I was incredibly fortunate to participate in the 70th Reunion of the Doolittle Raiders last month in Dayton, OH. Jake & I shot a boat load of images and written a number of pieces on the reunion. My first one is out in Plane & Pilot and you can see the web version here Doolittle Reunion. But I would encourage to pick up a hardcopy if you’d like to see what the D4 can do. All these images were taken with the D4 which includes the doubletruck. The results are stunning as far as I’m concerned but I invite you to see for yourself.
The photo above was taken from the nose of “Maid in the Shade,” my ride to the Reunion. What you see are 18 B-25s lined up before us, those that landed before we did and are waiting to taxi over to the static display area. The leaned back as far as I could in the greenhouse and made the shot with the 18AF. The D4 was the perfect tool for a number of reasons. I shot a bunch of video. It has that killer 10fps but the one feature I can’t speak highly enough about is its 6 stop dynamic range! Look at this photo, this is a single click and you can see detail inside and out. We are taxing, there was no way to do a 5 image HDR and with the D4, I’m finding I just don’t need to. If you’ve not checked out, this video might provide some more insight.
I’m in NY teaching, shooting and scouting and having a great time. My buds at B&H Photo didn’t want me sitting around much and kept me very busy all day starting with a flight over Manhattan. Jessica at B&H (thanks dear!) arrange for us to get a flight with Liberty Helicopters for 30min of shooting and scouting. Yesterday is was raining pretty darn good but this morning as you can see, I got my clouds. I just gotta have my clouds. The flight was pretty basic, we took off from the tip of Manhattan and went past the grand old lady and up the Hudson. Being a simplistic flight this time, doors were left on so I shot through the plexi which did color correction in post. There was no hover time so had to make the shot when you saw it which is always a challenge. The D4 & 24-70AFS made quick work of the shooting part of the process, I just had to see what I liked at click. The light wasn’t in our favor when it comes to direction, but it’s the only opportunity I was going to have so just had fun. Like anytime in the air, it was too short but it sure was a ton of fun. Thanks guys!
This is one of the most common questions I’ve been asked about the D4, “What’s your favorite D4 feature?” Up until last week I really didn’t have one but then I hadn’t pounded the D4 like I did last week. At the Doolittle Reunion I shot the D4 from long before sun up to long after sun down using all my normal settings and testing some of the new ones. It wasn’t until Wed morning that I figured out one of my favorites and that has to be the buffer. What you see above is the take off for the formation for the 13:00 flyover. You’re seeing in the top 3 image the first, middle and last click from the take off series, capturing a total of 53 frames stopping only because the B-25 was too far away to shoot anymore. I didn’t stop because the buffer was full. And the next two images are the first and last of the next burst, shooting without regard to the buffer! The D4 buffer and write speed is just freaking amazing! Wednesday evening I did my first air to air shoot with the D4 and again, I just let down on the hammer and only once did the D4 firing slow down when the empty got full. That’s ten frames per second Nef shooting at it’s best. So to answer the question, “What’s your favorite D4 feature” it has to be the buffer.
And to jump to the chase, what’s my next favorite feature? It’s gotta be the “improved” autofocus system. Now is it perfect, does it work all the time and with everything? Now I’m going to be a toad and answer this question with, you’ll have to get the upcoming issue of the BT Journal or wait a few months until I blog it. I do have some info you won’t find in the instruction book and so far I’ve not seen anyone put out. I can honestly say it performs and in ways that are better then the D3 which I didn’t think could be improved upon.
To get to my point, I need to give you a little background trivia. Before the prop ever turns, a brief is held, actually a couple of them. The reason of the brief is to go through the photo mission so all parties are on the same page for a number one reason, the main being safety. I was incredibly fortunate that my friends who fly the Texas Flying Legends Museum aircraft asked if I would do an air to air shoot with them. So they were my client, they had specific formations, “family portraits” they wanted taken. At the same time, they did this amazing flight for two WWII veterans, brothers. One flew in a P-47 (in the back of the P-51 during this flight) and the other a tail gunner in a B-25 (in Betty’s Dream). The photo mission was then not only the family portrait but portraits of the brothers flying again.
