My Dad thought of this post right after we did this shoot but it seemed so important that I thought I would borrow the theme. It’s a really simple concept that gets overlooked to often and that is the best photographs, the best opportunities and the best friends you’ll ever meet all come from hard work. Dave Black even said it during his class at Photoshop World that photography is truly hard work but that’s where the rewards come from. Nothing just happens, nothing is just given away it is all earned. However grand or small your perception of time is, when it comes to the heart photography everything is one more challenge after another with the lessons learned being compounded onto the next one. This lesson was well revealed this past week while at the PRS group photo when another historic plane was brought out, a P-51D Mustang, Race 15, one of the only remaining mustangs left to have been originally built with an Allison engine. We were further blessed when the decision was made to leave the plane out for a sunset photo shoot. That decision was made solely because of the hard work previously put in by providing photographs when needed and asked for.
The afternoon ended with the usual light and good clouds. While we waited, the dozen photographers there were all hoping the clouds would stick and the light would get better.
The dark clouds to the east were a perfect backdrop for this plane. It usually doesn’t work that great but since the plane is white the contrast just makes the plane pop!
It kept getting better as the sun got lower. Until…
After 90 minutes of shooting the photo gods rewarded the hard working and patient ones with one last colorful display over the dark skies. This shot is brand new in my files and I already love it, as well as the time I spent photographing that plane. All of that came from years of hard work and good friends.
Well as I said earlier I would get back to “Ole Yeller.” I wasn’t sure how the images would turn out considering it was a bright yellow plane in early morning light but I truly can’t complain. When working with an historic subject you really want to do a thorough job because you never know when you might photograph it again. This particular plane is one of Bob Hoover’s planes that he flew doing demonstrations at bases, acrobatics and races. For twenty years it was the pace plane that lead the start of the race for the unlimited class of the Reno Air Races. It was at PRS getting qualified so that it could race again in September. That’s really freakin cool! When it comes to symbolic aircraft, especially mustangs, this one might just take the cake.
This plane has a classic race look both forward and backward. One thing that really stands out on Bob Hoover’s planes is his name. In big green letters across the wings are his name, as well as on the tail. Well you can barely see that detail level with the plane let alone photograph it. The only way to get the shot of the wings is from above. With the help of our tug driver that morning, John, we turned the plane around and got up on a latter so that we could see that detail. Now tail shots seem to be last on the priority list when it comes to photographers but it sure can be a powerful shot when down right. I don’t know what it is about the tail, maybe the symmetry of the plane, but something always sets off the true character of the plane.
I just got back from Pylon Racing Seminar which is the certification for new pilots and aircraft, leading up to the Reno Air Races in September. I still don’t know where time goes but it seemed like PRS came and went by really fast this year which was a sign that it was a good year. We had a good turnout of planes to enjoy and even a couple new ones that hadn’t been seen in a long time. Like this beauty. This was Bob Hoover’s P-51D Mustang that he flew during acrobatic and perofmrance displays. Bob had many aircraft throughout his career but this one was also a racer. It’s pretty freakin cool that this plane is coming back to racing but more on that later, for right now you’ll just have to settle for this one teaser image.
One of the questions that i seem to get asked a lot is why i spend so much time going through images from different shoots and processing them just for the library? Well it’s a simple answer. When the time comes that i need the image it’s right there ready to go. Now does this mean I go through every image from every shoot? No, but i do go through a lot. Although the process does take time, especially with Aviation, it’s worth it in the end. This process also helps to become better with finishing and evolve faster techniques.
Keep something in mind, if you spend the time and money to acquire the photograph, why not spend the time afterward to grow that library?
Every time we go to the races they seem to be over in a blink of the eye. This year was no different. It was a great week with the best news being that no one was hurt. One plane ground looped but other than that the races went without incident. Needless to say everyone was a little tense watching some of these heats, but after the unlimiteds landed on Sunday afternoon one heck of a party started.
We had some great planes at the races this year and some of the best came from CAF Camarillo. We hit it off with them the first day we were there, when we met a very nice volunteer named Cherri. Dad and I have a usual routine we get to the races which quite simply is we walk around the first day. The best way to see who is there and what is there is just to walk around. On our walk we ran into the CAF row which consisted of a F8F Bearcat, F6F Hellcat and a MK14 Spitfire. The Cats were part of the Legacy flight that took place later in the week. The Spitfire was only there through Friday so we immediately gravitated towards it. After talking with the pilot we arranged to do one of things we enjoy most at the races, an early morning shoot.
Enjoy is a loose term here. It consists of getting up at 530 to get out to the flight line by 6 to get the plane pulled out, or in this case we just pushed it out, by 615 so we can get the plane in position for sunrise. Of course we spend the rest of the day on our feet walking the line and the pits trying to make more happen. It’s all worth the pain in the end because that’s how we get the great morning shots. It wasn’t just us out there either, a gaggle of other photographers joined us for the shoot as well as another plane, the P-51D “Precious Metal” who we were unaware was getting pulled out. It all worked out well for us, they were both beautiful subjects that morning
Every time I go out shooting it is a different experience, usually because every time I go out either I get the shot that I wasn’t thinking I was going to get or something else comes up completely that i was predicting. It’s one of the best parts and the most frustrating parts of being a photographer. Well for the last couple of Photoshop Worlds I have been too I have had the great honor of assisting at the Precon Photo Safari with Moose Peterson and Joe McNally.
What sets this one apart from all the rest is each one is different from the last. It’s whatever wherever we can find. A year and a half ago in Orlando it was PBY’s, Trimotor’s, Mustangs and Jets at Fantasy of Flight and Stallion 51. This past March it was a Civil War Reenactment group at a plantation outside of DC.
I love working with planes. It’s so much easier to come up with examples to talk about than it is with wildlife. This shot was taken about two years ago down in Phoenix, AZ. We were in a skyvan with Casey and Robert Odegaard flying our subject planes two P-51D Mustangs. Whenever we go out for an air to air shoot we always pick what to be believed as an ideal spot with little civilization in the background. The buildings never really seem to ad much to the image unless it’s a particular landmark that’s easily recognizable. Sometimes that option doesn’t exist.
Of course it’s real easy to remove the buildings in post nowadays but it’s always better to get it right the first time. The one thing i noticed while processing this image and I realized this well after the fact was, captured this image the wrong way. If i was thinking about it at the time, which i do remember quite well, i have shot vertically. Instead i shot horizontally thinking how easy it will be to remove the buildings. Which truly it wasn’t hard but the image just doesn’t have the same attitude if i had tried the other way. That mental block is very important to get past. Even though the option exists to change the background in post it’s not always the best way. A simple repositioning would have worked also.
It’s practically here! I am so excited about going to Reno this week for Pylon Race School. Ever since I got started in aviation back in 2009, i have gone to PRS and it’s a blast. It’s one of the few times of the year that i always look forward too. Now after the “rocky” past year at the races i am not only looking forward to seeing some of those fellow enthusiasts but also the changes that might have taken place.
Over the past few years PRS has been a great time to get clean shots of some great looking aircraft. It’s also a great time to work on panning technique. Panning of course isn’t something I’m always working on.
This time of the year is usually some of the best for aviation photos partially due to there being clouds in the sky. I’m sure some of you have heard my Dad say clouds are everything well that’s true and in this case they literally are. Without them the planes can be pretty darn boring in the blue sky.