New Techniques For Old Images

One question that I’m always plagued with is, is it worth going back over older images and refinishing them? As programs become more advanced it becomes easier and easier to finish those favorite photographs that we all take. However, is it worth the time to do so? I truly don’t know the answer but I have discovered one truth. As I look over my older images I notice some that I did a good job with and some a bad job with. The ones that I didn’t do as good a job with I don’t use for anything they just sit on the hardrive. Therefore it makes more sense to take a look at those images that aren’t so popular and there is a very handy tool to help with that.

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If you already have an image that you want to rework then you can either keep going where you left off or find the original image and start from the beginning. Lets say you want to keep going from where you left off, well now you can apply Adobe Camera Raw as a filter so you can make those subtle changes. This TP-40 is a great example because not only is it a rare plane but I ended up going through several steps that made for one large file. That’s one of the big benefits of going through ACR.

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Here is the image after deleting the other layers and just applying the Camera Raw Filter. There is a subtle difference to the image, mostly with the highlights, and that was one area that I really wanted to change because it was too much. The other big difference you can’t see but the file size has been cut in half which is important later on down the road when that hardrive starts to fill up. Now when it comes to that question of reprocessing I still don’t have a great answer but in the end I think it comes down to whether the image in question is one that you use a lot and thus has already been seen or if it’s one that you don’t use and you have to ask yourself why that it is.

The Curtiss P-40

When I decided to do a weekly post about different aircraft, I was having an issue with how to accurately tell the story of certain planes that have very diverse and unique histories. The only conclusion is that with certain aircraft multiple posts would have to be made. This weeks topic is a great example of the various history that surrounds each variant of the plane and as time goes on the need for more posts that will arise. The Curtiss P-40 is one of the few planes that during WWII was not only around from before the start but was also used in every theatre of the war. While it never had the sleek fighting capabilities as many of the later model planes did, it did have the reputation for being rugged. It’s armor plating helped to save many lives. In the British Commonwealth and the Soviet Air Force, B, C and equivalent models were known as the Tomahawk, while D models and later variants were known as the Kittyhawk. In the United States Army Air Force it was known as the Warhawk only after the P-40F variant came out with the Roll Royce Merlin engine installed.

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The P-40 first flew in 1938 and was produced up to 1944. A step up from the Curtiss P-36 Hawk, over 15,000 ended up being built. Many legends have been built up around the P-40 as most believed it’s fame came from either Pearl Harbor, after Lts. Welch and Taylor destroyed several Japanese planes in them or from Claire Chennault and the American Volunteer Group, also known as the Flying Tigers, fighting in the Burma China Theatre as part of the Chinese Air Force. This isn’t to say that both of those don’t demand notice for their actions, merely it wasn’t the beginning. The first allied air force to use the P-40 in combat was the British in North Africa. They also saw combat in the Middle East before going over to China to fight the Japanese. It was in North Africa that the famous shark jaws were first put onto one of the P-40s after being seen on some of the German twin engine fighters.

This example is a P40C model that came out of restoration in 2014 and is currently owned by the Fighter Collection in Duxford. This is one of the earliest examples as not many C models exist. To that point only one P-40B is still flying today, also was once owned by The Fighter Collection, now a part of the Collings Foundation. That particular P-40B was the only surviving P-40B from Pearl Harbor. The P-40C 41-13357(above) was acquired back in the 90’s from the former Soviet Union where most of its history is unknown. It was accepted by the USAAC in 1941 where went to Patterson Field, then Puerto Rico, then back to Buffalo, NY for an overhaul and then on to Russia. The aluminum finish is in honor of a P-40 stationed at Chanute Field, KS where it would’ve been used as a personal ‘hack’ for a base commander. It is one the finest restored P-40s flying.

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The main dislike of the P-40 was the lack of a two stage supercharger which made it virtually useless as a high altitude fighter. This made it less desirable in Northwest Europe where the BF 109 and FW 190 were more overpowering. Also the P-38, P-47, Spitfire and later the P-51 were much better high performance planes. However the P-40 was still a very useful plane in the other theatre’s where high altitude wasn’t as necessary. Two of the major uses were as an air superiority fighter and a ground attack fighter. It’s low cost augmented some of the issues, which helped it stay in production. Nevertheless not many planes have the history of being flown around the the world. Not only were they used in Europe, North Africa, Southwest Pacific and China but also in Southeast Europe, Italy, Alaska and Southeast Asia. They were also part of the lend lease program so many went to the RAF and Soviet Union.

Besides the planes combat history, several were used as trainers and base hoppers in the states. Due to the planes low cost and ease of maintenance many of the P-40s remained on bases for pilots to use to acquire hours in. Like most fighters just aft of the cockpit was an internal fuel tank which when removed leaves enough space for another person. Many P-40s have been modified so that they can give rides today. However some P-40s were specifically built as a trainer with a second seat and a second set of controls. This is the TP-40N one of five designed as a trainer and is part of Fantasy of Flight. With Kermit at the controls, you can see how much space there is behind him for someone in training.

