On April 24, 2015, Erickson Aircraft Collection performed engine tests on Madras Maiden, their B-17G Flying Fortress, for the first time since some maintenance work. There was some talk of flying that day also, but it didn’t happen for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons was the weather kind of sucked.
I went over to photograph the day’s events and was a bit frustrated by the weather, but came up with some stuff I like pretty well.
I used too basic methods for accomplishing this in these less than ideal weather conditions. The number one challenge was preventing getting a washed out sky combined with a too dark airplane. Method number one for dealing with this was to shoot carefully making sure that the sky retained detail. This was followed by processing in Lightroom to make the most out of the dynamic range. This included bringing the highlights down and the shadows up along with judicious use of the clarity slider. Graduated filters applied to the sky were also sometimes used.
The other thing I did, that gave me results I preferred, was to use alternative “retro” processing. On some of the images I applied presets in Nik’s Analog Efex Pro2. On my favorites however, I went in to Silver Efex Pro2. There I started with the High Structure: Harsh preset. I then let the sky go very light and optimized contrast. I was shooting for an almost etching look. I finished it off with a little sepia toning.
I finally did it! I finally flew in a light plane. I finally photographed some planes air to air. What do I plan to do now that I’ve achieved these goals – work towards doing a whole lot more of it.
Several years ago, I read an article in Digital Photo Pro about aviation photography. Aviation photography had long been a field that I was interested in pursuing, but knowing that professional level aviation photography usually requires some special access I had no idea how to go about it. This article gave birth to a kernel of an idea of a way I might be able to make it happen.
This made me hyper alert to any further information I ran into online of ways I might be able to make this happen. I saw several things online early on that inspired me that this may be possible. One of the key items was there are actually workshops out there that teach photographers how to do this sort of photography. Here it was the key thing that would allow me to demonstrate ability in the field in a method that the only thing I needed was money to make it happen.
Unfortunately, money was in short supply and I had to let several opportunities pass me by. I was afraid every time that the opportunity might be my last. Finally, when 2014 rolled around, I received word that a friend, Lyle Jansma, was arranging an event known as Madras A2A X in conjunction with the Erickson Aircraft Collection. Here was the best opportunity yet. It was closer to home than any of the others, reducing travel costs. It was with a collection with which I was very familiar, although I knew them as Tillamook Air Museum up to that point. I was determined that this time it was going to happen.
I threw together every dime I had. I discussed the issue with family and mentioned that for the time being I’d prefer a contribution to this venture to any birthday, Christmas, etc., gifts. Together, we made it happen.
The night before the first flight was quite interesting. I couldn’t sleep to save my life. I was very excited about the next morning. I was also scared that I might be very frightened by aspects of flying in a light plane, most notably, sitting in the open door of the plane in flight. Turns out, none of this scared me when I flew. In fact, I found that there’s nothing like flying in formation with a couple of warbirds while skimming along the tops of the clouds. It is beautiful and strangely peaceful. (Ok, it’s also dang cold, but well worth it.)
In addition to the absolutely incredible flying – first hop with an FM-2 Wildcat and F4U-7 Corsair skimming the clouds in the late morning, second flying close formation with two incredible aerobatic pilots in the late afternoon, and the final hop right at dawn with a P-51 Mustang and a Focke Wulf FW190 replica) – we had lots of fun on the ground. There was the grand opening and dedication of the Madras Maiden party, several lunches with the group, and finally a real cool bbq with the airshow crew to close out the weekend.
Now it’s time to get back to work incorporating aviation photography into my editorial/commercial photography business, where I specialize in people, the cool things they do, and the machines that help them do it; in simpler terms, portraits, planes and cars.
I’d like to thank the organizer Lyle Jansma, our instructor Scott Slocum, and the pilots Scott Slocum, Brent Conner, Mike Oliver, and Greg Anders.
I have a pretty strange way of celebrating New Year’s Eve.
A good friend of mine was visiting from Canada and we met at the local Olive Garden for lunch. I had been trying to get some photos of the Oregon Capitol building during blue hour, but the fog was frustrating my efforts. As an aside, on Christmas Eve I went down there thinking it was going to be clear, but the fog quickly rolled in, the photos were still pretty darn good, but not what I intended.
After we finished our lunch, we went our separate ways and upon walking out to the car, I noticed much to my surprise that it was clear out. I raced home and loaded up my camera gear as quick as I could and headed downtown. Upon getting there it dawned on me that at this time of year the sun sets before the free parking time sets in downtown and I didn’t have enough quarters to give me much time on the meter. This is something that worried me during the entire shoot, but no one came by to check on parked cars.
It was cold and I can be pretty impatient, so it was a trying wait for blue hour to arrive. Not to mention, there was a cloud bank rolling in from behind me making me worried that the conditions I wanted might disappear before blue hour arrived.
