My 2017 Season Review

Before I start my 2017 season review, there are a few things I want to share with you all about pass years. During the last few years, I have been slowly growing tired of seeing and shooting the same group of aircraft and acts along with going to the same aviation events. So, at the end of my 2016 season, I told myself in 2017 I’m going to new shows and events I have not attended and seek out aircraft I had not seen. Along with there were some shows I flat out was not going to attend to stop that cycle.

Over the years of shooting, my view of my photography has changed from going to airshows and other aviation events and thoughtlessly shooting aircraft to trying to capture images that can tell a story as well as speaks to my viewers. Building a collection of images unique to me over the course of my lifetime. In order for me to do so, I have to start seeing and shooting things differently from others. I didn’t want to shoot the same images as everybody else at any event. I wanted my images to more than just snapshots and in 2017 I was going to do something about it.

All throughout 2017, I’ve been trying to capture images that tells a story and or is unique to me. The way I went about this was to get out of comfort zone. I did not do it at every show or event I went to but when I could, I did. Like if I was going to a new show for the first time, doing something to get out of my comfort zone would not be a smart idea. It is already challenging enough shooting in unfamiliar location. But on the second day or other days of an event, then I would challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone. Once out of my comfort zone, I’m forced to see things differently and when I do, the images I produce are far superior to if I played it safe. I’ve found that these images are some of my favorites.

 I have definitely changed the way I approach shooting an airshow from my first show of the season to the last. From what gear I use, seeking out better light, paying attention to what the light is doing, to what I want to show and share on my blog. At the beginning of the season I wanted to get a zoom lenses because I felt I was missing shots. So, at the TICO show I rented Canons 200-400mm F/4 as my primary lenses. But the images I was able to produce with it, had the clarity but not the look that I like. Full frame with little to no negative space around the subject which I got use to while shooting 500mm prime. After TICO, I felt I had to stay true to how I wanted to shoot. That is my 500mm is my primary lenses and a zoom as my secondary.

While at the Planes of Fame show, I noticed the very large number of photographers all shooting the same subject with basically the same gear. Prime time to be different. For the longest time I shied away from shooting people. With Saturdays weather being gray and overcast, I started working on my ground game and founded I enjoyed searching out new images with people.

And there was the frustration of Goshen, but the evening light was well worth it. Shoot the light and not the subject!

From Goshen, I headed off to Oshkosh for my longest aviation event to date. I was told many time from many people, if you love shooting aircraft, you must go to Oshkosh. And I hesitated for years but with what was attending this year’s AirVenture, I had to go. So many great images along with such great memories. What I remember most from Oshkosh is the time I spent with other photographers. As well as the feeling of being surrounded with all things aviation related and being around other aviation nerds!

Photographically shooting at Oshkosh, it’s a target rich environment. I enjoyed just wondering into the sea of aircraft and finding hidden gems. The daily afternoon airshow offers a diverse mix of old and new. Facing east and in the the afternoon, the light is great. The only negative thing of this year AirVenture photographic, was the moving of the show line due to the USN Blue Angels. But seeing Doc and Fifi together in formation was priceless. The USAF bomber formation with the B-1, B-2 and B-52 was pretty cool too.

Selfridge open house was a disappointment flying wise, but the static display was far better. It was there where I started my personal challenge to show a sense of motion with jets. I did manage to capture two but felt I could do better. It was at Selfridge where I started a newest technique. With 3 to 4 images that could stand alone but when placed side by side, you can visualize the whole aircraft. Adding one more way to look at things differently.

At the northern illinois airshow, I continued my challenge of showing a sense of motion with jet. I also went back to some of my roots so to speak at Waukegan, I shot with Canons 400mm F/5.6. Which I shot for years until I purchase my 500mm F/4.5. I love the 400 5.6, I cannot say anything negative about it. Its tack sharp and easy to shoot slow.

The show had a great little line up, two F-86 Sabres, two AD-1 Skyraiders, a MiG-17, a TBM, a T-33, A-4 and a civilian F-5 that tore up the pattern a bit. That show was a real treat for me shooting wise, I got to use up all my “bag of tricks”. I think the Waukegan show was the only show this season I went to that it didn’t rain!

Wings over Houston was my final show of the 2017 season. A solid and strong show to end my season. Mother Nature tried hard to make a mess, but she played nice and the show went on without any hiccups. The atmosphere was amazing all weekend, the clouds and the light together made for a dramatic back drop.

