A High Vantage Point or a low Vantage Point

A rather typical thing I see when I’m out shooting, are people standing and walking around the subject. Basically staying eye level with whatever it is they are shooting. Now this isn’t a bad thing by any means but it can be limiting. For example, as I have been talking a lot about lately, these two Super Corsair’s Dad and I photographed down in Arizona about a week ago. This was a sunrise shoot at the hanger, the shots were taken with D3 and 70-200. The 70-200 was the lens of choice, it allowed for enough focal length to get the ends of both wing tips in the frame but also close enough to isolate the planes from background clutter. The top image is taken while laying down and the bottom image is taken 40ft up on a scissor lift.

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I choose these shots specifically because they show a certain space to subject ratio. When lying down on the ground, which by the way the pavement at a hanger is covered with oil and dirt and tends to ruin clothes, I know cuz I’ve gone through a couple pairs of pants, the ground tends to fade away so less detail is noticeable and the sky becomes more prevalent. This is great when working with a great cloudy day. The opposite is true when looking down at something, more ground is in the frame and more detail is seen. The nice thing about looking down at the planes is that you can see more detail along the fuselage. Bad thing is if the ground is covered with gunk then it takes some more time in photoshop to remove it all. Depending on your work flow this may be problematic.

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Now when ever you look up at a plane it always seems bigger and more powerful. Looking down everything seems a bit smaller, more condensed. Looking over the top is pretty cool though, you have a lot less background to deal with, which can be nice and provides a view that is seldom seen. Now there isn’t exactly a scissor lift or ladder every time I go out shooting but it’s certainly nice to use when it’s there. One last important thing to consider. When working with sunrise and sunsets opportunities the light is a key factor in angle. Both of the shots above are at sunset and the light creates a harsh shadow, one of which covers the plane. If you don’t want that in your shot then going high isn’t a great idea. Lastly, under the wing is always in shadow, at sunrise it’s manageable but if you want all the detail under the wing and above then your going to have to use HDR or a lot of post work. For any of you that have done HDR you know you need to be very steady or else ghosting starts to pop up. Standing on top of a ladder trying to do HDR doesn’t always work so well. This is just one of things to consider when your out shooting.

Images Captured with Nikon D3, 70-200 VRII, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Flying Over the Desert

To start off the New Year I wanted to do something more fun. For the first time on this blog a video has been posted. This video was shot last week at CAF Arizona while Dad and I were doing our Super Corsair Flight. The Video was shot with a P7000 mounted to the hot shoe of my D3 with a Manfrotto 494 Mini Ball Head. With this setup I can be shooting stills while also recording video. However there are some challenges in the process.

During the flight i was second seat in the A36 Bonanza, so in order for me to shoot I had to look around Dad’s head. In the video you can tell that as well as see the sides of the A36. There are times when it would’ve been wise to go tighter but overall it was better to go wide in order to get more footage. In case any of you are wondering why one prop is rotating faster than the other, it’s because #74 is using more RPM’s and therefore rotating faster. The faster the prop turns the faster shutter speed you can get away with. Anyways it was a fun flight that i thought others should see.

Flying Together Again

After the high of flying with two Super Corsair’s and the 10 hour drive back home, exhausted barely begins to describe how tired Dad and I were yesterday. Processing through images was quite difficult with tired eyes, but well worth the time. It was one heck of a flight and a moment of history that I will never forget. The Super G’s flying together in the afternoon light, shinned like no other flight I’ve done so far. Dad and I were in an A36 Bonanza, he first seat which is closest to the door and i was second seat, behind him. Every time I wanted to shoot I would have to look around Dad’s head. It’s still very doable for getting good shots but it does have some limitations.

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The planes moved in and out around the Bonanza, as Robert and Casey flew different formations for us to get the shots we wanted. I say wanted because this wasn’t a flight for business reasons, nor for teaching others, but it was a flight that needed to happen for those passionate about Aviation. Air to Air flights happen all the time, but a flight that has two of the three remaining Super Corsair’s, the only two that fly, is something that probably won’t happen again. It took tremendous effort from all those involved to bring these planes together, my Thanks go out to them.

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It was weird see people’s reactions to the planes as they were parked outside the hanger on Tuesday. The CAF Arizona Wing had a good crowd while we there, people shuffled in and out all day. Both Super G’s were parked outside and anyone there could go up and look at them. Dad and I watched in amazement, wondering if any of those people new how rare a sight they were witnessing. I overheard some say to their kids that they were Corsair’s but beyond that nothing. They were witnessing two planes brought together for the first time since 1949, and they probably didn’t even know it.

Images Captured with Nikon D3, AF-S 70-200 VR, TC-17e, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Gotta Say it Again

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again The Super Corsair is just a beautiful plane. The morning we had it at Reno for the static shoot was just amazing. As I’m going through images from Reno getting everything processed I thought I would share one that really sums up the morning. Oh and this is another image that I experimented with detail enhancer on. See if you can tell.

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Image Captured with Nikon D3, AF-S 70-200 VRII, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

A New Face Appears

It’s still hard blogging after what happened last Friday but it’s best to look at the good things that occurred not just the worst. A perfect example is of course the F2G “Super” Corsair. This is one sweet plane! It was rebuilt by the Odegaard’s and is the second Super Corsair that they had rebuilt. It’s one of the classic racers with the previous flying #57 Super Corsair competing in several Reno Air Races. The plane was originally designed as an interceptor but with the war ending in 1945 only 5 FG2-1 and 5 FG2-2 were completed.

