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.
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.
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.
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.
Sorry I’ve been gone for a bit, some unexpected things came up just at the time I normally write my blog posts.
Several years ago, I photographed in the early morning at St. John’s Bridge in Portland and was blown away by its beauty; my favorite bridge in the Portland area, perhaps Oregon. One event that happened while I was there that unexpectedly made for some great photos, was a kayaker came paddling under the bridge. Since then, I had been trying to arrange for someone I know to do this in a situation where I could have the image fully released.
This turned out to be quite a bit more difficult than predicted. Sourcing a boat and finding someone willing and comfortable with what was required was quite challenging.
Well, fast forward several years later and I was in Portland photographing the skyline during blue hour and I ran into a photography student and she came up to me and started asking for some tips. (Can’t remember if I told her how challenging the business side is.) We exchanged cards and we both went on our merry way.
A week or two later, she calls me and tells me she has an extra credit project she needs to do, and asks if I could help. She says the idea she has is to photograph a friend of hers in her wedding dress, with some wild red boots, and we would be a bit reckless with the dress. So, we agreed to meet in the exact same location. The shoot was a bunch of fun.
I have since pretty much lost contact with the student, but the model has become a Facebook friend. Somehow, I had a feeling, she had some experience with paddling. Thus, one time when we were discussing shooting and saying we should do something like that again I brought up the kayak and St. John’s Bridge idea. Unfortunately, Oregon is experiencing a bit of a toxic algae problem right now, so we nixed the actual paddling part of the shoot, but still decided to shoot the portrait part of what I had in mind.
The kernel of the plan was to shoot the hero type shot that I’ve discussed here earlier. The one thing that’s changed is I am now doing the post processing with a little more nuance, having become well aware that high clarity doesn’t look so great with out of focus parts of an image. The other item though was that I wanted to really make the most out of this opportunity, since it took me so long to find it. So, I tried to come up with the widest range of images I could think of in the scenario we had placed ourselves. I am happy how that turned out.
I would like to thank Alex for her help with this.
On June 14, 2015, Erickson Aircraft Collection dedicated a very large flag to the Madras community for Flag Day. EAC published this event on their FB page and I received a personal message from somebody there saying I should give it a look.
I already had a pretty darn busy weekend, but figured this would be worth it, so added it to my schedule. The drive over there was an incredible experience, the weather was great, I had the open road in front of me and was listening to ‘70s tunes on my iPhone.
The event itself was really cool. The local JROTC were the primary handlers of the flag and veterans and others in the community also chipped in. The flag itself is beautiful and inspiring. Only downside is that I had difficulty finding a vantage point I was entirely happy with, except for when they were folding the flag inside the hangar, great vantage points easy during that time.
Of course, I can’t go to Erickson Aircraft Collection without photographing some planes also. I concentrated on the planes that were outside. I definitely feel that planes definitely look better outside, so I photograph them outside when possible.
On June 13, 2015, the B-17 Alliance hosted the second annual Warbirds Over the West at McNary Field in Salem. This was the first time it was held at the Alliance’s new home in Salem. Knowing that my friends at the Living History Group Northwest were supposed to be at the show, I knew there was a chance for some images that were very important to me. I also knew to make them happen I’d need to ask some these great folks who I don’t know that well to do this for me with little benefit to them. (Can afford to give them some free pics, but little else.) This is a situation that often makes me quite anxious, so I was afraid I would chicken out and come home without the images.
I have been endeavoring to build a portfolio of images of people with vehicles in a Hollywood inspired style to show potential clients. The “aviatrix” shoot I recently wrote about with Sami Van Der Westhuizen and Carrie Strahle – makeup, was also part of this effort. If all went well at Warbirds Over the West, I felt certain I could reach the number of images I needed to show this portfolio as separate from my “people” portfolio on my web site.
With these images being the most important thing I had planned for the day, and the fact that the light would be deteriorating all day; I made it my first task for the day. Thanks to training with Toastmasters International and some other issues, I have been doing pretty well with these sorts of things when it has to do with my photography career. Thus, asking the various folks in these photos to pose for me went off without a single hitch and resulted in images that met what I envisioned very well. I couldn’t be more grateful for their help.
