The Lessons behind an Image: Part One

 For the past 14 years, I have had a love affair with photography. Like with anything we love doing, we run into problems as we learn more and progress. And the more problems we face, work through and learn from, the better our work will be. I’m a huge fan of “Try, Fail, Learn, Repeat” Cycle. I try to apply that cycle to all my Passions. I have learned some difficult lessons in photography and I want to share some of them with you. Normally this series is about the story of an image. But today I’m going to switch it up and call this one “The Lessons behind an Image.” Sharing something valuable I learn from one of my images.

Part Five: Lessons learned

 2004 was the start of my love affair with photography. Earlier in that year I got my first DSLR camera, Canons Digital Rebel. With a whopping 6.3 megapixels, 7 Auto focus points and that cheap silver plastic body, it was one of the first DSLR you could buy for under $1000. I loved mine and took it everywhere. And that June, it came with me to the Grosse Ile Air Extravaganza for my second airshow with a DSLR camera. Of the couple of hundred images I shot that day, here’s a series of eight I want to share with you. It’s of this P-51 Mustang, 44-74446 N1451D “Checkertail Clan“. Unfortunately, some 10 years later it crashed. Killing both the new owner/pilot and the instructor on the Fourth of July 2014 shortly after take-off.

film roll of mustang

Of the eight images, only one stands out for me. As soon as I saw the Mustang, I knew there was an image there I want to capture. At the time, I was very new to photography. I really didn’t know what I was doing.(As if I do now) HaHa! But I knew there was an image somewhere of this beautifully polished P-51 with a bunch of crap around it. I remember feeling the struggle and lack of confidence of trying to capture the image I saw with the camera. I had two problems. First, what do I see that is so interesting? Where does it start and stop? And second, how do I hide all the stuff around the aircraft? You can see in the second image in the roll above, there is at least 7 cars, a C-130, a row of porta johns in between the canopy and the vertical stabilizer, some tents over the right wing and what the heck are those folks looking at over the left wing!

 To overcome my first problem of what do I see that is so interesting? Where does it start and stop? Here is where the beauty of digital photography comes into play. With a large enough media card, you have the opportunity to shoot far more than if you were to shooting film. Since I began making images, I have always believed to have more than enough memory cards. I never wanted to get into a situation where I run out room on memory card(s) while out shooting. Two things I remember a lot of photographers telling me when I first start my photographic journey. One, invest in glass and two, get the largest card you can afford. Cards are cheaper than glass. I have always invested in large as well as fast cards. It gives me the freedom to shoot all day and never have to worry about how many shots I have left.

So, I shot like a machine gun so to speak. I shot with confidence knowing that even at the end of the day, I was not going to run of space and I could explore my subject and capture what I saw that interest me. This runs into my second issue; how do I hide all the stuff around the aircraft? How I did was the easy part. I just positioned myself in a way that the aircraft itself cover up the unwanted clutter. But what I feel is more important is the why. And it is a lesson I have come to learn over the years, but I can still trace it back to this image.

 Knowing where the edges of your image lay. To Isolate your subject along with hiding unwanted and unnecessary clutter. Looking back on the image, I know when I took the shot, I didn’t know where the edges of that image was. But you can see me searching for them in the series of images. Close, getting closer, spot on, going away and then revisiting it. I truly didn’t know until after the show, while I was home looking through my images on my PC and saw the photo of the image in my head.

I feel knowing where your image lays is an important part of knowing what it is you are trying to show. One thing through the years that has help me define the edges of images has nothing to do with aviation. It was when I lived downtown in Detroit and I would frequent the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory on Belle isle. I came up with a system that taught me to start down and to see what it is I was looking at. Once in the conservatory, I would walk through all the rooms, gear still in camera bag, looking for things to shoot and keeping mental notes of things of interest. Making my way back to the the entrance where I began, with a few ideas for images, I select what lenses I feel I needed and retraced my steps. When I come to something I wanted to shoot, I stopped, focused in on what is catching my eye. Once I have an idea of what it is, I set up my tripod, compose my shot, shoot and review. If it is not to my liking, I’ll recomposes and shoot again until I’m happy with my shot. I would repeat this for all my points of interest in the conservatory. Over the years, this has help me define the edges of I was looking at as well as help me understand how the camera sees things.

