Hello, My name is 2020…

If 2020 was a person and you had the opportunity to talk to him or her, what would you say to them?

Here’s some of the responses I’ve received from friends and family.

“I appreciate what I’ve learned about myself from you, but now it’s to get the hell on!!”
“Sit the f#%k down and chill man”
“That’s a tuffy I’d probably just say wtf 😂”
“ Lol I’d say not cool ”
“ Hmmm, I think I would say thank you for giving me the chance to learn new things and also it’s time for 2020 to leave.”
“ Id say “2020 what are you trying to teach us, and why are we not receiving your lesson/message?”
“ Oh man. Thank them, and then slap the shit out of them.”
“ Don’t do drugs. Lmao!! I hope things turn around soon!!!
“If 2020 was a person, I would thank them for the opportunity to slow down and re-evaluate what life’s true priorities are. Without 2020, my wife never would have had the opportunity to spend as much time with the kids as she has this year. Sure it’s been tough, but at the end of the day, we appreciate the change of pace. Although, I would also tell them that they didn’t have to go so far… A global pandemic is a little overboard, don’t you think? “

Stay safe and keep busy!

Steven

Leave your reply in the comments below.

Aesthetics

This is the last part in a series I call “Exploring My Creativity”. An examination of my creativity. Being an inspired individual, this is something I feel I must do to expand my thought process. As long as I can remember, I have been doing creative things. And it seems to grow more complex the older I get. At the start of 2018, I told myself I wanted to embrace the idea of “Concentration and not Validation”. To focus on what drives me to be creative and not seek out the instant gratification of social media. The last part in this series, I want to talk about is my sense of Aesthetics. If you haven’t, be sure to check out parts one and two, Passion along with Inspiration.

What is aesthetics? According to Wikipedia, it’s a branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of art, beauty and taste and with the creation or appreciation of beauty. Here’s my simple definition, why things look good, how to create something appealing as well as how to present it. I know it is far more complicated than that. I have always been a bit of a philocalist, a lover of beauty. From images & artwork, music & movies, the human body, and even moments in time. This will not be a post about me explaining my sense of aesthetics. What I do want to share with you all is how my sense of aesthetics effects my everyday life, how it effects the things I create along with how it effects the way I see the world. Be warned, this will be subjective.

My sense of aesthetics is responsible for me having an extremely critical eye. It doesn’t matter what I’m looking at, if it’s an image, a scale model, a surface detail on a vehicle or how light shines on someone’s hair. How is it composed? Are the proportions balanced? Should I Shoot in Landscape or portrait? And that’s just for photography. My eyes and brain are constantly evaluating the aesthetics of things. I’ve learned to put my critical eye to good use. And a good example of this is at work.

I’ve been an automotive clay sculptor for various major companies for the past 20 years. The easiest way to describe my job is, a designer draws an idea, I sculpt that idea out of clay and change it until management is happy with it. First in scale, then full-size making hundreds of changes along the way. As I model, I’m constantly asking myself questions. First, does the model look like the designer’s sketch? Then, if not, what do I have to change to make it look like it? Then I’ll make the necessary changes and ask the same questions again. All the while, being very critical and brutally honest about every surface I create.

Just like my passion, my attention to detail has infiltrated and spread into every part of my life. Over the years, it has become a finely tuned way of seeing the world around me. From how I see images with my photography to sculpting new automotive products at work. It is something I have learn to embrace and use to better my work. Because of it, I know I see things differently than most. I see all the details before I see the whole thing. And if the details are done poorly, I lose interest, move on and don’t see the complete object or picture.

That sharp attention to detail is also a habit that has found its way into my model making. As I build a kit, I treat each part like little models. Putting as much detail into it as possible. I also spend a considerable amount of time addressing how the kit comes together. Hiding the seams and joints to make it appear to be seamless. Even come time to paint, I’ll sometimes spend 30 to 40 minutes masking something off that only takes 2 or 3 minutes to airbrush. All the extra care and attention I put into the build, will make for a more visually appealing model. That ceaseless questioning the aesthetic’s of things along with my attention to details has made me a masterful sculptor and model maker.

Holy Tape Batman

As a photographer, knowing what makes a good image along with being able to see the image before you shoot it heavily influences my sense of aesthetics. When I’m behind my camera, if I’m at an aviation event or on one of my adventures, I’m not looking for subjects to shoot. Instead, I’m searching for some interesting light. “Shoot the light not the subjects” is a fundamental principal of my process to capture images. I feel the light in an image can make or break it. It can set the mood, make it pop, add dimension, and even direct one’s eye.

