Using up my Bag of Tricks

Show 6, post 1: Northern Illinois Airshow

On September 9th, I drove over to Waukegan for the Northern Illinois airshow. The home show for Warbird Heritage foundation. I meet up with my good friend and fellow photographer, Rob Wetterholt. It was a great little show with a nice line up of performers along with a well laid out static display. I set out to try again to capture a sense of motion while shooting jets. The weather forecast called for partly cloudy skies in the morning and clearing skies as the day went on. By the time things started flying, the sky was clear and blue. I was a little disappointed about not getting the opportunity to try to do some cloud blurring but it’s Mother Nature, what are you going to do? For this show, I rented the Canon 5DSR again and my old friend, the 400mm F/5.6L. Canon’s 400mm F/5.6L is a hidden gem of a lenses. I bought the 100-400mm MKI and the 400 5.6 at the same time. After shooting both lenses, I was turned off by the softness of the 100-400 and sold it. I shoot the 400 5.6 for years and absolutely fell in love with its clarity and sharpness. Before I sold it and got my 500mm F/4.5, I got comfortable shooting it slow. Like 1/80th for takeoff/landing and 1/160th for flying and getting good constant results. The 400 5.6 is not a low light lenses and does not has image stabilization. But what it is, an amazing light weight sunny day lenses that is easy to shoot handheld. In ideal shooting condition, it’s a joy to shoot. I had my 500mm for about 2 years now and still growing into it. But after returning to the 400 5.6, I’m strongly considering getting it again. I had no problem with shooting it slow again.

Which leads me into the title of this post, Using up my Bag of Tricks”. After shooting for some time, I have gathered a few techniques that I like to use to help capture images that I see. These are not anything that I myself have come up with but things I use to try to make my images stand out from others. While shooting at the Northern Illinois Airshow, I got the chance to use all my bag of tricks. Which does not happen too often. This post I’m going to share with you my small but slowly growing bag of tricks.

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Shooting slow to get a sense of motion and speed

This is the hardest of my tricks and I’m still trying to master it. It is my favorite way to isolate a subject. With the background blurred out and the subject tack sharp, the result is an image that shows a great sense of speed and motion. Here’s the thing about panning, it is the same if you’re panning an aircraft in flight, a person riding a bike or a race car on the track. Panning is panning, subject does not matter. What does matter is finding a stance and motion that YOU are comfortable with while panning. It is not the same for everybody, what works well for me may not work for you. This may sound dumb but holding your gear properly is a big factor too. While shooting, you HAVE to be stable and smooth while panning. Shooting a telephoto lenses handheld and at a low shutter speed is not easy but with practice, you can master it. Two important things I want to mention. First, whatever lenses you are using, keep your fingers away from the manual focusing ring while shooting. It does not matter if your using auto focus or any other type of focusing, if you turn the manual focusing ring while shooting, it will override any other focusing type resulting in soft and or out of focus images. And second, use a single auto focus point along with continuous tracking and shooting while panning. Do not use all auto focus points along with continuous tracking and shooting while panning. You’re going to confuse the shit out of your camera and will result in soft and out of focus images.

With the 400 5.6, I shot takeoffs/landings from 1/80th to 1/100th. Shoot flying subject slow depended on the background to show a sense of motion. During the show, the sky was clear blue and was no reason to shoot slow. But one the Hoppers, flying L-39s did do a very low flat pass that on the bottom of the frame has some blurred tree tops. It is not the sharpest image but you get the idea.

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I went down to 1/30th (5DSR/400 5.6) on the Skyraider “Bad News” to get a full ark of the propeller as it taxies back to the hot ramp.

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Shooting Low

Or I like to call it, “Doing the Alligator”. Laying on the ground with the camera at ground level, shooting up at your subject. The main problem I have with doing this technique is have a clean and unclutter background. Which at most airshows and aviation events is hard to come by. I have seen this type of shot done with wide angle lenses but I like using something with a bit more reach. Along with, I like to drop the horizon as low as I can and show very little of the ground. Giving the subject a proud stance and a strong presence in the frame. It’s fun to do on a grass field too, shooting through the weeds. You can also use this technique to shoot under airshow fences like this shot from Plames of Fame. Just be careful and mindful of your surroundings. People can and will walk on top of you and your gear.