 I ‘m not saying you must always get closer to your subject. There are times when you want to show a sense of space. And even then, you still should know where the edges of your images are. Too much, you can lose your subject all together and not enough, your subject seems crammed in the frame. It comes down to knowing what it is you are trying to show your viewers. Looking back, I wanted a tight shot showing the highly polished surface, its colorful markings and not losing the iconic shape of the P-51. 

FAR_90

 From this one images, I learned two things. One, to keep shooting your subject until you feel you have captured the image that you see in your minds eye. And Two, know where the edges of your image are and why it is important. It took me many years and thousands of images, before I truly grasp how important these two lessons were to me and My Photography.  

EXIF data

Date: June 18, 2004 8:14 am

Model: Canon Digital Rebel

Focal length: 65mm

ISO speed: 100

Exposure time: 1/320th

F stop: F/9

Shot handheld

If you like what you see and read here, click the “Like” button! Along with feel free to leave a reply below or start to follow my blog.

Until next post,

Steven

Inspiration

This is the second part in a series I call “Exploring My Creativity”. An examination of MY creativity. Being a creative person, this is something I feel I must do to expand my creative thinking. Know one self.  A very large part of who I am is my creativity. As long as I can remember, I have been creative and doing creative things. And it seems to grow more complex the older I get. At the start of 2018, I told myself I wanted to embrace the idea of “Concentration and not Validation”. To focus on me and what drives me to be creativity. Check here to read part one of “Exploring My Creativity”.

The second part of my creativity is my Inspiration. If Passion is my fire, then Inspiration is my fuel. Without it, the fire does not burn bright or fierce. It keeps my creativity going. And like any fuel, the quality of it is what’s important. You don’t want to fill up a Ferrari 812 Superfast with 87 octane. You want 93 or better! I’m not looking for material that is “kind of cool”. I want amazing, beautiful, captivating and most of all it must inspire me to keep being creative. Things that get my gears turning and or gets me to think about something differently.

My Inspiration has is a routine. Like my Passions, it must be nurtured along with be well maintained. My routine to find inspiring material is search, review, weed out, search more. It comes for various and sometimes odd places. So, everyday I take time to search and look for new inspiring material. Doesn’t matter how I feel. If I’m upset, frustrated or just tired. Most times it helps me get out of whatever funk I’m in and loosen up my gears of creativity. It doesn’t mean I find new material everyday. But went I do find something, I save it to my PC and on One Drive (Microsoft cloud storage) so I always have access to it from my phone. I have a folder for each of my Passions, model making, photography, artwork (for illustrations) and writing. These are my digital inspirational boards or Vision walls.

What I find inspiring in the past, may not speak to me the same today. Because of that, I must maintain my inspirational material. About once every few months, I’ll go through my  folders and remove any material that no longer inspires me. Two or three images at the most. What inspires me is different for each of my Passions. For example, things that inspire me about photography does not inspire me with model making along with things that inspire me about writing and blogging does not inspire me to do illustrations.

I want to go through a few of my Passions sources of Inspiration. Let’s begin with photography. I search Flickr for generally all-around photographic subjects. I’m not saying the best images are there, just that there is something different every day. Everything from landscapes, wildlife, floral to portraits. Both black & white and color. As I look through those images, it reminds me of when I first started my adventure into photography, shooting anything and everything. It helps me keeps that mindset of discovery and playfulness fresh in my mind.

Some days it is painful, browsing through countless images. And other days, it can be refreshing and re-energizing. It’s those days I can get lost into the “rabbit hole” in the search for material. One thing I find wonderful about Flickr, is went you find someone who has a ton great image. It’s that discovery and seeing the work from of other creative souls, I find that incredibly inspiring. One thing I must be conscious of is to just seek out what I find inspiring and not critique and judge other’s images. No good will come from me looking down on ANY one’s images. We all must understand that everyone learns at different speeds. And not everyone will like YOUR images. 

