Category Archives: Airplanes

Panasonic GX8 & Air Show, Part 1

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted anything here.  There are a couple of reasons for that.  One is I’ve been preoccupied with our new motorhome.  I was doing a bit of work on it to get it ready for upcoming adventures.  Since this is the one we are going to live in for awhile I want to know it inside and out.  Second is that I’ve just haven’t done much with photography for the past few months, that is except family events.  So I really haven’t had much to write about.

That’s changed now.  I’ve been to 2 air shows in the last few weeks and have had mixed results.  The first air show was the Airfest at March Field in Riverside California.  I opted to view it from the March Field Air Museum, directly across the runways from the actual show.  It was appealing because of a much smaller crowd (and traffic).  The downside is that the flight patterns kept the planes mostly over on the other side of the runways, and not very close to us.  Every once in awhile one would come over and we could grab a few shots.  The main problem I had was in experimenting with ND filters.  I put one on my FZ1000 and my E-M5 (with Olympus 75-300mm lens).  The ND filters I used were too strong and blocked too much light.  I thought it would be a good idea to use them to allow me to get a better aperture with my selected shutter speed.  My mistake was in not checking the results while I was still at the air show and had the ability to make changes.  Oh well, live and learn!

One thing that became very apparent was how well my FZ1000 performed, and out performed my E-M5.  I’ve had limited success with fast moving objects using my E-M5, but it’s been mostly an exercise in frustration. The last thing I wanted to do was buy another camera, but that’s how it worked out.  I got a great deal on a Panasonic GX8 (body only).  The GX8 is quite an advancement over my E-M5.  The specifications are impressive and you can find plenty of websites with as much information as you can stand.

For me, there are a couple of advantages of the GX8 right out of the box.  The first is that being a Micro Four Thirds (M43) camera all of my current lenses will work with it.  The second is the GX8 and FZ1000 use the same battery.  There is a third advantage, and that is the menu system is very similar to the FZ1000.  Finding my way around took very little time.

The Planes of Fame Air Show is happening now, and I’ve been to the Friday Afterburners After Dark session and will return with my Sunrise Photo Pass for Sunday.  Friday was a lot of fun and I was finally able to really put my new GX8 to good use.  It took a bit of time to get used to the way the GX8 handled, but there were some times when I reached for my FZ1000.  My trusty FZ1000 performed quite well.  I’m still impressed with it.  The GX8 has great potential and I’m looking forward to using on Sunday.  So far it’s been wonderful for quickly locking focus and allowing me to grab a few frames.  It processes them quickly as well and has a big enough buffer so it doesn’t seem to get bogged down.

I ending this post and will do a Part 2 after the air show on Sunday.  By then I’ll have put several thousand frames through the GX8 and can form a better opinion.  Until then here’s what I’ve been able to do:

Until next time, Happy Shooting!

Tell a Story

Wow, I just realized how long it’s been since I posted last.  Sorry, it’s almost shameful!  This time of year isn’t my favorite and I usually just work though it, hide from the heat, and wait for Autumn!

One of the good things I have going for me is a library full of images that I can go through, deleting some, and trying new editing techniques on others.  If you’ve followed any of my other posts or have seen my work on other websites, you know how much I love to post process my images.  To me, that RAW file is like a film negative, waiting to be developed.  I’ve gone from not processing an image at all, to over-cooking them with too much HDR!  As time goes on, I’ve tried to cut back on that and have gotten much more into black and white and the aged/antique look.

Another thing you probably know about me, if you’ve read any of my previous posts, is how much I love air shows.  Over the years I have shot literally thousands of frames of planes doing everything from sitting on the ground to high-speed passes and stomach churning aerobatics.  Like so many others I hang out with at the air shows, I’m always after that perfect shot (whatever that is).  What constitutes the “perfect shot” is a good question.  It would also be different for different people.  For some, it’s a shot of a Blue Angel’s F-18 frozen in air and tack sharp.  And for others, it may be a P-51 Mustang making a pass with the propeller nicely blurred and the body clear and sharp.

I think for me it’s a variety of shots.  Yes, I do want those tack sharp images of planes in the air, but I noticed that there are a lot of those floating around out there.  How do I know?  Because I frequent quite a few other websites and photo sharing communities and see them.  Some are quite good, but after a while I find myself wanting more, at least for my photos.  I want more than just another shot of a plane in the air, no matter what kind it is.

During the last air show I attended (the Planes of Fame Air Show), I talked about this with some photography friends and acquaintances.  One of the guys was taking pictures of some of the action on the ground, and others were playfully teasing him.  He said he was looking for shots that would tell a story.  When I heard this, I understood what he meant.  There’s a lot more going on at an air show than just the planes in the air.  This is something I’ve had in my head but hadn’t put words to it in this way.  I just called it a variety of shots.  If you look at my galleries you will see a mix of images.  Some may be better than others for many reasons, but in a few cases I’d say it’s because an image can tell a story.  It makes you want to know more, or just wonder what it would be like to be there.  Maybe it just makes you stop for a better look for reasons you can’t quite put your finger on.

Like I said, there are a lot of great shots of planes in the air out on the web, and maybe even a few from me.  But I believe it’s worth thinking about, or trying.  Look around, maybe there’s a picture waiting for you to frame and press the shutter that tells a story.