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Shooting High

Getting up and shooting down on your subjects is something I would like to do more often. There are many ways to do so. Many shows and events have portable stairs alongside aircraft so you can take a peek inside the cockpit, it’s a great location to shoot surrounding aircraft from up high. Another way to photograph aircraft from a higher location is to use a monopod, live view mode and self-timer. I add this technique to my bag of tricks last year at the Planes of Fame show. With my Canon 70D and 70-200mm, I extended all the sections on my monopod, switch to live viewing so I can see what the camera is looking at on the view screen, angled the tile screen down so when I raise the monopod up I can see what I’m trying to shoot. With the camera auto focus drive switched to self-timer 10 secs and in aperture priority @ F/4 to have a high enough shutter speed to not worry about camera shake when the camera is up in the air. Depress the shutter button to start the timer, holding the bottom of the monopod, quickly raise the camera up where I want to shoot. Looking up at the view screen tiled down, compose the shot, hold everything steady and wait for the timer to end. Lower the camera and check the results. It takes some time getting used to but well worth the effort.

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This is by far the simplest trick in my bag and probably the most controversial. I have found that other either love it or hate it. I love it. I feel it adds visual interest to the subject and maybe some attitude as well. You can also combine this technique with others for even more visual interest.

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My newest trick I added to my bag I really don’t know what to call it. It’s showing an aircraft in a series of images. Each image can stand alone but place side by side, you can visualize the whole aircraft. I unconsciously started doing it at the Selfridge show. Just another way for me look at things differently and to see new images. This is something I’m going play with, nurture and make more my own.

Along with the elements of design and my mind’s eye, I feel confident I can capture images unique to me.

To view larger images, click on thumbnails

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Until next post,

Steven

Fun With Statics

Show 5, post 3: Selfridge ANGB Open house and Airshow

My normal routine when I’m at an airshow once I get in is to look around at static and shoot the images I see. Selfridge had a very good static display and I took advance of it. With a 5DSR (I rented from Lenrental.com) and my 70-200mm F/2.8L I started shooting. Seeing the image, finding the edge of the frame, compose, shoot and chimp (recompose and reshoot if necessary) Strangely enough, my favorite shots from the show are of my static images. Yeah, I had two images from my Selfridge experiment I was happy with but that is about it when it comes to the flying. The shooting conditions was only good for a very short time and was strongly backlit for the most of the show.

Shooting statics can be challenging to isolate your subject from ground cluster and other distractions. As I’m shooting, going through my bag of trick, I added a new trick. It’s showing an aircraft in a series of 3 to 4 images. Each image can stand alone but place side by side, you can visualize the whole aircraft. Here’s two series I’m happy with. The first one is the CAG Bird from VFA-143, the “Pukin Dogs”

And the other is an Selfridge A-10 painted in special marking for the 100th Anniversary of the Red Devils of the 107th Fighter Squadron.

What I like to do while shooting statics, is to walk around the ramp, camera at the ready and my head on a swivel, looking around for images. When I do see something, I find what is drawing me in and where are the edges of the image. I’ll adjust the aperture if needed, compose and shoot. Chimping to check composition, exposure and would reshoot if I’m not happy with the result. If I find something that has a lot of visual instead, I’ll start to open my bag of tricks and shoot until I feel satisfied I have captured the subject the way I wanted.

When it comes to what lenses I use, it depends on the subject and where it is. I don’t want to set any kind limits on what focal length to use while shooting statics nor would I say that can only shoot static with a certain focal length either. There is no right or wrong went it comes down to what your mind’s eye sees. The question is do you have the appropriate amount focal length to capture what your eye sees? I have come to enjoy using my 70-200mm F/2.8 for statics. I love how it flattens out the perspective along with zooming tight to isolating details. Heck, 99% of my Selfridge static images was shot using my 70-200mm.

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While walking along the edge of the “hot” ramp, I saw an interesting image. As soon as I saw it, I know it was a 500mm shot. 70-200mm was not enough to get close in and isolate the Mustang and the 35 without too much clutter. Even at 500mm, I knew there would be some post process work to get the shot I wanted. Here’s how it was shot.

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And after some post processing….

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The elements of design are not set in stone and not by any focal length, they are only limited by your imagination and your knowledge of how to use your gear properly.

Click on thumbnails to view larger image!

Until next post,

Steven

 

Race Cars on Water!

Friday, I found out that the APBA Gold Cup Hydroplane race was taking place this weekend and would a great opportunity for some panning practice. The Gold Cup race has many classes of boast and hydroplanes but it’s the unlimited hydroplanes I want to see again. With top speeds, up to 200mph and those big old roster tails as they turn the corner, there are like race cars on water! The hydroplanes race on the Detroit river in between Detroit and the island park of Belle Isle. Which is connected to the city via the Belle Isle Bridge.