Fear the BONE

One of my photographic practices I enjoy doing, is to walk through the belle isle conservatory with my camera in hand, but not shooting anything. As I walk from room to room, I’m looking at the light. What is it doing? What direction is it coming from? Is it a reflection? Once I’ve made a complete lap of the conservatory, I then go through again shooting the subjects in the light that stood out to me. I try to keep track of the time of day, weather and sometimes even the season. Maybe the image is an afternoon shot, maybe it would be better on a sunny day or even wait until springtime when everything is in bloom? And yes, I have waited for months to capture a certain image. I have found that I produce better images if I do this walk around first then if I had not. And I did something similar during my trip to Antelope Canyon, by booking two differently timed tours.

We all have a medium of storytelling that we love, mine is cinematic. Some prefer to read; I enjoy watching storytelling. My sense of aesthetics has altered the way I view movies and shows. Some say I’m overly critical when it comes to things I watch. My suspension of disbelief does not tolerate garbage. A poorly conceived story, weak characters, predictable plots, shitty visual and special effects along with crappy cinematography and editing. All contributing to poor storytelling. Which is becoming a dying art form that is increasing due to absurd number of reboots along with the poorly rehashing of established materials.

Even though they are only a few minutes long, there are videos on YouTube that I enjoy far more than those multi-million-dollar Hollywood productions. For example, “Nerdwriter’s” brilliant video essays, to the entertaining maker “This Old Tony”, along with “Sean Tucker’s” personal life-long journey into photography. Regardless of content, they all are clearly passionate about their work. And it’s that noticeable hint of passion I can identify with.

This personal journey of exploring my creativity has been a healthy personal struggle. And through struggles, we grow. It started with a question and took me along an unexpected path that taught me something about myself. And what have I learned? That my creativity is divided into three unique elements. Passion is my fire; Inspiration is my fuel and Aesthetics is my vision. That all three needs to be nurtured and managed with care. My creativity is only one of my numerous fragments that makes me who I am.

Thanks for coming along,

Steven

On a side note, my distaste for social media has slowly eroded with my return to Instagram along with the start of a Flickr account. I’m using Instagram as a creative writing exercise. Sharing a brief story with each image. And Flickr is going to be the place where I show my images. Due to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus, my March and April adventures had been put on hold until we get through this. Stay safe everybody.

The Pain of Sorting

If you have spent any time photographing airshows, you know just how rapidly you can shoot a 1000 images. After I shoot a two-day event, I can easily have over 8000 images. It can be a bit overwhelming trying to sort through thousands of photos. After years of shooting, sorting, and uploading images, I have come up with a system of sorting image that helps me find the images I want to show and share. They are no right or wrong way to sort your images. This is just what I have learned that works well for me. It may or may not work for you. With that being said, this is how I sort my images I want to share.

To start, it would good have an idea of what you are trying to show? Are you just documenting the event? Showing a series of events. Are you trying a photographic technique like panning? Maybe your following a certain act or performer. Me, I want to show the overall feeling of the TICO show for my blog. I try to limit myself to 50 images per event. Images with vibrant clarity and unique to me. Before I even start my sorting process, I make a duplicate set of images I’m going to be working with. I never play/sort/edit… with the original’s files. In my system, I look at every image I shot during that event. Yes, every last one of them. The truth is, you do not know what you got until to see it. It’s exciting went you stumble upon something unexpected. You also have to understand that this process happens over a couple days and not in one sitting. Personally, I could not imagine taking images and not looking at them. What would the point of capturing images and not looking at them?

cropped-open-show-folder.jpg

Basically, my system is viewing all my images from a show or an event and in a series of rounds, I delete the crap and get to a set number of images that show what I’m trying to tell. I used Window image viewer to view and delete unwanted photos. I find the copied folder(s) and open the first image and start sorting. Hitting the next image button if it’s a keeper or delete it if it’s junk.

window image viewer

The first round of images I delete are the painfully obvious out of focus photos. Along with images that my subject is blocked by something. Hats, heads, antenna, speaker, airshow smoke, other aircraft…Gone. Along with images that parts of the subject is cut off. Missing noses, tails, wings, horizontal stabilizer. The struggle is Real.

Rules can be broken. It could make for something interesting images.

For the TICO show, I shot a tad over 7,900 images over 3 days on 2 bodies. (7DMKII and 70D) After the first round, I’m down to about 3500 images. For the next round of deletions, images that don’t fill the frame as I liked. I enjoy showing aircraft as large as possible with little to no negative space around it. So, all the images I feel are too small must go. You have to find the images that has the spacing that you like.

Also, in this round if there are a few clouds in the sky (not completely overcast but a few here and there) like on Friday and Saturday, those images stayed. But the images with a clear blue background, delete. Aircraft live and play in the sky. For me, it’s pretty boring seeing an aircraft perfectly centered in a clear blue sky.

No clouds

And with!