These images were shot and processed with the method I discussed on here earlier, How Do I Light Heroic Portraits? The only difference was I used a low-saturation version of the Lightroom preset I created. I usually do this with old military things.
Of course, there was a lot of other stuff going on at Warbirds Over the West. The headline was Grumpy was there from the Historic Flight Museum was giving flights to paying folks and doing flybys. Some friends from WAAAM flew the museum’s Taylorcraft L-2 and there was also a Stinson L-5 on hand. The beautiful, shiny DC-3 flew in from Aurora.
There was also live music and a beer garden, which proved to be the perfect way to chill after the big day.
In the end, it was a great day, I look forward to it next year.
Pemberton and Sons own and operate the oldest flying Boeing aircraft in the world, a beautiful Boeing 40C. This plane is stored in the off season at WAAAM. When airshow season rolls around, they fly down from their home in Spokane and begin the 40 on its tour of the Northwest for the summer.
I had gotten word that they were coming down to pick up the plane on 6-12-15. I got there around 8:00 am and made stock images of the flag for a while and then went in and had coffee with some friends. I learned then that they would probably show up in the early afternoon.
Thus, I began to leisurely enjoy the museum. Eventually, I got word from the restoration crew that they wanted me to come over and photograph them hanging the wings on the Rearwin Speedster, an aircraft that we discussed I need to document and do what I can to get a story published. So I went over there and photographed restoration.
At one point, we heard the low rumble of a radial engine and one of the guys on the crew said “sounds like the Waco.” I thought the WAAAM planes wouldn’t be flying until Saturday, so I was a bit confused. I had to stick my head out the hangar door to see what was up. When I saw Pemberton’s Waco EQC-6 taxiing our way, I was ecstatic. I’ve wanted to see a Waco cabin biplane for many years and now one was taxiing right to me.
Then there was all the usual excitement of the Boeing 40’s flight, so all in all it was one helluva day!
It may not be Darwinian, but a photographer’s style evolves over time. Sometimes it is intentional; the photographer will pay attention to what works in the marketplace, filtering that through what excites him, altering his style. Further, if he’s really working at this he will continue to learn new things. Finally, there is unintentional evolution; it may be subtle, but the way the photographer looks at a subject will change over time.
I have created two galleries here displaying some evolution in my shooting. Both are connected to my attempts to pay homage to George Hurrell, a Hollywood photographer from the past. The above gallery is my earlier attempt and the bottom is some very recent shooting. Of course, I must also credit the help of Sami Van Der Westhuizen (the model), Carrie Strahle (makeup artist) and WAAAM (the museum that owns the planes) for having an impact on the second set of images looking different than the first.
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.
Recently, I completed a model shoot at WAAAM with some of the old biplanes there. The route to this shoot was nebulous and the original point of the shoot got lost a little bit, but we made something great out of it. I believe WAAAM will get a great photo to hang in the lobby out of this and I certainly got some nice new additions to my portfolio.
I’ll begin my narrative with the human side of the story, as the shoot was an incredible experience, and this part of the story isn’t necessarily evident in the story.
I have been working with Ken Olsson with various things at WAAAM for several years. Initially, we met when I was writing a story about aviation museums in Oregon. I’ve always enjoyed talking with Ken, he’s friendly, and we’ve always had plenty to talk about. I met Carrie Strahle, of Carrie Strahle Makeup Artistry, at an ASMP event, and exchanged business cards with her. She is the kind of person that instantly strikes you as a friend, despite the brief encounter. In discussions with Carrie later, she suggested Sami Van Der Westhuizen might be able to help me with a project that I was beginning to think about at that time. Thus I contacted Sami on FB.
So when I came up with the idea for this project. I started by having a meeting with Ken and Judy at WAAAM and discussed this as well as a few other ideas. I did not want to move ahead with other elements of the project without making sure it was ok with them; although, I had discussed the idea with Carrie in friendly conversation and got her ideas on whether the logistics of this could be worked out or not. After getting approval from WAAAM, for a slightly different idea than what you see before you, I put out a casting call on FB. When someone suggested Sami, I wasn’t aware she met the height requirements we had at that point, I thought perfect. I asked Sami if she would be interested. Next step was to ask Carrie if she would be willing to do the project.