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For years now, I’ve been wanting to shoot from the bridge to get a head on shot of the hydroplanes as they race towards the first turn. Shooting from the bridge, you get a different angle of the hydroplanes looking down on them. In past years, shooting from the bridge was restricted and was unsure if I could or could not shoot from it this year. I figure what I’ll do is, once downtown drive over the bridge, look and see if I see any signs and or ropes blocking the walkway on the bridge facing the course. If so, I’ll keep driving and shoot from the fishing pier on the island. If not, I’ll park over by Gabriel Richard park and walk to the bridge. I packed up my gear, downloaded the race schedule and heading out to Detroit.

Once I got Downtown, I had forgotten how much I love Detroit. I used to live downtown for several years and love to venture all over the city with my camera shooting the urban landscape of Detroit. For those images, look here “My Detroit”. Driving through Detroit, was like revisiting old photos that I had lost. Memories of creating images, trying to finding the right time of day for a shots and searching for new ones… I miss those days. But now, Detroit has changed. For better or worse? No, it’s just not the same city that I fell in love with. I think we both grew up and moved on.

Going down on Jefferson Ave, getting into the turn lane so I can take the bridge over to Belle Isle. Moment of truth… No ropes and No signs! Time to “Whip a Shity” (not on the bridge), look for a place to park, gear up, walk to the bridge and wait for the first of two heats of the Unlimited class. The first heat came and went without incident.

Click on thumbnail below to view larger image.

 

During the second heat, the Miss Rock KISW hydroplane(black with red and yellow stripes) flipped. Thankfully, the driver Kevin Eacret escaped without injury. With the flipping of the KISW hydroplane, it ended the heat early.

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So, I headed back to my car and was going to shoot the remaining heats from the fishing pier over on Belle Isle. As I’m walking back, I spotted another shooting location. It’s close to the action and right on the water in Gabriel Richard park. One of the hydroplanes that had stopped due to the flipping had restarted and was heading around the course to get back to the pits. The hydroplane pass by at near top speed dragging a huge wall of water behind (the roster tail). 99% of the time I hate back lighting. But here the light lite up the wall of water, shining light on thousands of tiny drops of water falling back into the river. It looked amazing! But it was another hour until the next two heats and decided to go to the fishing pier. I did not want to shoot the next two heats from there. There was not enough time to shoot one heat than get to my car, drive across the bridge and shoot the second heat from the pier. I’ll save that shot for next year.

I put my gear in my car and drove over to Belle Isle. Once there found some parking and did some chimping until the next heats. A few minutes before the unlimited heats, I grabbed up my gear and found a nice spot on the fishing pier. The advantages of shooting from the pier is four-fold. One, the sun is behind you. Two, you’re closer to the course. Three, you’re facing the first turn. You get a great shot of the hydroplanes fighting the speed of the turn. And four, if you sit on the pier, you can use the lowest run of the rail as a guide for your lenses while panning. I shot most of the day in shutter priority, wanting to show a sense of motion. I starting out at 1/200th then dialing it down to 1/80th. It was a fun little outing and I’m happy with my results.

Click on thumbnail below to view larger image.

 

 

Until next post,

Steven

My Selfridge Experiment, part 2

Show 5, Post 2: Result of my experiment

So, I was restless the night before the show. Wondering and hoping that there would be the right amount of clouds to try my experiment. As soon as I woke up, I got out of bed, made my way to a window to check out the sky…straight overcast.

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 But the forecast said it was going to break up as the day went on. But to what degree? There can’t be too many cloudy to block the light from the sun and too little does not work either. Trying to blur blue sky is pointless. Having the right mixing of blue sky and clouds is key. But I will come to find it is much more to it. Plus, if there were no clouds or if it stayed overcast all day, I had no back plan for how I was going to shoot the show differently.

The show had a great line up of jets to try my “sense of motion” idea on. Dean Cutshall’s F-100, Paul Keppler’s F-86, Randy Ball’s MiG-17 and Greg Colyer’s T-33. The Colling Foundation F-4D was a no show. First off, this was a bad show to try this on. Selfridge show line faces west, Flying doesn’t start until 11am. Meaning the sun crosses the show line early on during flying and then become backlit. The cloud cover did help break the back lighting but for only a short period of time. Another reason is how far the aircraft flew from the show line. Oh My God! Even with a 500mm, most of the fighter size aircraft looked like they were shot with a 70-200mm. They looked very small in the viewfinder. Good thing I was shooting with the 50-megapixel 5DSR, can crop in post process. The last factor was the wind, there was a 10 to 15 knot wind toward the show line. If you ever shot any large glass, you know how much you love shooting on windy days. I love shooting my 500mm but when it is windy, it seems like that auto focus(AF) point gets much smaller as I struggle to keep it on my subject.

