Murphy Rebel: the Value of Serendipity

I have been doing the majority of the research for my book on Oregon aviation history at the Oregon Aviation Historical Society. In the process, I’ve gotten to know many of the people there pretty well, leading to many things, including my first editorial assignment.

Recently, a Murphy Rebel, a small homebuilt plane was donated to them. They want to sell this aircraft to fund the restoration of some of their other aircraft and they asked me to take some photographs of the plane to help them in that endeavor. The Rebel is a pretty good bush plane, so they came up with the idea of photos that made it look like someone was camping out of the plane along a river. So we set up this whole scene with a tent a fold-up chair and a picnic basket. It created a scene that looked pretty darn cool.

I had an idea for a photo that didn’t work quite as planned, but is still cool. The idea was to put CTO on a flash and set the color balance on the camera to tungsten. Then I would underexpose the ambient light and properly expose the flash. My speedlight wasn’t powerful enough for the scene to look as I’d hoped, but it still looks pretty cool.

Serendipity came in when one of the board member’s dog thought that under the plane looked like a pretty good place to rest. Initially, we tried to convince him to move, but eventually decided that he adds to the photos.

October Second Saturday

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October’s Second Saturday at WAAAM was Roaring Twenties day, but there was plenty of other things to fascinate.

One of the items that really excited me was a rat rod that was on display. It won the Rat Rod Magazine, build-off, the second in a row for the builder. It fascinated me in its oddity and the imagination shown in how to build an automobile in an unconventional way. Furthermore, rat rods definitely have a rustic look I always find fascinating. To better show what I find fascinating about the rat rod, I used the post processing method I’ve talked about many times here. I look forward to hearing your opinion of the results.

Another thing fascinating thing at this Second Saturday was the tour of the restoration shop, focusing on the restoration of the Waco 9. This plane will most likely be the oldest airworthy Waco when completed. The folks at WAAAM are really perfecting their tours of the restoration hangar and they get more informative and exciting every time.

The final thing of fascination that I’ll discuss here today is they parked the L-birds they were flying that day in a way that was perfect for a portrait of the two planes. It was almost like this was coordinated with myself or another photographer.

Take a closer look at my October Second Saturday images.

Hope to see you at the next Second Saturday!

Influential Buick: The Car that Convinced me to Change my Post for Cars and Planes

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I was at the 2015 WAAAM Traffic Jam, when a car club arrived from out of town (I can’t even remember where.) Among the cars was a 1957 Buick Roadmaster. Right away, I knew this was a very special car and it did end up winning several awards at the show. While I was there I made sure I got a pretty good number of images of this auto.

At that time I was processing most of my automobile and airplane shot through a Lightroom preset that brought the highlights down, the shadows up, and applied a lot of clarity. This preset tended to accentuate reflections and while I was working on these images, I became very disenchanted with how this made the paint job look. It pretty much ruined the color of it. So, I decided to change my method to something more like that taught by Tim Wallace at KelbyOne.

This post method is pretty basic as an overall treatment to the image. Then apply a considerable amount more clarity with the brush, to the grill, headlights, and other like items on the car. Sometimes, I even add some Tonal Contrast from Nik Software, Color Efex Pro4.

I am happier with this method. Not adding clarity to most of the automobile has the paint job looking much nicer. I do add a slight amount of clarity to airplane images overall, but a small amount that I add to most images that I make regardless of the subject.

I suggest you take a look at Tim Wallace’s classes for more information.

Please take a look at the rest of my 2015 Traffic Jam pics, and my automotive portfolio.

The Cabin is Here

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On August 19, one of WAAAM’s newest acquisitions, a Waco UIC cabin biplane, was flown to the museum by the chief pilot, Ben Davidson. Being a huge Waco fan, I had to go and photograph the arrival.

It was a little bit nerve racking, as there many wildfires nearby and the weather was still that day, leading to smoke filled skies. There was some chance this could interfere with the arrival, or in the very least mess up the photos. They were a bit later than expected, but this was due to the need to talk to some folks at one of the fuel stops, not by weather or fire. I had a heck of a time deciding where to go to photograph the arrival, but decided on the place that usually works out the best, with about 15 minutes to spare.

