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
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)
I’m the son of a rock hound. I grew up with a museum quality collection in my own home that caught my imagination from the very start. Rocks a gazillion years old, fragile ones, hard as rock ones, expensive ones, out of this world as in meteorite ones, fossil ones and even uncut gem ones, (even played with a moon rock). To this day I can still remember going through the drawers of rocks bug-eyed! The one thing that really fascinated me is looking at the collection under different light sources, seeing a whole new world revealed by simply changing the light. Is it any wonder, I shoot rocks?!
While the geology lessons I learned in the process are long forgotten, the light on the rock lessons seems to have stuck. I mean, a rock is a rock is a rock until you light it and then, it can be just about anything your imagination says it is in your photograph! Rocks have a couple of properties I like to exploit in my photographs. There is place, time, shape and texture. These concepts are not unique to just rock photography. But what’s cool about practicing on rocks is they have all the time in the world for you to get it right!
Rocks come in lots of sizes, from those you can place on your desk and light with a flashlight to big ass ones. My favorite Big Ass Rock is Mt McKinley up in AK. We have sat on the slope ten miles away just watching it and the weather it creates for hours at a time. When it comes to photographing it, my favorite lenses are long ones, 600VR or 200-400VR2. Why so long? I want to give that big ass rock place, I want to say in one click without any caption, it’s big! The trick then is not just the lens, but light and atmosphere. If you’ve ever been to Denali Nat’l Park, then you know that just seeing McKinley can be a real trick so you click when you see it because, you can see it. Getting picky might not be an option but that’s just rock photography for you!
On the flip side is a favorite rock of mine I call Split Ass Rock. When I first blogged this photo back in 2001 it got attention more because I was photographed with the brand new, nobody had D1x. Then the laughter about my name for it made it pretty well known. I still get emails asking where is Split Ass Rock in Acadia Nat’l Park on the shore of Jordan Pond? When we took DLWS participants to shoot at the pond, I was asked where the rock was and when I pointed at it, you should have seen the disappointment in folk’s faces. That’s because the rock is so damn small. By getting down in the pond, shooting with a 14-24AFS just a few inches away though, you’d never know it was small. This is just one method of setting place and time in a photo.
One thing I remember so vividly from the drawers of rocks in my mom’s collection was the texture. Each rock / mineral was unique in its texture and weight. When we’d move the black light around, you’d see not only those features but different colors as well. That’s probably why when I’m out rock shooting, I walk around rocks looking. As you walk around, the first thing you’ll notice the pattern of light changes and that either brings our or hides texture and shape (a play of highlights and shadows). A real simple exercise, find a rock and light it with a flashlight and then do a 360 around it. What makes that rock unique will come out at some point and be hidden at another. It’s all a matter of light.
I did a workshop a few years back with my good friend RC. We were at a local lake shooting when I noticed some folks shooting rocks sticking out of the water at edge of the shore. In my typical style, I just made one comment about the photograph. Dry Rocks Suck and walked away. The photographer took their foot and splashed water on the rocks and low and behold, they didn’t suck no more! This is why I often have a bucket with me, to bring life to them rocks when they are in water with water. The colors, shape, texture that pops is better than any Photoshop pluggin can produce!
Now admitting in public I shoot rocks does sound, bad. Teaching folks to shoot rocks, sounds like I’ve lost my marbles (a form of rock humor). But I have seen many a shooter of rocks totally baffled by something that never moves and is older than dirt. I think it is because we are visually trying to bring life to something that doesn’t live. What does move is the light and that’s where the challenge lies. Next comes the fact that rocks aren’t often alone, they tend to keep company with other rocks. Most photographers not wanting to hurt the rocks feelings so they include them all in the photo. But you know what they say about company, too many rocks is a crowd! I mean, how many rocks do you need in a photograph to say, it’s a rock?!
