It had been a long day. This is where I spent my Wed shooting like a crazy man, challenging my photographic skills, sweating profusely and loving every moment of it. At the end of the day, I wanted a image of my workplace but a simple, single click wouldn’t do. I mean, I had been doing HDR, flash fill VR panos for the past ten hours so why not keep the pain going. So dragged the ladder out into the sun, climbed to the top and did a 16Fish, 5 image HDR, 3 image wide, hand held pano. I mean what the hay…never tried that before.
As my folks learned this past weekend at Photoshop for Shooters, a good realistic HDR starts at the point of capture. It’s all about light, quantity and quality. The reason when I went with a 16Fish pano was because a single click from my vantage point cut off the left wing of the left Mustang and the right wing of the right Mustang. I wanted those wings so I needed to shoot three images across. Why doesn’t it look like a Fisheye shot? The horizon line is running dead center of the frame. And with the addition two image on either side of the main image, some of the bowing at the edges is avoided.
The finishing was pretty straight forward. The HDR was done with Photomatix Pro. The pano was assembled in Photoshop using Photomerge to assemble the three Tifs from Photomatix Pro. A little Nik Tonal Contrast, Darken/Lighten Center and Vivezza to brighten the back two planes and flag and all done. It was actually a whole lot easier to do then I first imagined. But then that’s true for a lot of things in photography. As long as you start with the basics and execute them correctly, it all seems to fall into place.
Photo captured by D3x, 16Fish on Lexar UDMA digital film
When I was at Fantasy of Flight a couple months back, I saw the tail cone Rick is standing in front of here. Part of a P-35 restoration, I thought when I saw it that it was a work of art, a sculpture destined for a gallery, not the rear of a plane. Today I took the opportunity to get to know the artisan who made it, Rick, a little better and he was more then willing to share some of his craft with me. And of course, I listened with heart and camera.
Just like my 30yrs of working with biologists, I shot while the work continued. I didn’t set up shots, I just listened, asked questions and shot. In the art of historic restoration, the smallest detail is important. Rick is holding up two of the same size rivets and while they technically the same size rivet, one has a slightly different head size and is accurate to the P-35. Could you see a difference? Ya, sure, especially when you put in place (not!). Those in the know sure would pick up on the difference so that’s why that TLC is done. It is a slow, laborious, TLC process and Rick is a real artist.After my technical and historic lessons (which I just love which is why I was here) it was time to get back to work. Those tiny rivets are being put in place one at a time. It was that process that I wanted to photograph.
How were these photographs taken? There is a open door letting in filtered afternoon light to the left. I filled it in with a SB-900 with a LumiQuest Softbox LTp (love this thing!) running on a SC-27. This is a big, portable light source that I hold off camera. Here’s the kicker to the whole thing, I was shooting at 1/5 – 1/8 the whole time. Why such a slow shutter speed? I’m shooting 1 flash, by myself in a big shop constantly on the move. I work much better using the ambient light as my fill and the flash as key in these situations. With that, the filtered light coming in the doors which was gorgeous, was a limited quantity, hence the slow shutter speed. Was a tripod in involved? No, there was barely space for a Moose let alone a tripod. All the photos were handheld. What about ghosting? What about it? If there was subject movement during an exposure, it just gives a sense of motion and work which is what you see in the last image. Now one of the three images, the flash was above the lens and not to the side. Can you tell which one?
Photos captured by D3x, 24-120VR on Lexar UDMA digital film
“So what are you doing in FL?” Folks who follow me on FB have been DMing that question after I posted a photo from the cockpit of a L-39 yesterday. Most assume that if I’m in FL, I must be photographing wildlife. Don’t know about others, but standing in the sun when it’s 100 degrees isn’t fun. So I spent yesterday instead in a hangar where it was a cool 98 degrees (much better). I did a commercial shoot yesterday, not done one of those for a long time and this one was fun being aviation based. I was doing HDR, flash-fill VR Panos and after 16hrs and 20gal of water, had it all done. At least the shooting portion.
