As Richard said, “You and your clouds!” Now the Super Corsair looks as regal as it is. I like this, it was a good day!
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
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.