What was most memorable for me during my stay in Houston was the time I spent with friends. Having dinner with Steve-O and his bunch. Running into Wil Ward and catching up with him. And a happen chance of Ken Cheung parking right next to me on Sunday morning. It’s really great hanging out with others that enjoy aviation and photography as much as I do. The sharing and making memories.

So, what to come in 2018? I want to continue to get out of comfort zone and keep trying to see things differently that results in producing images unique to me. I also desire to continue to create images that speak to viewers along with tells a story. To keep growing and nurturing my passion for photography. I feel it is crucial for me to shoot the images I want and not the images anyone can shoot. I’m going to continue to seek out aircraft I have not seen and try to shoot them in great light.

As for shows and aviation events, this winter I want to get my passport so next year I want to travel to Europe. Going to Duxford and Mach loop is on my bucket list. If not 2018, then 2019. I like to return to Florida and go to the TICO show again just due to lighting there. After this years AirVenture, I want to spend time the whole week there next year. I think those two shows will be my only repeat shows from 2017. The rest of the 2018 season, I want to find new shows and events that I have never been to. Nothing is set in stone as of now, just ideas.

Let’s talk about future gear. Planning on getting a Canon 5DSR soon. I rented one for quite a few shows this year and enjoy the higher resolution and creative cropping ability. I love showing off details of things and with 50 megapixels, it really brings out every little detail. I have been toying with the idea with getting a small mirror-less camera to increase my capacities to capture my adventures. I have found a DSLR is too big or too much camera for some situations. I have been using my iPhone more and more as a fill in the gap to help tell the stories of my travels. But it is very limiting in terms of control. Some photographers like the idea that cellphone cameras have no controls and it forces them to use what they know to capture an image. I like that idea, but I want minimum controls. As well as being able to shoot less conspicuously than with a larger DSLR. So, I have been eyeing up Fujifilm X-T20. But I just upgraded my phone to an iPhone 8 plus. Which has a better camera than my older iPhone 6. Before I go out and buy a new camera, I’m going put the new phone through it paces and see how it fairs.

During the winter, I’m going to get a new camera backpack. I have out grown my current backpack. My main complaint about it is it can not hold my laptop. It would make traveling easier if I can put my laptop in my camera backpack, so I do not have to carry an extra bag. And having my laptop with me while I’m out one of my adventures will give me the option to dump/clear my cards and not have to worry about having enough space for next day of shooting. I feel the MindShift Gear BackLight 36L Backpack will suit my needs. Size wise it is larger then my current pack and has dedicated compartments for a 10” tablet and 15” laptop.

I have found that my phone is a powerful tool when it comes to blogging. I can upload and process images in Adobe Lightroom along with write post in Microsoft word. Both apps are synced to my accounts. So, whatever I do on my phone, I can save and continue on my work station and vice versa. Being able to work anywhere with an internet connection will hopefully speed up my postings process. I do love the ability to write anywhere at anytime. I also pick up a Philips digital voice recorder. I feel it will be another helpful tool while I’m traveling. I feel confident I will continue to capture images that tells a story, speakers my views and are unique to me.

 

Until next post,

Steven

Wings Over Houston 2017

Show 7, Post 1: Season Finale!

So, here we are at my final show of the 2017 season. Wings Over Houston. This will be my third time attending and its good end the season with a show that offers a good mix of warbirds and modern aircraft. To continue to get out of my comfort zone, I changed the way I’m going to write this post. I started writing more in the moment and at the end of the day verses waiting until I got home. While the day’s events are still fresh in my head and making it easier and faster to post my adventures. But being busy at work and at home, still delayed this post. I’m still trying to figure out what work well for me when it comes to this. Here goes…

Friday

After a long and exhausting week at work, I get to be a photographer again if only for a short time. After work, I raced home, showered, finished packing and it was off to Detroit Metro Airport to catch my flights down to Houston. Afternoon traffic was slow and a bit frustrating. But I took comfort in the fact I get to get out of Michigan and do what I love.

Through the TSA, which is more a pain in the ass than anything else. Sitting at my gate, writing and watching the sunset. The trip just started but still have a long was to go to get to Houston. Got a layover in Dallas/Fort Worth. Never been there and should there for about an hour. Just enough time to find my gate and look for a bite to eat.