Before the main brief with all pilots, Doug (who flew the Corsair) & I sat down and created a Shot List. This is a aerial script of the aircraft/formation sets I wanted to tell the story visually. The shot list is more then, “I want the Corsair and then the Zero” but rather a move by move of planes in and out of the frame. These movements number one priority is safety. Then there is time, time is money because gas is burning. For example the B-25 can’t just dart in and out of place like the P-51D Mustang. So in no time Doug & I had a choreographed shot list for 9 formations in 60min (pilots were so good, we did it in less then 40min capturing 1709 images). With that, we did a brief with just the pilots of the subject planes. Then we did a brief with all pilots, photo platform and subjects. Then we did a walk through brief where we stood in positions of the flight and walk through all the moves for each formation. With all of this planning, we get in our aircraft and go flying.
While we “fly the brief,” simple little things like wind currents which you don’t know until you get in the air can take that planning and send it south. When you do an evening shoot for the light like we did, time is everything. So when one aircraft is taken out of formation for a minute because of turbulence, it then takes minutes for them to get back into position. You add the incredible complexity of five aircraft doing this, even with the best pilots on the planet like I had to work with, getting it all started is a challenge and its something no one has control over.
Our first formation was a Vic, a V formation with the B-25 on point. Getting the tight formation wasn’t coming together quickly and light was fading. It was obvious I was going to have to come up with another solution for the family portrait. All I could do (since I can’t get out and push) was make images to create a pano. The two images below are the two used to create the pano you see above. The biggest challenge was the background was never the same second by second and at the same time, the aircraft were moving up and down. I really didn’t hold much hope for the idea but with the D4 blasting at 10fps, I went for it. The image above is the fist assembly. I am quite pleased!
And the point to all of this? We’ve been finding here on the blog that wildlife photographers aren’t reading posts with a plane photo. Landscape photographers aren’t reading posts with wildlife. Everyone reads a post when there’s a Photoshop technique. How can photographers put their head in the sand like that? If I hadn’t done a ton of panos as a “landscape” photographer, I wouldn’t have had a clue on how to make it work from an aircraft turning 160knts shooting with 70-200 with ever changing background & horizon line! I don’t do portraits for a living and don’t live with flash, but if I didn’t learn those aspects of portraiture, I wouldn’t been able to photograph all the folks I had to this week at an aviation event! I personally don’t know of any aspect of any discipline of photography that doesn’t effect every other. If nothing else, if you don’t have an open mind to all aspects of photography, how can your photography grow and communicate? I’m not saying you need to read everything. I am saying though you might find your photography growing, being more fun and challenging if you simply go outside your comfort zone with the simple idea of learning. While I don’t go out and seek ultra wide panos much anymore, I sure am glad I perfected that technique for my photography. It made it possible to make this click taking care of my clients needs. It’s what photography often boils down to, no control problem solving.
After an amazing day that started really earlier, I was invited to go flying with some friends. With the amazing Larry Kelly in the right seat calling the sets, I laid in the tail of his B-25 “Panchito” photographing a group of very talented pilots I am incredibly fortunate to call friends. With only 90min of sleep again last night, I only had time to put up this one photo of the four ship. You have here a P-51 Mustang, P-40 Warhawk, AM6 Zero and FG-1D Corsair. Not seen was the B-25 Mitchell. This is a whole other story I’ll have to share at a later date. But I can say…wow!!!
At 12:20 the 20, B-25s launched from a parked position as if on the Hornet. At 30sec intervals, they roared into the sky to the delight of the crowd of thousands. I was an amazing site and even more sound as one by one they taxied and took off to the south. Once they all were airborn they formed up and exactly at 13:00 they flew over the memorial in a formation of 16 and 4. Sixteen B-25s carrying 80 young men 70yrs earlier winged over the ocean to bomb Japan.
