For the past 13 years, I have had a love affair with photography. I love images that comes with a story. Over the years, I have shot a few images that has a story. Here is part two of a series I call “The Story Behind an Image”.
Part 2: The Bus Stop
Summer of 2008, I was working for a major automotive company in southeast Michigan and the Economic crisis was well under way. The crisis had slowed sell the sale of cars and it was time to save money to get through the rough times ahead and that meant layoffs. The weeks working up to the layoff was some of the worst times I had ever worked anywhere. The level of worry and anxiety seem to be unbearable at times. How many would be let go? Who is safe? Where would go to find work? How long would my money last?
On July 31, 2008, I got the news that I was to be laid off indefinitely. I took some comfort in the fact that the worry and anxiety of it all was over and now it was a matter of figuring out what’s my next step. As an out of work automotive clay sculptor, I knew it was going to be difficult to find work during this time. If cars were not selling, there is no reason to develop new products. And when you’re not developing new product, there is no reason to hire new sculptors. At the time, I did not have a car and relied on public transportation to get back and forth to work, amazingly it worked out well given I lived in Downtown Detroit.
The following days my lay off, I had applied to as many available positions I could find. While not getting feedback from any company I applied to, I was starting to lose hope. Until one day as I was waiting at the bus stop that use to carry me to work. I received a call from what was to become my new job in sunny California. That bus stop is in the image below. On the right side of the image, there is thin sliver of light running down the building. Where that sliver of light hits the ground, there is a light pole which marks the location of my bus stop. The amazing part of the image is that I shot it in April of 2006, over two years before I got the phone call which lead to my next adventure in life. I knew it was a great image but had no idea of the personal importance it had to me and to my future.
The Planes of Fame airshow draws two things, warbirds and photographers. Since I been coming out to Chino, it seems there are more and more people shooting the show. Canon, Nikon, Sony, DSLR’s, point and shoot and a bunch of iPhones along with iPads, out and about shooting away. It’s a wonderful show for any type of photographer to hone their eye as well as skills shooting aircraft. From WWII reenactors to pilots and crew, and you got to love the all-day photo passes! You’re in a target rich environment, so shoot away!
One of this year’s personal challenges was to shoot the with Canon 5DSR which is more for landscape photography and studio work. With a max frame rate of 5fps and the buffer speed, shooting the fast pace of an airshow is asking a lot from the 5DSR. But with 50.6 megapixels, along with the clarity of my 500mm F/4.5, the potential for some breathtaking images are high. I again shot slow, Sunday’s weather was perfect for some cloud blurring. I pretty much shot everything in shutter priority from 1/160th to 1/200th second. I wanted to show a sense of motion and not an aircraft frozen in the sky.
My other personal challenge was to photograph people of the show, reenactors, veterans, pilots as well as other photographer. It is something I shy away from and feel I’m not good at. Plus, I’m really picky when it comes to images of people. I dislike images of people looking straight into the camera, the candid snap shot with no thought or care of the scene. So, I got out of my comfort zone and started seeing other things more interesting than the warbirds buzzing around the circuit. In fact, I’m more excited about my images with people than the one without.
I think of all the images I shot that weekend, this one is my favorite. It is not as sharp as I like it but I feel it still works. The big and proud reenactor, the happiness of the little boy and the Dad (I guess) giving the “thumbs up”.
So, this week I will be heading out to California for the Planes of Fame show at Chino. The problem is this is my 5th or 6th time attending this show and I’m running out of ideas and or techniques for shooting the show differently. I still love the show and I get a chance to get out of Michigan. I do not want to shoot the show same as last time or like someone else. The fact is I feel like I’m running out of my bag of tricks. Yes, I get to go and have a long weekend with friends, caught up and have fun but when it comes to the show, I’m just not exited.
In 2015, it was the first show I used my 500mm F/4.5 and my personal challenge was to see how slow I could shoot it. There is an old rule stating your shutter speed should be as fast as your focal length you are using. So, with my 500mm my shutter speed should be at least 1/500th. Way too fast to shoot props. Planes of Fame is mainly a propeller warbird show, meaning I’ll be shooting 95% of the time in shutter priority at least 1/320th for prop blur. Even at 1/320th the prop blur ok. It blurs the prop about 35% to 45% (100% being a full arc around) I want to get around 50% to 60% while flying and at 500mm… Yeah. The wonderful thing about the Planes of Fame show is the show is photo pass practice. Each group of warbirds does multi photo or some call them banana/ top side passes. Some groups do it so much, your get tire of shooting them. After shooting a weekend at the Plane of Fame show, you’ll have much better panning skill guaranteed. So, what I did was for each pass, I would shoot slower and slower. The first pass, I would start in my safe zone 1/320th. After that, I would go down to 1/250th then 1/200th all the way down to 1/100th. But I found at 1/100th, my keeper rate was far too low. But from 1/250th to 1/160th, prop blur was what I was looking for as well as if there were any clouds in the background, they were blurred as well. Giving the image a great sense of motion.
Last year in 2016, I was ready to get rid of my 70D. I felt it was not up to par to be a second body. After last year’s show, it’s definitely a keeper. For shooting static display, I used the 70D tilt screen along my monopod to get a higher view on things. I first set the drive mode to 10 second self-timer along with selecting shooting in “Live view” or shooting with the LCD screen. I then selected to shoot in aperture propriety @F/7.1 to have a good depth of field and still have a fast shutter speed. And to keep it simple I used the center AF point. OK time to shoot! I roughly stood close enough to my subject where I thought where a good shot would be. Tilt the view screen down so when I rise it up I can see what the camera is looking at. Next I depress the shutter button to start the 10 second timer and rise the camera into position. While looking at the screen, I would fame and hold the bottom of the monopod steady until I heard the shutter. I then lowered the camera and chimp to see the results. If I liked it I moved on to next subject but most likely I would have to reshoot it. Too much focal length, poor framing or just out of focus. It takes some time to get use to but with a little practice and patience, I was getting some very cool and unique images.
Now here we are in 2017, What to try or do differently? I’m going to do both, shoot slow and monopod/live view shooting. If you guys have any suggestions, please let you know in the comment below!
Love it or Hate it. It comes in all shapes and sizes. Throw up’s, Tags, Stencils, Rollers, Pissing, wild style, local as well as a few well named Artists, Detroit had it all. Most of them has been “Buffed” over and are gone but you can still find some if you look hard enough.