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I got to be honest, shooting at 1/160th to 1/125th most of the day was unnerving. You shoot long enough, you get uses to hearing a certain speed of your shutter that you know is fast enough to capture what you’re shooting. Not me today, 1/160th to 1/125th sounded wrong for jets. I would shoot a pass, chimp, shoot another pass, chimp. And I knew beforehand my keeper rate was going to go to shit, but damn! I was starting to think that this was a bad idea (I got scared) and dialed the shutter up to 1/200th.

Even in the crappy shooting conditions I did manage these two images of jet that show motion that I’m happy with. The image of Greg Colyer’s T-33 was shot at 1/160th and the Hornet image was at 1/200th.  I know I wanted to go slower but I did not have to nerve to do it. Will I try it again? You better believe it!

 

Here’s what I learned and was the point of this experiment. As always, you need good light on your subjects. It just makes it easier went you’re not struggle with the sun. Next, you must be 100% comfortable knowing your keeper rate is going to shit. You’re going miss a bunch of shots. Per pass, my keeper rate averages about 60 to 70%. Today, it was maybe 8 or 9%. Had lots of junk. I think I would had done better if the flying was closer, making the subjects larger in the frame and having a larger area to put my AF point on. Along with it not being so windy. You must be able to keep the AF point on the subject while panning. For my blogging skills, this show I carried along a notepad and took notes thought out the day. So, come time to write it too was not a struggle and recalling events was much easier.

My reason for trying this was twofold. The first reason is fairly obvious, to show a sense of motion while capturing jets. Which I do and have done for takeoff and landing shots but not while flying. With all the talk about prop blur while at Oshkosh, I started questioning the way I shoot jet aircraft and how it is acceptable to freeze jets but not props. Finally, to continue to challenge myself and to nurture my passion for aviation photography even more. It maybe be cliché to so but I feel it to be true, “If you’re not learning, you’re not growing!” For me to grow, I must get outside of my comfort zone, try something new and struggle with it. Find out what works well for me to get the results I was looking for. It’s ok to fail as long as you learn from your mistakes. When thing get easy, it time to chance it up. This was a great way to make shooting jet hard for me again. It was too easy to set my 7D MKII in aperture priority @ F/4.5 with AI servo and high speed continuous shooting mode, I could show jet all day long and have a keeper rate damn near 95%. Check out my Super Hornet high speed pass images from Gary South shore airshow. For me, easy is not challenging. And not being challenged, leaves little to no room to learn and grow. Conceptualize an image, try to capture it in your “mind’s eye”, struggle with it and learn!

Thanks for stopping by and until later,

Steven

 

 

EAA Airventure Oshkosh

If you missed Part 1, look >>Here<<

Show 4, Post 2, Part 2: Thursday and Friday

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Thursday: Day 2 at AirVenture Oshkosh

Waking up Thursday morning to find Larry and Scott had got up at ODark-Thirty to catch the Royal Air Force(RAF) Airbus A400M arriving at Oshkosh. The A400M was due to arrive early in the morning and was planning to depart during Thursday daily show. Their plans were to go on the other side of the runway to catch the Airbus landing, having all the parked aircraft in the background showing a sense of location at Oshkosh. But more about that later. I made my way to the kitchen to make some breakfast. Spoke with Peter for a while, packed up and heading over to the field.

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Looked like the Airshow Gods told Mother Nature to get her act together. The weather on Thursday was way better than Wednesday. Walking up Celebration way, Parr Yonemoto, a Canadian aviation photographer, nearly ran me over in his scooter. I’ve been seeing Parr for years at many airshows around the US and he is someone I enjoy talking to every time we meet.

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After talking with Parr, I made my way to the show line to see what happening. It just so happened that N5000A, the first production Cessna 172, was taxiing by. Restored to factory original inside and out. Such a beautiful aircraft.

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Soon after, the RAF’s A400M was on final approach. A few hours later than expected. As it touched down and started to slow, I was hoping it was going to taxi by my location and then back taxi to in front of the show line. But with its 4 massive 17 ft. diameter propeller in reverse pitch, the A400M slow very rapidly and uses very little runway on its landing. To top it off, the pilot turned the Airbus 90 degrees, opened the rear cargo door and with the crews assistance, back the colossal A400M off the runway.