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Due to the planes unique history spread all over the world, several different markings appear on the planes. In context there are books written solely on these markings and what they mean. While the standard color is Army Olive Drab, the shark jaws is in honor of the AVG, whose planes were infamous for having the design. The red prop hub I believe is a symbol of the RAF. This shot came from the Planes of Fame Airshow in 2014. It is one of the most packed airshows in the United States with dozens of planes in the sky making it something worth seeing.

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Most P-40s have some sort of olive drab variation, due to the fact that most were stationed in areas where they would be flying over something green. If an enemy plane was looking down on the P-40, then it should blend in more. However, in North Africa olive drab wasn’t very suitable. This particular P-40N is part of Planes of Fame and is painted in honor of the 325th Fighter Group out of North Africa. They were known for the yellow and black checkerboard pattern on the tail and thus called the Checkerboard Clan. The shark jaws having first been painted on in North Africa after seeing the markings on German planes are also part of the design. While the Allies in North Africa may have been the first to where the famous jaws, it was the Flying Tigers that made it famous.

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Among the more unusual of the designs is the “Parrot Head” art work of Warhawk Air Museums P-40N. This particular design started at Napier Fields, Alabama for advanced pilot training. This particular aircraft is in honor of class 43K of Dothan, AL. Like many planes after WWII, there wasn’t much of a need for the P-40. With faster, better fighters on the frontline, the P-40s became rather obsolete with some being sold off to other nations as trainers.

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In 1964 when the Reno Air Races began there was a call for the planes again beyond that of airshows and museums. With the added classes of bronze and silver, the unlimited category allowed other WWII fighters to compete without having to achieve speeds of that of a Mustang, Bearcat or Hawker Sea Fury, as those are the most prominent winners of the golf category. Warhawk Air Museum is one of the competitors in the other classes that consistently has brought down one of their warhawks for competition over the years. Both Parrot Head and Shark Jaws as they are affectionately known have been seen racing around the pylons. In 2009 both planes were at the races and in a rare moment they stacked up for a brief second. The shutters were going like crazy as everyone wanted the shot of the two warhawks stacked up.

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The P-40 was known as being rugged. It is seen as the same. Whether over land or sea the P-40 looks at home in the sky. It’s history spans the length of the globe with stories from rookie pilots to legendary aces like Claire Chennault and Gregory Boyington. Numerous books have been written about the plane and none of them says it all. It’s history grows everyday as more is discovered and more are restored to fly again. There will always be another chapter to this plane.

To Be Continued
Images Captured with Nikon D3, D4, 24-70 AF-S f/2.8, 70-200 VRII, 200-400 VR, and 500 f/4 VR, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

The Sikorsky Flying Boat

This is one of those planes that I can’t explain why but it just got stuck in my head and I felt it would be a good one to talk about this week. It’s actually one of my favorite planes and is one that if you’re not an aviation enthusiast you probably don’t know a whole lot about it. This is a Sikorsky Flying Boat, model S-39. Of the 21 S-39’s built this is the only flying example and is the oldest Sikorsky flying in the world. It currently resides in Kermit Weeks collection at Fantasy of Flight in Polk City, FL.

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The S-39 is part of a series of flying boats built by Igor Sikorsky at the Sikorsky Aircraft firm during the 1930’s. The first built was the S-34 in 1920. It was a six seat sesqiuplane with a boat hull and two tractor 200 hp (149 kW) Wright Whirlwind J-4 engines. Only one was built and in November 1927 during a test flight an engine failed and the plane crashed and sank. The five passengers and Igor Sikorsky escaped unharmed. While the first example was a failure the design of a boat hull amphibious airplane led to a series of successful aircraft for Sikorsky including the S-38. In between the S-34 and S-38 the S-36 was developed. The S-36 was an eight seat sesqiuplane ordered by Pan American Airways. Six aircraft were built and whose history is greatly unknown. It was a larger and stronger version of the S-34 with a crew of two and six passenger. Along with it’s boat hull it featured retractable landing gear and twin Wright Whirlwind J-5 engines. Sadly much of the history is larger unknown with three of the six aircraft. One was bought by a wealthy divorcee, Mrs Francis Grayson, who was determined to be the first woman to fly across the Atlantic. Another was sold to the US Navy as a Coastal Patrol Aircraft. The third was bought by Pan American Airways.

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Mrs Francis Grayson’s story is the most well known of them all. On December 23rd, 1927 she set out with a crew of three in The Dawn, as her S-36 was called, to cross the Atlantic. After passing Cape Cod at 8am, they were headed for Harbor Grace, Newfoundland when at Sable Island a radio transmission was received, “Something’s Wrong here” with their call letters. That was the last anybody heard of them. The first air relief mission was dispatched with two destroyers and the USS Los Angeles dirigible. In 1929 a message in a bottle was received written by Grayson in 1928.

The next in line was the S-38. It was an eight seat, amphibious aircraft with boat hull and retractable landing gear. The S-38, also known as the explorers air yacht, first flew in 1928 and quickly had orders from Pan American Airways, the US Navy, US Army and many private owners. 101 examples of the S-38 were built. Amongst the most notable of these private owners is Howard Hughes and Charles Lindbergh. Today only two examples of an S-38 are still around. One of which is also owned by Kermit Weeks, the Osa’s Ark as it is called, N28V, was made for the movie The Aviator which depicts the life of Howard Hughes.