I love showing clouds, but my new thing is blurring them. It’s difficult to do but it shows a sense of motion along with making your subjects really stand out and pop. Some photographers use image stabilization while panning, I get better results without and don’t use it. This works well for me. You have to use what works well with You.

Another type of image I delete in this round are uninteresting belly shots, images where the wing of the aircraft is covering the canopy along with going away shots. Images where you are looking at the ass end of an aircraft with nothing interesting to see. Like the flames of an afterburner, some dangling vertices or a puff vapor. In general, I feel  most belly shots are boring image. And I don’t want to lose my readers attention with dull images. The proposes of sorting this way is to find the most visual pleasing image possible.

Now, I am down to about 250 images. In this round, it’s time to get rid of the multiples or duplicate images that looks the same but shot on different days. For instants, Sunday’s weather crapped out and very few Sunday images made the cut. Here are two similar  shots, the first one is from Friday’s show and the second is from Sunday’s show. I feel Friday images are much better than Sundays. After this round, my image count should be in the 100 to 120ish range.

Final round. Now, the hard part starts. Weeding it down to 50. This is where it is important to know what your trying to show. To pick the correct images for you. What helps me, is to ask myself a series of questions and being brutally honest with myself.

What makes this image better than the others? Does this image express what it is I’m trying to show? Which has the better uses line, color, composition, symmetry? Which image has the better or cleaner background? Is there something else taking away attention from the subject? Which image has the better exposure?

After this round, it’s post process time. The less time I spend in Lightroom and or Photoshop, the sooner I can upload and post. Now I’m down to 50. This number is not set in stone. Events like AirVenture at Oshkosh are too grand to cover with just 50 images. Again, therefore I feel it is so important to know what it is you are trying to show. My sorting process is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a system. A system that help me weed through the crap and discover my gems. I hope my process can help you with your madness of sorting.

To see my final selection of images, look here https://anadventureinawesome.com/2017/05/27/better-late-than-never/

Until next post,

Steven

The Lessons behind an Image: Part One

For the past 14 years, I have had a passionate love affair with photography. Like with anything we love doing, we run into problems as we learn and grow. And the more problems we face, work through and learn from them, the better our work will be. I’m a huge fan of the “Try, Fail, Learn, Repeat” Cycle. And I have learned some difficult lessons in photography because of this learning cycle. 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 a valuable lesson, I learned from one of my photos.

Part Four: 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, numerous 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 of the season. 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 gorgeous P-51 Mustang.

film roll of mustang

Of the eight images, for me only one stands out. As soon as I saw the Mustang, I knew there was an interesting image there. And at the time, I was very new to photography. I really didn’t have an understanding of what I was doing. I knew there was an image 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 in my minds eye 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 series, 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 these folks looking at over the left wing!

To overcome my first problem of what do I see that is so interesting. Where does it begin and end? Here is where the beauty of digital photography comes in to play. With a large enough media card, you have the opportunity to shoot far more than if you were to shoot on film. Since I began photography, I have always believed to carry with you more than enough memory cards. I never want to get into a situation where I would run out of memory while out shooting. Two things I remember many photographers telling me at the start of my photographic journey. One, invest in glass and two, get the largest memory card you can afford. It will give you the freedom to shoot all day and never have to worry about how many shots you have left.

So, I shot the mirror like finish Mustang like a machine gun. I shot with more confidence knowing that at the end of the day, I could explore my subjects freely and capture what interest me. This runs into my second issue; how do I hide all the stuff around the aircraft? How I did it was the easy part. I just positioned myself in a way that the aircraft itself covered 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 one image.

Knowing where the edges of your images are. To Isolate your subject along with hiding the unwanted and unnecessary clutter. Looking back on the image, 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, getting cold and then revisiting it. I feel knowing where the edges of your images are 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 my images has nothing to do with aviation at all.

It was when I lived in Downtown Detroit and I would frequent the conservatory on Belle isle. There I came up with a system that taught me to slow 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 my bag, searching for things to shoot and keeping mental notes of subjects of interest. Then after making my way back to the entrance where I began, with my ideas for images, I would then gear up and retraced my steps. When I got to something I wanted to shoot, I would stop, focused in on what is catching my eye. Once I have an idea of what it is, I would set up my tripod, compose the shot, shoot and review. If it is not to my liking, I’ll recomposes and shoot again until I’m happy.

 

FAR_90

It was the complete process of evaluating the location, finding subjects of interest and the slow act of setting up my tripod. All the while, curiously studying my subject and mentally composing the shot. That help me start to discover where my images began and ended. From this one image, I learned two things. One, to keep shooting your subject until you feel you have captured the image that is in your mind’s eye. And Two, knowing where the edges of your images are. It took me many years and thousands of images, before I was conscious of how important these two lessons were to my photography.

Be sure to check out

The Story Behind an Image, Part five