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

 

 

The Story behind an Image: Part Four

For the past 14 years, I have had a love affair with photography. I love images that comes with a story. Over the years, I have shot a few images that has a story. Here is part four in a series I call “The story behind an Image”

Part 4: Have Fun!

Anyone who ever been to any NAS Oceana airshow knows in the morning you do two things, shoot statics and shop for swag! During the airshow weekend, most of the squadrons based there set up a row of tents and sale tons of goodies. T-shirts, Cruise DVD’s, challenge coins, coffee mugs, photos & prints… Back in 2008 two of my good friends, Shawn Yost and Craig Scaling both attended the show. To save on cost, Shawn and I split a room and Craig crash with us on Sunday. All weekend long we were cracking jokes, quoting “Top Gun” and all around enjoying each other’s company.

Saturday, we got on base, parked the car, geared up, made our way through security and met up with Craig. We made our way over to the “Squadron Mall” for swag we could not live without. Shawn and Craig both like squadron cruise DVD’s and challenge coins. Me, I enjoy zaps (squadron stickers). After spending an untold amount of money, it was time to figure out where in the hell we were going to put it all. Remember, it is still morning. We still have a whole day of shooting ahead. You can’t hold on to all that swag and shoot jets?! You got to pack that shit up! With our hands full of swag, we headed toward to show line to figure out what we are going do and where we want to shoot from. If I remember correctly, Craig wanting to head over to the static to reshoot something. We paused, Craig took off his backpack to put his DVD’s away. With his hands full, he asks me to hold his camera. He then processes to put his DVD’s into his backpack. With a devilish grin on my face, I nodded to Shawn. He instantly stuck the pose and I quickly framed them both and press the shutter. Craig had his camera set to continuous shooting and it shocked me to hear the frames blast away. And as quickly as it happened, I lowered Craig’s camera and Shawn recomposed himself. Craig ask for his camera back….” You’re shitting me, Right?!” I said to myself. He didn’t realize what just happened. So, I handed him his camera as if nothing even happened. Trying not to laugh, Shawn and I were both amazing he didn’t hear the shutter on his camera or pick up on what we did. It was beautiful! Craig went off to shoot statics and Shawn and I in disbelief found a shooting location. We shot the show, packed up our gear and headed to the hotel. While there, dump cards, charge batteries, shower, dinner and get ready to do it all over again the next day.

Sunday morning, we woke up, got some breakfast and head to the base. Again, parked the car, geared up, made our way through security, shot the show and met up with Craig afterwards. I can’t remember why but Craig stayed with us on Sunday. I do remember, we headed over to my parent house that night for a home cooked meal. On the way over, I figure Craig would had said something to us about Saturday little photo shoot but nothing. At my parent place, we eat, and we laughed. Heck, my Dad even broke out his old cruise books when he served on the Ticonderoga(CV-14) and Saratoga (CV-60). Before long it was time to head back to the hotel. Back in the hotel, we chilled, packed up and come Monday, we all head back to our homes.

According to the EXIF data from the image, it was a full 10 days from the time I shot it to when Craig found it, processed it in Photoshop and email it to Shawn and me. He named the image “ShawnandStevearedead”. Hard to believe that come September, that image will be 10 years old.

ShawnandStevearedead

What I want you all to away from this image. First, regardless of what it is you are shooting, Have fun! Even better is to have fun with friends. Make moments with friends who make images. And second… Don’t ever let me hold your camera when Shawn is around!

 

EXIF data

Date: 9/20/2008 @ 10:17am

Model: Canon EOS 40D

Focal length:  23mm

ISO speed: 400

Exposure time: 1/200th

F stop: F/10

Shot handheld

Knowledge or Gear?

So, three weeks ago I have an idea for my next post. It was my take on the Knowledge vs. gear argument. What is more important? Having the knowledge to see and capture images properly or having the latest and greatest gear? The problem was I already knew that knowledge is far more important than any gear. And as I started writing, it turned into a long-winded rant about why knowledge is more important. I did not like the way it was going along with that is not the way I want to share. So, I thrashed it, gathered my thoughts and wrote this. What I normally like to do is come up with an idea that challenges my creativity. Then go out and test it. And share my results with you all.

I know just because you have a camera, does not make you a photographer. That’s a bitter pill for some. My opinion(and my opinion only), what makes you a photographer is having the ability to see and capture images properly that speaks to your viewers. And it does not matter if it was shot on a Nikon, Fuji, Canon, if it was shot as a RAW or Jpeg, was it from a full frame sensor body or from a cell phone… All those things are just tools to capture an image YOU see. It’s what the photographer trying to show and what the image says to YOU that matters most. Yes, gear helps. But like anything, if one does not know how to use their tools properly, the results will never be as good as someone who knows what he or she is doing.

My idea for this post was to go down Belle isle in Detroit on two different weekends. And I wanted my images to show three things. One, how cold it was outside using a limited color palette. Two, to show how colorful and alive it was inside the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory on Belle Isle. And three, have all the images maintain my look or style of photography. On one weekend, I used only with my iPhone 8 plus. And the other weekend, only with my 7D MKII with my 17-85mm. Each weekend, I shot images with the same three goals in mind. Then in Lightroom, strip the EXIF data from each of the images. With the idea of concealing what camera shot what image. Letting you, the reader, to try to figure out if you could tell what image was shot with what. I did strip the EXIF data from the images because it does not matter what gear I used. But what matters, did I accomplish my three goals?

I cannot stress enough how important it is to know how to use YOUR gear properly. Knowing how YOUR gear sees and captures light as well as its limitations. I also want to stress the important of having an idea of what it is YOUR trying to show YOUR viewers. The next time you’re behind your camera ask yourself, “What is it I am trying to show and why?”

Until next time,

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…

WOH17_1

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!!!!

WOH17_4

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.

WOH17_5

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!

WOH17_7

WOH17_8

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.

WOH17_9

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!

WOH17_13

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