When your eye looks into the shadows of a mangrove swamp, this is what you see. Since our eyes and brain are so sophisticated and sensitive, we see into the shadows in the background and the business of the roots which scream out at you so you don’t take the photo. But if you train your mind’s eye to see light and understand light like the camera, then looking at this same scene you would see this….
Since the camera can only record five stops, the white of the Snowy Egret makes the background shadow information disappear. I saw lots of photographers pass up these shots today and it saddened me. Nice click that only required seeing like the camera. Simple lesson, hard to learn.
Video is a part of most of my shooting the past couple of years. Usually I mumble at it because I find it a pain in the arse when it comes to editing. But there are times when I am so glad I’ve taken the time to become somewhat familiar with it. This is just one such occasion. The Moose Cam was running as we experienced this piece of aviation history. The video tells just part of the story. The rest will appear in three articles I have coming out. There is that much when it comes to the people and the aircraft making this day happen. The only piece of trivia is the little white plane on the left you see as the Super Corsair taxis out is the A36 Bonanza where we sitting, waiting our turn to taxi out to run up area.
When it comes to creation of the video, I’m using now the Coolpix S9100 because it shoots 1080p but has no way of connecting a mic. It rides in the hotshoe of the D3x via a miniball head. I hope you enjoy!
We have a whole lot of bird feeders on our property. They serve a couple of purposes, one of them being bringing in species that otherwise wouldn’t stick around long enough to get any glass on them. One popular food source we put out is commercial suet. It brings in all sorts of birds, most being nuthatches and woodpeckers. Red-shafted Flicker are real common at our feeders though you rarely seem them about in the forest. We love these guys, especially in the spring when the males go to attracting mates. The males attract a mate by drumming on choice branches and trunks, those that are hollow and resonate really loudly. Well the males that visit our feeders have found that the aluminum chimneys on our homes make a really loud should when they drum on them. Our neighbors don’t take kindly to them, but it makes me laugh. I normally don’t photograph the birds directly on the feeder but rather perches beside them. I really focus on this during the winter and in the spring when the birds are in their finest. But here’s the problem…
We’ve got nothin but dirt! We have not one stitch of snow on our property where we should have a minimum of ten vertical feet. This presents a whole bunch of problems but for my photography, two kind of big ones. The first being with no snow cover, there is a ton of food available for critters. There is no need to gather at our feeders for food when the critters can range near and far for food. At the same time, photos like this one above of a Flicker waiting its turn for the suet with the snow falling during a break in a storm aren’t possible. It’s so bad, I don’t even have my 600mm set up by my desk (where it was when I took these two photos) because there ain’t no snow! Can you say bummer in the sierra?
Can you see the difference between the two Flickers? One is a male and the other a female. On our property, the females are really scarce so whenever they appear, I try to make clicks. The bottom photo is the female, you can tell by the lack of the red mustache. If you look at the bottom of the perch or her breast, you’ll notice lots of white light. That’s not flash fill, that’s natural fill…snow! That’s the other reason why I’m bummed right now because even if I had birds, without the snow I would have to work harder because I would need flash fill. As it is though, we’ve got nothin but dirt!
It would seem 2011 was my year to become immersed in corsairs. This is the famous F2G-1D Super Corsair #57 which first appeared as a raced back in 1948. It was last seen in public in 2008 at Reno Air Races and right now for the first time since 1949, it has been reunited with fellow racer #74 F2F-2 Super Corsair. I was invited to come down and photograph the reunion so Jake and I are here for three days of bigtime fun. We started off with a sunset shoot in the desert twilight and continue with a sunrise shoot and then some cockpit time and finish off tomorrow with a bunch of air time. Couldn’t think of a better way to finish off my year of working with corsairs!
Photographically, this is a pretty simple click. Dialed in -1.7 to squeeze some color out of the dusk while trying to not have the candle apple red of #57 burn a hole in the sensor. Finishing is no more then a little slider action in ACR. I like simple, I can do simple.
The question of the day, “Will I be teaching a class on printing?” The answer is, I already am! Photoshop for Shooters is all about creating the best possible image/file for printing. The picture taking process is directly related to the printing process. The photo finishing process is directly related to the printing process. The act of hitting P and setting the printer to work is just the proof that everything you’ve done prior to that moment was correct. Just understanding that the statement “You profile your monitor so your prints match” is a myth which we talk about in class might solve all of your printing problems. You print to match your heart, not your monitor and we talk a lot about that. We spend two days talking printing!