photography image

On to Aviation photography, back in the day we had Fence Check. Which at it peak was nothing short of amazing. But now it is long gone. And there has not been an equal in aviation photography forums to fill that void. I tried Instagram for a while and did not like it. I felt it was more a popular contest then anything else. Along with the limited image size, which I did not care for. There are a few aviation threads on various photography forums. But I find these threads move fast, and images get buried in the thread due to the speed of the forum. Yes, these threads are a great source for inspirational material, but they are not consistent. I have found that Airliners.net proves a good mix of aviation subjects consistently. Yes, there are ton of documentary photographers that shoot nothing but airliners and are set in their ways. Not everyone who post images there share that mindset. It is those who think outside of that box are the photographers I’m interested in seeing their work. Photographers who understand and use the elements of design in his or her images. Over the years, surprising I have managed to find a fair number of inspiring images there. There is also AirFighter.com but there is more to aviation photography then just war machines.

 Into my love of model making. I been building models since I was seven. 35 years later, I still love playing with plastic. One source of inspiration for me to building anything, comes down to a single question, “What if…” I’ve built models for competition in the past and all the research and kit correcting is no longer enjoyable. So, I started to build the things I wanted to make. That’s where my favorite question comes into play. What if Israel had A-10 Thunderbolt II? What would they look like? How would they modify them?  What I find inspiring in model making, is the imagination of the idea along with the craftsmanship of the model. This doesn’t mean that every model I find inspiring is a “What-if” builds. It could be the way a model is weathered, a paint scheme or the level of detail in a scale. Even difficult paint jobs have always been a source of inspiration. Like natural metal finish, splinter pattern or a digital camouflage.

Model making image

My current builds. From the top down, 2 seat Su-33, a Forward-swept wing Su-33 and a Carrier based Su-34. All 1/48 scale

Craftsmanship is huge for me. Doesn’t matter if it’s a “What-if” or a “Real world” build, a well-built model is always motivating. Some of the best model I’ve seen are ones that when you look at them, you can’t figure out what scale they are. I have seen 1/72 scale model with so much detail, you would think it is 1/48 or larger. Something else I love, is when someone takes a substandard kit and turns it into a thing of beauty. Like Cyrus Tan 1/48 Monogram F-14D Tomcat. If you have ever put together this kit, you know just how much work he put into his build. Also, I find inspiring is when someone kit bash or modify something that looks believable or turn it into something even more interesting like this, 1/18 Spitfire Mk. XIVe – Race #80 built by Peter aka “Airscale” over on Large Scale Plane forum. He started with HpH 1/18 Seafire FR47 which has fiberglass fuselage and resin detail bits. Then he converted it into a Spitfire Mk. XIVe and skinned with it in aluminum litho plate! The amount of time and work along with research that going into a project like this is absolutely astonishing. His work in progress thread is over 160 pages! But if you are like me and love model making, it is worth spending some time going through it.

He does truly mind-blowing and inspiring work. Which pushes me to try to do more with my models. To experiment with new techniques and materials. It sounds so cliche but thinking outside the box. To be outside of my comfort zone. With all of Passions, if I’m just doing that same thing, using my same techniques, I’m not growing.

Blogging, my newest Passion. 2018 is my second year of sharing with you all some of my thoughts. I posted more last year then this year. I’m still learning each time I post and I’m not sure what direction it is headed in. Yeah, I struggle with grammar and spelling. But I’m not going to let that stop me. I can’t, I enjoy sharing too much. So, what inspires me to write? My personal drive to be heard and to share my experiences that taught me something valuable. I have always liked the idea of passing on knowledge I have learn from other or from my own experiences. I’m still sorting out what it is going to be. Just like my photography, I’m looking for unique and personal experiences to share.

Blog image

I wanted to share my inspirational folders with you all, but I don’t feel it is right to share others images and work with out their permission. But my goal is to have my work fit into my inspiration folders. Not trying to match or copy someone else work but to have my work look as if it belongs in my inspiration folders, having the same flavor and feeling. To sum it up, I’m inspired by Photographers whose images can tell a story, Model makers not kit builders along with great Storytellers. What inspires you? Feel free to share in the comments below. If you like what you see and read here, click the “Like” button or start to follow my blog.