Finally, the right conditions arrived and it was all I hoped for. I shot frantically. The only downside was that by the time I made it to a second location I wanted to shoot, it had gotten noticeably darker, and this only took a short walk to get there.
When it came time to post process all that was necessary on the key images was a little dodging and burning, primarily because the sky was too bright.
In the end, the resulting image was the best architectural image I’ve made.
Previously I discussed building a lifestyle photography portfolio. So this past month I contacted the fiancé of the young woman I previously photographed cooking dinner and asking him if he’d be willing to ride his bicycle back and forth across one of Oregon’s many covered bridges at either sunrise or sunset for me. I was quite surprised when he said sunrise would work better for him, although morning does tend to work better photographically. First of all, despite the light being very similar, it’s usually a little better in the morning and secondly there’s usually less traffic to put up with on the roads, etc.
So we met at Gilkey Bridge at 6:00am. I had looked at the maps and tried to evaluate which one of the bridges near Scio would look best at sunrise. I eliminated Shimanek Bridge from the considerations because of the limited vantage points available that don’t place you squarely on a farmer’s land. This is something I wouldn’t do without permission.
We started the shoot with some backlit portraits. I was going for a casual look with some flare. When post processing I accentuated the flare a bit using the new circle filter in Lightroom. I centered it on the brightest part of the flare, inverted the mast to affect the center of the filter more. Then I increased the exposure a bit, reduced the highlights a tiny amount, reduced the clarity and saturation a bit, and finally added a tiny bit of yellow. Then in Color Efex Pro4 I applied the Glamour Glow filter to finish enhancing this look.
Then, when the sun had gotten slightly higher in the sky, we began with the real work of the shoot; photographing him riding back and forth across the bridge. I worked it from many angles, using fill flash in a soft box with ½ cut CTO on the backlit images. The one limitation that frustrated me a bit was where the ground sloped away to the river did limit me from some of the angles I would have liked to have shot. There just wasn’t any way to actually stand in those locations.
In November, I continued to photograph Oregon’s covered bridges. These bridges make for wonderful subjects; iconic, evocative, and often in photogenic locations.
One thing I definitely learned with them in November is that some subjects are definitely better photographed at some times of the year rather than others. At the beginning of the month, we still were in the stages of a kiss of Fall color on an otherwise green setting. These circumstances led to great photos, even if I would’ve preferred a little more Fall color. By the end of the month, the trees were mostly without leaves and anything but white skies became rare. This led to significantly less attractive images, so much so that I decided to put off photographing more covered bridges until Spring or we get snow with all the right circumstances to allow me to get to the bridge to photograph.
Recently, I decided to shoot a lot of local landmarks (advice from a few folks figured into this) and felt one great place to do a lot of this was the capitol area in downtown Salem. It’s close to home and has some beautiful buildings that I predict could be interesting to travel clients.
So my approach to these shoots (images are from three separate shoots) was first to put elements in the images that would be interesting from a travel perspective. Secondly, I tried to include elements letting the viewer know the season, thus the flowers etc. Finally, I tried to put it all together in a pleasing composition. Now as you can imagine, the various elements aren’t always placed around the grounds in an ideal arrangement for photography. To compensate for this, I did a lot of walking around trying to analyze perspectives without taking images. For two of the shoots, I also had a 17mm TS lens on loan from Canon Professional Services, which allowed perspectives I can’t normally achieve. (Great lens by the way, although I don’t think it would be used that often in my work, just a bit too wide. The 24mm TS however, I would love to add to my permanent kit. I loved it when I had it on loan.)
The experience of shooting the capitol was also very interesting. I shot towards the end of the day for the good light, so that meant crowds had shrunk dramatically. So most of my time there the atmosphere was just that of any location with few people around. Some of the time I spent there however, there was a soft casual atmosphere of friendly people playing in the park together. Kind of like the atmosphere I enjoyed so much in my former home of Eugene. Not something I have come to expect here in Salem.
First of all I’d like to mention that the gallery above includes a couple images other than the ones that I am discussing here. All of these images are of the state capitol in Salem, Oregon.
My goal in these images was to create an image with a beautiful sky and starburst sun, while still retaining good detail in the building. The first step was to position the camera such that the sun would just be peaking around the building. I used the shadow of the building to aid in this process. If you position yourself at the edge of the shadow, you will be very close to where you need to be. This was the fun part of the process, chasing shadows around downtown Salem appeals to my quirky sense of fun.
Once you find the right spot, (you’ll need to move often if you plan on taking more than one image) setup a auto exposure bracketing sequence that is as dark as you think you can get away with. The hard part here is to get a good looking sky, thus you need some pretty dark frames.
After getting home I load the images into Nik Software’s HDR Efex Pro. The main parts of the process were to use low tonal compression then place a control point on the building and brighten it and increase the structure a little.
Well, I think now I’m going to go try the Lightroom 4 beta.