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

Got Published!

bunch of bent wings

I just wanted to share with you guys that I got published in this month’s issue of ISnAP, Magazine of the International Society of Aviation Photography. Hopefully the first of many more to come. I have to thank my new friends as well as fellow aviation photographer Larry Grace for making this happen, Thank You Larry! Here’s a link so you guys can see my work as well as the rest of the issue. Mine is “Planes of Fame Airshow 2017”

http://issuu.com/isaporg/docs/isnap_june2017

Enjoy and see ya next post,

Steven

2017 Planes of Fame Airshow Post Show comments

 

Show 2, Post 2: Holy Photographers, Batman!

The Planes of Fame airshow draws two things, warbirds and photographers. Since I been coming out to Chino, it seems there are more and more people shooting the show. Canon, Nikon, Sony, DSLR’s, point and shoot and a bunch of iPhones along with iPads, out and about shooting away. It’s a wonderful show for any type of photographer to hone their eye as well as skills shooting aircraft. From WWII reenactors to pilots and crew, and you got to love the all-day photo passes! You’re in a target rich environment,  so shoot away!

 

One of this year’s personal challenges was to shoot the with Canon 5DSR which is more for landscape photography and studio work. With a max frame rate of 5fps and the buffer speed, shooting the fast pace of an airshow is asking a lot from the 5DSR. But with 50.6 megapixels, along with the clarity of my 500mm F/4.5, the potential for some breathtaking images are high. I again shot slow, Sunday’s weather was perfect for some cloud blurring. I pretty much shot everything in shutter priority from 1/160th to 1/200th second. I wanted to show a sense of motion and not an aircraft frozen in the sky.

 

My other personal challenge was to photograph people of the show, reenactors, veterans, pilots as well as other photographer. It is something I shy away from and feel I’m not good at. Plus, I’m really picky when it comes to images of people. I dislike images of people looking straight into the camera, the candid snap shot with no thought or care of the scene. So, I got out of my comfort zone and started seeing other things more interesting than the warbirds buzzing around the circuit. In fact, I’m more excited about my images with people than the one without.

I think of all the images I shot that weekend, this one is my favorite. It is not as sharp as I like it but I feel it still works. The big and proud reenactor, the happiness of the little boy and the Dad (I guess) giving the “thumbs up”.

IMG_0965

Until next post,

Steven

Problem with 2017 Planes of Fame Airshow

Show 2, Post 1: Doing things Differently

So, this week I will be heading out to California for the Planes of Fame show at Chino. The problem is this is my 5th or 6th time attending this show and I’m running out of ideas and or techniques for shooting the show differently. I still love the show and I get a chance to get out of Michigan. I do not want to shoot the show same as last time or like someone else. The fact is I feel like I’m running out of my bag of tricks. Yes, I get to go and have a long weekend with friends, caught up and have fun but when it comes to the show, I’m just not exited.

In 2015, it was the first show I used my 500mm F/4.5 and my personal challenge was to see how slow I could shoot it. There is an old rule stating your shutter speed should be as fast as your focal length you are using.  So, with my 500mm my shutter speed should be at least 1/500th. Way too fast to shoot props. Planes of Fame is mainly a propeller warbird show, meaning I’ll be shooting 95% of the time in shutter priority at least 1/320th for prop blur. Even at 1/320th the prop blur ok. It blurs the prop about 35% to 45% (100% being a full arc around) I want to get around 50% to 60% while flying and at 500mm… Yeah. The wonderful thing about the Planes of Fame show is the show is photo pass practice. Each group of warbirds does multi photo or some call them banana/ top side passes. Some groups do it so much, your get tire of shooting them. After shooting a weekend at the Plane of Fame show, you’ll have much better panning skill guaranteed. So, what I did was for each pass, I would shoot slower and slower. The first pass, I would start in my safe zone 1/320th. After that, I would go down to 1/250th then 1/200th all the way down to 1/100th. But I found at 1/100th, my keeper rate was far too low. But from 1/250th to 1/160th, prop blur was what I was looking for as well as if there were any clouds in the background, they were blurred as well. Giving the image a great sense of motion.

Last year in 2016, I was ready to get rid of my 70D. I felt it was not up to par to be a second body. After last year’s show, it’s definitely a keeper. For shooting static display, I used the 70D tilt screen along my monopod to get a higher view on things. I first set the drive mode to 10 second self-timer along with selecting shooting in “Live view” or shooting with the LCD screen. I then selected to shoot in aperture propriety @F/7.1 to have a good depth of field and still have a fast shutter speed. And to keep it simple I used the center AF point.  OK time to shoot! I roughly stood close enough to my subject where I thought where a good shot would be. Tilt the view screen down so when I rise it up I can see what the camera is looking at. Next I depress the shutter button to start the 10 second timer and rise the camera into position. While looking at the screen, I would fame and hold the bottom of the monopod steady until I heard the shutter. I then lowered the camera and chimp to see the results. If I liked it I moved on to next subject but most likely I would have to reshoot it. Too much focal length, poor framing or just out of focus.  It takes some time to get use to but with a little practice and patience, I was getting some very cool and unique images.

Now here we are in 2017, What to try or do differently? I’m going to do both, shoot slow and monopod/live view shooting. If you guys have any suggestions, please let you know in the comment below!

Until next post,
Steven

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