Today was my time so I headed over to a favorite locale, Fantasy of Flight and to the restoration shop of my good friend Paul. Back in 1997, Paul started the restoration of the Stinson L1 and is getting “near” completion. This is a very cool plane of which only 352 were made, a handful exist and Kermit’s will soon be the only airworthy example in the world. Its 51′ wingspan permitted it to go rear slow making it a great observation aircraft. I had a marvelous day. Stick around and I’ll tell you the story.
Photo captured by D3x, 24-120VR on Lexar UDMA digital film
They are so cute! I just love grouse chicks. As soon as they are dry after hatching, they are up and going! Now they might trip on the grass, run under mom everytime a pine needle hits the ground, but they are just amazing! Now, how do you take advantage of this kind of situation?
First, I’m incredibly lucky this all unfolded on our property. It’s just me and the grouse. Watching their actions, feeding and moving on, watching their path and looking towards where they are going you can figure out possible places they will stop and graze. Mom is walking as slow as she can, the kids are running all out to keep up. And the light….it’s just dark!
With all that movement and the slow shutter speed (1/25 – 1/80), any movement will blur. That can be a plus and a minus depending on how you plan your shot. Using Peak of Action, you can stop a lot of movement even at slower shutter speeds. You will still have images that are soft, but you will have many that are sharp. In this case of the dandelion blossom disappearing, I like the little bit of movement.
Still on one knee, handholding and with the light no better, I was shooting nearly wide open. The band of focus is pretty narrow and at 400mm and how close the click was to me, it worked perfectly! I didn’t want the background in focus, didn’t want the foreground either so I placed the chick as you see it in the frame for those reasons. Pretty simple stuff, just having fun shooting the wildlife in the yard.
10min later, they are heading back towards the forest and the rain is coming harder. I had errands to run so I put the camera in the house, told Jake where the grouse family were and left. As we were leaving, Jake was walking out with his 200-400 and had more fun with the family until the down pour just got too intense.
Why no flash fill? I know that question is coming so thought I would head it off at the pass. Many reasons, the main one being I liked the light quality. I didn’t need to mess with it, I wanted the stormy feel to the images. The next, it would add more weight to the gear and I was already shooting slow enough I didn’t want to hassle it. Lastly, I didn’t want to take the few extra minutes to grab it. Could you use flash fill here? Heck ya, easily and quite successfully. If all conditions were perfect, do you wish you had grabbed your flash? Nope! Why not? Flash would have changed the whole feel. I like it just the way they it is.
Photos captured by D3x, 200-400VR2 on Lexar UDMA digital film
Mammoth is a great small town and we like to do the 4th! We have your basic small town 4th of July parade which is really the largest squirt gun fight on the planet with the fire dept & forest service using their tankers to soak the crowd and the crowd in return using super soakers and water balloons. Great fun! In between we have horses and American flag, old hot rods, pirate ships and just great community fun. Then in the evening we convene at the lake for fireworks. It’s just a great show with the rocket’s percussion echoing off the granite walls of the Sierra so the sound effects are amazing!
And as always, I had my camera. At 9:15 when the first rockets went up, the clouds had cleared enough so you can see a slight glow on the horizon but not enough for our great umbrella of stars to be the background. And at first the wind was calm but near the end, it picked up and that changes the final image. As far as photographing them, I make it real simple because I’m there to enjoy the family and show. The D3x is mounted on a tripod, 24-120VR attached and zoomed to about 35mm. I have the MC-36 attached, lens on manual focus set to infinity, 8sec f/5.6. I watched the shells being launched and looking at their altitude, I click or not. Finishing is real simple in ACR, I shoot in Vivid and other then taking the Highlight & Light slider to the left in ACR, it’s a two click finishing. I have a new mounting system for the Moose Cam I was testing so I shot video of the entire show with the Coolpix S9100 (great camera!). The system worked perfectly but the LCD repeat of the show doesn’t do it justice. Hope your 4th was just as good for you!
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.
