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
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.