I had recently shot the motorcycle Second Saturday where I practiced panning, so my panning was at its best. The smoke was as expected, very heavy and it was quite smelly out there.

In the end, I liked the photos really well, despite the smoke. The smoke did make the sky look pretty bad, but when the plane was in front of terrestrial objects, the smoke added separation from the background that was pretty nice.

Funny thing is, the wind came up and the smoke cleared out shortly after the landing.

Take a closer look at the UIC arrival images.

Year of the Waco

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The weekend of September 12 was the annual Hood River Fly-In at WAAAM, which is always a fantastic time. This year the theme was “Year of the Waco,” so I was a bit more excited than usual. What avgeek isn’t fanatical about a good old Waco biplane?

I was very busy around that time, working two different projects which meant early mornings and late evenings. Thus, when Saturday rolled around, the day I devoted to the fly-in, I was very tired. Also, I think I may have been fighting a virus, but I’m not sure. Finally, it was hot that day. This all meant that I had to take frequent water breaks in the shade and rest. So I wasn’t able to take as many photos as I’d have liked.

Still it was a fantastic time. I reconnected with old friends, met some new ones. Plus there were a lot of cool planes to look at. The turnout was huge this year, over 300 airplanes. There were two Waco cabins around, plus an assortment of other Wacos, in addition to the usual assortment of great planes.

Can’t wait to see what they have in store for us next year, come by and take a look.

Take a closer look at the images from the fly-in.

Motorcycle Day

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The August 8, 2015 Second Saturday at WAAAM focused on motorcycles and snowmobiles. I felt this was the perfect time to work on my panning skills. So, I set my shutter speed slow, took a seat, and started panning with the motorcycles and cars.

Overall, I was very pleased with the results. My percentage of good images started to improve almost immediately. One thing that you must be prepared for is that if you are fairly close to your subject, only part of it will be sharp even if you are panning well. That’s because the relative movement of the subject to your camera is not constant for the entire object; for example the front wheel of the motorcycle may be moving faster relative to your camera position than the rider. Thus, if you are close, you need to pick what you consider to be the most important part of the image and keep that part in the same place in the viewfinder as you follow the subject. I am actually finding this to be the hardest part of panning.

The practice of this day seemed to pay off. The arrival of the Waco UIC at WAAAM after this Second Saturday seems to confirm this. I was able to pan with the aircraft with better results than I have in the past. Of course, the pilot also made a pass before landing specifically for the few of us who wanted to photograph the plane and a pass specifically for photographers also seems to improve the situation.

There was more of interest going on that day than just the motorcycles. WAAAM began a program to give volunteers with lots of hours flights. (I need to volunteer more, and even more importantly, remember to fill out a time sheet when I do.) This provided many opportunities to see some of WAAAM’s aircraft in operation. They fly most Second Saturdays, but this program seemed to increase the number of flights.

Also of interest that day, the Monocoach stopped by on its way to its new home in Oregon. This is a very cool plane made by the folks who made the Monocoupe. As the name implies, it is a similar aircraft, but larger. It was a real joy to see and photograph this aircraft.

Take a closer look at my images from the August 2015 Second Saturday.

Three Reasons to Photograph

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Photography at times can be a rough pursuit, so it can be important to think about why you do it. So today, I list three of the reasons most important to me.

  1. USA, Oregon, Portland, Cathedral Park, woman at Cathedral Park in front of St. John's Bridge. Photo posed and processed for "fun". MR (Rick A. Brown)The most obvious, probably painfully so, is that it is fun. Let’s face it, fun is always a huge motivational factor.
  2. The fire crew working a fire in oak savanna at William L. Finley NWR. (Rick A. Brown)To communicate ideas or facts to others. This is one of my favorite images from my nature photography days, where I was photographing prescribed burns at William L. Finley NWR to communicate the importance of fire in Oak Savanna conservation.
  3. "Super Dave" Mathieson in his MX2 and Jon Melby in his Pitts S-1-11B Muscle Bi-Plane. (Rick A. Brown)Probably the absolutely coolest part of photography to me is that I have seen things that I probably would have never seen any other way.