Whether alone or in a pile, rocks talk about our earth probably better than any other element because they are something everyone can relate to. The trick then photographically, is to make the uncommon photograph out of the common subject. Perhaps if you tackle this problem with this one element thinking of place, time, shape and texture using just light to speak of these attributes, you might not only come up with some cool rock photos, but improve your overall photography just by understanding light a little bit better. Don’t feel silly giving this a try either. Just remember who suggested it to you. My name is Moose, I shoot rocks!
In the Bag
This is in the top ten of emailed questions, “If you only had one lens, what one would you have?” I’ll get to answering that in a moment. For the last 18 months or so, I have felt I have had too much gear, lenses. I felt this from a personal and well as business perspective. It might be old age, no wanting to carry so much. It might be getting mentally lazy, not wanting as many choices to have to select from. It very well could be from getting older and wiser and knowing better what I need visually (I always hope it’s this one) but whatever it is, I’ve cleaned out a lot of gear I wasn’t using. It’s for this reason, I actually keep track of what lenses I use and what they produce.
For the third year in a row, in 2011 the lens I shot with the most and at the same time, had the most number of images sold was the 200-400VR2. This lens simply gets pounded and looking back at the stats, there wasn’t one shoot in 2011 that it wasn’t at least present if not used. Why? There are a number of reasons with the main one is its performance. It is simply beautifully sharp! It produces 24×30 prints (captured handheld) that blow away my clients in clarity. And this holds true from 200mm to 400mm, f/4 to f/22, I see no weaknesses in my 200-400 in any aspect of the lens. And 94% of the time, the D3x was the body attached to it.
When I head out for big game, the 200-400VR2 is in my hands. When I head out for birds, about 45% of the time now I head out with the 200-400VR2 with the 1.7x attached. When I head out for aviation, the 200-400VR2 always comes along. When I go chasing the light on the landscape, the 200-400VR2 is right there. When you have that kind of optical performance combined with the flexibility of the 200mm to 400mm, creativity and what I like, the optical isolation a long lens brings to a photograph, I’m not surprised just how much I rely on this lens.
Looking at the numbers, the lens I shot with 2nd most in 2011 and had the most images published from was the 24-70AFS. Ever since its introduction with the D3 which seems like a lifetime ago now, this has been my go to lens for nearly just about everything. There are a number of its attributes I depend on. One of the big ones for me is that f/2.8. It’s bright, it’s sharp and when I need it, it gives a narrow band of DOF at 24mm. When that is combined with its optical performance and focal length range, it just works for my style of photography.
And this is really at the heart of this conversation. I mean seriously, how many out there are so anal to know that about their photography, the lens they shoot with the most in a year? I started to keep track long ago when the question came in because I was curious, not that it would change anything. But this trivia only applies to me and my preferences for visual communication. It also has a lot to do with the subjects I chase.
And that “If you only had one lens” question. First, those who want to interview me and ask that question, the interview ends because IMHO, it’s the lamest question on the planet! (I know, I should learn not to keep my feelings penned in). Yes, if you’re just starting out, you will probably just start out with one lens, I understand that. I’m not just starting out though, been at it for three decades. You look at my camera bag, while shrinking a little, I obviously have more than one lens. Why do I have more than one lens? Because I NEED them to do my job. What if you’re just starting out and can only afford one lens, what should you buy? In all sincere honesty, how would I know what you should buy? Since I don’t know you, your style or abilities, how can I honestly provide a valid answer? Can I make a recommendation? Sure. Is it a stab in the dark though? You bet! With that being true, why ask the question of a stranger? (If you don’t know, rent!)
The lens is a tool, a vital tool in our quest to communicate visually the wonders we are so darn fortunate to see! The first lesson I learned in photography is buy the best you possibly can from the start and this holds so true for lenses. Manufactures, bless their little hearts, make a HUGE assortment of lenses for many reasons and if you look at the ones I’ve talked about in my 30yrs, it’s an itty bitty fraction of the possibilities. This means you have a whole lot of options beyond those I talk about you need to look at yourself and find the best one for your photography. Just because I or some other “pro” owns a lens doesn’t mean it’s the best one for you. Will my choice and most “used” lens change in the future? I could receive a phone call right now taking me on a whole new photographic path possibly changing the lens I use the most. In the meantime, I know what works for what’s on my plate right now and that’s a comfortable place to be. The tools in my camera bag provide me the platform I need to tell the stories I want to tell. And for me, those are the best lenses.