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Scott and Larry catching the A400M arrive!

 

Behind and to the right of the show line was a constant buzz of activity. Come to find out it was where the ultra-lights were flying. So, I made my way over to see what’s going out. While I was there, I happen to find Rob(feeling much better) and his friend Steve. It’s amazing the power and lift those ultra-lights have. We had a blast shooting and watching the action.

Before the daily show, I was approached by Brandon Hess, the son in law of Sean Tucker, he inquired about some images of Tucker for use on social media. I normally do not shoot aerobatic acts but if this gets my images a more exposure, why not.

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I made my way back over to the show line to find a location to shoot the rest of the daily airshow. During the show, Warbirds of America was mainly jet warbirds. A bunch of L-39, 3 F-86 Sabres,  a pair of T-33s, a MiG-17 and that lovely TA-4 Skyhawk in USMC markings! Here’s a few of my favorites.

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Larry being privy to the show schedule, he texted it everyone in the group. Act 12 was a mystery.

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And when the time came, the show stopped(Yeah, AirVenture stopped) and far off to the right there was a private jet on final approach. It lands, turns and stop on to the taxiway at show center and a golf cart with Ironman stop beside it. And of all people to arrive at 2017 Airventure, guess who gets off the private jet… Yeah, Stan Lee! Still haven figure out why he showed to AirVenture but ok.

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The last two performance of Thursday show was the USAF heritage flight and the USN Blue Angels. Thursday heritage flight was a 4-ship formation with F-35 in lead, 2 P-51 Mustangs on its wings and an A-10 Thunderbolt II in the slot position.

In memory of Vlado Lenoch, both the F-35 and A-10 had special markings to honor a great pilot and friend to the airshow community who we tragically lost July 16, 2017.

The Blue Angels were supposed to fly at the end of the show to do their timing check flight. The team started up, taxied by the crowd and then turned into position for takeoff. During his turn, Boss (Blues Angels number 1 and Team leader) took his Hornet off roading. As a safety precaution, the flight was postponed so the maintenance crew could inspect for damage.

Thursday night back at the house was the most memorable part of the day for me, it was where we were all together telling each other our stories of the day, sharing images we had shot on our laptops, eating food prepared and cooked by Vincent, unwinding together as a group. Hell, even Larry laughed a few times. To add to it all, we even had our own airshow! The Blue Angels managed to get their timing flight in. It was something to see that all of us share the same fascination and passion (there’s that word again Larry) with fighter jets maneuvering at low altitudes. I was so caught up with it all, I didn’t get pictures of it all. Like Adam and his wife from Georgia, great southern folks. Along with DeKevin “DK” Thornton and his stories of the “ditch”. But that’s ok. Those moments are special and are for the group to remember. And we will! We had so much fun, we planned to do it again Friday night.

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Friday: Day 3 at AirVenture Oshkosh

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Friday morning the house was quiet. It seems the later it was in the week, the later we all slept in. Peter did get up early to shoot the morning balloon launch. In the kitchen, I got cup of coffee and checking last night’s emails. Bonnie was up early, talking to “DK” who stayed the night and was leaving after today’s show.

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Parr sent me an email, a list of daily activities showing 2 F-22 Raptors was to arrive at 10am and depart Oshkosh on Sunday. There was an Air Guard F-15 Eagle from New Orleans also going to arrive around 1pm. I wanted to catch the Raptors coming in, so I made my way over to the field early. About 9:30am, thinking I have enough time as I’m walking toward the main entrance guess what shows up? Yeah! The pair Raptors beating up the field. Oh well, there is still the F-15 coming in later.

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Once in, I got a text from two of my airshow buddies, Steve Savino and Mark Hrutkay. I met Steve and his wife on a flight from San Francisco to Ontario, California while we were both heading to Chino for the Planes of Fame airshow back in 2015. And Steve introduced me to Mark while attending Wings over Houston the same year. They had a spot picked out where their wanted to shoot from on the new crowd line. Yeah!, the new crowd line. For Fridays and Saturdays airshow, the line was moved back for safety reasons.

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From a photographic stand point you now are farther away from your subjects and you have a couple rows of parked aircraft in between you and the active runway, making take off shots more difficult.

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The line of poles is where the new crowd line is

 

Come lunchtime, Steve and I decide to get something to eat. One of his friends watched our gear while we were getting food. Sure enough, after I placed my order and pay for my food, guess what shows up? Yeah!, the New Orleans F-15! Nice light, clear skies, flying close and not a single frame of it. Oh well, it was cool to watch. I did catch the NASA T-38, not as cool as the Eagle but check out that exhaust!

