One of the biggest challenges of working at an Airshow is capturing those great static shots. There isn’t always an opportunity to pull a plane out to where you want it, and in the case of this last weekend the background was mostly hangers anyways. A big factor that I found for the Cable Airport was that in the mornings when the sun came up over the hangers, the hangers cast a shadow over the parked planes. This made morning shooting difficult, but not impossible.
This F4F Wildcat from the Comemorative Air Force was one of my favorite subjects to work with. It made a nice subject along with the SBD from planes of Fame. The one thing that still confuses is me, is the paint job. I can’t figure out that scheme.
The Pilatus Porter PC-6 was a very interesting plane. The man flying it was known other than Clay Lacy, a true legend in the field of aviation, with over 50,000 hours under his belt. He had an amazing performance at the show, and that plane of his does a spectacular job. It turns on a dime and takes off in a very short distance. As I said earlier this is about making those static shots shine. Well in all of my shots down the runway there was an annoying set of power lines and building crane. Both of these were quick fixes in CS5. But there was one other tool I used on these planes to make them shine.
Now one of my favorite lenses for working with static planes is the 200-400 VR. Not only does this lens allow me to be far away from the subject so I don’t get in anyone else way but also it compacts the subject and the background. When you got a lot of background clutter you don’t want in your photograph then it’s a good way to go. The Wildcat was shot with a 70-200, much closer, much tighter shot. Now the last element that i used on these shots which makes a big difference is Color Efex Pro’s Detail Extractor. This tool is absolutely amazing when working with planes. It brings out so much detail especially in the shadows under the wing that it’s almost a most. One thing to be careful with is that it does bring up noise, so it’s best to not apply this to the sky.
In the Bag
Nikon D3, 200-400 VRII, 70-200 VRII, Lexar UDMA Digital Film
This is certainly not a new topic for me but is certainly well worth revisiting. Black and White conversion is always a challenge because the image itself has to be captured in a way that supports that conversion. It’s not like every image looks good in black and white. So the question comes down to what does the image need to be a good black and white. The answer often falls down to the basic “what is the background and how does it affect the subject.”
This is a C47 that i photographed at Oshkosh this past July. It was at the end of the row of B25’s and DC3’s. That particular evening the clouds sucked to the east. They were just grey. To the West the clouds were pretty nice with god beams coming down. But I didn’t want a tail shot so i stuck with the nicely lit front and grey skies. This wasn’t a bad thing in the least. At least not for what i wanted to do. The C47 was a cargo plane, troop carrier and launching platform for paratroopers. There are a lot of historic shots of squadrons of C47’s flying dropping cargo or men. Well all of those great shots are Black and White so this was a great time, knowing what the background was, to shoot with that in mind.
With all this in mind i started shooting. Now with a grey sky, unless you are using flash, it will just be bright. It’s going to be this ugly grey yuck that doesn’t do anything except get darker or lighter in post. The only exposure therefore to achieve is that of the plane. In this particular case the sky had no valuable information to keep so letting it go didn’t matter to me. The information was all in the plane. The blacks and the whites were all there. Now obviously i played around with the angles, composition, and the amount of the plane to keep framed up. The whole time the idea of this being some European base was in the back of my mind. Knowing the subject, knowing its history is crucial.
One last important thing to bring up, is dust. Something i found out that might be useful to you is that when converting to black and white be careful that you got rid of all the dust because if you don’t it will show up. It is easy to miss a dot when working with the image in raw in color. As soon as it is changed it pops out. This can be a very frustrating thing to deal with, especially if you spent lots of time finishing the image in photoshop after going through your raw processor. It may sound like a, “No Duh” scenario but it is seen published more often then most realize. Spend that extra time finishing, it’s all worth it in the end.
Images captured with Nikon D3, AF-S 200-400 Vr, AF-S 70-300 VR, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film