This wintery scene I wish was taken recently but we have no snow. Ba Humbug!!!! This scene was taken earlier this year at the Firehole River. I knew I was going to print this B&W so the challenge was getting the clean black while keeping the clean graphic nature of the photo. This is a graphic so the lines of white (blurred water) had to be in harmony with the black of the rocks, logs and shadows. Since the water has this funky yellowish-green cast to it because it is an active hot spring, B&W was another way of dealing with that color cast. After that, it was a simple processing in ACR and then Silver Efex Pro 2. Then, a little tweaking on the file to print and understanding the right paper to print on and one of my best selling B&W gallery prints was born. Wanna learn how to do that, come to Photoshop for Shooters, I’ll give you all I know!
I’ve had a couple of emails asking if HDR really has the image quality to be valid. It’s a question that kind of took me by surprise. I realize some think of HDR as a fad, some think even worse or it. But a photographer who makes a living from their images, if they put out an image that is of lesser quality, they are simply going to be out of business. My personal standard in determining image quality for a body, lens or technique is the 24×30 print. It’s gotta stand up to that for me to incorporate any tool or technique in my approach to photography. The above is a perfect example. This is a HDR shot of Kermit Week’s P-51C that is in the current issue of Flight Journal. It’s a double truck, two page spread in which the image quality along with content were worthy enough to be used as the opener to a marvelous piece on a courageous group of aviators from WWII. I was honored to have my image selected and so prominently for this piece. I don’t think of HDR as a gimmick or fad but a valid tool when wanting to express photographically what my eyes and mind communicate to my heart and the camera can’t in one click.
I received more then one email this last week with this sentiment. It comes from video I had playing as folks walked into my presentations this past week at B&H, Unique Photo and Foto Care. It’s the video you can see below of our air to air shoot with the F2G-2 Super Corsair. While I was talking wildlife photography, I can’t help but sneak in a little aviation photography anymore and the response has been, well, simply amazing! When you have 150 folks waiting in line to ask questions, answering questions really thoroughly is a little bit of a challenge. I also had a number of emails about this shoot so thought I’d post all the answers to all the questions I can.
This was a still photography editorial shoot. The photography platform is a A36 Bonanza, the subject is a F2G-2 Super Corsair. The principle camera rig is the D3x with 70-200VR2 w/TC-17e attached. Secondary is the D3s with 24-70AFS. When the buffer of the D3x is full, I switch over to the D3s, otherwise the D3x does all the work. Attached into the hot shoe of the D3x hotshoe is a Coolpix S9100 shooting 1080vid. In the cockpit of the Super Corsair is a GoPro shooting video of its cockpit and me hanging out the photo platform.
Shooting the video you see above is Sharon, she’s in the second seat in the A36 cabin. She’s shooting with the D7000 with a 16-18AFS lens. Attached in its hotshoe is the Sennheiser G3 with the mic tucked up in the earpiece of my David/Clark headset to record the audio. Now you might be wondering what am I going to do with all this video because we shot a lot. Well, we have a lot of behind the scenes video sitting in the can and I’ve just now hired an editor to put all the pieces together so we can share it with you. I started 2011 thinking I could tackle that along with everything else I do and, well, I simply don’t have the time or skills. So, it’s one of those winter projects we’ll slowly get finished and posted. I hope this answers folks questions on the story behind the video
You are so lucky you have a video to look at because if you had to survive on just my drawings, you’d never learn a thing! But I hope this answers folk’s questions. You sure were great and I really look forward to seeing you on the flight line!
I’ve had a whole bunch of emails today asking basically, “Is that for real?” The paint job on the nose of the Lone Star Flight Museum’s P-47D “Tarheel Hal” simply can’t be missed. Now I am waaaaaaay behind in getting images processed from the last couple of weeks air to air activity. I had 16 fights in the last two weeks and everyone of them produced a treasure trove of killer images. Getting those images processed, out to the pilots, articles off to mags has put bags under my eyes. It has also prevented me from doing a ton of research on “Tarheel Hal.”
