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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you want your photographs to be great, they need a little something to separate them, at least a little bit, from the way we usually experience the world.
One way to achieve this is from unusual angles. Walking up to a subject and photographing it from a normal standing height, will tend to lend a snapshot quality to the image (of course there are many other things you can do to counter this.) An easy way to give your photo some extra punch is drop down to your knees or all the way to the ground. Admittedly, sometimes you’re down on your belly in places you’d rather not do that, but the resulting photographs are worth it.
A little more difficult is to go high. The positive effect on the imagery is a big part of why drones have become such a thing lately. Other approaches are to have a ladder with you. The high angle does take more planning, as you can’t just get up high without some technological means to get you up there. This is one reason there is less high angle photography in my archives, but I now include some in most of my production shoots, although low angle fits my aesthetic better.
Now get out there and place your camera in a more interesting spot than the pedestrian view.
When Second Saturday and a day when WAAAM needs to shuffle some planes around happen to coincide, great things are bound to happen. One such was 2/14/15, or Valentine’s Day 2015. That’s right the day that is the bane of single people everywhere was a fantastically fun day at WAAAM in 2015.
There is a Stinson SR-8 Reliant on loan at WAAAM currently and the owner came to WAAAM on this day to get it out and begin to get it ready for the 2015 flying season. Moving it outside meant that WAAAM moved several other planes outside to make way for the Stinson to get to the door. Plus the weather shaped up very nicely. It all came together as a great day for an aviation photographer.
The Stinson developed engine difficulties, so the flight we were hoping for did not happen. However, the Waco UBF did fly and that made for some great photo opportunities.
WAAAM had a Valentine’s Day event as part of the day’s activities as well. They had a presentation where they discussed love stories connected to several of the artifacts in the museum. I missed this presentation, having got too involved in the shooting.
I recently attended my third Hood River Fly-In and I have to say this event keeps getting better and better.
This year I chose not to volunteer, unlike last year. There was more going on this year making me a little less certain that I’d be able to make it, as well as I wanted a little more freedom to photograph. I do feel a little guilty for not helping out, but some other opportunities to help unexpectedly arose.
By Friday afternoon, I was already getting reports that there were many airplanes there and I was fairly certain from this report that it was going to be a great event.
The Parker Pusher was scheduled to fly early Saturday and Sunday mornings, so I made plans to get there very early. I arrived in plenty of time and met up with a photographer friend of mine who had done much work around the museum. We made arrangements to chase the Pusher in a pickup truck for its takeoff run and be in position for its landing. The chase on the takeoff run didn’t work out as well as hoped, but we were expecting other opportunities. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out that way. It was time for the Pusher to return from its first flight and I noticed that it had turned really early for the runway and the propeller was getting very slow. I was so focused on getting the shot that I wasn’t really hearing the radio, when suddenly the driver said something I didn’t catch and drove off quickly for the trees at the edge of the field. When we reached the trees he braked and swung us back around so we could see what was happening. We got turned around just in time to see the Pusher make a turn on to the runway and the skid at the tip of the wing caught the runway, spinning the plane around on to its landing gear. Turns out, the only damage to the plane was one of the wheels broke all its spokes. The pilot was ok, but it sure did scare us.
The rest of the event was just a great deal of fun photographing a wide variety of planes. To my knowledge, it was the biggest Hood River Fly-In yet. Make a plan to come next September.