I started watching the weather down in Houston on Thursday. As of now, Friday at 6:41pm looks like the rain has stopped and Saturday looks like the better day of the two days of the show. There is chance of rain Sunday morning but just going to play it by ear. Hoping to get some low puffy clouds this weekend so I can shoot slow and add some drama to the background. My attraction to Wings Over Houston(WOH) is for years now I wanted to see a USAF Heritage flight with a P-47 Thunderbolt and an A-10 Thunderbolt II, a Thunderbolt heritage flight. Well this year at WOH, it is scheduled to happen. I am also looking forward to seeing the Colling Foundation F-4D Phantom II, the world’s only privately owned and operated Phantom. It has been down for a few years due to various reasons. It is supposed to take part in the Vietnam reenactment portion of the show along with the Collings F-100F Super Sabra and TA-4J Skyhawk. I again rented the Canon 5DSR as my primary body and the 100-400 MKII for formation work from Len Rental.com. Time to board…

WOH17_1

While on the flight to Dallas/Fort Worth, I had some time to unwind and clear my thoughts. There are few things in my life I can’t explain why I love them so much. One of them is listening to music and staring out the window of an airplane. It brings me a level of peace and clarity I rarely find that clears my mind, body and soul. Looking down on our planet and up to the endless sky, how small I feel. Very humbling feeling.

Oh Yeah! while in Dallas/Fort Worth, I saw the B-17 “Sally B” and a third B-29!

Well, after 8 hours at work, 6 and half hours of traveling over 1300 miles on 2 flights, I made it safe, sound and tired to Houston. Time to sleep!!!!

WOH17_4

Saturday

Woke up refreshed after a long Friday. Straight to the window to see what Mother Nature is doing. Blues skies along with a few clouds. With Sunday s weather being questionable, I’ll shoot more in my “safe zone” to ensure getting good captures. And Sunday if the weather gets better, I’ll shoot slower. But the forecast for Sunday morning is thunderstorms and clearing by mid-afternoon.

WOH17_5

At the show, I run into one of airshow buddies, Steve Savino. It happens to be front of his favorite type of WWII fighter, the P-47 Thunderbolt. I meet Steve on a flight from San Francisco to Ontario, California on my way to the Planes of Fame airshow back in 2015. We talked and walked about the ramp, shooting as we go. We made plans for the gang to go to dinner after the show. He was shooting from the “Photo pit” and I like to be mobile, so we parted and would meet up later.

The show had it’s “The good, The bad and The ugly”.

The Good

The light! The light! Omg, the light! Yeah, it sucks in the morning but once the sun crosses the runway, it just gets better and better. Let’s not forget about the clouds as well. I love having clouds in the background. The Colling Foundation F-4D along with they’re F-100F in the hot ramp. The Vietnam War Flight Museum MiG-21 and their A-26 that I had never seen before, silver with black accent on the engine nacelles as well as the on the wings. There was one of Jerry Conley de Havilland DH-115 Vampires on the ramp too. There was a pair of F-15 Eagles from the 159th Fighter Wing, the “Bayou Militia”. They came over on Saturday and tore up the pattern before heading home. I also ran into Wil Ward, pilot and MiG owner who I had not seen in years. Was good to see and talk to him. Very cool guy!

The Bad

For Saturdays show, the MiG-21 or the Colling F-100F did not fly in the show for whatever reasons. Along with anything from Texas Flying Legends. Even thou I enjoy them and this only from a photographic point of view, but Tora! Tora! Tora! And their Pyro! HOLY SMOKES! It’s an entertaining act but once the siren goes off and the bombing starts, the show line gets absolutely smoked out from the airshow smoke and from the endless pyro shoots.

The ugly

The $40 ticket price at the gate! And the muddy parking lots. Luckily, they had a Jeep running around pulling cars and truck out of the mud.

 

After the show, I was making my way through the crowd to the gate. When I saw a brightly polished metal finished P-51 with a flat black tail. “Can it be? Is It?” I asked myself. And as I quickly walked closer and closer to it, I found my answer. It is Texas Flying Legends newly restored P-51C named “Lope’s Hope 3rd. I saw over on the Warbird Information Exchange forum (WIX) that it had made its first flight last week but had no idea that it was here in Houston. AirCorps Aviation did an absolutely amazing job on the restoration. I can’t wait to see more of this Mustang in the years to come.

That night, the plan was to meet up at Twin Peaks for dinner with Steve-O gang. We enjoyed looking at all the eye candy and talked photography as well as airshows. Good times

 Sunday

Woke up to fair skies but Mother Nature had something else in store. What’s the staying, “They do everything bigger in Texas”. Mother Nature decided to live up to that Sunday morning with a line of Thunderstorms!

WOH17_7

WOH17_8

Gate open at 8am but flying does not start until 11am. So, I figure I stay in the hotel until the storm lightens up and then pack up the rental to head over to Ellington field. Besides, I already got rain qualified a few times this season. As the storm passes, I wait until the down pour turns to light rain and head over to the field. I figure, I’ll be better off sitting in the car at the airport when rain ends then in my hotel room.

