While I’ve only been shooting planes a short time, I have put in my time behind a camera. That time behind the camera counts for each and everyone of us. The trick is, to reflect on that time and apply those lessons we’ve learned to our current journey. That’s where so many fall down because they think wildlife or landscape or portraiture or sports or horse photography aren’t related. But they most certainly are related and by the one thing that haunts most photographers, light! So while I might be new to aviation, I’m certainly not new to light or how to use it to manipulate the viewer of my photographs. Here’s a classic example of what I’m talking about.
Here’s a little Bellanca 8KCAB putting on a great show at the Minden Aviation Roundup. The sun had darted behind the clouds (which were great) giving the total scene a “cool” cast. A color cast is a bluish cast which we mentally perceive as being cool (don’t understand this, read The Psychology of Color). Well, when you have that overall color cast, anything yellow the eye zeros right in on so no matter the subject size in the image, you can’t help but see it. I talked about that the other day. So with those basics in place, we build upon them.
I’m a huge Jay Maisel fan, he is all about color and uses it to communicate like few others. And the top three images start to get to where his famous mantra says so rightly where our photography should be. But they are missing what I think is Jay’s main manta thrust, the key ingredient in all great photographs, one that I strive to have especially in my aviation images. The one thing all these images have in common is, you don’t see the pilot. We know intuitively that there is one flying the plane, but we don’t see them. More importantly the top three photos don’t express what it must be like to be flying that plane in those gorgeous skies for all those spectators. That’s what I want to capture in my aviation images……
Gesture! Light, Color, Gesture…Jay’s mantra and it’s those ingredients that make the bottom image stand out from the rest. You can just feel the fun of this little aircraft easing over and enjoying the freedom of no gravity. It takes no words to express (photographs shouldn’t need a caption to tell the story), it just says free! No matter your subject, these basics apply and will, when incorporated make your photograph tells its story!
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