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.
March 12, 2016, was Second Saturday at WAAAM. My expectation was that the weather would be very bad with lots of wind and rain, essentially stranding us inside. I still wanted to go, because one of the main things going on was a speech about the restoration of the Stearman 70, the prototype of the famous line of Stearman trainers of WWII. I have written a Resurrection Report piece for Warbird Digest that should appear in the May/June issue. Thus, I was very interested in going, even if the weather kept anything else from happening.
Most of the drive, the weather was very ominous, and it seemed like the my expectation was accurate. However, the last ten minutes of the drive or so, it seemed quite promising much to my surprise.
As a photographer, most of the interesting stuff happens outside. At this point, I think I pretty much have most of the interesting pics I can get inside, at least without bringing a lighting kit, etc. So I headed outside fairly early and hung around watching volunteers prepare cars for the day. At one point I moved inside for a bit, probably to check my phone and see if anything significant was going on in the outside world. When I stepped back out, the Waco 9 was sitting outside the restoration hangar and it appeared they were preparing for a engine test.
This is when it became apparent that this was going to be a fantastic Second Saturday. The Curtiss OX-5 sprung right to life on the first prop pull. I spent most of the day around the activity around the Waco, only leaving to eat and the speech about the Stearman. I am a Waco addict and this promises to be the oldest Waco when it flies.
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.
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!
This blog entry is going to be pretty short, because for the bulk of the technique here I’ll refer to Corey Barker’s article in the November 2013 Photoshop User (follow the link if you’d like to join NAPP and get the article.)
With this image I was trying to increase my abilities with the 3D text and trying to realistically blend it into an image. To do so I started with this image of the 1932 Waco UBA on grass, you can see this plane in person at the Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum. I felt that the mixed field of grass and clover would provide greater challenge in making it appear as if the text was sitting on the field.
The making of the 3D text went smoother and faster this time. My improving familiarity with the process made things move much faster, but the render still took a long time. I was doing this on a full res image, however. If you do it on a smaller image, I’m sure it will go much faster.
The real fun came after the render was complete. I created a layer mask on the 3D layer, then lowered the opacity of the layer a little to help me see the grass and clover under the text and shadow. Then with a very small brush with about 80% hardness, I painted on the mask in black over blades of grass and pieces of clover that I felt would be sticking up from the shadow into the light. Also I painted on the mask over grass and clover I felt would be sticking up in front of the letters. In reality, the clover was shorter in the area the text now rests vs. where the plane sits.
I’ve totally obsessed about the Waco YPF-6 in WAAAM’s collection since I saw it for the first time last year. I researched every possible story I could find online about this wonderful plane, especially this one.
Thus, when I heard that it would be pushed out and flown as part of the Second Saturday activities on 1/12/2013, I made absolute sure that I made to the event to see and photograph this amazing plane. The weather that day was interesting, here in Salem we had freezing fog, making the beginning to our trip a cause for anxiety.
When we got there, we immediately went to the back of the main hangar where the maintenance on the YPF was being finished. Museum personnel were reinstalling the engine cowling and this step took longer than anyone would have predicted. We sat and watched and photographed this process until it was completed, well in addition with visiting with photography friends.
After the maintenance was completed, the plane was pushed out and started. The engine run-up actually, went much faster than I anticipated. I guess I’m used to some really long run-ups I’ve witnessed on some of the old warbirds. Then we watched the plane taxi out to the runway and fly around the valley for a while. It was quite cold, around freezing, so when the Waco turned such that the propwash hit you as it was taxiing, it was rather chilling.
Upon the plane’s return and its return taxi is when I made most of the images you see here. Although, a few were made later in the day immediately prior to closing.
The other big draw for me to this Second Saturday was the presentation by Tukegee Airman, Ben “Flaps” Berry. I have always been very concerned about the gap between what the mythical America and the real one. The Tuskegee Airmen were true heroes in the fight to narrow that gap, as such, I find their story to be truly inspiring. The surprising thing was from my perspective, Ben’s postwar aeronautical engineering career was every bit as inspiring as his war career.
I bought Ben’s book and had it signed, allowing a brief conversation with the man. I felt very privileged to meet such a man.
In February, WAAAM will be having a fashion show of women’s military uniforms as the headline event of the Second Saturday. I will be attending this event as well and this time will be with some other aviation photography friends, promises to be a fun day.