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These six aircraft led the way for the development of the S-39. The S-39 was a smaller single engine amphibious aircraft built in the 1930-1931. It is one of the two remaining survivors of the original 21 built. While a static S-39B version can be seen at the New England Air Museum, Windsor Locks, CT, the Spirit of Igor is the only S-39 still flying. The Spirit of Igor was restored by Dick Jackson of Rochester, NH and took nearly four decades and 40,000 man hours. It is truly a dedication to Igor Sikorsky. The name is dedicated to the Spirit of Africa, a S-39 owned by the naturalists Martin and Osa Johnson and for Igor Sikorsky, the brilliant mind of many aviation advances beyond that of the flying boats. The paint scheme is also authentic to one of nine various sub species of Giraffe. It was projected onto the plane and then painted.

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The S series flying boats, along with the brilliance of Sikorsky himself helped lead the way in the amphibious airplane industry. After the S-39 came the S-40 and S-42 and the VS-44, which was invented and first flew in 1937. While only three models were produced; Excalibur, Excambian, and Exeter, these four engine amphibious aircraft helped to carry cargo and passengers across the Atlantic before, during and after WWII. In 1930 Sikorsky was a subsidiary of United Airlines and by 1940 he had merged with Chance Vought, also under United. During that time Sikorsky was competing for a new Navy Contract for a replacement for the YP3Y-1 Patrol Bomber. The XPBS-1 was built. The contract didn’t go to Sikorsky but Consolidated instead for the YPB2Y-1. Later the VS-44 would be developed from the XPBS-1. While the VS-44 had several improvements over other aircraft at the time, the company lost the Pan Am contract who bought Martin M-130 and Boeing 314 Clippers instead. The VS-44 would have a limited run of only three, of which only two survived the war. Exeter crashed in 1946 and after a long history Excambian can still be seen in the New England Air Museum.

As is common with most planes and aircraft manufacturers, one advancement led to another one. The S-39 is a great example of that. It is part of a long legacy of great aircraft built by a great man. While it’s unusual appearance makes it eye catching, it’s functionality is in its form. This plane was developed for a time when the best way to travel was just being recognized as the air. While the S-38 was the true thorough bred of the line, with more examples built then any other model, the S-39 still exists and flies while others do not.

All images captured with Nikon D3, 24-70 AF-S f/2.8, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

A group of People

One of the really cool aspects of the Precon this past Tuesday was the re-in-actors that came in and posed for in front of the planes. These guys actually do this as a hobby between there regular jobs. They go around to different events and try and bring back the look and feel of the era. They really are good WWII reinactors. At one point they were laying underneath the wing of the C-47 which was a common thing to do at air force bases. Ground crews would use the shade produced by the planes wing to cool off. As you can see, in the hot Florida sun, these guys had the same idea.

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In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D3, 24-70 AF-S f/2.8, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Fantasy of Flight Precon

Yet again Precon didn’t disappoint! It was a marvelous day over at Fantasy of Flight with some truly spectacular aircraft. We weren’t sure what was going to be pulled out this time and to our great surprise, and enjoyment, they had about a dozen different aircraft out. This time it was a regular smorgasbord of rare planes. including a C-47, P-51C, L1, B-26 and many others. This particular one is a favorite of mine and is one that i have been wanting to photograph ever since I first saw it.

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This is a Sikorsky S-39. It is the only flying example and one of the only surviving examples of this type of aircraft outside of museums. The “Spirit of Igor” is named after the Johnsons and Igor Sikorsky. This plane took nearly 40 years to complete the restoration. It is only one of several pieces of aviation history preserved in Kermit Weeks’s collection.

In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D3, 24-70 AF-S f/2.8, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

What’s the Right Paper

This past week I was working on a couple sets of prints to go out and ran into an interesting dilemma. Another photographer, who happens to be a good friend, asked me if I could make him a couple of prints of his images. I said sure. Two different images very different subject matter. I usually print my images on Ultra Smooth Fine Art because it is good, heavy matte paper that lasts a long time. Well the one challenge that I ran into was with the reds. The reds were so rich in the image that no matter what i adjusted it just wasn’t lining up. Nothing looked quite right. If you’re like me and spend the time to get the image right in the camera, then spend time in post fine tuning, then you also want the print to look the best.

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I posted up here an image with the exact same issue. This is a P-51C Mustang photographed down at Fantasy of Flight. As you can probably tell it has a dark rich red rudder and nose. It so happens to be painted in honor of Lee Archer, a WWII ace part of the Redtail Squadron, known for their planes tails to be red and for being the only all African American Air Unit. This photograph I have also printed on Ultra Smooth Fine Art and the reds wouldn’t match up. They faded, still red but not the same richness. A trick my Dad taught me which is really simple is to just switch paper. Simply switching from a matte to a gloss paper keeps all those rich colors. It’s little tricks like that, that keep us out shooting and not bashing our heads against the keyboard.

In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D3, 200-400 VRII, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

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