“Say thank you now!” I don’t know how many times I was reminded that growing up, but it sure seems like it was an awful lot. It was one of those lessons in life which made no sense to me at the time but man, it sure does now. It seems at times we got to where we are all on our own but we know that’s not the case. There are an awful lot of folks behind us helping get where we are. This is especially true if you’re successful in photography!
While I am thankful for those who have shared their photographic knowledge with me, I am more thankful for those who have shared their worldly knowledge with me. For example, I have written forever that my success as a wildlife comes from the biologists I work with (and now in aviation it’s the pilots making me successful). Like the marmot project up in AK, I would never had my glass on the Alaska Marmot one day and then on the Hoary Marmot (pictured here) the next without dedicated biologists. The adult and spring young were amazing subjects and ones we would have not gotten on without the biologists. We had to make the shots, but they got us there to make those shots. Like I’ve always told our sons, “I can open the door for you but you have to walk through it.”
In photography, no matter what genre you’re in, saying thanks is a must and not just for your own sake! Had an conversation with someone in the last couple of days that brought this topic to mind and I guess, because for me it seems rather natural, the story really fried my feathers (yes, Moose have feathers). Bottomline, the person I was working with had been burnt by a number of photographers, not just one but a number. He’d put himself, knowledge and time out their for these photographers and he never got a thanks, a print, a file, nothing. The photographer took and never gave back. And yet, because of their nature allowed one more, me, into their world. It might seem strange, but I do this blog to say thanks to those long ago who gave freely of themselves so I could grow. Most of them I know don’t read the blog because sadly, time has marched on and they have passed. But that debt remains that a simple thank you still doesn’t suffice. So sending the biologists prints of this moment in this marmot’s life with flies buzzing all around them yet taking time to say hello means alot. Means a lot to the biologists and to the photographers who come along after me so the door is still open for them.
What’s the best way to say thanks? The words at the moment don’t hurt, that’s for sure. But the best way is the gift of art. If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a million times, giving the print is the best thing you can do. It say thanks like no other gift. And on the business side, if your art is hanging on someone’s wall, they will never forget you. That my friends is very powerful stuff! We keep the Epson 4900 humming all the time making thank you prints and what flows from them just keeps the world turning. I had no clue growing up how much that constant reminder of saying thank you would effect me later on. It drives me nuts when folks don’t say thanks to me and even more when other photographers burn bridges when they don’t say thanks to those who make the photograph possible. Many ask what’s the secret to making it in this business for 30yrs. I know it’s not my charm, but it might be I at least know how to say thanks. Thanks goes a long ways!
Photos captured by D3x, 600VR w/TC-20e3 on Lexar UDMA digital film
“I’m halfway through “Captured” and the amount of effort and study you put into your subjects is impressive and inspirational. It’s a great motivational read, especially when a day comes along that I feel lazy. Time to get off my butt and shoot!” So far in my 30yrs, I’ve not found another method to move me down the road other then the way Jim pointed out from reading my book. The end of last week is a perfect example. I just celebrated the beginning of my 5th year working in aviation photography. I have so far to go after coming such a long ways already. There is no doubt I had some good friends help me along the way who opened doors but I had to walk through them. All of my peers that I’ve talked to have the same stories with the same basic thread, someone opened the door but they walked through them. Didn’t burst through them or crawl through them, but walked through them. That translates to taking the time to do the homework, hone the skills and making the most of the opportunities provided you. This of course means, making things happen for yourself, not waiting for them to happen. As my good friend Joe likes to sum up as, “Going outside you comfort zone.” This weeks blogs (which everyone will forget by Tuesday) is about my going outside my comfort zone to find success and moving that forward. Yeah, it will be a bunch of plane pictures but the photo subject matter really matters not. In fact, not sure why so many look at the photo in a blog and make a judgment call without reading the blog is beyond me. I am always taken aback when folks ask me how I got so good in aviation so fast when I’m a wildlife photographer. When I tell them, “I’m just a photographer,” all that comes back to me in a puzzled look (30yrs chasing light does count for something not matter what that light was falling on).