And these are the four Raiders that are still with us. All over 90 now, the smiles on their faces was stirring. Since Jake & I are here working for 67 magazines, we had media credentials so we could shoot the memorial ceremony from the media pit. It was Jake’s first time to “fight” for a photo. While I enjoyed watching him working to make it all work, he didn’t like it so much.
With only 90min sleep the night before, we were at Grimes Field at 05:30 to start work. When you have that little sleep and it’s that early, photography is work. At least, getting the brain to function to make images is work. Jake & I arrived with our plans for the morning which we had made based on the briefing the evening before only to find things had changed so we had to move fast. Jake made some amazing images from the end of the ramp while I was in the nose. After a bit of doing, after I was on the ground from the flight, we finally meet up and debriefed from the morning. He had obviously made the images of the morning. I had not.
In the mental rush to try to get caught up on what was perceived missed photographic opportunities is when a hard learned lesson came crashing back. This aviation thing, it’s not about the planes. It’s all about the people who after the years, have now become my friends. The top shot is the crew of “Maid in the Shade” who always have and continue to take such great care of us. Looking at this photo, it’s hard not to get wet eyes knowing I flew in that nose of this plane because of these gentlemen’s friendship. I can’t thank, Spike, Dave and the rest of the crew enough for their friendship and the experience of a lifetime.
And the bottom photo, you might recognize some of these faces since they are no stranger to the blog. My co-instructor for our Air2Air Workshops, Doug Rozendaal flew “Betty’s Dream” in for the reunion. In this group are my dear friends Robert & Casey Odegaard. These folks not only provide the friendship that makes these events so much fun, filled with so much laughter, but make opportunities open up you could never have dreamed of. Walking through the USAF Air Museum here with Bob & Warren was amazing!
And the hard learned lesson? It’s real simple, this event is about the people and not the aircraft! It’s the men who flew the Doolittle Raid that we are celebrating and in a small way, the crews who flew these B-25s into Dayton passion in reminding us about our history. That’ the story, that’s the photos. That’s the learned lesson that will drive the successful photography. It’s going to be a great day today and can’t wait to be standing amongst these amazing aircraft hearing the stories and photographing the heroes, the people!
On this day in 1942, 80 men launched from a carrier that wouldn’t see years’ end to make a bombing run on Japan. We’re in Dayton, OH with ten of thousands of others to remember that day, those men 70yrs later. There are 20 B-25 Mtichell bombers here to participate in the celebration, memorial today that flew over from Urbaba, OH yesterday. I was very fortunate that my old friends from the AZ Wing of the CAF invited me to fly with them in “Maid in the Shade.” Since I’ve never flown in a B-25, just that made it exciting to me. To fly over in the green house in the nose even more so. And since I’m shooting for a couple of magazines, being able to photograph the arrow formation from the nose was amazing.
Here’s the view I had flying yesterday. Taken with a 18AF, you can see the OH countryside down below. You might notice though, there are no other aircraft in the photo. Never saw a one until back on the ground. The flight was incredible, the experience, over the top, but no photos that I needed. So while I now have a very small idea what it was like flying in a bomber back in the day, I don’t have one image I wanted, not necessarily needed for my articles. I’m not totally freaked, yet, as I have another opportunity to get what I need but it is now putting a little pressure on my mind. That’s a good thing, story telling shouldn’t be easy.
My bud Larry is on the ramp warming up Panchito and I’m laying underneath it shooting with the 18AF! Yeah, laying underneath it and having a blast! He ran up the B-25 until you could feel the vibration through the ground in your chest, it was great! I shot the D4 all day on everything from 200-400VR2 to 18mm capturing 2989 stills & 32GB of vid. The camera AF for all those images and there was a fair amount of chimping as this was my first aviation shoot with the D4. There was 68% of my battery left after all of this. Not sure about other reports, but I’m not experiencing any battery issues with the D4. mtc….