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When I first saw this aircraft it seemed enormous, compared to a F4U-4 Corsair. The paint job is what really stood out on this plane. The white racing stripes were perfect for the races, a simple and effective scheme for the Races. The photogs were all drooling, even myself. We were very fortunate being able to do three static shoots with the plane! This is all from the second shoot which is late in the afternoon Wednesday. It was kind of a piggy back shoot while another photographer was using the plane for a model shoot. It served everyone’s purposes to leave the plane out and the Odegaards were nice to do just that.

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The Super G shows off some of the true racing spirit that can be found at the races. With the rich history the plane has from previous years as a contender, it will be interesting to watch this plane in the near future.

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Images Captured with Nikon D3, AF-S 70-200 VRII, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Unearthly Bound

Over the last few years I, along with the rest of my family, have had the honor of attending the Air Races as part of the Media Ops team. In that short amount of time we have come to consider everyone there as family and graciously my family has been inducted into there’s. Needless to say that attending the races is always a big deal for us, even if that means driving 16 hours from Montana in order for me to attend. The event started as it usually does, a predawn shoot on the tarmac with a plane that was graciously pulled out just for us photogs. It just so happened that the first one we worked with was the Super G Corsair, courtesy of the Odegaards. I’m sure if you have gone to Dad’s blog by now that you realize not only how close we are with them but also how close that plane is with Galloping Ghost. It was a beautiful morning shoot with followed up with a day of walking the pits, talking with the crews, sucking up every bit of information that we could about the planes.

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Thanks to the friendships Dad had created with the Odegaards and Jimmy, we were able to reunite the Super Corsair and the Ghost for another early morning shoot that will always be remembered. Everyone out there was in awe seeing these historic aircraft together and we gave thanks that we could be part of such an event. However, after the events on Friday, they were the hardest images to look at. It’s the sad truth to aviation that planes go down, and the ones we love we lose. Standing out at Pylon 2 Dad and I finally made the connection that Ghost was flying in that heat, unfortunately only seconds after we made this discovery we saw the cloud of dust come up and the horrible gut wrenching feeling came over us, as we knew exactly who went down.

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Rushing on to the bus and back to Media Ops we watched the stands hoping that everyone was going to be okay, fearfully knowing that it wasn’t going to be. As soon as we arrived Dad and I were directed to be part of the first response but shortly were turned around being told that they had enough volunteers. We spent the rest of the that horrid day waiting around, helping where ever we could, consoling whoever needed it. We kept busy or at least as distracted as possible to try and keep away the images of what had occurred to come flashing back into the mind. As the day went on volunteers and photogs started to leave, they made the journeys homeward talking with all their loved ones and friends. Mom, Dad and I stayed around we helped until there was nothing left to do that night, including answering phones in the RARA office, talking to those that feared they had lost their family and friends. We spent three hours in that office, Dad and I entered names into the computer and Mom was on the phone. Everyone just wanted to keep busy. We went to bed that night, not sure what the next day would be like or how much worse it would get.

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Saturday was the first day that i can remember coming to the races and sleeping in. We always got up early, but this time there was nothing to get up for. No planes to shoot, no crews in the pit to talk to, no sounds whatsoever. It was quiet, it was unnerving. Dad and I walked the pits that morning looking for all those that we knew and could find, trying to talk with anyone to make sure they were okay. The pits which usually have a movement to them in the morning were clam and stark. It was like walking through a ghost town. At times it seemed our voices echoed there was so little going on. NTSB had locked everything down and taken control of the scene within hours of the incident. It still seemed odd that there was no one at these planes. We walked for 2 hours before we came back to Media Ops at which point a security guard stopped us and said “you can’t be in there.” We hung around the trailer and the building helping where ever we could.

The few photographers that were there talked about what had happened, sharing our stories about Jimmy. We laughed when we could, remembered things that Jimmy had said or done. We all tried to get a handle on what had happened, and what was going to happen.

Eventually most people left, leaving only a few volunteers and the family to help break down Media Center. It felt even stranger breaking down the media center on a Saturday. It usually is busy, everyone is moving around getting lists made, flights ready, and photogs in and out so they can shoot the races. There was none of that. The only commotion was getting the place packed up, again keeping us from thinking about what had happened.

There was press conferences that started the day before and continued through the weekend. The News teams yet again proved their rudeness and true lack of interest in the tragic event. They were all trying to get their 5 minutes of fame paying little if any respect to the good man that we lost. It was disgusting for those of us watching that knew Jimmy and knew about the plane. Most of us walked out before the conference even ended. This was the first crash that i had witnessed with such devastating affect, I truly hope it is the last. The reality is that this kind of flying is dangerous, the pilots know this we spectators have a harder time handling it. I realize the little solace there is in these words, knowing full well that it does nothing to bring anyone back nor ease that horrible feeling that we now have. I can only say that this event hurt is all and as a community we’ll have to work together to get past this.

My thanks go out to all those that called, emailed or texted to make sure that me and my family were alright. All your support made a big difference, please show the same support now for those involved with the accident. My hopes and prayers go out to Jimmy’s family, along with all those that had friends and family involved with the tragic accident. May those that we lost always be remembered in our hearts, and pray that they are watching over us in a better place.

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