For today’s blog I wanted to show you all the fun I had at the Veterans’ Day Second Saturday at WAAAM. Very lovely time. Take a look at my WAAAM images, (not from this Saturday, they are still being edited.)
I do tend to prefer images with a natural background, however, images on white can be very useful. Still, I had never experimented with doing this with vehicles, because the standard way would require enough costly logistics that in my current financial situation, it wasn’t too realistic unless someone hired me to do it. Then one day I posted an image of a plane on Facebook and Instagram, and the background was nearly white. I began to think about that in relation with the following image.
With this image, Resurgence was in front of an open hangar door, in beautiful overcast light and the inside of the hangar was in shadow. I figured that if I burnt down the background I would have a beautiful shot that looked like it was done in a studio. Ecstatic with the results, I wondered if with a little playing around in Photoshop, I could get the on white look with cars and planes.
I started with the following shots.
The pavement behind the hangars at WAAAM is very bright and I determined that if you make a shot against their white, corrugated steel hangar walls, you would be well on your way to a white background shot. Unfortunately, I never liked that shot until I thought of this idea, so I had few shots to play with. The next step in Photoshop is to go into the Channels palette and pick the channel with the most contrast between the subject and background. Then, make a copy of that channel. Edit the levels on that channel to accentuate the contrast. Then click on the thumbnail of the channel while holding CTRL, this creates a luminance based selection. Invert this selection to select the vehicle instead of the background.
Next, turn off the visibility of the copied channel and reselect the composite RGB channel as your active channel. Go back to the layers palette and enter the refine edge dialog. Clean up the selection as much as you can here and export the results as a new layer with a layer mask. Now, with the underlying layers’ visibility turned off use your paint brush to refine the mask. Then create a layer between the original and the one with the vehicle masked out and fill it with white. This essentially finishes the process.
On the Waco YPF image, I also applied a surface blur to the shadow to get rid of the concrete texture.
Important lessons were learned in this process. I had earlier discussed with some folks at WAAAM that they felt images of their vehicles on white would be really cool. I said of course it would be possible, but quite a challenge. This experiment tells me that it would be easier than I originally envisioned. The results would be better if some equipment was rented; an actual white background, scrims to create clean reflections on shiny surfaces, etc. It can be done outside though, this goes along way to making it easier than I originally thought. Plus the method, outlined here can work, with the biggest challenge being catching ugly reflections in the shiny surfaces of the vehicles.
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.
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.
April 11, 2015 was an unusual Second Saturday at Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum. The weather was unusually bad for one of these events. WAAAM usually has freaky good luck with the weather for their Second Saturday events, but this time there were heavy showers rolling through all day long, and while there were periods of sun, there were also some fairly heavy showers. Despite all this, it was a blast.
The April 2015 event was themed Dodge Brothers. Yes this is the company that has led to the Dodge brand of cars we all know. There were materials around the museum about the history of Dodge Brothers. Also local Dodge owners brought in their cars to show alongside the museum’s many examples.
Probably what excited me most about the event, however, was they flew a 1929 Brunner Winkle Bird A that was owned earlier by Melba Beard, for the first time after its inspection. Melba was an early aviatrix, who won some air races, ran some aviation business, and was one of the charter members of the 99s. The 99s is the famous organization of women pilots, founded by a group of women in the late 20s including Amelia Earhart, the first president.
I am working on a project to produce a story on this plane and Melba, so I was quite excited to photograph this flight.
In my last blog post, I discussed WAAAM’s 2013 Traffic Jam and mentioned how difficult it is to create truly great imagery at a car show. There was one image that I made however that I truly loved and today I intend to tell you a little bit about how I did it.
Detail shots are the best hope for truly great images at a car show. The fact that you are isolating in on a small detail of the car eliminates that big problem of clutter in the image. Look for small interesting aspect of the car; logos, hood ornaments, etc.
Camaros of the late ‘60s are one of my favorite cars. Thus, when I found one at Traffic Jam I was pretty excited and had to look into a wide variety of shots. It didn’t take long for me to come to the conclusion that the Camaro by Chevrolet logo on the hood amongst the flames paint job was my most likely candidate. To frame up this photo I was looking at a couple things I wanted; the angle of the sun to the camera to get the chrome looking the way I wanted, angles of the car being in a pleasing orientation, and I wanted the headlight to be visible as a complimentary element. The lighting angle would’ve been easier to figure out if I was using flash in a softbox, but I was able to setup the shot without too much difficulty.
Then it was time to get it home and in the computer for post processing. I started with my realistic treatment. This was just a slight boost in contrast and saturation and then cleaning up some dust. (Both sensor dust and actual dust on the car.) This resulted in this image.
Then I created a black and white conversion using Silver Efex Pro2. I went for an overall low key image with strong structure and gave it a slight sepia tone. This resulted in an ok image, one that didn’t even thrill me enough to upload it to my web site and thus I don’t have the example for you here. Finally, I thought I’d try my blend. So I opened the two image as layers in Photoshop. Placed the realistic one on top and changed the blend mode to soft light. Instantly, I thought something magical happened to the paint job on the car. However, the grill had gone too dark. Thus, I stamped all visible layers to the top of the layer stack, changed the blend mode to screen. Then, I held the alt key while clicking on the create new mask button to give me a black mask, followed by painting the grill part of the mask white. Then I lowered the opacity to taste, not much in this case. After this, I stamped all visible layers to the top again, applied a 16px Gaussian blur and changed the blend mode to overlay. This layer’s opacity was then lowered to about 60%. You may recognize this as a workflow that I use a lot from previous blog entries. Well, this time I stopped short at this point, because I thought it looked so good. The only thing I did now was to clean up dust on the car a little bit better even. I wanted this image to have an “idealistic” look.
You may have noticed that I recently decided that I should include automobile photography in my repertoire. It’s fairly similar to aviation photography in many ways, except for the fact that obviously there is no flying involved. Thus far the Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum has been my primary place to pursue this endeavor.
Thus, tomorrow’s activities seem like a no brainer. I am going to WAAAM’s second annual Traffic Jam, a cruise in of antique automobiles. I don’t know what to expect really, having not been last year. However, I am told this is going to be a cruise-in like I’ve never seen before with a huge range of autos, with some being quite older than I’ve seen before at cruise-ins.
I am going to shoot in the morning and volunteer in the afternoon. I don’t expect to make any portfolio quality images, but I will be able to meet some people, shoot a little, see tons of cool cars, and give back to an institution that has been very important to me lately.