I thought I’d start off with something that might grab your attention (or not). One of those opportunities I made for myself was with this gorgeous plane, Rod Lewis’ F7F Tigercat “Here Kitty Kitty.” I talked with Rod and arranged for the plane to be parked as you see it so I could photograph it at sunrise. It’s then upon me to make something of that opportunity. I could have shot it ground lever (and did) or at eyelevel (and did) but I wanted to shoot it at level that is not only cool, but typically not possible. So I grabbed the ladder out of the truck (surely you have one) and shot from it. I put up my “teepee” tripod (really tall Gitzo 5560SGT) and went to work. With such an opportunity, you might just make one click and call it a day, that is totally valid. I wanted to cover myself so after making my primary shot (the top photo), I decided to try some HDR (bottom photo). Personally, I’m really glad I didn’t just go with HDR because I really don’t like it, not at all. The top photo though, it was a good start. There are a lot more from the morning of “Here Kitty Kitty” but an image or finishing technique is not the point of this blog. Just six months ago, I couldn’t have done this. I couldn’t have arranged for the plane, I wouldn’t even have had the ladder in the truck. Photography, no matter the subject matter takes time to master and even more time to make your own. The key is, if you don’t start today, you won’t have it tomorrow because it takes time to make it your own.
Photo captured by D3x, 70-200VR2 on Lexar UDMA digital film
So Jake & I are walking around the show, talking with folks, running into friends and thankfully, doing some business and to top that all off, having fun shooting when we walked up to the P-64. I looked like it was staged by the pilot, not really sure but there on the wing was a helmet and flight suit. It was in the sun, backlit but in the sun. Standing back and shooting at 400mm, you could get the flags on the fuselage in the frame. It was a cool detail shot that I look for at air shows, the reason why I carry the 200-400VR2. It permits me to shoot over and through folks. I had two major issues when I took the photo, which format and the backlighting. The format problem I fixed by doing both horizontal and vertical. Now that they are finished, I like the vertical the best. The helmet & flags in the background relate the best in the vertical. That left the backlighting. I didn’t have a flash and even if I did, there was no way with the crowd I was going to apply it in the limited time I had. That left finishing in post and that, I can do.
You probably don’t see a real big difference between the finished and unfinished photos and that’s the way it should be. But if you look carefully at the highlights and shadows, even in sRGB you can see a difference. Next, look at the flags, you’ll see in the finished image the flags have more color and punch. The final biggie is the helmet and flight suit. Notice in the final image the browns and richness there that is missing in the out of the camera image? I got that without sacrificing the backlighting highlight using OnOne Photo Tools Tint with Clean Whites. These are all small details but that’s how I like to work. They add up and the final viewer on the image if done right will never know, just enjoy.
Photos captured by D3x, 200-400VR2 on Lexar UDMA digital film
Here in the Sierras, nesting is now in full force with most species just now setting down on eggs. I realize we’re behind some areas and a head of others but here at home, it’s time for portraits. What do I mean by that? The majority of bird species, the female with her dual plumage does most of the daytime nest tending. The males, the brighter colored of the two is either standing guard or bringing food into the female. Either case, they tend to be T’d up on a perch dying for their portrait to be taken.
The first thing you need to do is find the nest. That often requires some bin time, sitting, watching and learning. The males will often have one perch they favor and that’s what you need to find. Once it’s found, you kinda wanna figure out their routine. Not that you can set your watch by it, by you wanna limit your time with a camera to safeguard the nest. No photograph is worth sacrificing the welfare of a subject! With all of this, look at the light and background. With the Raven above, it was real simple. Nice lighting and clean background. With this American Kestrel, great background but not so nice light. This is a great example where flash fill was needed.
This perch the male California Gnatcatcher used after it left the nest, not before. I kinda like those better because the pressure to take in food and being careful of predators is not so intense so the critters are more “relaxed” in the frame. The last thing you can do is keep the bird off nest! This is also my favorite kind of light for taking portraits, that’s overcast. Overcast not only is this giant softbox but means cooler temps which works best for the nest. Heat stress kills and kills fast!
