The Challenge of Stars

C-47 captured by Z 6 / Z24-70

Dark skies, yeah that’s what airports are not known for but that’s what you need when going after heavenly bodies. Or, is that really the subject you’re going after in a photo like this? In this case, yes and know. When you read about the crews who flew the C-47, you often hear of 03:00 revelry with a 05:00 launch. To us civilians that’s o’dark thirty. There is a short period before the sun comes up that there is just enough glow in the east to suggest sunrise yet the brightest stars can also register in the frame. That’s how I made this shot to tell the story of those flight crews. You might think the light/stars is the challenge but actually, it’s getting a sharp subject. The exposure time was just four seconds but if there is the slightest breeze, the plane will move, wiggle back and forth, even one as big as a C-47. So you click, click, click, click hoping that one of the shots is the right exposure for the sunrise and the stars when the wind is no moving about (and yes, the plane was light painted). With all that said, it’s just a great way to start the day, out on the ramp with aircraft and the sun!

Moose Peterson's

Aviation Seminar

Presented Live in the Classroom or Your Computer Simultaneously!

I'm bringing to you all I have learned romancing the skies with those gorgeous flying machines. We're talking hours of live presentations with images, charts, gear, and live demonstrations that you can take to the airfield and use to bring back those great images. To learn more and to get your Boarding Pass, simply click on this banner and then put up your trays and fasten your seatbelts, we're taking off!

Watch and rewatch it for 6 months afterwards!

You Start on the Ground

T6 Texan captured by D750 / 24-70f2.8

OK, it was just shy of 200 times. The question did fly (get the pun :-) though in when I announced our Aviation Seminar “how do you get in the air to photograph an aircraft?” My answer as I was told when I started out and what I pass along now is, on the ground! This answer though many take as a dismissal of them, their talents, and their question is the gosh darn truth I say with all sincerity! The reasoning behind the answer it very intense.

The number one concern when you’re doing an air-to-air is safety. Then comes a number of other important factors until finally, we get to the actual photograph. The “presentation” of the subject aircraft is discussed at the brief before the flight and then after that, you start the brief all over again with safety, flying stuff, and then the actual shoot covered one more time. What’s the “presentation” of the aircraft all about? Well, that’s what you learn and master while you’re on the ground shooting statics.

Statics (parked aircraft) is where you practice with your camera what angle you want to be to the aircraft, when, how, what light that you learn on the ground. You then later translate that knowledge into that gorgeous air-to-air photograph. It’s that knowledge you gain with the static that you often show in photographic form with the pilot to get in the air. It’s not only can be dangerous but it is expensive to put two planes up and it’s not the time to start learning the basics. Pilot needs to have confidence in your abilities. You do that before you leave the ground. So how do you get in the air with an aircraft, you start on the ground.

That’s why we have a special aviation dayshoot coming up! I have two aircraft for the shoot, a T6 like you see above and a Fairchild PT-19. I have never photographed a PT-19 so I selected it intentionally so you are able to see exactly how I go about photographing an aircraft for the first time. You’ll learn it all first hand so you can employ the same techniques. Come, join my on the ground so you can get into the skies!

Moose Peterson's

Aviation Seminar

Presented Live in the Classroom or Your Computer Simultaneously!

I'm bringing to you all I have learned romancing the skies with those gorgeous flying machines. We're talking hours of live presentations with images, charts, gear, and live demonstrations that you can take to the airfield and use to bring back those great images. To learn more and to get your Boarding Pass, simply click on this banner and then put up your trays and fasten your seatbelts, we're taking off!

Watch and rewatch it for 6 months afterwards!

Planes with a Bang!

Howard 500 captured by D5 / 24-70f2.8 24mm 1/60

You can add a special bang to your 4th of July fireworks with a cool foreground subject. One that comes to mind is aircraft. There are a number of displays at airfields because of the open skies, search one out. Then arrive early and walk the line. Find an aircraft or group of them that have a cool outline. Then simply plunk down the chair, set up the camera on a tripod on a remote, and enjoy the show. If it’s a good show, you’ll naturally squeeze the trigger at the right time and have the visual memories to relive it over and over again!

Moose Peterson's

Aviation Seminar

Presented Live in the Classroom or Your Computer Simultaneously!