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I’m a warbirds lover. For me the highlights during the daily show was seeing the flight of 3 P-63 KingCobras, 3 B-25 Mitchells, both B-29s in the air at the same time (it was not a formation), the 3 F-86 Sabres again, along with getting another shot at that USMC TA-4.

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Friday was the first time the Blue Angels performed at AirVenture. The Blues always put on a good show despite the no# 2 was a “Family model”. I myself have lost track on the number of times I’ve seen the Blues but it was enjoyable to photograph them some pleasing light.

And the final act of Fridays show was again the USAF Heritage flight with a Gu-11 and 2 A-10s.

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Ha Ha . The Heritage flight was with a P-51 and 2 A-10s. The F-35 team had a day off.

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Again, my most memorable part of Friday was at the house with the group. Meeting new people, sharing our experiences, eating and laughing. That night Gary Edwards, Craig Swancy and Gary Daniels came over to the house for dinner. I didn’t get a chance to spoke to much with Gary Edward and Craig but Gary Daniel turns out to be a designer, photographer and a grill master! Larry had invited Joseph “Gonzo” Gonzales, who works with Air Education and Training Command(AETC) with planning of the USAF Heritage flights and Demo teams.  Oh man, he had a bunch of wild and funny stories from his travels.

later that evening, part of the group wanted to go over to the WWII re-enactors camp in the morning and see if they could get a few re-enactors to pose around some aircraft in warbird alley. It sounded like a great idea and it turned out to be quite an awesome photo shoot. More about that in part 3!

Steven

My Selfridge Experiment

Show 5, post 1: Pre-show thoughts on Selfridge ANGB Open House & Air Show

During my time at EAA AirVenture, while talking to many aviation photographers, one thing kept popping up in conversations. Prop blur and how getting a full arc was the “Holy Grail”.

full arc with Doc

Frozen props looks unnatural. When we look at a propeller driven aircraft with its engine running or in flight, we see the propeller spinning. It’s basic photography, creating an image of what we see i.e. prop blur. But on the flip side of aviation photography, it’s acceptable to totally freeze jet aircraft in flight.

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Why is that? Why don’t we try to show a sense of motion when it comes to shooting jets? Is it because we think it’s hard? It can be done. Here’s two example I shot @1/160th. Both using my 7D MKII but the F/A-18 Hornet was shot with a 200-400mm F/4 with 1.4X extender IS (Image Stabilization) which was off, USM (Ultrasonic Motor). And the F-100 was shot with my 500mm F/4.5L USM, which doesn’t have IS.

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Both you can see a sense of motion but I want to go farther with it. So, Selfridge open house is coming up this weekend and there will be quite a few jets flying there. My personal challenge is to show more motion while shooting jets. This can only work if there are some clouds in the sky to blur. Not too many and not too few. Blurring a clear blue sky is pointless along with straight overcast. I’ll be using a Canon 5DSR from lenRental.com and my 500mm F/4.5L. My plan is to shoot in shutter priority starting @ 1/160th and go down to 1/100th. I may underexposure 1/3th stop to prevent blowing out any highlights. My keeper rate is going to go to shit but all I need is one. The idea of this scares me but I think I can do it if the conditions are right.

Until later,

Steven

EAA Airventure Oshkosh

Show 4, Post 2, Part 1: Tuesday and Wednesday

It’s been a while since I got back from Oshkosh. After resting, getting back into my work routine, shooting over 11,000 images during my 4 days and 5 shows at Oshkosh, It’s time to share my Airventure story with you all. If you’re a photographer who loves shooting anything aviation related, you must attend Oshkosh. Even if you went all week, you’re going miss something. There’s no way to see and do everything at Oshkosh. On that note, I have way too much to say for one post, so show 4 post 2 will be split up into 3 parts. Part 1 will be Tuesday and Wednesday, part 2 will be Thursday and Friday and part 3 will be Saturday and Sunday.

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I had little to no expectations about Airventure. I know that Expectation is a down payment for Disappointment.” Not say the whole event was going to be a letdown but I’ve found it’s better to start an adventure with a neutral mindset and accept the outcome. I knew that Airventure was big, over 10,000 aircraft and over a half million people attend during the weeklong event. Each day at Oshkosh, there is a daily airshow and each day is different. This year’s main attraction was the only two flyable B-29’s flying together, the 75th Doolittle Raid Anniversary with up to 16 B-25’s and USAF bomber flight with the B-1, B-2 and B-52. These three historic events may not happen again and not at the same event.