But using overcast light, you either need to introduce flash for color (Captured has a whole chapter on this) or have a reflector to bounce in light. In the Gnatcatcher photo, the sand/shrubs did a great job reflecting light into this bird so small, it weight less then a nickle. The Upland Sandpiper, a favorite bird of mine, the white side of the Suburban acted as the reflector and did a killer job! Now how long can you stick around and take these portraits? I don’t know about anyone else, but I get bored pretty fast because once you set up and make the clicks, not a whole lot will change. I do take the time to watch the routine so I have an idea for when the eggs hatch or the kids fledge, otherwise I make the great portrait and move on so I don’t effect the adults. With subjects normally always on the move, it’s nice that at least for a short time each year, they will hold still for a portrait.
Photos captured by D3x, D2xs, D1, D3, 600AFS / 600VR w/1.4 or 1.7x on Lexar digital film
I’m not kidding you, the hangar door is to the right, the home theater room is in the back and the wall behind me is the amazing bar. And parked right there is the incredibly rare Boeing FB-5 biplane of Bill Allen’s and is it gorgeous! The first time I walked through the room, the light from the track lighting was nice, the neon cool but that was all. About an hour later when I walked through (because there was so much to see, one trip wasn’t enough), the late afternoon light streaming through the windows was way cool! I had to have the shot, I just love it! Here’s the problem, the light coming through the windows on the right, the light on the floor and the shadow in the back was a HUGE range. Yeah, I could have brought in flash but that would have been a helluva lot of work and time consuming, neither was on my agenda. So I ran out, borrowed Bill Fortney’s tripod and because I didn’t have a plate on my D3x, I held the body on top of the tripod to do a 5 image HDR of this amazing plane. In all honesty, all of the above was the easy part, it was a no-brainer. It was the framing that still has me scratching my head. I like the top image because it includes the two cool leather chairs telling the story of the room. The bottom photo though has that killer neon sign on the left. Don’t know how to see this light and work it, come to class and you’ll learn how to make it work for you! Since I couldn’t make up my mind, I took them both and played it safe. But seriously, this is his den and it rocks!
There is simply no better group of shooters to spend time with then those of ISAP. Jake & I are at their annual convention and next to Photoshop World, I know nothing that get’s me excited about photography and makes me thankful for being a photographer then ISAP. Here we are at stop two of our killer day at Marine Corp Air Station Miramar where we’re out with the V-22 Osprey. Wow, what a crazy lookin plane! Wow, what an amazing opportunity!
The legendary Nat’l G shooter Jim Sugar and Bill Fortney, Jake & I are goofin taking Bill’s portrait with a bust of Lindbergh. I’m goofin with Jim Sugar & Bill Fortney! Wow! We were actually seeing how fast we could come up with a TTL Flash solution for a portrait, seeing if us old farts still had it in us. If we weren’t laughing so much, it would have gone much quicker but then, that’s what shooting with friends is all about. And that’s what ISAP is all about. To each and everyone here today, thanks for making it a great day!
Tech Note: been asked how top image was created. That’s a five image, handheld HDR taken with D3x/16Fish and processed with Photomatix Pro. This is straight out of Photomatix.
What do you do to top off an incredible flight? Well, when you have great light you shoot some more. When Mike came taxing up, I got the signal from Kevin to stage the Stearman for a sunset shoot. One of the great things about Stearman Field is all the grass and there was a great strip in front of the hangar or other then aligning the Stearman in the light, it was a snap. Now of course there was a little more consideration then that. You guessed, you know me to well. Yeap, the background was everything so parking the Stearman took a little hand signals, a little gas and then a little more gas just to get the Stearman parked with the best possible background. Kevin hopped out, grabbed his camera and we started to shoot. As the light changed as the sun set, I kept moving about the Stearman looking at just the glow on the side of the Stearman. I was using the RRS Ground Pod which has become my favorite for shooting static aircraft. The question I have for you is, how did I take and finish these images? And do I have a favorite? Not yet actually but the top image is in the contention. mtc
Photos captured by D3x, 70-200VR2 on Lexar UDMA digital film
With only the lighting on the exhibits available and with no way to move them, we (Kevin & I) worked the subjects. I wanted more then just a rust shot of some piece of equipment. I needed to show place, time and scale. Place was the easy of the three, equipment on rock says mine. Time is in a sense said with the rust and rust says old. So does the nature of the subjects, a rail car instantly says to some as being old. Scale, now that was the challenge. I wondered around and around the lit exhibits looking for other places in the particular shaft I was in that might be lit so you could see down into that shaft. While I did find some, the problem is they are so small that by the time I created the thumbnail for the blog, they disappear. I could have shot down there just like I was doing, handholding, using available light, for days but didn’t have days so made the best of it moving fast.
