This is the closest we’ll ever get to racing at Reno. In Sept, 2011, my dear friends permitted me to place a GoPro in the cockpit of #74 Super Corsair to create an amazing video. What I have here is just 15min of the 208min process of getting an Unlimited up on the course and back down again.
Just what are you seeing here? The video starts with my bud Casey turning on the GoPro just at the start of the process of getting #74 ready for racing. You see Brady getting in #74, #74 being pulled out, gassed and placed on the ramp prior to the race (in the skies is a L-39 show). You’ll then see Robert Odegaard, one of the best pilots out there, get in #74, do the preflight and then taxi. #74 will take to the skies (you can see the GoPro in the still capture above and me taking the photo on take off in the video) and get in place with the other Unlimiteds prior to jumping on the course. You’ll see a T-33 Jet, that’s the pace plane. You’ll see the Unlimiteds jump on the course and then Robert take #74 around on three laps. You’re watching one of the best behind the stick. It’s a great show! Enjoy!
And if you’re wondering why I’m just posting this now, it’s because I’m behind! I have 980GB of video shot during the last year that I’ve not edited and posted. This 15min comes from 5.98GB, 208min of video and even though I edited it in Photoshop CS6, still took 2hr to get done. But I think you’ll find it worth the wait.
If you do, then run! Run to find a great foreground and subject to put with them. Clouds have the magic to transform the common into uncommon just by their very being. The key is to place your subject in the clouds but not letting the clouds overcome the subject. You want to use the clouds to give the imagination to roam and then bring the mind’s eye back down to the subject. This requires not only a great shape but also highlights and shadows that move the eye through the frame. In this process, you might have to use a split grad and the point of capture and Curves in post to manipulate those highlights and shadows. But if you have clouds, you have photographic gold!
Doug over on my FB page said he was looking forward to my comparison between the D3x and D800. I honestly wasn’t thinking of doing one but then someone else pinged saying the same thing. Since I no longer have my faithful (and great) D3x, I’m not in the position to do a side by side photo comparison. But I can and have done 24×30 prints from both cameras with the Epson 7900 and can look at the results. Understand, this is going to magnify any pluses or minuses going to a print this large with 24×30 always being the standard I go by when making quality judgements. Both of these are megapixel cameras with the express intent of capturing great detail. They both exceed at this beautifully!
The question on the table is, which camera produces the better file? Technically, the D800 does, hands down. Now will you see that bump up in quality in a 8×10, 11×14 or even 17×22 print? You might not even see it at 24×30, especially if your shooting technique is no spot on. With that being said, looking past the file quality there are some other aspects of the D800 that put it ahead of the D3x. You can’t get past the fact the D800 out of the box is 1/3 the size, weight and cost with 3x faster FPS and buffer compared to the D3x (does better at high ISO as well).
Now personally, the D800 out of the box was not the shooting experience I’ve been use to for the last 30yrs, small camera bodies just don’t work for me. That was solved with the expensive MB-D12 which I love shooting with but have not bought yet (still renting from Borrowlenses.com). The placement of the BKT button I can’t get use to. The Multi Control Selector sticks out further on the D800 so when I shoot vertical the AF sensor dances around as my forehead depresses it. The blinking of the entire lit grid in the viewfinder when you change AF sensor position is driving me bloody nuts! So when it comes to actually taking the photo, the shooting experiences, I prefer the D3x hands down! But with the file size and 5FPS (6FPS if & when I get the MB-D12 and inset D4 battery) the D800 produces, there is no way I can go back to the D3x.
The two photos here were taken with the D800 (above) and D3x (below). These are pretty classic reasons why I want the high MP cameras, I wanna see the rivets on the aircraft. Now I shot air to air with the D3x for a few years and never missed any photos because of FPS or buffer, but I could have more and that’s a good thing. I could not do air to air with the D800 without the MB-D12, there is simply not enough mass. Now I’m personally not seeing a big difference in the metering or exposure range when comparing the two bodies. The D800 has less noise than the D3x but that’s not really saying much. It’s not a noise machine but I’ve shot it ISO 1600 with no ill effects. Now this is no scientific, fact gathered kind of comparison because I never planned on doing one. I didn’t see or don’t see a need to do one. The D800 is a tool evolving forward megapixel shooting and I’ll use it just as that, a tool. My main shooting body will remain the D4. I love the D4! But now that I’ve spent two weeks glued to the D800, I’m making it more mine and fitting it into my shooting. We’re getting along and I have no problem pulling it and making the shot. Really can’t ask much more from a tool.
After we lead the V-35B back to the field, we went lookin for the PT-17 Stearman that had already launched. You might think finding an all yellow plane in the sky easy to find, well it’s not! So after learning where they were by calling out landmarks on the ground, we caught up to them. Then we had to join up. The Cessna 172 we were in goes a little faster than the Stearman so we had to approach and over take with care or we’d waste time and gas rejoining. This top shot I really like for one main reason, it’s not one you get very often. If you look at Scottie in the front seat, he is really craning his neck to see us. The pilot just can’t do that very long and keeping a visual of the aircraft is kinda safety rule #1. So as we approached, D800 with MB-D12 attached along with the 70-200VR2 cranking. At 5fps, it did a good job capturing the moment.