What I was excited about was where I was staying and who was going to be there. I’m a new member of “The International Society for Aviation Photography” (ISAP) and every year for Airventure their rent a house for members to stay. I was fortunate to get a spot and stay there from Tuesday night to Sunday morning. Staying in the house with a group of other aviation photographers during the largest aerial event of its kind in the United States, talking photography with other photographers, listening and telling about past airshows and people they met along the way, making memories with friends of old and new. Going through the daily routine with other photographers and all the unknown actives that was to come, that’s what I was looking forward to.

Tuesday

Was a very long day. Worked 8 hours then drove home, took a shower, packed the car and headed off to Oshkosh. Leaving from southeast Michigan, I had a 7 and half hour drive ahead. It gave me time to decompress from work and start to think about the next 5 days. Just how grand is Oshkosh? How would the other photographers in the house accept me? Who would I meet? What would I learn? What opportunities would come my way? And why is my GPS routing me through Chicago? NO! NO! NO! Holy crazy drivers! There must be some new law in Chicago that you can’t drive no more than a 1000ft in any one lane. I made it through Chicago and all the sporadic lane changing. The rest of my road trip to Oshkosh was uneventful.

I made it to the house about midnight. Larry Grace, the President of ISAP was still up talking to one of his old friends, Stacy who was leaving in the morning. Most of the others were already in bed sleep. Larry introduce me to Scott Slingsby, pilot and photographer who I was going to share living space with during my stay. After a brief but enjoyable conversation, it was off to bed. Even after the long day, I was pretty excited about what was to come in the morning and the days ahead. Tuesday night was the only night that falling asleep was a problem.

 Wednesday: 1st day at Airventure Oshkosh

Woke up Wednesday morning to the sounds of the house coming alive. People making breakfast, taking showers and getting ready for the day ahead. Making my way to the kitchen, I first met Vincent Trelut, a well-traveled enthusiast photographer from France who knows his way around the kitchen. Then there was Chuck Burin, also an enthusiast photographer who is a retired Marine aviator that flew A-4’s in Vietnam. Next was Bonnie Kratz, buzzing around getting ready to head out to the field. She is currently a Professional photographer who had also worked as staff photographer for the EAA for 6 years. Larry and Scott soon made their way into the kitchen. This morning topic was the weather. All looking on our phones, watching as a thunderstorm head straight in our direction. It was not going to be an all-day wash out but there were possibilities for off and on rain all day. As we were all seasoned photographers so when it comes to rain and our gear, staying dry is top priority. One of the benefits of the house was it is very close to Wittman regional Airport where Airventure is held. Travel time from front door to parking was easily 5 minutes. Larry had business to attend to at the field and Scott went with him.

Rob Wetterholt Jr, a good friend of mine and fellow photographer was going be here Wednesday and Thursday. We were planning to meet up, catch up and shoot the show. I called Rob on my way to Wittman as the rain starts pouring down. My first thought was to just turn around and go back to the house until the rain start or clears up. While talking to Rob, he only had two days to go. Rain or shine, he was going. I figured I’d go, met up get the lay of the land today while the weather is crappy. The weather for the rest of the week was going to wonderful.

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We met up at Doc, beautifully restored after 16 years. There we talk with Connie Palacioz and learned of her story of how she worked on B-29 during WWII and how she also helps on Docs restoration.

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From there was made our way over to warbird alley where to our surprise there was an amazing TA-4 that was have not seen. From there, Rob wanted to head over to the vintage area but on the tram ride over Rob began to feel ill. We got off a few stops early so Rob could sit and wait for it to pass. We made our way through the crowd and stop by one of the shops to get him some water. I had a feeling he may be getting dehydrated but it was cloudy and barely 75. Plus, we been to hotter shows in the past and was able to stay hydrated. After a bottle water, he seemed to be good to go but it was short lived. Over by the arch, Rob laid in the shade under a wing of a home built and his condition worsened.

Worried about my friend, I ask him if he could make it over to the medical center and replied he didn’t think so. I then located the medical center and told them I have a friend who needs help. Two emt’s (I presume) packed up their gear on a cart and left to get Rob. After picking him up and on their way to the medical center, Rob got sick twice. A sure sign of dehydration. They were going to keep him there to rehydrate him and told him to text me when he was released. Bummed out but I know he is going to taken care.

