I was talking with my old bud Dave Black at PSW and batteries came up. We both use flash a lot an not wanting to add anymore to landfills, I’ve been using rechargeable batteries since 1983. I’ve been using PowerEx for a while now but of late, not been happy with their performance. Dave told me about what he’s been using and loving, Eneloop AA. I ordered a set before leaving PSW so they were waiting for me at home. One thing you’ll notice as soon as you get a set is right on the packaging, it says “Pre-Charged, Long Storage Life.” Dave told me that’s what he had found from his use, a huge complaint I have with PowerEx of late (almost dead a few days after charging). So, I took a set right from the packaging, put them in a SB-900 and blasted away. I got bored with the test before the recycle time got down to 10sec. That’s without my charging them! To say I’m impressed is an understatement (and ordered a whole bunch more!). But then, consider the source because when it comes to portable light, flash or 2mil flashlight, Dave knows what he’s talking about! There is a new, XX Eneloop 2500mAh which I have on order but if they are like the 2000mAh I have, I’ll be a happy camper!
It had been a GREAT day! By 8:30 we’d already put in seventeen hours and thousands of clicks, but that was the point of volunteering. There was a huge 40′s party in the Texas Flying Legends Museum hangar for the WWII vets and their family including a great 40′s band, dancers, Patton look alike, surrounded by the P-51D “Cripes A Mighty” and B-25 “Betty’s Dream.”. “Betty’s Dream” was partially pulled into the hangar and even a gorgeous LaSalle drove up delivering some of the reinactors who were guests, parking under its wing. We grabbed a quick bite to eat and than started to work all the activities. It was a target rich photographic opportunity. But being a control freak, I wanted more than just the grab shot under hangar lighting. Then it dawned on me … the Rapid Boxes!
The folks (all friends) were great and open to anything. So I asked the couple in the top image (who came in the LaSalle), Miles & Kim if they’d be up for their portraits being made with the car. I described to them briefly what I wanted to do and when they saw me point out of the hangar into the darkness, I got the strangest look. I just said, “trust me.” Jake ran to the truck, got the Rapid Box lighting kit duffle I had with us and we set up the lights. In literally just minutes, we had the Westcott Rapid Box Octa/ SB-910 / PocketWizard FlexTT5 and Westcott Strip Box / SB-910 / PocketWizard FlexTT5 on Manfrotto 5001B Nano Stands set up (both flashes connected to SD-9s all powered with Eneloop AA batteries). The speed in which we had it all set up even impressed the guests. It sure impressed me!
With the D610 / 18-35AFS in hand (I really like the D610!), I got Jake to stand in for the models, hit the test button on the PocketWizard, took my first shot, looked at the LCD and went to work. I was at f/8, 1/25, underexposing ambient light making the flashes, set at zero (using cs e4 makes this part easy), the main light. The Octa was the main light on the folks and pointed up a tad to slightly light the underneath of the wing of “Betty’s Dream.” The strip light as you can see was to the side and feathered to do a little fill on the folks and than light up the side of the LaSalle (reflections of the lights on the car were minimized by flash placement). No, this wasn’t enough light to really do “Hollywood” lighting, but that’s wasn’t the goal.
The “folks” are all dear friends, president and pilots of the Texas Flying Legends Museum. One is a seating congressman even. The very quick and impromptu “portrait studio” (which was up, used and down in less than ten minutes) was merely an extension of the night’s fun. Like I said, we’d all had already put in a full day. I had minutes with each couple before they went back to the guests. It’s a simple, clean shot capturing the memories of the evening. And if I didn’t have the Rapid Boxes with me, I would have never thought of or attempted such a shoot. A single off camera flash would have looked like crap. The Rapid Boxes produced gorgeous light very quickly making me a hero. Can’t ask more from your gear!
When it comes to working with the folks, this is how I did it. First, my beautiful bride would go get the couple so they were already happy by the time I got them. I told them I wanted them to pose for the period which meant body language you see with the gentleman holding the ladies elbow. I would take one click and than show them the LCD because there were standing in total darkness. I assumed the were wondering just what the heck the photo would look like. Once they saw the LCD, it was all a piece of cake. Ten minutes after we started set up, we were torn down and back at the party with the others. Personally, this kind of flash photography I can get into. It was quick, easy and great light. I simply can’t say enough about the Rapid Boxes. They earned their name and keep this evening!