So the flight out as you can see, the Stearman (a WWII trainer) was backlit. Many have issues with this lighting pattern and understandably, you can loose detail in the shadows. I though kinda embrace it. First, the plane I’m in is all white and it reflects some light into the Stearman. Next, the Stearman being yellow helps alot. Lastly, I use the Shadow slider in ACR to open up the shadows some. This combination was used to make the top two images.
Then there was the flight back to field when the Stearman was frontlit. The shadows I looked for and embraced are those on the ground. Air to air photography I treat in my mind as really two types of photographs at once, wildlife and landscape. The flying aspect of the aircraft is the wildlife and the background, good ol earth is the landscape part. I’m looking for gesture in the wildlife and the drama in the landscape. I don’t know if that makes any sense to anyone else by me, but that’s what’s going through my mind as I shoot. These two disciplines in photography are very familiar to me so thinking about them while shooting I think permits me to bring out more character, romance in my air to air images.
This wasn’t the climax of our flyin bday party, we had bonfires and s’mores, beer (once the flying was done) and great friendship and conversation. I gotta thank the great, great pilots I had the opportunity to work with. My pilot in the 172, Steve, in the V-35B, Arron & John and in the Stearman, Kevin and Scottie. We had flown earlier that day down to Ponca City for lunch with our dear friend Kevin and ended up the day flying low and fast over the KS landscape. Life simply gets no better but then as the bday boy would say, “That’s how we roll.”
We really had no expectations when we went to the flyin Bday party for our dear friend Scottie, but one would think with so many aircraft, you might just get your feet off the ground. After a great BBQ, Scottie said, “Lets get a shooting mission going!” Within seconds my bud Kevin was in one plane and Sharon & I were in another with aircraft taxing down the grass strip and launching. Wow…fun doesn’t even come close to expressing what came next! And I was very exciting to have my first air to air opportunity to work with the D800 with MB-D12 attached along with the 70-200VR2 ring in the air. Just a few months ago I did my first air to air with the D4 and just before that, the D3x. So to see how the D800 would translate off the ground, I just couldn’t wait!
This is a 1955 V-35B Bonanza that was my first subject for the evening. John & Arron at the stick did a great job. Steve flying the Cessna 170 we were in flew a great path so all I had to do was watch the light and background and shoot. And the D800, it did a great job! I simply can’t rant enough how that MB-D12 has made all the difference in my shooting experience with the D800. That extra mass especially when shooting out the window of the 172 was key in making a sharp click. It was a great evening and…it wasn’t over yet!
One soft beam of light leaked through the trees as the sun kissed the horizon. It struck the nose of Matt’s Cessna 180 and it’s brand new paint. With the sky that unique look and feel that comes this time of year in Kansas as they burn off the fields, all the dots where there, it was up to me to connect them. Like a moth to a flame, that one droplet of light sucked me in.
With no tripod, the slow shutter speed (1/40) shot had to be done hand held. Last week, I would have grabbed the D4 because it’s a slam dunk shooting it at that slow a shutter speed. I was still struggling with the D800. But with D800 with MB-D12 attached along with the 70-200VR2 rig, I knew I could make the click nice and sharp.
I walked a small arc around the nose looking at that droplet of light, the background and the angle of the 180. The clock was ticking because the sun was basic set, I had minutes. Then the shot became obvious once I thought about “the subject,” the light on the nose! Shooting on one knee for the low angle, I focused on the droplet of light, dialed in -1 exp comp and went click. The 180, grass strip where we were having the party and the sky zeroed in and made the image. Real easy stuff producing a clean click. I like this kind of photography!
There is a question photographers often face with the answer being cut and dry yet, ignored. The question..go for the angle or go for the light? Here’s a simple example of what I mean. At a fly in birthday party this past weekend, the sun set slowly and was given extra drama as it sank through the trees. The top image is my preferred angle to this gorgeous PT-17 Stearman. But the bottom image by far has the better light. In my book, light trumps angle every time making the bottom image my favorite.
Like every piece of new gear that comes into my bag, I tie myself to it for weeks until I feel I know all its pluses and minuses. So it has been with me and the D800. These images shot with the D800 with MB-D12 attached along with the 70-200VR2 I’m finding works better and better for me. The weak link is not the gear but the photographer! By nature, I am not a tripod shooter, preferring to handhold all my shots. The D800 without the MB-D12 just didn’t fit my hands that I was use to, I couldn’t wrap my hand around the way I’ve become accustomed to for the last 30yrs. The addition of the MB-D12 has made all the difference in the world to me! Now it does defeat the purpose of the smaller body but it’s made a huge difference to me and my results.
So there I was with the 600VR set up at the end of the T Hangars at PRS shooting away. I started off with the D4 and all was well. Then I switched to the D800 and the struggles set in. I kept looking a the LCD and I wasn’t capturing sharp images. I would get one here, one there but I wasn’t getting whole series and it was driving me nut so I looked at what was going on. Everything was normal, 600 on Wimberley on the Gitzo, the only thing that was different was the D800. Becoming really conscious of it all, I realized my pan wasn’t as smooth. It seemed to be “hesitant” at times before continuing. It was driving me nuts so I really bared down on my technique but results didn’t get any better.