I do know though it is an accurate paint scheme for the pilot from WWII. You might ask like I was thinking that such a paint scheme might make you a bigger or better target. Once you get in the air and see it though you realize it makes it no more visible and as such, better target. I’m dying to read more about the pilot though, if his plane was this colorful, how colorful was he?
Photographically, you can see some of the shoot I did with “Tarheel Hal” in the vid I posted earlier today. The Moose Cam, a Coolpix S9100 got knocked at the end of the shoot so I didn’t get much of the P-47D on vid. The top shot is a basic nose shot. When flying towards the sun you can get this great disk blur and the P-47D creates a great one! The shutter speed was 1/60 which is what creates that blur. The bottom photo, the shutter speed was 1/200. The bottom photo is called a “dirty” profile since the P-47D has its landing gear down. That is intentional and all part of getting the whole story.
Photos captured by D3x, 70-200VRII w/TC-17e
We climbed above the clouds and then the background is simply heavenly! We orbited front lighting the F4U-5N Corsair from Lone Star Flight Museum, and I saw my opportunity to make the click I wanted. Fear! Having read Whistling Death & Jolly Rogers this year (both on the corsair), I had a bunch of ideas in my head. The Japaneses called the Corsair “whistling death” for a very good reason. This massive fighter was to the Pacific theater that the P-51 was to the European theater. It simply is one bad ass plane and I wanted that one click that said just that. I lucked out, I ended up with more then one. So then it comes down to editing and deciding which one image to put out there that says just that. That’s really the trick in photography so many photographers just don’t get. You wanna put out not ever click you make, just the ones that make the impact.
Photos captured by D3x, 70-200VRII w/TC-17e
With such a rich and gorgeous area, we took the gang to Giant Mtn Roaring Brook and it was a huge hit! I came back with a lot of images I like from this one locale, from shooting straight up, across the brook and then up the hillside. I didn’t even photograph all this short trail has to offer but I got in the licks I could.
These are two simple clicks I took while walking up the trail. I went up with just the 14-24AFS lens but these two scenes needed more lens. So what I do quite often with the D3x is to go into DX Crop mode. This crops the image right at the point of capture and makes the lens attached a little more versatile. Then the post was pretty simple. In just layer I used CEP4 Detail Enhancer and Tonal Contrast to finish the images. Total fun!!! mtc….
Photos captured by D3x, 14-24AFS on Lexar UDMA digital film
You use to be when we had an early snow like we’ve just had, a number of bird species would still be in the feeders providing some great photo opps. A good example is this American Robin. When he first showed up in our yard in 1996, we were quite excited because they normally aren’t this high up. When a female showed up the next year and later immature robins, I was very excited because I knew the kids would learn from their parents that our property was a safe place with lots of food and comeback the following year. So for years I could count on them to be a subject when the first snow fell. Then last year and again this year, they left a few weeks ago, flew south much earlier then in years past. I know that because we keep a simple Excell record of such trivia. So when the snow fell yesterday, I missed my friends.
These photos were taken many years ago, the first fall we had a snow with the Robins in the yard. I learned long ago that when a photographic idea comes to mind, act on it because there is a really good possibility the opportunity won’t be there tomorrow. A WWII Ace, Ken Dahlberg (famous for other things as well) passed away yesterday and a good reminder to us about not acting was written in Unfinished work. We’ve all done it, driven past a scene and said, “That’s really cool, I should photographic it. I’ll comeback tomorrow” only to comeback and find the scene quite different. So when I see a critter in the yard I want to photograph it, the vast majority of time I stop what I’m doing and photograph it. Einstein said, “Everyone has five life changing ideas everyday, the problem is they never act on them.”