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So, I ventured off alone into the countless rows of aircraft looking for something to catch my eye. Not long into my journey, I get a call from Larry asking where I’m at and could I go to a location so he could pick me up. The USN Blue Angels were arriving soon and both him and Scott were head to one of the media tower to catch them landing. After a bit of miscommunication 😊 Him and Scott scoop me up and off to the tower. Once there, ran into Roger Cain, Director and chief photographer for Society for Aviation History”, who I have met at plenty of airshow. Now all we need is the Blues to show up. I myself could not shoot from the tower but it was a great location to catch the Blues landing. But with the sky being crappy, I decided to switch over to shutter priory and dropped my shutter speed to 1/100th to blur the background as the Blues landed. The Blue showed up with 5 jets and two of them were “family models”, that’s what I like the call the two-seaters.

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5 tries @ 1/100th, I got 3 but this is the one I like the most. And yes, Vincent it passes your “is it sharp test” LOL. (Look here) One time at the house, Vincent said a good way to tell if your image is sharp while looking at it on the back of your camera, if you can read “Blue Angels” in the banner below the Blue Angels logo on the front part of the fuselage, you know it’s sharp.

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Soon after the Blues landed the Mother Nature started up again. Overcast sky and more rain does make for nice pictures, we decided to pack up go back to the house. And the chances of the night show happening were dropping alongside the rain. Which would suck cause the night show was going have the 75th Doolittle Raid Anniversary: with up to 16 B-25s to take off in rapid succession like on the deck of the USS Hornet. Along with the B-1 was going to fly in the night show as well. Truly a real treat. The Bone rarely fly at airshows more or less a night show. To get a shot of the B-1 in the lovely evening light with the afterburners glowing… would be awesome!

Back at the house, time to dump the cards and check out what we shot. Scott went outside to call his wife and after a short time he came back in and said it looks like the bad weather was clearing out. Larry opted not to go. So, Scott and I grabbed up our gear and headed back to the airfield.

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Our timing could not have been any better. We parked and made it over to the double row of B-25’s parked just like there were 75 years ago on the deck of the U.S.S. Hornet before their famous raid. I managed to find a spot up front and in the middle of the two rows of Mitchells.

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The sound of all those big radials so close is something I will not forget. With all the B-25’s started and taxied to the runway, Scott and I along with everybody else watching, quick moved over to the show line to watch the Mitchell take in rapid succession.

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After the B-25’s finish their act and all landed, The BONE was inboard and the light and the sky was perfect. The B-1s performance was brief but well worth it. The glow of the burners, the pops vapor and the sky was amazing!

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Scott then started take picture of his B-1 shot from the back of his camera with his cell phone and text them to Larry showing him what he had missed out on!

At the end of the night show, there is a fireworks display. Scott wanted to get an aircraft/firework shot and had a few aircraft picked out. After scoping out the others, Scott finally chose a Lockheed Electra to shoot with the fireworks. As I was sitting and waiting for the fireworks to start, Rob and his friend Steve walked up. After spending the afternoon in the medical center, Rob was rehydrated and feeling better. The two of them were making their way to the car and was heading out. He said with more rain coming and they did not want to get stuck in the rain after the fireworks. More rain? What? And just as the firework started, mother nature again.

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So, Scott and I got “rain qualified to shoot fireworks at Airventure” and we took cover under a wing of another Electra. I did manage to get 3 images of the fireworks and an aircraft but here’s the one I’m happy with.

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After the firework, we made our way back to my car. Got off the airport grounds fairly quickly. And driving back to the house, I spotted an Arby on the passenger side of the road and mine you I’m in the 2nd lane farthest from Ardy’s. Thinking a milk shake would be nice about now. I hastily asked Scott, “Have you had Arby’s Orange Cream shake?” He replied no but sounds good. By the time Scott answered, I had passed the entrance to Arby’s but with my Detroit driving rules, I managed to turn into the gas station right beside it. Thinking that the two parking lots were linked together. Wrong! There was a 4-foot strip of grass separating us from orange cream goodness. “Think I should drive over it?” I ask Scott. “Go for it.” I then proceed to “go off roading” in my Veloster. All the while the kid in the drive thru window is watching and is probably thinking “What the Hell are these jackasses doing?” Yeah! Hold that thought, we’re about to driving around to order! Milk shake in hand, back at the house, time again to dump the cards, change batteries and get ready to do it all again in the morning.  Also that night, the newest house guest arrived, Peter Keller, an enthusiast photographer new to aviation photography, was welcomed to the group.

Part two of Show 4, Post 2 is >>>HERE<<<

Steven