It was a great day at Grimes Field, OH! While it started out with big rain, the warmth in the hangars meeting up with old friends, telling storing and planning for fun this week, it was perfect! We’re in Dayton, OH for our first Doolittle Reunion which is it’s 70th and what folks are saying is the last. The story to tell from this even is HUGE so how I’m coming to do it with only 4hrs each evening to get cards uploaded, images sorted and field is going to be a challenge. Lemme start with the amazing ability afforded us today to stand under the B-25s as they landed. Oh yeah, we got to stand right in front of them as they taxied down, and oh…so much more. I’m writing this 90min before I have to “get up” for a 05:30 meeting at the planes. So, that’s all I got for now….
I whole bunch of your asked to be notified when articles I had done on the Super Corsairs were out. The great folks over at EAA Warbirds were good enough to post the PDF of the entire article here. This was a once in a lifetime event for the aircraft and me. It would have never happened without the friendship of Robert Odegaard, the man responsible for these incredible aircraft to be able to fly again. Enjoy!
I have a very well earned reputation for getting up early to greet the sun, be it critters, landscapes or aircraft. In FL there is always the possibility of ground fog along with the great light so I just can’t pass it up. So last weekend when at Stallion 51, we were there on the tarmac to greet the sun. One of the coolest things is to see the morning color reflecting off the polished planes, I just LOVE that! The problem is, how do you show that in a photograph? You can see the progression of light in the three photos with the one I really love being the last. That’s when the clouds came in briefly with the morning color. All of these photos have one thing in common, well two things. The P-51D and they are all 5 image HDR. Why HDR? To capture ALL the nuisances in the fuselage, I have found that HDR just does the best job. Looking in the bottom image, just look how that baby glows…I love it!The processing is pretty simple, Photomatrix Pro then into Photoshop and hit levels. I love great light, I love simple.
Now hopefully, you’re asking yourself why, when the exposure levels this early in the day are really not that wide, does Moose feel HDR is the way to go. True, the light levels really aren’t that big and a single click would do a good job, especially if you used a split grad filter to pull down the sky. I do it for one particular reason and that’s for under the wings. I’ve have found that when there is a shadow or under the wings are dark as they would be without HDR, the overall “aluminum” feel is not as strong. They spend a lot of money to have that polished look to these aircraft and I want that to come out. It is of course a personal thing and you might not feel like or want that feel to your aircraft and that is perfectly fine. I do though which is why I use the method and techniques I do.
There’s just something about an airport before the sun rises. It’s calm, quiet, cool and the runway lights take your imagination to the horizon. We’ve been the guests of Stallion 51 for the last few days for a little business, a lot of pleasure and for our Air2Air Workshop. One of the cool things we get to do at Air2Air is play with the planes. We start early in the morning, before the sun is a hint on the horizon unstacking aircraft and pulling those out we want to photograph. This is the iconic “Crazy Horse,” the pride and joy of Lee Lauderback.
I started shooting at the very first clue of color in the east. The exposure time was 15sec. “Crazy Horse” wasn’t moving but Dave, who was busy positioning the Twins was and I counted on that when I went click. It’s that movement that made me want to click. It gives life to the scene, movement to a still image. Just 10min later and the whole scene changes as the sun rises.
Then at sunrise, the Twins (“Crazy Horse” & “Crazy Horse2″) are parked to have their portraits taken. The first two photos, I shot down low to incorporate the ground fog. The last image I went to a second story balcony to element sky. The folks at Stallion 51 are simply amazing, providing not only their aircraft and logistical support, but permitting us to basically have our way as we shoot to our hearts content. Of course, knowing we’d be flying air to air with them ina few hours does provide a bit of electricity to the atmosphere and a purpose to the statics.
