Content Aware Fill and Clone Stamp are your Friends

Every aviation enthusiast has probably seen the great photos of the lineups of airplanes parked along the ramp at an airport. There are a couple of things needed in order to make this a truly great photo. All the planes have to be lined up so the spacing is even, the foreground has to be clean, the background has to be clean, the first plane has to be interesting and most of all you need to have lots of planes in the lineup! Again this was one of the great things about the Planes of Fame Airshow and while it is a bummer that it was canceled, you can always prepare for next year.

The amazing ground crew and the event itself solves a number of the above problems. The other photo elements have to be solved by yourself. Background, foreground, and an interesting subject up front are easy enough to solve. However, what you see above is typical, a long rope keeping people away from the planes. This is where Photoshop comes in handy. Content-Aware Fill and Clone Stamp tool are your friends because you can easily deal with this clutter. By doing so you create a more visually pleasing and less busy photo. It may take some time but it’s worth it.

A Splash of Color Goes a Long Way

When it comes to a photograph we tend to put a lot of emphasis on the size of subjects and the amount of negative space around that subject. It’s really important to remember that subjects don’t always have to be big. They can take up a very small amount of space in the overall composition if all the elements around it support it. This P-51 Mustang is a great example as it’s belly is painted a bright orange and with a dark background it pops even if it’s small.

Let the Races Begin!

It’s that of the year again for the National Championship Air Races to return to Stead Field outside Reno, NV. Every year dozens of competitors take to the sky to compete to see who’s the fastest. It’s basically like NASCAR in the air. For those that go every year then you already know the amount of fun to be had at the races. For those that haven’t gone then you don’t know what you’re missing out on. Photographically it’s a hoot! This is just one example from many years back but the challenges and rewards from this event are vast.

Depth of Field and Planes

Depth of field plays a role in every photograph we take. When it comes to planes it will change the amount of detail you see in not only the subject but in the background. Sometimes having that extra depth is a good thing but other times it can be distracting to have all that extra information in the background pop out. When working with multiple aircraft you have to decide what your story is going to be and you want to tell it. Will you stop down and show all the detail of the planes or stay wide and blur them out? Decisions, decisions.

Wishing Everyone a Safe Racing Weekend

For the next couple of days the Unlimiteds are flying at the Reno Championship Air Races, truly an amazing spectacle to behold! The planes are loud, fast and cool. I spent a lot of years at the Air Races and they were always a ton of fun. This shot of Voodoo was taken three years ago the last time I was there. I hope everyone at the races have a good safe racing weekend.

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Happy Worldwide Photo Day

As some of you might have heard today is Worldwide Photo Day. IT is a celebration not just for professional photographers but for anyone who enjoys taking pictures. It is meant to honor Joseph Nicèphore Nièpce and Louis Daguerre who in 1837 came up with a photographic process that was recognized in 1839 by the French Academy of Sciences. The Daguerreotype was the first practical photographic process.

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While today marks a significant moment in the history of photography it is also a day for everyone to go out and express themselves with their photography. Of course no photo would be complete is it’s not shared with others, you can go to the World Photo Day website and download your image to be seen with everyone else.

The Mustang in the Pacific

It’s fascinating how history remembers certain things but not others. For instance the P-51 Mustang has become an iconic fighter plane from fighting over the skies of Europe during WWII. That is how the plane is remembered best but what fascinates me is many don’t know about the planes history in other theater’s especially the Pacific.

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Today actually marks a rather unique anniversary, this is the first day where P-51’s escorted B-29 Superfortresses to bomb Tokyo, Japan. It marks both a first for the P-51 but also the first round the trip flight of any allied fighter from Iwo Jima to Tokyo. One person that can account for that mission is Jerry Yellin.

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I had the great pleasure of meeting Jerry at the Arsenal of Democracy Flyover last May in Washington D.C. Jerry flew P-51 Mustangs in the Pacific during WWII. He arrived on Iwo Jima on March 7th and then participated in the first escorting run on April 7th. He flew over a dozen missions during his tour. He flew not only the first escort mission over mainland Japan but also the last mission of the war. Today Jerry spend his time telling his story and working with others to keep the Spirit of 45 alive in all.