Oh, and this last portrait, this is very special to us. We had the great fortune to spend three days with three Tuskegee Airman, and one in particular really took a shine to my wife. Alexander Jefferson pictured here was simply a hoot to get to know. I’d already spent the day with him, talking up a storm and telling me a ton of stories. When he got in front of my camera he said, “Moose, get my good side!” And when I asked the trio to squeeze in tighter, Alexander said, “sounds good to me!” He was great and it was an honor to get to know all three and able to call them friends. Amazing what photography has brought to our lives!
After my post over on warbirdimages in regards to being present for the crank over of #74, a number of emails came in asking how I did that. The how questions ranged from how I got there to how I shot it, so I wanted to answer all those how questions at once. I met Bob and his son Casey at our Air2Air workshops, owning and flying a number of the subject aircraft we photograph. Bob in my mind is a aviation legend in what he has accomplished and restored already in his lifetime. I interviewed him for an article I wrote on him as well and that’s when we got to know each other better. Well upon learning they were bringing #74 Super Corsair back online, I said I would love to be there for that. Last Wed Casey called me it was roaring back to life on Friday, so Thursday I was on a plane to ND.
This photo still makes me laugh, even the lawn mower knew to stop and watch, it was something special rolling by! I would be going on the trip by myself and the timing of the phone call was such that there was no time to FedEx gear to ND so I have to carry with me all I would need. All my years working with wildlife and biologists has totally prepared me for these new challenges with aviation for which I’m so thankful. Darn those biologists, they save the day again! You see, to prepare myself and pack the right gear I just think through the problems that might exist and go from there. Like biologists working with an endangered critter, the Odegaard family would be working on a Super Corsair. My job is to document this and stay out of the way, get intimate photos without getting in their face. The first and major concern was light. I had no clue if the hangar door would be open or closed. Closed and the lighting would be on me so I packed 5 SB-900s, SD-9s, Justin Clamps and a ton of eneloop batteries (which I love, recycled all others) along with a couple LumiQuest Softbox LTp, snoots and gaffer tape. If the hangar door was open, then life would be easy! All of this went into my two carry-ons which with my 100k status works out perfectly.
Once at the hangar, I was relieved to see the hangar door open. Light flooding in from the hangar door is the softest, big light source you can ever want. All I had to do was have one SB-900 on a SC-27 always with me for like the photo above when I was shooting the shadow side. There were putting on that massive, gorgeous prop and I wanted that action. The shutter speed was 1/15, f9 and the flash was set to underexpose by -2/3 shooting with the D3x with the 24-120VR. The flash was held in my left hand with my arm held up and out to fill in the shadows on the left. Easy click! The brake test lap I had the D3s on the 200-400VR2 and shot from 1/25 to 1/80 to get a prop blur. That big ol prop turns real slow especially when first cranking over and it needed to be blurred to show it was turning. That’s when I was at 1/25. When Bob took #74 around to test the brakes, he had the RPMs up so I went to 1/80 and panned.
It really is easy stuff when you think it through. First question is what’s the subject? It’s bringing to life #74 which is a combo of people and plane. Next question is how do you bring the subject to the attention of the viewers of the photograph? The first answer to that question is light so you plan on that. Next answer is focal length. I had my normal ThinkTank Airport packed with the usual so that was covered. Lastly there is simply making the images and that’s like falling off a log for me at this point, working with biologists for 30yrs prepared me for that. The only difference is with aviation when you get your hands dirty getting involved, you really get dirty. There’s a lot of oil and grease! And just like biologists at the end of the day when you count your blessings and reflect on the good work done, the beer comes out. And that was the best part you can never be prepared for, the sitting around afterwards and the telling of stories and celebrating. We celebrated until well after midnight. And that my friends was how it was done.
Oh yeah, I forgot to answer one question (thanks for the reminder Mike). I also shot video during the run up, 14GB worth. I was on the ramp with the 24-120 on the D3x, 200-400VR2 on the D3s and D7000 with 14-24AFS on a tripod during the trials. I was running three cameras at once. And at one point, I took some iPhone video and sent that home and to a couple of friends. It is history brought to life so wanted it covered and shared. And yes, files, prints and video go to Odegaard Aviation for their archives and PR needs. No charge, just as a simple thank you.