In the Bag
“Why did you frame it that way?” This question comes up often when I post landscape images. I appreciate the compliments that come from these images but with them often comes frustration from folks. Why can’t they take the same images? Everybody can, it just take a little time and, a little thought and, a little gear and, a ton of passion. These are the two images from our Mono Lake outing that I like the most. Why, and this is the really important, are these my favorites? It has as much to do with capturing the moment as well as the capture!
The vertical is an image I had previsualized and hiked to the location on the slope where I thought I would be able to make the image. From where we parked, the clouds on the left merged too much with the crest. At the same time, Mono Lake was too much of a sliver in bottom of the frame. So by moving up the slope and to the east, I was able to get the frame you see. Yes, I knew when I went click that the final image would be B&W. Quite often when I have clouds like this with that type of blue sky behind them, I know the contrast between the two sings in B&W. I use that knowledge in the framing of the entire image. Using Informal Balance, I use the two banks of clouds to pull the eye down to the saddle (Conway Summit) and then to Mono Lake.
The bottom frame I have to admit, looses something in this smaller thumbnail. The visual depth set up by all the clouds heading all the way down to the eastern horizon is something I waited for the wind to create. Then in the foreground is the sage that has a great pattern in its detail but is lost in the thumbnail. It’s the visual depth in this combination along with the slipping on my ass down the slope to make the click which is why I like it.
And here’s the deal, you might not like them and that’s OK! If I didn’t have a blog, you most likely would never see these two images. They are just a special moment in time when in chasing a storm, I made clicks that bring home that adventure. In this day and age when so many post images on the web looking for reassurance their images don’t suck (and many do but no one has the nerve to say so), look for that reassurance from the inside. And realize that next week that photo you liked today you might not like then. That’s how your photography grows!
We got up to Mono Lake just as the winds picked up and the clouds started to dance across the sky. The front coming through was scattered heading east providing some decent landscape photography. The upper image is looking south, the bottom image is lookin north. South fell apart pretty fast but the north just kept getting better and better. Just had to hang out and keep looking. This is the only color image from the evening, it was a great B&W adventure.
Sometimes, just sometimes I like both ways so I take both because, they both work!
Ya Hooooo! While it might be just a one day wonder, right now I’ll take ANY storm that brings moisture and mood to the Sierra. Sharon, the dogs & I loaded up the truck and headed north in search of some atmosphere.
We didn’t have to go far, just over the ridge to find the clouds coming down into Mono Basin. I pulled over and made the click just in case the wind kicked up and took what clouds we had and either stacked them up so there was no light or, they scattered to the east falling apart. Thankfully, the evening just got better and the chasing more productive. Oh, the star burst, that’s just shooting with the lens closed down all the way. What you see here is what I saw from the highway and what I saw in my mind as the finished image. This is a 5 image, HDR hand held finished in Photomatix Pro, ACR & then Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2.
(photos courtesy of Nikon)
Understandably, the emails are arriving asking the question which body to buy. Rather then just putting up the link for the post from the last time I answered this question (D3 or D3x?) because the way to the answer hasn’t changed, I thought I would just write a little something here. First and foremost, it is quite possible the best body for you is the one you own right now! No one feels the pressure of having a new body like me as the emails arrive asking questions I don’t have answers to until I have that body in my hands. Then there is that, “It’s new and I’ve gotta have it” feeling. Seriously, there is nothing better then the smell of new gear and the thrill of taking it out for the first time. But that new body doesn’t guarantee you better photographs, it just don’t work that way. My recent piece pretty much spells out my belief that photography is a marriage of photographer AND gear. Now if you’ve settled on buying a new body (and LOTS of your have which is so cool for so many reasons) which one of these should you buy?