Photos captured by D3x, 24f1.4AFS on Lexar UDMA digital film
So where do you go in Kansas for entertainment? Underground would not have been my first answer until I did it at the Kansas Underground Salt Museum. There is a seam of salt that extends from MN to TX running through KS and back in the 1850, it was discovered and has been mined ever since. Because of the rarefied air in them, those that have been mined and are “closed” are now used to storage of everything from papers to Hollywood props and costumes. It was an amazing couple of hours as we explored this natural and man made wonder. Here’s the photographic challenge. How do you bring this 650′ deep world come to life in your images?
The first challenge is light…there’s no sun at 650′ below the ground in a salt mine. You might be saying, “How about a flash?” We are talking at TWO mile section in just the one we were in. Don’t think flash is an option so that really only leaves ISO as an option. Well I didn’t bring a D3s, I only brought the D3x but had the 24f1.4AFS so then like a moth (which doesn’t live in the mines) I seeked the light. In this case, the lighting for the displays was our only lighting source. So armed with ISO 400 / 800 at 1/25 I went shooting and had a ball!
Photos captured by D3x, 24f1.4AFS on Lexar UDMA digital film
After posting a couple hot rod images last week, I received a ton of great email. No, I’m not venturing into car photography (I get my speed fix from aviation). Yes, these are all HDR images at the start. While I did “car” photography in my youth, that’s specialty is for other youthful hearts to prusue. And why did I shoot these photos on a rainy, overcast day using HDR? This is a VERY valid and I think important question. Many went further and asked how did I do what my bud Scott Kelby calls “realistic” HDR? Let’s back engineer this and see if this short answer helps (the long answer and technique will be gone through at our Photoshop for Shooters class). What you see is NOT the image coming out of Photomatix Pro. What you see here is the FINISHED photo coming from Photoshop. Photography is a game of subtleties and when it comes to a tool to work subtleties, I still feel PS is #1. Here are the layers in finishing this one photo.
And these aren’t all the layers that were used because some are created, used and then discarded after samples are created and retained. You might be asking then why did I use HDR if I did all this work in Photoshop (keep in mind it took just under two minutes to finish this images in PS)? The answer is to get a photograph that looks exactly as my MEMORY remembers that moment in time. Don’t get confused here, I said how my memory remembers the moment, not exactly how it was in reality. This is where the PHOTOGRAPHER must come into play in the FINISHING of the photograph in post. Without that guiding light, that of photography, finishing in post is just a movement of sliders praying one will make a difference one likes. OK, if you follow my drift this far, let’s keep pushing it forward.
There is no way even during a nuclear night could you miss these candle apple red beauts! They are practically neon and glow even though it’s raining and our eyes and brain latch onto that color and even though it needs no help, the brain enhances those colors. That poor bastard, the camera though doesn’t function that way, it’s all math and it says simply, the light is blue/gray and that’s that! You can switch to Vivid, under or overexpose, all the in camera techniques available and no matter what you do, the light is the light and the camera is the camera and the color will never be out of the camera that neon flaming candy apple red that is seared into our memory. So the goal for me at least was not to match reality, but the memory which is so much more vivid!
What photographic tool do we have that punches up colors? HDR! How does it do that even though it’s created by the same camera that wants to turn this color into gray/blue? In this case, I shot a 5 image bracket because that grabbed all the highlights and shading in the RED bodies needed to match my MEMORY. It really requires no major brain lift on our part other then knowing LIGHT, looking at its deficiencies and then shooting accordingly. In this case, knowing what the SUBJECT was, it was real simple. HDR! The light issue was not quantity but quality and HDR can at times make up for that lack of quality.
