Now, Even Earlier Even Better

Grumman HU-16 Albatross captured Df / 18-35AFS

This is not a new tip, rather, I’ve probably said it a thousand times but I was asked again today so I thought it warranted repeating. It’s FALL, GREET THE SUN for the best light! Yeah, I’ve recently mentioned that fall is great for statics and heavies but combining that by being on the ramp at airshows before the sun is a natural! The warmth in the sky, the mellow shadows on the other side and the drama that is often in the sky at sunrise and sunset, it just follows that great photographs are be had. It’s a given, now, even earlier even better!

Fall is Great for Heavies!

B-24 captured by D4s / 200-400f4VR2

Yeah, not what you typically think of when it comes to the mellow light of fall, but Heavies look great in its light! Those broad, long wings of bombers, transports and the like can create really deep, dark shadows during the summer months requiring some love in post to bring out the detail. Such is not the case in fall when the mellow, lower sun pops them open for us from the very first click. If you’re looking at airshows to go shoot right now, you might look at those that are featuring more Heavies and the like as fall is great for Heavies!

Fall is Great for Statics!

Waco QFC captured by D750 / 24-70f2.8AFS

The light is starting to turn the corner, time to think statics. Statics are aircraft that are parked. The fall light with its softer shadows is great for static aircraft giving you more time to craft the shot you want. Not only that but the fall storms not only extend your shooting period but provide a little more diffusion and dramatic backgrounds. Here’s one other thing many photographers don’t think of in their pursuit of static aircraft to photograph. The plane doesn’t have to be airworthy! Yeah, the plane doesn’t have to be able to fly, the prop doesn’t even need to turn. You just need air in the tires so it can be tugged or pushed to where you want to do the shoot. Why would one even consider that? It’s the time of year when many aircraft are going into annual as the summer flying season comes to a close. More than once while waiting for a part we’ve rolled a plane out for me to photograph. It’s something to think about as you haunt the airport, fall is great for statics!

Changing the Setting Can Make All the Difference

N3N-3 on floats captured by Z 9 / Z70-200f2.8

The A2A mission last week was such a blast! The N3N-3 photo above (the sweet images under embargo) was taken with my being stuffed in the back seat of the PA-12 below. Mike is a great pilot and formation member doing an outstanding job getting me where I wanted to be to make the shot. It was the first time ever that I was able to shoot a water landing while, making a water landing and coming back with sharp images. Mike is that good! That’s one set of very skillful pilots! Those pilots make the whole shoot happen, I’m just the guy with the camera along for the ride. Back to that setting …

Shooting out of the PA-12 is a challenge I have conquered a number of times. It requires first, bending way over and twisting to the right in the most uncomfortable final position. This is because the seat sits back in the cabin and you have to get past the door frame, wing strut and able to shoot back behind you and the photo platform. We normally shoot to our left, that’s how we handhold our camera is for left handed shooting. The PA-12 requires right handed, completely opposite of normal shooting. Doing these gymnastics (which I start practicing at least a week prior to the shoot so my body will make the twist) messes with your hand position. It really hampers handholding, zooming and pressing the AF-ON button and Shutter Release while just seeing through the viewfinder. Stuff yourself into a ice chest and give it a try, it’s not easy! The one setting that can make it easier is to return the focusing operation to the Shutter Release from the back button. This sounds like a simple, too simple a fix to make any difference but it’s important enough to me that it’s on the laminated settings check list I have attached to my A2A camera strap. Once back on the ground, I reassign the focus back the back button. But in A2A, changing that setting can make all the difference!

PA-12 Amphib captured by Z 9 / Z24-120

Need Flash in Aviation?

Cessna 195 on floats captured by Z 8 / Z14-24f2.8 w/ 2x Profoto A10 in Octas

“I shoot at airshows, why do I need flash?” I seriously get asked this, a lot and the answer is a resounding … oh heck yeah! The normal response to this is, “I don’t photograph people so do I still need flash?” That opens the doors to all sorts of things but for right now, I’m going to just stick with flash and aircraft. When I was asked about using flash with aircraft recently, the questioner simply said, “I can use AI masking so I don’t need flash.”

Working on a project, I wanted to make magic for the statics and pilot portrait. A big part of the story is the floating hangar where the 195 resides. Yeah, I could have moved the 195 out into the water for the statics easy peasy but that would have just been a plane in the water. A floating hangar is really unique so up on its “platform” in the hangar was my only option. The issue was, there was no light and to tell the visual story, I needed to write with light. That means, flash! In this case, I simply put two Profoto A10 in their Octa on stands at 45 degrees to the nose of the plane. Why in Octas? Look at the quality of light! Look at the visual impact of the angle of the floats shooting at 14mm! What you see here is the before and after shots as I dialed in the exposure for the 195 (flash) and the underexposure (in camera exp comp) in the camera for outside.

I would encourage you to look at the before and after down below over and over again. Look at the information that pops because of the flash and the information that disappears by underexposing for the exterior. Look at the drama that the Profotos bring to the scene. It didn’t take much light, but it did take light. Most questions that you ask of your photography, you need to find the answer that works for you. One of the most important I feel is, need flash in aviation?

Three Forks Flyin – Wow!

Three Fork Flyin under the wing campers captured by Z 8 / Z70-200f2.8

The alarm had us on our feet at 02:00. By 02:30 the coffee was in the mugs and along with us, in the truck heading east. We had been forewarned that the weather looked bad for flying and few aircraft were expected. Jake was going to be there and we wanted to spend a day with him so we were going no matter what. But you just never know right? I firmly believe that the worst weather can make for some of the best photography. We want through a couple of big down pours on our three hour drive and as we came over the last pass dropping down into Three Forks I saw on the horizon eerie red patches of light. It’s why I say to aviation photographers, just show up!

The Three Forks airport is a delightful small town field! The gate was open so with camera in hand, I walked in with the twenty or so aircraft tied down on the ramp. Tents dotted the field. The ramp was wet with large puddles from the recently ceased rains. To the east, the storm started to break and the light began to dance off the heavens and the tarmac. It was photographic and spiritual shang-ri-la as I was the only one about to soak it all in.

The Three Forks Flyin never disappoints! The great folks make it seem like going home week. Planes flyin early for the delicious pancake breakfast. There is nothing like eating a hot and delicious breakfast with hot coffee on the ramp with pilots just dying to take you flying! They are there all day with that intent as the day ends with an amazing roast beef dinner. In between there are stoll contests, floor drops, ping-pong ball drops, plane judging and fellowship.

Jake and I just wandered the ramp with camera on shoulder. The size and proximity of the field made the Z 8 / Z70-200f2.8 the perfect rig for shooting. The Z24-70f2.8 was in the vest pocket for some static and portrait work. The clouds stuck around until the afternoon keeping it cool and the light doable for all day shooting. Probably why I came back with nearly 5k images to file (be sure to check out the gallery below!). In all honesty, can’t think of a better way to spend the day. On the three hour drive back after dinner, Sharon & I were a buzz with conversation about the day. All I can say is thanks to all at MAAA cause once again, Three Forks Flyin, wow!

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