I'm bringing to you all I have learned romancing the skies with those gorgeous flying machines. We're talking hours of live presentations with images, charts, gear, and live demonstrations that you can take to the airfield and use to bring back those great images. To learn more and to get your Boarding Pass, simply click on this banner and then put up your trays and fasten your seatbelts, we're taking off!

Watch and rewatch it for 6 months afterwards!

Backlight Can Be a Gem!

Beaver on floats captured by Z 6II / Z70-200f2.8

The van of Alaska is the Beaver. Able to carry all sorts of stuff and getting into places easily, it is a workhorse. In our case, it carried a bunch of photographers and their “stuff” up and over the mountains of Kodiak with no effort. Besides all of that, it’s just a really fun aircraft. And while I was there to spend time with Kodiak Browns, there was no way I wasn’t going to take some plane pics. Since it’s an amphibian aircraft, water had to be part of its story. What’s one great way to say water? Backlight it which works great for aircraft too!

Beaver on floats captured by Z 6II / Z70-200f2.8

The first thing you have to remember is, some highlights will be blown out, gone so get over it. Next, for the backlight highlights to show up, you need something dark behind them. Lastly, you need to get light into the side of the aircraft, be it reflected, opening up shadows in post or the best, a little of both. With all of that in mind, use the backlighted elements as a design element to tell the story and bring the eye to the subject. Backlighting is not what most think of as a light for aircraft but I use it all the time. Perhaps because most others don’t. When done right, backlight can be a gem!

New Bird in the Blackhills

Blackhawk HH-60M captured by D6 / 180-400VR

We’d been concentrating on photographing Bison calves when I first heard that distinctive thumping of the air. Off in the distance I saw the speak that kept getting bigger and bigger. Then it dawned on me, the Helo from Ellsworth was coming into the small strip at Custer State Park. Well hey, Blackhawk in the Blackhills, how could I pass that up?!

Blackhawk HH-60M captured by D6 / 180-400VR

We got in the truck and headed up to the strip. I knew from past experience that if the pilot noticed me out with a big lens, they tend to favor the lens as much as they can. Well darn, that didn’t work this time. They were doing dust off training so the first place we parked, we only got ass shots after it was done and taking the pattern again. So we repositioned further down the field to get the shots you see above. I was shooting the Bison with the D6 / 180-400VR so that’s what I had in my hand. I would normally go to Shutter Priority but didn’t have the luxury of time so being in Aperture Priority, I shut the aperture down to f/22 bringing my shutter speed down to 1/40. I got some rotor blur but not as much as I would like. And while these are not some great photos, they aren’t, it was fun to get in some panning practice after photographing the non-moving Bison. And heck, I never pass up adding a new bird in the Blackhills.

Making the Museum Shot Cool

C-54 captured by Z 6II / Z14-24f2.8

I haunt aviation museums for so many reasons but the main one is doing homework so I’m a better visual storyteller. That’s why at the end of our Chickens & Grouse Adventure in NE, I took a couple of hours before flying out to visit the marvelous Sac Museum. I never go into a museum thinking I’m going to come out with amazing photos, it’s a learning and not shooting op in my mind. But I always go with a camera and in this case, the Z 6II / 14-24f2.8. I was there to check out the B-29, one I believe my father actually flew in. After soaking that all in, I checked out the marvelous rest of the museum (including the B-36!). I was looking at the C-54, looking at the angle I had and the lighting and thought I might be able to make a cool shot. The dark foreground and light on the other aircraft caught my imagination (what you want to look for when sizing up a shot in a museum). What you see is just half of the hangar, a large hangar door separated them and it was slightly open so I could step back an extra five feet. I was just looking at doing that when a person working for the museum greeted me.

He saw the camera, saw me thinking over the situation and I think he saw me shooting other aircraft prior. He asked if I’d like to shoot the C-54 from the other hangar so I would be further back. I assumed he was just going to move the rope that was behind me so I could have a few more feet. Instead, he completely opened the hangar doors so I could walk to exactly where I wanted to be. I folded out the monitor, held the Z 6II / 14-24f2.8 over my head and shot. Then the conversation began between me and the educational director for the museum. The take away from this all will help your photography. Go to the museum to do your homework and light the imagination. Take your camera and have in the back of your mind light and interesting angles. Follow those instincts and be ethical in your approach. You will be noticed and often afforded opportunities otherwise not available. And always, always have that business card you can put in that person’s hand and follow up with pics. It makes that museum shoot cool!

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