Hey, I admit it, I have to sneak up on portraits. I guess if I had a day or a week to think about it, I could set up the scenario for the scene and make a good or great portrait on the fly. But when I have 5min to place and shoot, I feel totally useless lacking any real skill. I had three things going for me that saved the moment. The background just don’t suck, the B-25 “Maid in the Shade” is a one of a kind background. Two, I’ve got a great model dressed as a WWII bomber pilot. A tad old but otherwise perfectly dressed and more then willing to pose. Finally, I’ve got sweet light for the whole thing, no flash or fill used. I shot wide open, f/2.8 and long, 200mm to control the background. Being a member of the famous and amazing AZ Ground Crew, I know I’ll have another opportunity, but great light never comes around twice. This is a skill I’ve gotta improve dang it! I know I’ll have more opportunities like this and I want to make the most of them. Sometimes knowing there is more photography I’ve gotta master drives me nuts!
Flight, I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be a bird. I mean, there’s a Peregrine on a cliffs edge and without what seem no forethought, it seemingly falls forward, opens it’s wings and then rip ass through the sky without a beat. Just what the hell is that like?! You sure don’t get the sense of flight in a commercial just and while I’ve been spending a lot of time hanging out of an aircraft, that doesn’t give the sense of flight. So when my good friend Bob told me we were going to fly in a Breezie, my first thought was, “Will this be like what birds feel?” So we pulled Ode’s Gullwing out of the hangar, jumped and and flew down to where the Breezie is hangared. This is a simple 5 image HDR of Bob flying the Gullwing down to the Breezie. He loves to tell you what you’re seeing out the window and below as you fly!
The video will start and on the left you’ll see the Gullwing we flew over in. This is just a small clip of the 30min flight. I posted a compressed little clip of this flight a couple of weeks back. That compression lost a few things in translation. You might notice now for example that some of the time, we’re flying below the cactus and the fence. We saw coyote, rabbits, snake and a whole lot of earth as we screamed along. You’ll see we even rip past a car on the highway, we were going fast. I shot it all with a D3s, 14-24AFS that I just handheld. Flying with Bob which I’ve done a lot now, you never think about the “flying” thing, just the sheer enjoyment of the act of flight. And I can honestly say now, I have a slight idea what it would be like to fly like a bird. My arms never got tired but the sensation of freedom while cruising over the landscape is something I will never forget. Thanks Bob!!! Enjoy!
So I had seen some pretty cool images taken at night of planes with their props turning. Working on an article, I wanted a photograph of the TBM Avenger so it appeared to be on the flight deck of a carrier for a dawn launch. I just so happen to be incredibly lucky to have become dear friends with Dale who just happens to have a TBM Avenger.
Prior to heading down to AZ where the TBM is home, I started to do some homework. The first thing I did was to contact Dale and see if he was up for such a crazy shoot. Understand, working with aircraft at night with the prop turning is extremely dangerous. I only considered it because the folks I was working with are the best! With Dale on board, I then contacted an aviation photographer I have a lot of respect for, Tyson Rininger. He was a HUGE help giving me some great places to start. So with those pieces in place, I went to AZ ready to go.
Everything was going great, had place and airplane so the plans were coming together. Then it came to that day and I started to look for water to wet down the tarmac. I looked for a bib for a hose and you know what, there was none. Why did I want water? Well, flight decks were often wet and because dry tarmacs suck (much as dry rocks suck). Dale asked me what I was up to so I told him. He then asked what about the fire dept. I said that would be great but how do you call to ask that? He pointed and said, “That’s our fire dept right there, dial 911 and ask them.” Beaming me that big Dale smile, I said, “Here’s my phone, you call.” He said he would go knock on their door, what time did I want them? I said, “18:30.”
After messing around with some other little projects and moving some planes, we tugged the TBM into place and I started to get lights set up and gear in order. Right at 18:30 this giant, airport hunking fire truck comes up the tarmac heading our way. The house capt is driving the truck no less and with a big smile asked what I wanted. I showed him the area of the tarmac I wanted wet. He said, “I’ve got 1500 gallons, standback!” And just like magic, the tarmac was soaked!