This means when I’m in the office the camera and lens (D3x / 600VR / 300AFS) are always sitting out so I can quickly grab and shoot. Feeders and bird baths are always stocked (main job responsibility of Nancy when we’re gone, keep them full) and we constantly look up to see who’s here. This is how we have so much trivia to have a Excell file of activity. I went and looked at that data when I noticed the robins gone again “early” this year because I wondered what’s changed. Well looking at the robins, grosbeaks, chipmunks and bears and the weather, a pattern appeared. When we had a “warm” winter which we have had 12 of the last 16 years, all these critters not only were present much later in the year, but weren’t as filled out with fat or fur. Last winter we had a “normal” winter with 25+’ of snow in the front yard and the robins left the same time as they have this year. The bears now have amazing coats and lots of fat. Now I’m dying to see what kind of winter we are going to have. Will this pattern demonstrate the critters know what’s to come? I wanna know, so what has changed>
One of the most amazing aircraft I’ve had the privilege to photograph is Bob Odegaard’s Super Corsiar. #74 is an aircraft that I’ve been involved with for a couple of months. I should rephrase that. I’ve been involved with the family that has given life back to #74 and it’s been just a marvelous experience. The world gets to see for the first time this amazing plane this week at the Reno Air Races and to say it is a hit is an understatement. Well, this morning at o’dark thirty, the Odegaards arranged for #74 to be on the ramp for a portrait session. The killer clouds of yesterday afternoon were gone leaving me with my favorite, bald skies. So I went to one side to get a little color. Not happy with this click at all.
So with no love on the other side, I went to the sunny side. Still same bald skies but at least the color is better. The problem from this angle though is the background. You’re probably asking what’s wrong with the background, looks pretty clean. Well that’s because I spent 7min nuking all the homes on them dar hills! All those purty white walls drive me nuts! While this photo is alright, in my book I think of the photo as being “forced.” What I mean by that is, the photo didn’t just come naturally. I had to make the angle work, make the light work, make the background work. Force the photo come to life rather then it coming alive. I can do better!
Photos captured by D3x, 24-120VR on Lexar UDMA digital film
Yeah, it’s that time of year again for the Reno Air Races and man, is it going to be great this year! There is an amazing group of aircraft here racing and my favorite, the “warbirds” are thick with some gorgeous aircraft. We’re here for the week with today being a “saying hello and working out the bugs” kind of day. With the change of the end of the hangar shooting location, I decided to change things up and try something I never have in the past. I brought out the big gun, converter and tripod to work the planes coming around Pylon 8. The goal, use long glass to communicate more speed. Now swinging the big glass is slower then shooting the 200-400VR2 handheld and once I got the flight path into mussel memory, I just shot. Now my overall shooting percentage went down but I figured it would because I was seeing a whole lot more heat shimmer with the bigger glass which is normal. I like the results but they aren’t perfect. I think the main problem is I didn’t move enough as in, pick up the tripod and move to get more in sync with the line pilots were flying. I’ll be spending some time tonight looking at the 1800 images from today looking for patterns. I know there is more here.
Photos captured by D3x, 600VR w/TC-17e on Lexar UDMA digital film
Well, after the Liberty landed, I went looking for other subjects to put with the clouds. That’s actually a pretty common tactic of mine, I find a background I really love and then look for something to put in front of it. And when it comes to our fabulous summer thunderheads, the chase is on. So at the Minden Aviation Roundup there was a small static display they called a Zoo (planes with animal names) for the kids. I wondered over there since the light on the aircraft look good.First aircraft I came to is an old favorite, the Grumman G-73 “Mallard.”
The first thing I did was do a quick looksie through the lens to see if I liked the clouds in the background. Then, I moved backwards until I got the cropping I wanted of the Goose. Then I slid sidewise real slow until the center frame of the glass lined up with the tail. I then, using the grid in the E Scrn, but that line in the center of the line on the center line of the E Scrn. Click! While I really like the paint job on the Goose, I like it better in shades of gray with that sky. Finishing was a snap, Silver Efex Pro, a lot easier then waiting for the folks to move from the front of the Goose. That’s one thing you have to have when shooting is understanding. Shooting with the 200-400, not a soul knew what I was pointing at way back where I was standing let alone realize they were in my photo. But to compact the scene and get the cropping I wanted, the long lens was the only option.
Why the long lens? Most aircraft are taller then we are so the physically closer you are, the less your see in the cockpit and of the tail. The tail is everything I think so in order to lessen the angle, moving back and shooting with a longer lens permits you to see in the cockpit and the tail. So this Do-28 Dornier with the clouds reflecting off its nose instantly grabbed my attention and just like the Goose, I moved, slid and lined up the lines to make the shot. Finishing was just as simple.