The only way I can help is trying to explain how I go about it. I ask myself, “What problems do I have with my current gear that the new gear might solve?” And since I am a business, that solution must include not only the photograph but also making money on the investment. The D4 vs. the D3s to me is a pretty much a slam dunk between the faster FPS, better High ISO and 1080p, the D4 solves a problem I’ll have in about 35days I know the D3s won’t. I know because last year, the D3s didn’t get the photo. Now what about the D4 vs. the D800/800E? In this one scenario, the D4 still wins out but what if we change things up a little, lets say D3x vs. D800/D800E? Now you have my attention because the D800E (which honestly, like the D3x is only right for about 10% of the shooters out there) produces bigger files more then twice as fast at less than half the price. Just like I rely on the D3x / D3s right now (and BTW, they still produce gorgeous images even with the introduction of the D4/D800), I can see the D4 / D800E serving the same roll in the future.
Here’s the hardest part of making this work for you as I see it. You’ve gotta have the experience to know the problems and the imagination to think of how those specs on a page can solve them. To be honest with you, most of you know the specs for the D4 & D800 better then I and that’s cool. The advantage I have though is even without knowing all those specs, shooting everyday I run into more problems I need solutions to. When I watched Scott Kelby’s Google+ presentation with the NPS guys, I heard enough then to order the D4. I remember all to well when the F5 came out and we didn’t have the web to share all of this information wondering how a camera body with a faster FPS was worth the investment. If you’ve never shot with a D3x, how would you know if the D800 is worth the extra pixels? Many don’t even know they are shooting using an anti-aliasing filter to know if shooting without one would be a benefit (without, you do run into the real possiblity of moire issues).
I am incredibly encouraged to hear all who have pre-ordered either body. Not only is it a sign that things are getting a little bit better out there, it also means photographers are still willing to push their photography further. None of these bodies by themselves will make you a better photographer. Sticking with the camera body you have now until you “learn” it won’t necessarily make you a better photographer either. It is the combination of photographer and gear that pushes the photographic envelope. Give yourself the time and you will see the rewards no matter which way you go. You gotta remember above all else, photography has to be fun! And on that note, take a look at this…now we’re talking fun!
“Why buy a camera missing a filter and pay more for it”? That’s the $64 million question in my inbox right now. Understand, I don’t have a D800, not seen one even, all I know if what you might know reading the material now available from Nikon. I do understand the theory behind removing the anti-aliasing filter and I know the quality hoops Nikon goes through with their products. So if I were going to buy a D800, it would be the D800E to go for ALL the quality that sensor can deliver. I’ve been pounded about the 4FPS…you have to understand that’s radically faster then the D3x 1.8FPS in a smaller and less expensive package. To me, that’s a huge leap forward. This is not a D700 upgrade, this is a whole new camera in a totally different league. Is this the camera for you? There are two reasons why I would say the D800E isn’t for 90% of folks(to repeat, this camera is not for everyone!), it captures too much information and it’s too slow. It’s like what I said about the D3x, it’s a lot of camera for the vast majority of shooters. Being a “D800″ might be confusing, it’s not in the same category as a D700. With that being said, lots of folks will own this bad boy and when you have problems, I’ll be here to help you!
“Why did you go that way?” Damn good question for lots that I have pursued with a camera over time. The Cockpit Panos we’ve posted seem to be the cause of a lot of work time spent lost goofin with them. At the same time, questions keep coming in with this being the latest. Why? The answer was pretty simple when you look at my early cockpit portraits. OK, light is OK and the clouds so so but then what? You really can’t get a feel for the cockpit since you don’t feel like you’re sitting in it. You can really read any of the instruments. It’s, just there! Thought shot with the same 16Fish, you the viewer don’t really get much an experience from it and that’s the whole idea.
Both of these are hand held HDRs, 5 image captures taken at f/2.8 because I was too lazy to get a tripod. That’s because I knew that the end results would be what you see here. What you’re seeing here is the Lone Star Flight Museum’s DC-3, a gorgeous plane you see on the airshow circuit. You’ve got the main cabin and the cockpit here. As the viewer of the image, how are you to get a feel for this romantic period in flight from these photos? (Can you imagine getting our carry-ons on this plane?) It was parked in a hangar when I made these clicks and there sure is a lot more PS craft then camera craft in these couple of images. Since that’s not my style and they really don’t convey the whole experience, I had to find a better what of communicating that experience. That’s how I went looking for what we now call our cockpit panos.
