Thoughts about the future

In the coming year ahead, I want to embrace the idea of “It’s about concentration and not validation”. I’m no longer looking for any validation with any of my passions. I’m not saying I know it all, that is far from the case. I feel it is time to continue this creativity adventure of mine and start to focus as well as explore it’s many paths. I want to spread this idea to all my Passions. Photography, model making as well as writing.

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With my photography, I’m going to limit my online presence. I want my blog to be my main online outlet. I will email and post blog updates on a few forums I enjoy but that is about it. Not Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter……Blah, Blah, Blah! Those are NOT the way I want to share any of my work. This is MY singular and personal journey. I’m not trying to reach out and share to everyone in the world, just a few other creativity souls that I manage to interact with. I’m sure this idea will upset a few people. But the time I would spend on social media, I would rather spend it doing something creative or nurturing one of my Passions.

Sharing and getting that instant feedback is great. But for now, I’m not looking for it. I really want to dive deep and explore my creativity, scrutinize my inspiration and have what I find show in my work. I feel I can’t do this legitimately if I’m wrapped up in social media. I’m not worried about people not seeing my work. Those who enjoy my work, know how and where to find it as well as how to share it with others. If you like my content and do not know how get updates, just click the “Follow” button.

My reducing online presence is only for my photography. My writing and modelmaking should be unaffected. And actually, my online activity with my passion for modelmaking sure increase. Hopefully in early 2018, I will launch “Far Resin”. My small “What-If” aftermarket resin endeavor. This has been something I have been secretly working on for some time now. From learning different molding and casting methods to building an inventory of what I feel is an original sellable product, it is time to take the next step and see if any of it will in fact sale. I’m currently finishing up the new web page and working on some new exciting products.

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And for my writing, I want to continue to write about things I feel is important to Me. And that is where I am running into problems. From the start of this blog, I told myself I was not going to write about what is happening in the world and how it affects me. I am find the frequency of which issues of the world that trouble me is becoming shorter and more disturbing. We live in a truly fucked up world and there are a lot of opinions about it all. Seem like most of them are negative and is just a bunch of regurgitated garbage. And it comes from everywhere, the news, social media, and even from family & friends. I’m frankly sick of it and I don’t want to add to the noise. I feel Rose Tico from Star Wars: The Last Jedi said it best,

“That’s how we’re going to win. Not fighting for what we hate. Saving what we love.”

I want to keep sharing my adventures and my experiences along with maybe inspire one of you to do something different, go one step further or even leave me a comment about your feeling. I want to share with you my favorite comment I has gotten. It is from Jerry Ennis, about My 2017 Season Review.

“You had me at your second sentence. I’ve been feeling the same way and have event passed on some shows because the lineup just looked like a rerun of the year before and the year before that. I enjoyed reading your post and then decided it needed to be studied, not just read. I’ve printed it so I can read, pause, reflect, and (I hope) find some answers of my own. Thanks for priming the pump.” Jerry Ennis

Helping other creative person get those juices going and start to do something with them. That is why I write. I want to keep writing about my passions and to continue to get great comments like Jerry’s. With all my Passions, I still have a lot to learn. I hope 2018 will be a positive learning experience that I get to share with you all.

Happy New Year!

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…

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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!!!!

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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.

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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 Will 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 shots.

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!

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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.

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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!

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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

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

 

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

 

 

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