Then I saw the thunderheads start to rise and wanted to find something to put with them. When I took this shot, I knew I wouldn’t like the resulting image but wanted to blog it. What do I think is wrong with it? The clouds look like they were put in using Photoshop. While that’s not the case, because of the perspective and depth of focus, they simply look phoney. It was a great start to what turned out being a great day!
Photos captured by D3x, 200-400VR2 (handheld) on Lexar UDMA digital film
This past weekend just up the road was the first annual Minden Aviation Roundup. So with a Kitchen Pass, I made a day trip up to Minden to check ‘er out. I meet up with our son Brent, saw a bunch of friends both on the ground and in the air and it was an opportunity to make some clicks (practice is always a good thing). It was also a fundraiser for the Franklins so it was a no-brainer to attend. Being its first, it was a “smallish” airshow and that was great. Had a ton of fun talking with friend, watching the aircraft and of course, shooting.
I got out of the truck and first hing I saw was this Liberty Sport-Orval in the air giving folks rides. I grabbed the 200-400 on the Sun Sniper and got over to the runway. Being August and the Eastside, we had some great thunderheads brewing. Well that got me excited so I got in place to make the shot. The shot is not the top one, not by any means. The frame filler is OK but with that paint scheme, gray fuselage and yellow bi-wings, I wanted a small subject with big clouds! The clouds are everything!p>
The Liberty was on a pretty predictable flight pattern so after its first pass, I looked at the clouds selecting what section I wanted to the background. The best clouds were where the Liberty was the furthest out in its pattern. The yellow sucks the eye in against the gray like a heat seeking rocket, but it has to have a little light on it to work effectively. I attached the 1.7x and then tracked the Liberty looking for that yellow against the great clouds. I was very happy and like the bottom image the best. Not the rub is, it don’t look like much at all here on the blog with the overall image size so small. But then, I didn’t shoot it for the blog, I shot it for myself.
Photos captured by D3x, 200-400VR2 w/TC-17e (handheld) on Lexar UDMA digital film
Yeah, if you don’t have it sharp to tack sharp when you go click, it never will be sharp! There is no fix at this time for a fuzzy image (which is just as bad as a sharp image of a fuzzy idea). There are a lot of variables in getting a sharp image and getting them all perfect every time you go click. The only way to get there is practicing them perfectly. And that takes time. One major problem of having a major website like I do with thousands of pages of information (and blogging as much as I do) is information gets buried that might be of big help. Since I seem to be talking about elements that I feel that need to be in place when you go click, I thought I should repost a previous post on what I do to get a sharp image when I go click.
From the get go, the AF settings in the D3 have confused folks (and all Nikon DSLRs since). I was no different in the beginning but lucky for me, I was able to ask two of the lovely ladies at NPS back when what to do. They told me exactly what the designer of the new AF system at Nikon told them when asked which is the best. “21 Dynamic, it’s the best!” And that’s what I use the majority of the time ever since. That means, I go into the Custom Setting Menu > Autofocus > a3 Dynamic AF Area > 21 points and then select the AF sensor I want to use. That’s how both of these images were taken. To take advantage of this selection, the lever on the back of the D3x is pointing at the middle icon, not the top or the bottom icon, but the middle icon. This is what I use for basically all my landscape, people and wildlife work and it serves me very well.
And while the power of the D3 AF system makes it possible to not have to manual focus all the time (I still manual focus a lot, old habit), it’s still only part of the equation to getting a sharp photo. The other part is spending a lot of time with gulls so when the great opportunity like the Osprey appears, I’m ready for it. I practice A LOT! Yeah, after doing this for 30yrs, I still practice this on an almost daily basis! Personally, I don’t know of any other way. Now I realize these videos are a bit old (shot before I knew anything about video), but the techniques none the less are still the same. So if you don’t know the techniques that go along with the technology, check these out.
