover and inside spread of the latest Dispatch is by Jake. To see the piece, you need to be a member of CAF, a very worthwhile organization. Great job bud!
Sharon & I took what, at least as of this moment, is our last commercial flight for 2012 up to WA to spend Thanksgiving with the family at Brent’s. This, after 21,433 air miles just in the last 3 months just in the US (doesn’t include all the driving). Now I’m told I’m on vacation since I don’t have a teaching, speaking, shooting gig but the computer is humming and the cameras have been clicking. I brought all my gear up in the Think Tank Airstream, which rocks because it holds the D4, 200-400, 70-200VR2, 24-70, 24f1.4, 18f2.8 & SB-900 with accessories and still fits under the seat of the small Dash 80s we flew in. Ya, they wanted to take it from me to put in ALa Cart but with a smile and reassurance that it fits under the seat, I was good to go. (D600 was in the Disguise 60)
Oh, no, we didn’t fly up in this DC-3 nor do I include the air to air shoots coming up as part of my “flying” since air to air is fun, travel commercial isn’t always fun. This photo is from one of the many air to air shoots I did a week ago. While I’m on “vacation,” I’m getting all the images processed from those shoots. The DC-3 was a quick 23min flight but I have 100 cool images to send off to the client. I would have loved to have puffies in the background but the desert dust at the bottom of the frame works OK, better than bald blue sky. My good friends Dale & Brian are at the stick and shooting this old bird was a hoot! This was a quick “ID” shoot, have plans for some others with this great old plane. This photo was a simple click, D4 / 70-200VR2.