Finally, the day came. The photographic crew met at Joe Wilson’s studio, Joe is the membership chair at the local chapter of the ASMP. Sami was the only person involved I had not met in person. She came in with her boyfriend and I must say, they are some of the nicest people you’ll meet. So, with one of the friendliest, fun crews around, we got to work.
In summation, the shoot was a blast, in addition to producing some great imagery. I was able to make contact with existing friends again and make some new ones. On the professional side of things, Sami was amazing, what I noticed immediately was her ability to help me aim the lights shaving minutes off setup when I changed the lighting. Carrie’s work was fantastic; I especially loved the curls she gave Sami for the shoot.
One thing I learned about myself that had to do with the human side of the shoot, is I do get in a bit of “a zone” when I photograph. During most of the shoot, I got in this zone where I was only aware of Sami, myself and the plane. I came out of it occasionally to share what images we were getting. I was not aware of what others were doing around me on set. It really struck home for me when I started retouching images and I would notice a frame or two when a strand of hair on Sami would fall out of place and then suddenly, the next frame, it’d be all perfect again. From this it was apparent that Carrie was stepping in to touch up. Looking at the bts images my assistant (dad) made, it was more apparent; Carrie doing touch ups, everyone very attentive to what was happening, confirming what I had earlier suspected about me falling into “the zone.”
If you are a photographer needing a model and makeup artist, I recommend putting Sami and Carrie at the top of your list of possibilities. They do excellent work and will certainly help keep your set a fun place to be.
Now to move on to a technical thing, I wanted to explain how I made the above image.
It was inspired by a promotional video on the Profoto web site. I started by setting my ambient exposure such that everything would fade to black. Setting ISO 100, 1/160th of a second and f/16 ensures that happens really quickly under the indoor setting. I setup one light in a strip bank, as close as possible to directly above the Jenny. It was slightly in front of the plane and then tilted at a slight angle to make sure the light shone far enough back on the plane. Then, I lit Sami with a very large octabox placed 45° to her front and 45° above, essentially Rembrandt light. The octa was also aimed across her, feathering the light onto her face. This was primarily done to prevent spill on the background, but also makes the light softer on her.
Post processing on this image was really simple. Basically, it comes down to I applied Tonal Contrast from Nik’s Color Efex Pro4 on the plane and Sami’s clothes.
May 9, 2015 was military vehicle day at WAAAM and it was one fantastic Second Saturday. To begin with, it was the most fabulous weather yet for a Second Saturday this year. It got a bit warm for someone who is a real wimp about dealing with heat like me, but overall it was incredible.
There was also a ton going on, hard to decide what was the most impressive. As one could predict by the theme of the day, the museum got out their Jeeps and their M3A1 Scout Car as well as many of their L birds. Then, some other aircraft were flown in by other people. A Stinson L-5 Sentinel arrived. Drawing the biggest excitement from the crowd was the arrival of a Bell UH-1 Iroquois, more commonly known as a “Huey.” This helicopter was done up in AirCav markings of the Vietnam era and was very impressive.
There was also a pilot present selling biplane rides and I spent a great deal of time photographing his Travel Air 4000. It was in a very attractive blue with red wings paint scheme and was doing a lot of flying, so of course made a great subject.
Now to tell you a bit about my favorite part of the day; it was a bit off topic for the day. However, it involved one of my favorite artifacts at the museum.
I had only been around a little while and had only taken a few images. I was busy preparing my customary social media post, letting my fans know what I’m working on that day when one of the regular volunteers asked me to help move a car. I’m a member and a volunteer, at the museum, so this request wasn’t particularly unusual. However, this car was the 1936 Cord Model 810 Westchester Sedan, and it was being moved out to take part in the day’s events. I was thrilled that one of my favorite cars at the museum was coming out into the sun to play. It was a bit difficult to get out of there, being that it was placed in a tight spot between a structural beam and the 1928 Waco ATO, but we managed to get it out of there.
Unfortunately, I can’t volunteer as much as I’d like at WAAAM, due to being two hours away. Mostly, I’ve helped them recover artifacts that have been located closer to home here in Keizer. It’s always been a fun time though.