Tell the Story with Shape, not Detail

Staggerwing 17D captured by Z 8 / Z24-70f2.8

It was a great evening at the ranch in ID! The skies were pretty solid overcast which scuttled any A2A opportunity which lead to the bourbon getting brought out early. Then the sun made a brief appearance and disappeared just as quickly. It was like it was giving us a warning shot of grand things to come so I grabbed my camera and headed out to the grass ramp to see who was parked I could make a shot with. I saw that the horizon had a slit of clearing so knew the sun would appear, be super bright and the range of light leaving only one real shot, silhouette. That’s when I headed to the Staggerwing. Now the F17D is not a common version and this one had an amazing painting scheme. But you weren’t going to see any of that detail with the light that was coming. But the shape of the fuselage and the wings, anyone in aviation would know it was a Staggering. That permits me to be more “artsy fartsy” which is fun and grabs perhaps non-aviation viewer imagination. It’s one of the advantages of to tell the story with shape, not detail.

A Little Thing Makes a Big Difference

F-35 & F-86F captured by D5 / 180-400VR

Background is everything in a photograph. When you’re at an airshow you have a great variety of aircraft, some that rarely if ever fly with each other like the Korean War F-86F Sabre and the modern F-35. It could be a splendid shot except for one big thing, that background. These could be models hanging from the ceiling since without a dynamic background, they are just hanging there in the frame. That’s why I’m so tight on them. I normally don’t like being this tight but by being this tight, I minimize the bla blue sky and zero in more on the pilots. You learn to work with what you’ve got keeping in mind a little thing makes a big difference.

Fun in the Sun is Around the Corner!

Thunderbirds captured by D5 / 180-400VR

Sun&Fun is a great gathering of planes, pilots, photographers and aviation fans! This annual event brings a boat load (should say plane load but just doesn’t have the same punch) of great photographic opportunities especially if you go prepared. One of the brilliant acts is the AF Thunderbirds. Knowing their routine which does change each year permits your to be prepared for those special moments. You can prepare by going one day, winging it (there’s a plane joke for ya) and then doing better on day two with that knowledge, or… Most aviation acts have their routine on YouTube which makes it easy to watch and learn their routine so you came make the most of every day of shooting. Knowing when they are doing any of their formations like you see here, prior to them on display helps knowing to shoot vertical or horizontal, at 200mm or 400mm. It’s really a simple thing you can do that pays huge dividends on the flight line. The weekend and airshows fun in the sun and around the corner!

Thunderbirds captured by D5 / 180-400VR

Spring Doesn’t Guarantee Green

Stinson SR-9F captured by D750 / 24-70f2.8

Spring conjures up green fields and flower carpets in our minds, what could be the perfect stage to set our aircraft star in. You might drive past an airport and see a lush green strip of green and think, “What a perfect backdrop for a static” especially when everything else is brown. Well, that perfect green strip is for launching and recovering aircraft, a location you can’t park a plane for photography. And that brown area everywhere else, well that could be your only option which isn’t really an option. Why the brown? Airports tend to not encourage green grass everywhere for reasons from bird strikes to bugs to planes confusing them for a landing strip. You can see in the photo of the Stinson the green strip behind the plane and the lovely “grass” we had to park on. Yes, there can be green grass you can use but that’s the exception and not the rule. Spring doesn’t guarantee green.

Just Show Up – Recording History

Morane Saulnier 230 captured by D800 / 70-200f2.8

My good friend Ed and I were down in Florida shooting sunrise at Fantasy of Flight. The power plant magician Andy who worked there chatted me up after a great shoot on the ramp. He told us that later that afternoon his friend Tom would be doing the first turn over of the rebuilt engine Andy had done on his Morane Saulnier. Andy invited over to photograph the happenings which I said emphatically, “we’ll be there!” I had NO clue was a Morane Saulnier was, I just head “plane” and that it had appeared in an old movie, Blue Max.

Tom just emailed and reminded me of that afternoon. He went on to say, “You took some fabulous ground shots that day and I still cherish the pdf of photos you sent me of the day. Sadly, the Morane was destroyed by the new owners in France in 2016, if memory serves. Very sad as that was the only original surviving aircraft built in 1940 to survive the war. It was one of 300 ordered built by the German Luftwaffe in occupied France.” Getting it right in the camera is important for so many reasons, this is just one of them. It also goes without saying that just show up, you might be recording history!

The Water’s Warm, Dive Right In!

N3N-3 project Nov ’21 captured by Z 6II / Z14-24f2.8

I’ve been asked a bit of late how it came to be that I had the “exclusive” with the N3N-3. It’s not that I had an exclusive, it was simply I was there, all the time during the whole process of bringing it back to the skies. You can see for yourself here what it looked like in the start when the project (what a plane is called being brought back to airworthy) had its skins taken off and assembled for the first check of what needed to be done. Here you can see what the final outcome was of the project. It came a long ways in a relatively short time and my camera was there for the whole thing. That’s one aspect of photography that get’s lost in all the f/stops and shutter speed, the real time required for a photograph. Not all projects come to a successful conclusion but that doesn’t stop me from looking for and getting involved in them. They are so much fun, lots to be learned and the end results can be amazing! I want to really encourage your to find a project in your backyard and get your camera involved. The water’s warm, dive right in!
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