Like many of you, I anxiously await the arrival of the D4 in my office. I have not been fortunate to hold or see one of the IP models that is in the states. I have received no less then just shy of 2000 emails asking me various questions about the D4. I truly wish I had all the answers right now, I really, really, really do but I don’t. I can answer some of the more general ones though like, “Did you sell your D3s (2 of them) in anticipation of the D4?” That’s a duh, having 5 camera bodies is a bit overkill. So that’s a yes, D3s out (all but 1) and D4s in. “What feature in the D4 makes you want to buy one?” It’s new! Sorry, cheap shot. I have a critter project where high ISO video would make the difference between getting the data the researchers need. So that’s a done deal for me. And a personal note, having the metering switch removed from the prism to me is worth the $6k, it drives me nuts on the D3 series! “Will the investment in the D4 make you money?” I don’t know but if it get’s the answers the researchers need for the critter then it’s worth its price 100 fold! “Are you going to get rid of your D3x?” Probably not, it’s what we use for all our cockpit panos. “Do you recommend the D4 to other photographers?” While I understand where this question is coming from, how can I recommend something not in my hands yet. “Do you know when it will be released?” I do not have that information but B&H is saying sometime mid to late February. You can preorder your D4 now and if you want it sooner rather then later, preorder now! Another common question is if I will create a D4 website like I did for the D3? Right now, I doubt it and the main reason is because there are so many other great resources now for that so I can put my time into other educational, informational resources for you in regards to the photographic problems the D4 can solve. After today’s Google+ live broadcast from Scott Kelby and the NPS guys, it is obvious there is a TON of features in the D4 that were left out of the brochure and spec sheet. I can honestly say that now, two weeks after the announcement of the D4, I am excited and anxious to get one. Come on Mr Ups…drop one off soon!
When multiple storms blow through the Sierra, winds plays a big part of the whole process. We typically know a storm is coming because winds proceed it. When we have multiple storms, the wind still comes but as it goes over the Sierra crest, it tends to create windows in the clouds. And these are just great subjects for B&W photography. I’m incredibly fortunate that I can, just like I did here, watch out the windows and when I see the light happening, step out and shoot. How do I know when to step out and shoot?
I look first for some blue sky and then a pattern between that blue and the clouds. I do this because I know this pattern when I do to B&W is what brings the eye into the frame. The Structure slider in Silver Efex Pro pulls out amazing texture and I’ve come to rely on that in these types of images. I first use the blue slider under the Luminance Tab in ACR to darken the blue sky which sets up the contrast with the white. This brings the drama to the B&W. It’s pretty much that simple.
“The driest winter since 1933.” That’s what was said about our winter here in the Sierra until Friday. We started off with rain which turned to a brief freezing rain then snow we call Sierra Cement. It gets called that because its moisture content is so great that other then looking like snow, you’d think it was water. It’s a horribly heavy slush that’s just murder to move. But photographically it works wonders. Sierra cement sticks like glue to trees and stays stuck until we have a real warm day. Snow on trees is critical in my book when photographing “winter.” Looking out the office window, the view is so calming it makes it hard to work. Photographically, it’s a real simple click that is then brought into ACR where I clean up the whites that are then finished in Silver Efex Pro (which was just updated). mtc
Our Cockpit Panos have become quite popular. We posted two new ones over the weekend, once from a Stinson V-77 Gullwing and another from Super Corsair #74. I really love the “steering wheels” in the Gullwing and truly appreciate the history in #74. I’ve been flooded with one question, “How did I light these cockpits?” It’s all done with one SB-900. Prior to actually making the pano, I determine the lighting for the entire cockpit using just the one flash. Why just one flash? Since I’m using a 16Fish, any type of lighting system would be seen in the frame. At the same time, most cockpits don’t have a whole bunch of space for much more then one flash. Some have asked for a behind the scene video which would be a great idea. That’s if I had a recipe to offer you but at this time I don’t. My original post lists what I suggest you can use to get started if this intrigues you. I was surprised how many emails I received asking about the gear used to create these. That’s listed below again. Thanks for all the love notes. Don’t fret, there are a lot more coming!