The Three Reasons I Choose to Take Control of the Light

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  1. Capt. Miller and a Vultee BT-13 at Warbirds Over the West. (Rick A. Brown)To create a specific look. This is where I like to be, it is always best when you are doing things like light the image, to achieve the look you want, not fix a problem. Here I used the look I’ve discussed before on RAB Pad.
  2. USA, Oregon, Portland, Cathedral Park, woman at Cathedral Park. MR (Rick A. Brown)To fill in shadows. Sometimes the light is largely what you want from the sun, but there is part of the image that is just too dark without adding something. When controlling the light for this purpose, it is important to choose carefully between reflectors and flash. In this image I used a silver and gold striped reflector to fill the shadows in an unobtrusive manner and add a hint of warmth.
  3. Restoring Great Lakes NX315Y formerly flown by Dorothy Hester and Tex Rankin. (Rick A. Brown)Sometimes it’s just plain dark. Sometimes, it is just too dark to get an image without a little something. I usually try to find a way to balance in some ambient light for a more natural look, but sometimes, it’s a choice between flash or using an ISO that is just too high for your intended purpose. This image was made with a small portable flash diffuser on the camera mounted flash and allowing as much ambient light in as possible.

Take a look a my portfolio site, www.rabimaging.com.

2015 WAAAM Traffic Jam

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On July 11, I went to the 2015 WAAAM Traffic jam. This is a two day car show at WAAAM. However, day one is largely for the participants and there is not as much for the public to do as on Saturday. Saturday however, is pretty awesome.

This year was particularly nice for me. It was an unusually cool day for this summer. As warm blooded as I am that was very nice. It was also usually overcast light, but the clouds were broken enough to make for interesting skies. This was fantastic photographically. The only down side was that it was a bit windy; windy enough that WAAAM didn’t do any flying like they normally do and the plane they pushed out had to be tied down very securely. I also had a few things blow out of my camera bag that I had to chase down.

As far as what was on display, it was really cool as I saw several old cars that I had never seen in person before, but knew about from the History Channel’s Counting Cars. Most notable among these was a ’55 Oldsmobile 88 and a ’57 Buick Roadmaster and I spent a great deal of my photography time on these two cars.

Another thing I do a lot of at these shows is creatively lit close-ups. Getting classic car portraits at car shows is difficult, because there are so many other cars around. This makes it a perfect time to experiment with these close-ups. A different shot I discovered can work well at this show was the stand directly in front of the car and look down shot, like I did with the Union Jack XKE.

I recommend you attend this great show next year.

Take a closer look at the images from the 2015 WAAAM Traffic Jam, or take a look at my automotive portfolio.

2015 Oregon International Airshow

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A couple of events happened in the days leading up to the 2015 Oregon International Airshow, that were unusual and impacted my experience of the event. Most importantly, my friend Joe Wilson, contacted me and asked if I wanted a free ticket that his wife had won on a radio contest. Being that I wasn’t going to go due to finances, this was obviously a huge event, as it allowed me to experience the Airshow in the first place. THANK YOU JOE!

The other interesting event leading up to the airshow was another friend of mine, Lyle Jansma, posted a video of him riding in the back of a P-51 Mustang piloted by Greg Anders when two F-16s joined up on their right wing. I figured they were on their way to Hillsboro, but was kind of surprised they were bringing Heritage Flight Museum’s P-51. During the airshow it all became clear what was going on there when Greg Anders led the USAF Heritage Flight in Val Halla.

I particularly wanted to go as I hadn’t seen the Blue Angels in many years, and wanted to make a specific image of them ever since I got really serious into photography. In the event of the airshow, the Blue Angels were incredible, but there were many other acts that I also great appreciated. Probably foremost among these, due to the demonstration itself, as well as never seeing anything like it, was the Bremerton Horsemen’s F-86 Saber demonstration. This got altered a great deal due to mechanical difficulties, but was still very impressive.

The downside of the event was dang it was hot. We could take water in, but between everyone in our group, we bought a lot. I drank it about as fast I felt comfortable drinking. I mean, I need to take photos too, not just drink water. Still, by the end of the day, I felt like I was about to pass out due to dehydration and heat stress. I was quite relieved when I made it to the car and even more so when I could make it to Burgerville for a freshly made Marionberry shake.

Take a look at my other 2015 Oregon International Airshow pictures or my Aviation portfolio.