Now I really find personally that using the Nikon AF system is this simple, 21 Dynamic and go, it just works. If you find though the camera searching for focus alot, more times then not, it’s the pilot that’s the problem and not the system. That’s where practice kicks in. And the time I don’t use this AF setting? You’re lookin at it. When I have something in the sky, a single bird, a giant flock and I want the front of the flock sharp or planes in the sky, I switch over to Auto Area AF or what I simply call Triple A. What does this do? It gives you all the attributes of Dynamic; Focus Tracking, Focus Lock and Color Recognition but adds to this list Closest Subject Priority. Added to this is the fact you no longer have to select an AF Sensor to lock onto you subject because the ENTIRE area in your viewfinder is now one, giant AF Sensor! The beauty of this system to me is the ease of operation. All I have to do is move the lever on the back of the camera from the middle icon to the top icon. Wanna go back from Triple A to Dynamic? Don’t have to take the eye away from the action, just flip the lever. Even a Moose can handle that thought process.
Does the AF work 100% of the time? No. Do I focus on a subject, lock focus and then recompose? No! Do I use the back AF Button to activate focus? Can’t get coordinated enough to ever make that work, I’m a spaz! So then do you use the shutter firing button to activate focus? Yes, I can manage that much. Have you tried other combos? What do you think? Do you manual focus? I think I’ve answered that but to make it clear, alot! Will you modify this system since you seem to change other settings with time? I don’t think so, not with the D3 because it works for me. Will it work for you? Only is you go out and practice. If you just set these settings because you read them here and then in a week to two think you can go out shooting and every thing will be sharp, you will be really disappointed in your results. I don’t know anyway around practicing to make this technology work for you and your photography. The D3 AF system does make it possible for this important aspect of photography to take a back stage but it’s still up to you to make it sing!
Jay Maisel is an amazing photographer! When you here someone like that and you see his images, you need to listen. Doesn’t mean you do everything he does thinking that will make you great. But it does mean you take in those words of wisdom that apply to your photography and run with them. One of the wisest pieces of advice I think we should all follow is, always carry a camera! An iPhone camera doesn’t count to me since I can’t take that image 24×30. Jay is an amazing city shooter so whenever I’m in a city like Salt Lake City (here for PDN Outdoor Expo), I try to do my Jay. So when we walked to dinner, I naturally had my camera and the approaching afternoon thunderstorm clouds naturally grabbed my attention.
I really like the buildings in the top photo but the clouds not so much. I like both the building and clouds in the bottom photo but, I don’t know, it just doesn’t see complete. They are both simple clicks finished with Silver Efex Pro. The top photo, I squared the buildings using Free Transform > Distort in Photoshop. I used that since you have no clue if the clouds have been stretched or not. They are just clouds. But Free Transform > Distort is real fast and I like fast. Not going to set the world on fire, the photos though do bring a simple pleasure and the satisfaction that but listening and learning from the master, Jay, carrying the camera did pay off. That brings smile to my face.
Photos captured by D3x, 24-120VR on Lexar UDMA digital film
My image of the P-38 Lightning over on my warbirdimages.com site has brought in a huge response. I appreciate all the kind words the image has brought and it tells me that it is successful since it has reached so many. At the same time, it has brought up a number of questions that I would like to try to address hoping it helps you with your photography. The two main questions are why HDR and why B&W? For my style of photography, be it critter, landscape or plane, background is everything. When we arrived at Oshkosh and that storm came in, the drama in the clouds couldn’t be ignored. The challenge was to find the appropriate foreground for the clouds. The P-38 was a great foreground so then I just had to perfect in the viewfinder what I needed to tell the story. The image title of Ready to Meet the Storm came to mind while looking through the viewfinder so I made this first HDR image. I didn’t like the tarmac under the wing so I moved in closer to the plane to eliminate it. That was a huge improvement as you can see here.
With the background now cleaned up, perfecting the drama was next in order. If you look at the clouds in the color version compared to the B&W, you will see what I think is a huge difference. The color version is the 5 image HDR, I do all the HDR and PS finishing before I go to B&W. Even with that, you don’t see the drama in the clouds. That doesn’t come out until the B&W and the magic of Structure in Silver Efex Pro. Then, it’s a balancing act between the Brightness and Contrast. Finally I punch up some of the fuselage with a Levels layer. Now if there was no cover on the canopy, I might have approached the whole thing totally differently but such was not the case. Keep in mind that a B&W photo must have a clean black and a clean white and after that, you can play with the tones all you want. I hope this answers some of your questions on how the final image (the bottom one) came to be. Thanks again for writing with all your kind words!
Photo captured by D3x, 24-120VR on Lexar UDMA digital film