And that’s where the story has to end for now. That’s because the final photos won’t be online until the article comes out. I can say that when the Capt say the wings of the TBM unfold, he thought it was the coolest thing he’d ever seen. After all was said and done, we shook hands and the Capt said, “When are we doing this again?” To the Falcon Field Fire Dept & Dale, I say thanks for some really great fun!
PS….you’ll never guess how I lit it…too much fun!
In the Bag
My good friend Robert Odegaard asked me if I wanted to go flying, without hesitation I said yes. When you get asked to go flying with one of the best, there is no other response. He said we were going to go flying in the Breezie. At first, I didn’t know what he was talking about so got on the iPhone to look. I know now! We flew to another airport in his Stinson Gullwing and then pulled out the Breezie and went for a flight of your life! I don’t think we ever got higher then 50′ off the deck. Here’s a small clip from our flight. I shot it with the D3x & 14-24AF handheld. Enjoy!
Had to really compress the vid to get it posted because of internet connection…will edit and put up a more riveting cut soon.
It was one of those mornings when what clouds were present were leaving Dodge fast! That was a bummer because we had the amazing Arizona Ground Crew crew with us and I had “Cripes A’ Mighty” pulled out of the hangar for them to use for a backdrop. Now to be totally honest, pulling out a bunch of flash units and setting up a set just was something I didn’t want to do. It’s simply a pain in the ass and slows down photography in my book. So we started to work with what light we did have. I took Scott and first, put him as silhouette and went click.
And while that seemed like a kinda good idea, it really wasn’t. I went to a five image HDR to make something happen visually. The side of the Mustang was hot and the silhouette needed to be black while I wanted to keep the color and HDR was the best option. OK…made a click but it was a waste of the talent and the background. What to do?!
I turned around then to see the DC-3 that just the day before went into annual being kissed by the sun. A second later we had abandoned the set the Crew and set up around Cripes and were over at the DC-3. Now the DC-3 when in military use was called a C-47 and it’s the plane that is best known for dropping the boys into Europe during D-Day. Well the Crew were all over this new set in some gorgeous light!
Now here’s the deal with the Arizona Ground Crew. These guys who I think the world of, are the only re-inactors who are ground crew, most are pilots. Everything they have with them from pencils to overalls are authentic from 1940s military, they are not repos. And their props, from the Whole Nine Yards to tables, ladders, hang engine warmer, thermos, everything is from WWII! And, they know their history and planes! And the best part, they are funnier then %*(# ! It’s hard to shoot because you’re laughing so much. And they don’t stop, they just keep on going and going and going.
This shot was so simple to take. The light was hittin the boys and by simply moving to the left, the DC-3 in shade made for the perfect backdrop to make them pop. Then, I simply watched the boys and when I saw the geometric design you see here, I went click. There is no way in a lifetime I could set up enough flash units to get a feel to the light like we got from the photo gods that morning.
As the sun came up, the soft glow went away so I went looking for scenarios where the harder light would lend itself to the Crew and DC-3. I don’t really give any staging to the Crew, they just pick a them and go at it. But what I do do after a little while is simply yell shift! When I do, the Crew being the professionals they are simply find a new “repair” to make and go at it. They move ladders and props and themselves and create a whole new set with just the simple que.
What I love best about the Crew is their effect on photographers. The crew were brought in for our Air2Air Workshops and there always seems to be one photographer not “thrilled” to be photographing models. But this crew melts even the coldest fish and within minutes have everyone laughing and shutters flying. One of my favorite people, Pedro from Brazil said half way through the shoot, “I’ve already shot 400 frames, I would have never thought….” What you see here are just a couple of clicks from the morning. There are more with some stories that will come in the future. And as for the Crew, they are already signed up for our Fall Air2Air in AZ. It just wouldn’t be the same without them!
- Lexar 32GB Professional 600x Compact Flash Card
- California Sunbounce Sun-Sniper “Steel” Camera Strap (Black/Black)