And to be honest with you, these are not really “realistic” but rather a match to my memory which is anything but accurate. And then I take it a step further but I’m getting ahead of myself. How do I create the “realistic” HDR in post? Boring answer coming…..I just use the Tone Mapping defaults in Photomatix Pro. Yeap, that’s it. But as you can see in the layers above, that’s not enough. Photomatix is doing the heavy lifting bringing out the color in the hot rods, I have to do the rest in Photoshop. In the image above, that includes repairing a dent in the front grill, build a barn door on the right to hide a white frig and remove another photographer on the left. In the top image, I had to remove a banner on the right barn door (this all took less then 2 min to do). In the top image I still had to use Color Efex Pro Tonal Contrast to make the neon sign neon but nowhere in the process did I go to what I call “Elvis on Velvet” but rather, used the camera, Photomatix Pro and Photoshop to simply create an image that matched my memory. Now if this process, logic or techniques interests you, we have a class now so you can learn, master and more importantly, use all of these tools and more so your photographs match YOUR memory!
Photos captured by D3x, 70-200VR2 on Lexar UDMA digital film
Oh yeah, I’ve photographed a few of these now and I never tire of them (this is #12 I’ve shot air to air and all in just a year)! This one is owned by our dear friend KT and her husband Syd who were kind enough to join in the fun of our air to air. I posted these two images so show what happens 180 degrees in the orbit from where I shot the P-51c. There are a couple of things that happen in this arc of the orbit, the main one you can see right off the bat is the prop. It has no light on it so it basically disappears. Is this a bad thing? No, it just is but since you really can’t see it, using a slow shutter speed to blur it doesn’t get you very far. You can shoot at a faster shutter speed making a sharper image without worrying about the prop.
But there is a bigger issue here then a disappearing prop, can you see it? Look closely, what’s missing from the images here from the images here (you’ll have to look hard, it’s small in these thumbnails)? These are my dear friends in the T-6 but they have no light on them, you can’t see them! Light is everything to every photograph! Now you might think the aircraft itself is the subject but I don’t think that way, there’s more to it the photograph then just metal and clothe. My challenge that I face is solving this problem that works and is safe and is practical. I have ideas, just need time and money to prove them. It’s important to keep in perspective what’s your photograph goal I feel and when you don’t reach them, analyze why and improve. I’ve still got a ways to go in my air to air photography but I’m having a ton of fun along the way!
Photos captured by D3x, 70-200VR2 / 24-120VR on Lexar UDMA digital film
While we had some amazing, and I mean amazing static photography at Fantasy of Flight for our Air2Air Workshop, we were there to get in the air to do some serious photography. And while the P-51c looked great on the ground, it looked even better up in the sky! Doing the workshop in April in Florida afforded us some amazing green background and as you can see it really makes the P-51c pop!
I can never have enough time in the air with a plane! There are so many reasons for that with light being #1. You typically fly orbits (fancy word for circles) shooting air to air. Why? If you fly a straight line you fly away from the airport and your costs double or triple is one reason why you fly circles. As you fly the orbits there is only a short time when the plane is flying into the sun and the prop lights up as you see here. You only have a short time then in each orbit if you want different aspects of the plane to make those happen. In these examples you have the basic side and top profile images. To get the nearly 360 degree prop blur I’m shooting at 1/100 Shutter Priority, Vivid in AWB -.7. Kermit Weeks is at the stick of the P-51c and did an amazing job keeping the Mustang right there for us to make click after click after click. This means placing the Mustang in the frame is up to you and often requires turning the body so you have the attitude in the plane you want. You don’t worry about keeping it plumb to the earth but rather to the attack you want in the plane. You do all of this while using proper handholding and keeping yourself stabilized. It’s an incredible rush that I hope you can experience at least once in your life!
Photos captured by D3x, 70-200VR2 / 24-120VR on Lexar UDMA digital film