 

Until next time,

Steven

 

 

EAA AIRVENTURE OSHKOSH

Show 4, Post 2, Part 3: Saturday and Sunday

Day 4 at EAA Oshkosh

Saturday morning in the kitchen and there was Vincent and Chuck eating breakfast, talking about Vincent’s P-51 mustang Ride he got the day before. After a while the rest of the house had woken up and made their way into the kitchen. We all figured out what we were going do for the daily events. It being Saturday that means there is a night show after the daily show. Vincent and Peter were planning on staying for the night show, so they drove over together. Bonnie, Scott and I were planning to meet up with Craig, Gary and Gary in Warbird alley. There we were to try to find some re-enactors to pose for the group around various aircraft. Larry was going drop Scott and I off in warbird alley and we were going to meet back with him later.

Down in Warbird alley, we found Ryan and Steven, two great guys willing to pose for us. After Ryan was all suited up, we made our way over to Eric Hollingsworth’s P-40 Warhawk. It quickly became clear that this was not the first time Ryan, Steven and Gary Daniel has done a photo shoot like this. Ryan and Steven both were great, patience, took suggestions very well and suggested ideas themselves. Gary Daniels too was just as great, he did a wonderful job with Ryan and Steven fine turning their positions as well as asking the group how we felt. Everybody was very respectful of each other and our sounding, we played very well with each other. After we felt we had enough of the P-40, we move on to Jack Larson’s beautiful P-51 “Sierra Sue II”. There we continue the same routine of position, shoot, experiment, shoot, all the while being mindful of others and we were starting to draw a crowd! For me, that shoot was the most memorable during my 2017 trip to Oshkosh!

After that charged shooting sessions, Gary Daniel, Scott Slingsby and I slowed down and got a bit to eat. From there Scott and I made our way over the vintage area to see one of the award-winning aircraft.

Later we met up with Larry at the media center, where he got Scott and I a better shooting location in the VIP area. Which was far less crowded than the rest of the show line.

Saturdays airshow was a special for aviation enthusiasts. We got to see all the iconic WWII bombers we all love. Flying in formations that has been seen in well over 60 years, with Fifi and Doc, the last two flying B-29s. This was Doc’s first time at Airventure after a malicious 16-year restoration. Which was followed by a parade of bomber was next with 2 B-29 Superfortresses, 4 B-25 Mitchells and a B-17.

Then the USAF brought all 3 of its heavy hitters together in a rare formation. Leading the pack was the sleek B-2. On one side was the aging B-52 soldiering on with over 50 years of service. And on the other, was the B-1. Also known as the Bone (B-one), looks like it feared the B-2 by how far out of the formation he was. But oh well….

Each of the bombers performed various passes. It was refreshing to see the B-2 do a photo pass. Here’s a little fact about the B-52 that performed at AirVenture, B-52 number 61-0007 was brought back into service after sitting in the Bone yard for 7 years.

2017 marks the first time the USN Blue Angels flight demonstrate team perform at AirVenture. I have seen the Blues many time and there are always entertaining as well as very photogenic in the afternoon light at Oshkosh.

The finale of the show was again the USAF Heritage flight. The F-35 lead two P-51 Mustangs on its wings and an A-10 Thunderbolt II in the slot position.

OSH17_pt3_7431

With the aircraft in the heritage flight landed marking the end of the daily airshow along with the end of the Blue Angels show line. The strangest thing happened, as if someone said “Ready, Get Set, Go!” Everybody grabbed their chairs and started running full speed to the original closer show line for the night show. I wish I took a picture of it but by the time I had figured out what was going on, it was too late.

Making our way to the media center, I realized just how many people were here. During the week, the crowd was not so big, which is understandable. But come the weekend, everywhere you looked there was a sea of bodies. With the number of people there and how traffic was going to be after the night show along with there were no jets flying in the night show, we decided to head back to the house.

Back at house, time to dump cards, find something to eat and prepare for the morning like we did all week long. But Saturday night was a little different, it was the end of the weekly grind. Most of the members in the house was leaving tomorrow and heading home. Scott packed up, said his good byes to everybody and was off to Milwaukee to catch his flight home in the morning. I think everybody went to bed early, but Peter and Vincent stayed for the night show and returned late.