It’s very exciting to have more and more folks contacting me with questions about aviation photography. There are a lot of you out there and that’s great. While it’s not as many questions as I get about wildlife, but plane sightings are a little more reliable then birds since birds tend to just keep on going. So the exchange of information is two way and enjoyable. With my air to air photography getting more and more attention, more are asking what equipment is required to successfully pull one off. Keep in mind I’m a newbie to this, my first air to air was just two years ago this month, a T6 shoot over the Sierra on the cover of the current issue of Trade-a-Plane. I’ve done 26 photo missions now and I still am learning but I want to answer this common question. What gear is needed? This is my basic shooting gear is D3x w/70-200VR2 and TC-17e and D3s w/24-70 both on Sun Sniper straps.
Here’s the reasons for my selection because it’s not what you have to use. The D3x with the 70-200VR2 & TC-17e are my primary shooting system. The reason is because of the amazing amount of detail the D3x captures. Seeing every rivet is important to me so if I make a sharp capture, then they are all there. A drawback to the D3x I truly appreciate and think of as an asset shooting air to air and that’s the slow FPS. That because it forces me to slow down and make the shot. I get way to excited and it’s real easy for me to just hit the hammer with the thrill of the whole adventure and fill the buffer. Even with my selective “sniper” shooting, I still fill the buffer. It’s at those times or, when doing a move that I know will go fast like dragging a plane down the runway like this F2G-2 Super Corsair, I pull out the D3s with it’s 9FPS. The lens choices are pretty simple. The 70-200 w/TC-17e permit me to have the subject aircraft a little further away from the photo platform. That extra space provides a little more safety and at the same time more flexibility in the subject aircraft to perform other maneuvers. The 24-70 is just a pretty standard air to air lens permitting you to photograph the whole aircraft. Both rigs are strapped which are strapped to me so nothing goes out the door. That includes me who has his ass safety harnessed to the floor.
There are many other options you can use with great success, you don’t have to use these bodies or lenses. That’s one of the cool things about aviation photography, camera gear wise you can have pretty minimal gear and still capture killer results. There is one other piece of gear that’s must and that’s where the budget takes a hit. That’s the shooting platform. The one I use the most is a A36 Bonanza owned and flown by my bud and PIC “Flydaddy.” One thing I do differently is I actually have two PICs in that the second seat is another great pilot Scottie (who just piloted the first test flight of the new Cessna Ten, congrats!) who’s job is to choreograph both aircraft to maneuver according to the shot list Scottie and I went over prior to the flight. The plane and pilots just isn’t something you can order from B&H and take with you in your carry on. I hope this answers your questions and gets you more excited about getting involved is this amazing photography. If you want an idea where to start, you might take a gander at the Kelby Training class is did on aviation photography. Hope to see you on the flight line!
We’ve posted all our dates for our 2012 Air2Air Workshop season. They are:
17-19 Feb, AZ – AZ CAF Wing – B-25, fighters and GA formations
16-18 Mar, FL – Stallion 51 – Fighters, Jets, GA formations
19-21 Oct, TX – Lone Star Flight Museum – B-17G, P-47, Corsair, Skyraider
09-11 Nov, AZ – AZ CAF Wing – B-17G/B-25 and lots of little buddies
What you see above are just a couple of samples I took from the back of the planes over the heads of the participants shooting in front of me fall 2011. It’s just hints of what this workshop has to offer you! We were able to lower the price of the workshops for 2012. So at the moment we only have a couple of openings for the year (lots of repeats because there is nothing on the planet like this). If you’re interested, sure hope you can join us. Call 760.924.8632 or 661.204.1506 and talk with Sharon.