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

2017 Goshen Freedom Fest

 

Show 3, post 3: Pretty light and Old lessons learned

Well after a long day yesterday, I wanted to write this while my thoughts and feelings are still fresh. Yesterday was hectic! Where to start?… So, flying at the Goshen freedom fest wasn’t going to start until 6:30pm. From my apartment to Goshen, Indiana is 3 hours away. I told my buddy (fellow photographer) to meet me at my place at 2pm, load up my car and go. Figured we will get there about 5-5:30 and give us an hour to look around, shoot whatever statics are there and find a shooting location on the crowd line. My thinking was, it’s Goshen, Indiana, how many people are going to show up for this small-town show? We should have plenty of time…. Plus, the last show I went to there, I had no problems getting to the airport and finding parking. What can go wrong?!

With our gear packed in the trunk and the tank filled, we headed off to Goshen. On the way over, we had time to caught up on how our summers are going, what other shows we were planning as well as any updates on the Freedom Fest. Well come to find out their added a few great additions, Warbird Heritage foundation Skyraider “Bad News” and their P-51 Mustang “Baby Duck” were both there at the airport. I was thinking that “Baby Duck” was going to fly down with the F-22 from Battle Creek, do the Heritage flight and go back to Battle Creek. Goshen Freedom Fest and Battle Creek both have the F-22/P-51 heritage flight in their shows which happen to be the same weekend. Two TBM Avengers showed up along with a Grumman Wildcat and Bearcat. The P-51D “Pettie, 2nd” also was there. The F-86 Saber turned out to be Paul Keppeler’s which I spoke about in Show 3, Post 2. The big addition I had no idea about was Dean “Cutter” Cutshall was going to fly his beautiful North American F-100F Super Saber at the Freedom Fest. The F-100, nickname the “The Hun”, was going to stage out of its home base in Fort Wayne, Indiana. His Super Saber is on my list of aircraft that I want a unique image of and with the lovely evening light, I’m hoping to check it off my list.  But every time I get a chance to shoot Dean’s Hun, Mother Nature decides to make a bunch of clouds and place them right in front of the sun while it is flying. Another late addition, is a newly repainted B-17 Flying Fortress, was formally known as “Chuckie” now being flown as “Madras Maiden”. I had forgotten that the Military Aviation Museum had sold their Flying Fortress. I had lost track of where it was and what its new owners was doing to it.

The trip over to Goshen municipal airport, the weather was sunny and looked to be a very nice evening. A few clouds here and there but nothing to be worried about. All we have to do is get there, park, scout around and find a promising spot to shoot from. But as we got within a few miles of the airport, we were greeted by bumper to bumper traffic from others like us, trying to get on to the airport to see the airshow. I was excepting some traffic around the airport, which is not uncommon to most airshows. Just due to the surge of people trying to get on to the airport grounds.

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But most of the time traffic is slow but flows smoothly. This was a dead stop and we only moved one or two car lengths at a time. It was now 5:30pm and we were not ever in sight of the airport. And after about half hour, we were still not in sight of the airport. Now we are starting to doubt if we would get parked before flying started. Then as 6:45pm nears, Mother Nature had to put her 2 cents in. In all western Indiana and southern Michigan, you can guess where she decided where an isolated thunderstorm was going to pop up at? Yeah that’s right, Goshen municipal airport!

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It rained good for about 20 minutes, which in some way we felted was a good thing. It delayed the flying while, which gave us a little bit more time to inch closer to the airport. And at least we were almost there and that we and our gear was dry. By the time the rain stopped, we had advance enough to see the airport and the passing storm overhead. Still off the airport grounds and some distance from parking and about there we see plane start to take off and pass over head. A flight of 4 AT-4 Texan opening the show.

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One of our associates already at the show and waiting for us to show up, told us that the F-22 and P-51 Heritage flight was to be at 7pm, which was quickly approaching. But traffic is still only moving one or two car lengths at a time. By now, we can see the complete line of car in-between us and where they are parking cars. We were hoping to be parking be soon, like within 30 minutes. But that was not the case. Another text from our buddy about the show, B-17 in bound.

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Shot out of my sunroof with my iPhone

And our frustration level just went up another notch. “Why are not moving? I don’t understand why thing is taking so long?”, my best friend said as we watch the B-17 line up for a photo pass over the crowd line. So, close but still too far away. 7 o’clock, I ask my friend if wants to get out and go to the trunk to get his gear so he could walk beside the car and shoot when the F-22 shows up. Yeah, that’s just how slow traffic was moving. He gets out, pops the trunk and grabs his 7D MKII along with his 100-400mm MKII and starts shooting.

Now Vlado Lenoch in the P-51 “Baby Duck” gets airborne and started his aerobatic routine before the Heritage flight. I know now that I’m not going to be able to replace my NAS OceanaF-22/P-51 shot with one here. I’m driving along the road way, all the windows down so I can try and spot the Raptor. The Mustang is doing pass after pass and as I’m creeping along, hearing my friends shutter just clicking away. Getting antsy and I want shoot too, I ask my buddy to grab my 7D MKII and ask if I can use his 400mm F/5.6 that he was bring to the show for our friend to shoot with. Still moving along at a snail’s pace, the F-22 Raptor show up and joins with Vlado in “Baby Duck” for the Heritage flight. Got my camera and lenses in my lap, I’m shifting in-between park and drive trying to shoot what I can of the Heritage flight. Fortunately, the airport we to my left and I could snap a few shots here and there. But It sucked. Here’s my F-22 and P-51 Heritage flight image, shot through driver window while sitting in traffic.

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After the Heritage flight was over, we were both hoping that the F-100 was not up next to perform. We were glad to hear the jet truck started up, as we do not care to photograph jet truck at airshows. The truck did buy us a little more time and once it was done, we were on the airport ground. The line of car was still inching forward slowly and by now my nerves were starting to wear a bit. By the time we parked and started looking for our other buddy already there, a high performance aerobic act (I like to call spinners) had flown its routine and landed. We quickly geared up, locked car and started walking for a spot to shoot from on the super crowded show line. Holy Fuck, Goshen! I truly think all of Goshen’s population was crammed on to the tiny airport. Young, old, big, tall and what seems like Indiana entire Amish community as well!

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It took us an hour and half to get through traffic, park and finding a spot to shoot from. Yeah, half as long as the drive over. Our shooting spot was not an ideal location, with so many people already there. Didn’t have much of a chose. We were about 150ft from the rope that started the crowd line. But we did have a good view of the runway for takeoffs as the sun began to monumentally peep from behind the clouds. And just after the show announcer said that Dean Cutshall is inbound from Fort Wayne in his F-100, the sun slides behind a cloud. I manage to capture this one I’m happy with.

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Once we were in our shooting location, it was business as usual. The light was as I imagined it would be, rich golden color and was a treat to shoot.

Click on thumbnails below to view larger image.

I learned some valuable lessons this past weekend. One is to get to the show early so you will have enough time to look around and find what going to work best for you. The whole time from sitting in traffic, final parking the car to the time we found somewhere to shoot found was the most frustrated I have been at a show or event. It is something that I do not want to repeat anytime soon. And underestimating the amount of people going to a show.  Because I failed those two things, we miss shots in which we travel there to shoot along with having a poor shooting location.

The best lessons in life are learned through pain.

Until next post,

Steven

 

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