WOH17_9

On my way to the field I stop off at Jack in the Box for some breakfast. I order some food to go and drive over to the field, park and eat while I wait for the weather to clear up. As I’m eating, a car parks next to me on the driver side and I glance over at the car and the driver look familiar. As the weather clear up the drive next to me get out the car, goes to the trunk and starts to gear up. I open the door to my rental and ask the driver, “Are you Ken Cheung?” He replies Yes, I am. I have not seen Ken since way back in the day of Oceana 05 or 06? Ken was a regular on Fence Check. What are odds of him parking beside me? We talked for a good 25 to 30 minutes until Mother Nature started acting up again. So, we retreated into our rental cars. The gates soon opened, we geared up and went in. I gave him one of my cards and he made his way down to the photo pit.

With the show starting late, as everyone was coming in and finding a place to watch the show from, the Coast Guard demo was up and flying. There were a few patchy showers here and there but off to the north, the sky was blue with small puffy clouds. As the coasties demo lands, I felt a disturbance in the Force. It was a squad from 501st Legion. And you know I had to get a photo was them!

WOH17_13

Sunday show had its good points and its low points. Here’s a few of the good points, the passing storm was for some great back drops with the sun was out. The light was sharp and clean along with the low puffy clouds…Awesome. The morning weather add more moisture to the atmosphere. Which means more vapor for Super Hornet. Here’s my images from the Super Hornet high speed pass with vapor cone.

WOH17 Super Hornet high speed pass film strip

Here’s a link to see it full size

 

As the show when on, the sun and clouds were continuous playing hide and seek. And I found myself shooting subjects with no light on them. While chimping, it was clear that the subjects shot in shadow were going to be junked. Yes, the shadow detail can be popped out in post process, but they don’t even come close the others shot in nature light. There is no substitute for nature light! So, those aircraft that was flying while the sun was hiding, I am not going to show. I’m not a documentary photography when it comes to airshows. Meaning I’m not trying to get images of everything that was there and what flew and it what order. I’m trying to shoot images unique to me that I can add to my collection over a point of a lifetime.

Sometime during the show Ken text me and wanted to know if I wanted to get dinner after the show. We plan to meet back up at our cars after the show and go from there. Show over and back at the cars, we decide to head off to Outback Steak house. There we reminisced about the “Good old days” of now gone Fence Check. How it was the site to visit to see what other aviation photographer were shooting and where. I had a good time with Ken at dinner and hopefully I run into him sometime during the 2018 season.

Wing Over Houston was a great show for my 2017 Season Finale. It was great seeing and talking to some of my old airshow buddies. Despite the weekends wet weather, I’m really happy with my images. The troubled sky made for a dramatic back drop during the show. Of all the images I shot at Wings over Houston, there are three images that stand out and tells the story of the weekend. I love the sense of location along with the low horizons showing off the vivid background. Each has their own different play with light and shadow. In all three images, each one draws your eyes in, so you can explore all the details and light in the screen. With each of them, I saw the image before I shot it. Heck, I shot one with my iPhone! Three more images to add to my portfolio.

My next post will be my “Best of 2017 Show season” post. Showing all my favorite images from the season along with some thoughts looking back as well as some going forward.

 

Until next post,

Steven

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.

show opening for phone

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.

Waukegan17_0582

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.

Waukegan17_1000

 

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.

Waukegan17_2245

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.

Tiling the frame

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.

Trick no# 4?

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

Waukegan17_1778

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.

Selfridge_028

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.

Selfridge_099 uncropped

And after some post processing….

Selfridge_099

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.

google map image for belle isle

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.

APPA_GC_7

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.

selfridge17_4

 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.

selfridge17_3

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

OSH17_thur_1

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.

OSH17_thur_0

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.

OSH17_thur_2

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.

OSH17_thur_3

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.

OSH17_thur_4

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.

OSH17_thur_16

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.

OSH17_thur_19

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

thursday show schedule

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.

OSH17_thur_22

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.

OSH17_houes_1

 

Friday: Day 3 at AirVenture Oshkosh

OSH17_FRI_2

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.

OSH17_FRI_1

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.

OSH17_FRI_3

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.

OSH17_FRI_23

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.

OSH17_FRI_24

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!

OSH17_FRI_5

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.

OSH17_FRI_8

OSH17_FRI_9

OSH17_FRI_16

OSH17_FRI_21

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.

OSH17_FRI_33

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

OSH17_FRI_34

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