I knew the problem was me, but what was it? I switched by to the D4 and instantly my keeper rate went flying back up to normal. I switched back to the D800 and it instantly dropped again. What the hell was it. Then in the process of going back and forth with bodies on the 600, it dawned on me. Mass! The mass on the end of the 600 that I was swinging was less with the D800. The problem was simple physics and muscle memory! The problem wasn’t the camera, the lens the rig or technique, it was me! Us humans get so set in our ways that at times, it gets in our way. Being a creature of habit, I decided to add some mass to the D800 and test. I rented a MB-D12 from BorrowLenses.com and bang, the mass was back and muscle memory was happy again. I’ve heard from a number of D800 owners stating they’ve not been getting the image quality out of the camera that they think they should be getting and wondering what’s wrong with their camera because God forbid, they could be the problem. As I learned, if you get just one sharp image, the odds are, you’re the problem and not the gear. Such was the case for me so now that I have the mass, all is happy again! BTW…the D800 with the MB-D12 feels soooo much better in my hands!
Photos captured with D800 / 600VR
A new piece has been posted on the Nikon Learn & Explore site, Shooting for Better Photos? Details Can Make a Difference. As I’ve mentioned many times, macro just isn’t what I’m good at so I keep pushing it. This piece written by my dear friend Barry tries to explain how I approach getting better at something I struggle with.
There were many reasons why I was at PRS this past week. One of them was to use the opportunity to practice and try out some new gear and techniques. One of those was shooting video with the D4 on the 600while tracking the aircraft going around the pylons. I’m here to tell you, it wiped my butt something fierce! The rig was the Gitzo with Wimberley with D4/600 mounted with SmallHD DP-6 used as the monitor (with hood attached). There is no doubt the Wimberley is the right head for this, but that’s what I own. We walked to the top of the Grand Stands for a vantage point and clear view of the entire race course. But my panning skills to track the entire course just wasn’t up to the task. By the end of three hours I was getting better but far from perfect. I learned what I did wrong so now the challenge will be to find other subjects to practice on so when Sept comes, I’m good to go.
As the T6 go along the back stretch, you’ll notice they most definitely become fuzzy. That’s caused by the heat shimmer rising off the sage. No matter how sharp the lens, the number of megapixels or the technique, there is nothing we can do to remedy this problem. Understanding and seeing this can be a challenge. Hopefully the next post will help you out.
The flyin & photography at PRS is just flyin..crankin and I’m jumpin. Sorry, no real time to blog today but wanted to just encourage you to go out to a airshow this week and show your support and shoot. Much more to come!
That’s what I want to say with one click…came up with this idea which is in its rough draft form here. Can do better, time will tell.
“Welcome Home!” was the greeting we got from Val when we pulled Monday to PRS, precursiour to the Reno Air Races (which are more definitely happening this Sept!). And home it is as this is where my passion for aviation was wed with pixels five years ago. When we were new to PRS & Reno, everything was new and photographically, finding new images was not a challenge because it was all new. But now with our fifth event, finding the new image from old at first seemed to be a challenge. Jake, Brent & I thought about it and in a short time we decided we wanted to try a new perspective. Normally at pylons shooting up at the aircraft, we thought we’d trying shooting across at them. The only vantage point for that was at the top of the Grand Stands. So we packed up our gear, a lot of water and headed to the top. Damn is it hot up there in the full sun at 91 degrees! We only spent a couple of hours up there but the potential was obvious as our dear friend went screaming past in #43. With the D4 attached to 600VR w/Tc-14e worked well. No problem with the FPS or images quality even with the heat shimmer. The focal length was good, might go with TC-20eIII tomorrow. But we did find something new from the old, now to exploit it and make it ours.
I’ve started a long term project and starting the research for it. Part of the project is talking to, interviewing and photographing hopefully crew members of the A-20 Havoc (pictured above). Veterans from WWII in which this aircraft flew are disappearing and part of the work we’ve been doing is to get these vets stories recorded before they disappear. Even better is to get aircrew vets back in the aircraft for a modern day flight. If you have a family member who was in a A-20 Havoc or a A-20J in particular during WWII, I would love to talk with them. If you could put the two of us in touch, I would be very grateful. Give us a call 760.924.8632 / 661.204.1506. Thanks!
One of the great pleasures for Sharon & I is being able to work with our sons now they’ve moved out on their own. Jake is a great shooter and I just love shooting with him so it was a great thrill having him with us in Dayton for the Reunion. Not only is he a great shooter, he’s real good at the business side as well. I have lost count how much he has got into print already this year. His latest, from the Doolittle Reunion is out and you can see a sample on the web AirShowStuff Magazine. You click on View Issue Online and get to page 50, you’ll start seeing his images, he has a bunch there starting with two doubletrucks! Great job bud…just leave something for the old man!