Sunday, Last day at Oshkosh

Time to put the House the way we got it. Making beds, cleaning dishes as well as packing up our cloths and gear. We all said our good byes and exchanged information. With everybody’s car packed and the house locked up, we took a quick group selfie and we all parted ways. On the drive home, I reflected on my experiences from the past week and begin to process the whole trip. My takeaway from EAA AirVenture is that it’s a photo grind. I mean that in good way. The repetition of each day but still looking to do things differently from the day before. Trying to contain the feeling of being overwhelmed by enormous amount of aviation stuff and yet stay focused on my task. AirVenture is something I know my photography (as least now) cannot do it justice. It is something every aviation and photography nerd must experience as least once in his or her life time.

Feel free to share in the comments below as well as if you like my content, click the “Like” button or even start to follow my blog.

Until next time,

Steven

Photography and Me

In 2004, my love affair with photography began and since then it has become something that I cherish. For the longest time I really didn’t think about what it meant to me. But at the start of the year, I started to challenge myself and question the things I love doing to have a better understanding of my creativity. After putting together my “Passion” piece, I started looking into why I love Photography so much. I think, it’s being able to tell a story with my images is a big factor. All last year, I pushed myself to try to capture images that said something or told a part of a larger story. From Planes of Fame out in California to Wings over Houston down in Texas. If it was the frustration of Goshen, the marathon shooting of Oshkosh or the joy of shooting at Waukegan. I wanted my images to show and say whatever it was I was trying to express.

Photography to me is sharing how I see the world and a way for me to visually show a story or a part of my life. A photographer I greatly admire, Sean Tucker. In his channel trailer, he speaks about having vision. And it is that vision he talks about that I want to focus on and develop my own vision. To Experiment, Fail, Learn, Repeat. Photography without vision, in my mind is an oxymoron and I do not want my photography to fall into that category.

At the beginning of this year while surfing the web, I came across a bunch of “My Best images from 2017” posted on various forums. There was one in particular that caught my eye. Its >>>HERE<<<. There is a lot of things I really like about this set of images. Composition, light, color but mainly the variety of subjects. And looking back on my favorite images of 2017, Its all aviation. Yes, there is a variety of aircraft types, but it is still all aviation. Yeah, I went to Belle Isle a few times, but all my photo trips were aviation related. And that lack of subject diversity bothers me now. It’s not like I can’t go and see other things, it’s that I made no effort to. I want to change that in 2018.

I been toying with the idea of doing some landscape photography this year. Thinking about visiting the Pacific northwest. There is Redwood National Park and Crater Lake that I have always wanted to see. I feel a switch up like this will get me out of my comfort zone for quite some time. It will require me to learning a different set of photographic disciplines. It doesn’t mean I’m going to stop shooting aircraft, it’s just I’m going to mix it up a bit. I just want to see and do something different.

Gear wise, I soon will be getting Canons 5DSR along with a 50mm F/1.2L. Ever since I started with my photography endeavors, I love showing clarity of my subjects. It comes from my love of Ansel Adams and his work. I rented the 5DSR many times last year and love the result of shooting full frame and the very large image size shows the smallest of detail. But these are just tools and will not better my photography, only by continuing to develop and focus my vision as Sean calls it will my photography grow.

There is a photographer with amazing and skillful eye for photography, Joshi Daniel. He has a bunch of brilliant and powerful images that I find always inspire me. Joshi has a wonderful project on his site, it is his 28mm Portraits Project. I want to challenge myself along the same lines but with a 50mm and not shooting portraits. I don’t know what my subject matter will be but I’m sure I’ll find something to shoot. I like to idea of using a limited focal length on a particular subject, along with doing something that gets you out of your comfort zone. It will be a good long term project to help nurture my eye.

Here’s a set of images from my archive that I shot from over the years. With a variety of different subjects that come the beginning of 2019 I would like to have in my “Best of 2018” post.

How do you feel about “Your Photography”? Do you feel that you have an “Eye “for images? Feel free to share in the comments below as well as if you like my content, click the “Like” button or even start to follow my blog.

 

Until next post,

Steven