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

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Until next post,

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.

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Until next time,

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.

Goshen17_2

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!

Goshen17_5

Goshen17_3

 

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.

Goshen17_4

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.

Goshen17_1

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.

Goshen17_6

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!

Goshen17_17

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.

Goshen17_7

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

 

Possible pretty light and a few pre-show thoughts

Show 3, post 1: Goshen evening airshow

My next show is a little show down in Goshen, Indiana. Back in 2015 I attended their show, Rotors and Ribs, a small one day helicopter event along with a Rib cook off. Unfortunately, it was rained out. But I did like the feeling of the show, small town show put together by locals and not a huge over done production. This year’s event is going to be an evening show with a handful of flying displays. Here’s a link to the shows website…http://www.americasfreedomfest.org

My main reason why I’m going this show is the possibility for some amazing afternoon light. Flying doesn’t start until 7pm. The runway at Goshen Municipal Airport runs east/west and come late afternoon the light off to the east should be nice and only get better until sunset. Along with the crowd line was pretty close to the active runway, which make for a good opportunity for some panning shots. And in the lovely late afternoon light… Oh man!

Here’s a few of my pre-show thoughts. I have a shot of USAF heritage flight with F-22 and a P-51 that I shot at NAS Oceana back in 2008. It’s an OK image but it was shot is the bright mid-day light. The quality of light is boring and flat. As well as it’s a shot that many photographers shot during that show.

crapter and little house

I’m hoping to replace that image with one with more dynamic lighting. The challenge is I’ll get only shot at trying to get the image I want. Again, it’s only a one day show, no practice or Sunday show. That means shooting higher in my comfort zone to have a higher “keeper” rate. So that means shooting in shutter propriety at 1/320th. Which is slow enough to show some prop blur on the P-51 but high enough to get a few keepers on each pass. I would like to shoot it at 1/100th or 1/125th but again it is a one day show. Getting a properly exposure image will be a little tricky. The paint on the F-22 like to shine a bright hot bronze color in late afternoon light. Which looks stunning but the camera tends to underexpose the Raptor, which isn’t a problem if I’m shooting the Raptor by itself. I can adjust the exposure in Lightroom no problem.

goldern craptor

But during the heritage flight at Goshen with the P-51 Baby Duck, which has a highly polished metal finish, wonder how and if the light bouncing off it will mess with the exposure? Here’s an image I shot back in 2007 at Selfridge ANGB show. You can see the light bouncing off the P-51 Moonbeam McSwine’s and hitting the Strike Eagle fuselage. It’s cool that my camera’s sensor can pick that up but it makes a strange detail in the image.

mudhen and mcswine

Also on the shows website, it shows Paul Keppeler’s CL-13B Sabre Mk 6(Canadair built F-86) will be attending the show. But I’m not sure if whoever put the website together just grabbed any picture of a F-86 or if that’s the one that will be there. There no mention of the owner and that’s has me worried about who’s Saber is going to be there. Warbird heritage foundation (WHF) owns and operates a beautiful F-86 out of Waukegan, Illinois, which would be short hop down to Goshen. I have no problems seeing it again but I have many great images of WHF Saber and not sure if I would be able to shoot a better one at Goshen. If so, great but would rather see Keppeler’s Saber. Will keep an eye out on their Facebook page and show website for any news or updates on attending aircraft. Here is a few of my favorite images of WHF F-86.

WHF saber_1WHF saber_2

To add to the unknowns, not sure if the Saber would even be taking off and landing at Goshen. The runway there is only 6,050ft long and I’m unsure how much runway is required to operate a Saber. It could stage out of another larger airport and fly over for the show. Which is very possible. The F-22 along with the P-51 are flying down from Battle Creek, Michigan, doing the heritage flight and then heading back to Michigan.

I would like to get some static shots of the warbirds if possible in the afternoon light. Shooting good static images are always troublesome to shoot. Always fighting with background clutter around the aircraft. Everything from cones and ropes to porta johns to tents. Making it difficult to isolate the subject. There is also a good possibility that the aircraft will not be acceptable for shooting. Some show separates the flight aircraft on the “hot ramp” from the ones on static. Will know more as the show gets closer. If not, I’ll know when I get there and take a look around.

There is one more thing to consider, weather. Thunderstorms are notorious for popping up in the Midwest during the summer. There is a good chance the show could see some rain before, during or after the show. It is something you should always be prepared for. Seek shelter if a storm comes your way. Inside a cargo plane, a hanger or tent, something. Get you and your gear out of the rain. If there is a chance of rain at an event, I will bring a ziplock bag to put my gear in if the sky opens up. I know you’re thinking “A ziplock bag? To do what? Protect your cards and batteries?” Yes and my 500mm F/4.5 and whatever body I’m shooting with. Ziplock makes large bags for clothing which are perfect for protecting your gear from the elements. They come in many different sizes, you can get one that you can put you whole camera bag in or one just that would fit just your camera and lense. Priced around $10 to $15, which I don’t mind spending if it can save my gear. Amazon has them, search for “large ziplock bags”

Until next post,

Steven