One of the Headliners

Perhaps one of the quickest growing “attractions” in the aviation world is the fleet of aircraft belonging to the Texas Flying Legends Museum. While this great group of historic warbirds, flown by some of the best pilots, do make appearances at airshows around the country, the word attraction barely begins to describe what this museum is truly about. While they do fly a routine at every event showcasing their unique aircraft, the museum and the people behind the planes are constantly working towards achieving their goal of honoring the past and inspiring the future. As a result of the care and devotion to the planes and their craft, the planes of the Texas Flying Legends Museum were one of the headliners at the Los Angeles County Airshow with every person there standing as they flew their routine and many left once they had finished.

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The Los Angeles County Airshow was the debut event for TFLM on the west coast. This year marks the first time that the fleet has been brought west of the Rocky Monutains and for some of these planes it’s the first time that many of them have ever flown over California. The Sptifire for example has never flown over California skies since it was built in 1944. Despite the challenges that the crew faced with bringing the planes from Ellington Field, Tx to Fox Field Lancaster, CA, everyone held their own and delivered a superb performance to the fans delight.

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Their routine consisted of multiple flyovers starting with a formation Vic flyover with all the aircraft. Included in Sundays Performance was the B25 Bomber, P-51 Mustang, P-40 Warhawk, TBM Avenger, FM2P Wildcat, and MkIX Spitfire. After making one lap around the field the Spitfire broke from formation to showcase what made it so iconic. The other aircraft made another lap around before breaking into pairs and then single ship formations all doing laps around the field including bombing runs and straffing runs with pyro. The entire performance lasted 18 minutes but every second was exciting. Not a single person on the ground wanted the performance to end. The next stop for the fleet will be the Planes of Fame Airshow where dozens more warbirds will be seen flying alongside the TFLM Fleet. I can’t wait!

Images Captured with Nikon D4, 200-400 VR, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Airshow Prep

Well it’s finally that time of the year again when the first airshow has arrived. The season officially began with the Cable Airshow in Upland, CA during the beginning of January but for myself the first one is this month with the LA County Airshow. Usually before I go to any event I always go through my checklist of what I need to bring, what will I be shooting, how will it be shot and any other homework regarding the event. These are important lessons for any trip so that you maximize your chances of success before you leave.

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Airshows are a combination of great aircraft and performances brought together to bring amusement to the crowds. The people attend to see the thrills of flight. Thus bringing money into the airshow. People are a very important element to the airshow experience and capturing those people and the joys that they are having is essential when covering these events. But it’s not just about the general public. It’s also the pilots, the mechanics and of course the veterans. Everyone has a story and capturing it all is important. Last May in Washington DC while I was covering the Arsenal of Democracy Flyover for the Texas Flying Legends Museum, the people in the crowd at the WWII Memorial were all amazed when the planes flew overhead. Everyone was looking up taking pictures but of course I was photographing them taking pictures of history in the making. It was a combination of both that made that event so special.

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Back on the ground, there are always subjects to be photographed. At each event there are dozens of aircraft making it a general smorgasbord for photographers to get great images. But you have to be creative a work around the other elements that come with shooting on the ground including people, ropes, chairs, orange cones and other elements that come with an airshow. While I tend to shoot a lot with the 24-70 f/2.8 or the 70-200 VRII I also shoot a lot of statics with the 200-400 VR just to isolate certain elements. I’ve gotten really good at removing elements that detract from the composition in post but whenever you can make the shot happen without the use of post processing it’s always better. For no other reason besides the fact that you save time.

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Then of course there are the acrobatic, aerobatic, flybys, performances and tributes that come with every great airshow. These are the ones that are always the hardest for me because it’s not always easy to get that super engaging shot. You need to have the right background, good light and of course the image has to be sharp. With prop planes that can be a little harder since you also want that prop blurred which means having a slower shutter speed. It takes a bit of practice getting used to the panning involved with this kind of shooting but that’s why you start early in the season before you ever get to the event. All of this comes down to practicing early so that you are ready because if aren’t then chances are you might miss that shot.

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