 

 

In the two examples above, you can see that there are air planes.  But there are also people, and activity.  What are they doing and where are they going with these planes?  Are they just moving them across the yard, or are they getting ready to put them in the air?  And doesn’t the black and white make you wonder when these were taken?  Are they recent or were they made back in the 40’s and 50’s?  Those are the types of things I mean when I want a picture to tell a story.  There’s more to it than just a plane against a blue background.  Don’t get me wrong, those are great too and I have plenty of them.  But I think it makes a gallery or collection much more interesting to mix it up with photos that tell a story!

That’s it for this post.  Hopefully it won’t be so long before the next one!  Until then, Happy Shooting!

 

More on my FZ1000

It’s been a while since my last post.  And in that time I’ve been able to use my Panasonic FZ1000 on more than one occasion.  I’m going to share some of my thoughts about the FZ1000, but try not to bore you with a lot of techno stuff.  If you want that kind of info, there are other websites available.

The FZ1000 is by no means small.  It’s close in size to my Canon 60D DSLR, although somewhat lighter.  The advantage the FZ1000 has over a camera like the 60D is versatility.  The built-in lens is of high quality (Leica) and has a very usable range, 25-400mm (image stabilized).  This means that with a single camera I can quickly change focal length to suit the situation, rather than carry a bag full of lenses and fumble around changing them.  I’m able to keep the FZ1000 in a small messenger bag that isn’t a pain to carry around.

During a recent outing to the Planes of Fame Air Museum I was able to make good use of the FZ1000.  In fact, it was the only camera I brought to the event.  Packed nicely in the messenger bag, along with a couple of accessories, it was quick and easy to access and grab a shot or two when needed.  The nice thing about the air museum is the variety of subjects and lighting.  Sometimes the light is just right, but mostly it’s challenging.  Dark interior hangars and harsh afternoon light pouring in from open hangar doors, can be fun and frustrating at the same time!

Speaking of a variety of subjects, I was able to work with both static and moving examples.  The event was titled “Little Friends” and was about the role of the P-51 Mustang as a bomber escort during WWII.  There are a couple of P-51s at the museum, and the P-51D Wee Willy II, provided a flight demonstration.  I found the FZ1000 more than capable for the static displays, but not quite up to snuff with the flight demo this time.  There’s a difference between an air show where the planes fly much closer to the crowd and other events such as this one.  The P-51D did make several passes, but was at a much higher elevation.  The FZ1000 can stretch out to 400mm, but that wasn’t quite enough for this event.  There is a feature in the FZ1000 to increase the range of the lens by using the digital zoom, but at the cost of resolution.  This is something I’ll investigate later and share if it proves useful.  To be fair, I’ve used my Canon 60D with Tamron 200-500mm lens at similar events and found it wanting as well.

There are 2 modes that I used during my time at the air museum.  For the static displays, I selected aperture priority.  Aperture priority is generally my preferred mode for most things such as landscapes, portraits, and most things that don’t move too fast.  When the subject is moving, I tend to shift to shutter priority.  When the shutter speed is set, the camera adjusts the aperture to match.  Because I was shooting WWII propeller planes, I used a slower shutter speed to blur the prop (usually 1/200th second).  Although the camera has the ability to be set for Auto ISO (sensitivity to light), I prefer to make the necessary changes myself.  When the light was bright and in abundance, I used ISO 125, for darker interiors I set it at ISO 1600.  There was some noise at 1600, but nothing that couldn’t be cleaned up in post.  I also shoot everything in RAW rather than jpeg.  I find RAW much more flexible for post processing.

So, with all of the stuff mentioned above, what about image quality?  As far as I’m concerned it’s more than adequate.  I’ve mentioned in previous posts (and elsewhere) that I won’t get caught up in endless debates about pixel depth, sensor size and other technical details.  Personally, I’m more interested in how a camera performs the task I’ve given it, how it feels in my hands, and the RAW image that I can spend time with in post.  I’m sure there are those who will not find the FZ1000 good enough, but I’m not among them.  There’s more to the art and craft of photography than pixels!

Here are some recent examples from my FZ1000:






There’s one more thing the FZ1000 does, and that is video. Not just video, but 4K. In case you didn’t know, 4K has twice the resolution of HD. Video isn’t something that I do much of, but with the 4K ability of the FZ1000, I couldn’t resist. My video skills aren’t that good, but the one thing that I am able to do with a video clip is what’s called a frame grab. Using Adobe Lightroom, I’m able to not only view a video, but break it down frame by frame, and grab one (copy and extract it from the actual video). The resulting image is a jpeg, and has 5 megapixel resolution. Here’s a frame that I grabbed. Other than a little cropping and resizing, I applied no other processing.

So, you may be wondering if the FZ1000 is for you. Maybe, maybe not. It depends on what you want to do with it. For some, it may be too big. It most definitely will not fit in your pocket. If that’s what you want, then you may want to look at a camera like the Sony RX100. The RX100 has a sensor of similar size and quality as the FZ1000, but in a much smaller package. The RX100 will fit in your pocket, or purse! Want to know my solution? I have them both!

That’s it for this post, until next time – Happy Shooting!