Category Archives: Planes

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!

One Photo, Endless Possibilities

Warning – if you are one of those photographers that thinks photos should be made in the camera with no post processing, then this isn’t for you!

If you’ve followed me at all, you know that I really enjoy post processing my images.  I love getting the camera out and making what I call my base shots.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a landscape or airplanes at an air show.  But to me that’s only part of the process.  Getting the images into my computer and finding new ways to “enhance” them is part 2.  If you like to post process your photos, it doesn’t really matter if you just tweak them a little bit or go hog wild.  The important thing is that you enjoy it.  Don’t get caught up in the debate about whether or not to edit, it’s entirely up to you!  It also doesn’t matter if  you use Photoshop or Picasa.  Use whatever you have or are comfortable with!

There are a couple of things that I like to do to my images.  One is to convert them to black and white, and the other is to give them a vintage treatment.  How do I know when to apply black and white or vintage?  I don’t know, at least not until I try it.  There are some types of photos that have the potential to look better in black and white or vintage.  For me, they tend to be older things such as WWII aircraft, or antique automobiles.  Old buildings like those you might see at a ghost town also work well.  Landscapes are a little harder to visualize.  If a scene is very colorful, such as a forest in Autumn, it might not make sense to convert it to black and white.  The best way to find out is pick one of you photos that you think might look good in black and white and convert it.  If it doesn’t work, then all you have to do is cancel your changes and close the image.  No harm – no foul.  Pick another photo and try again, and pretty soon you’ll start to develop a sense of what is a good candidate for black and white.  This may even carry over to when you are with your camera and looking at a scene.  Try to visualize it, not only as you see it, but also in black and white.  Keep trying, and if you do this enough, it should start to happen for you.

Here’s an example.  This is a WWII Focke-Wulf FW-190 (a.k.a. the Butcher Bird).  The original shot is from my Panasonic FZ1000, and was taken at the Planes of Fame Air Show earlier this year.

It’s not bad in color, and I did some post processing.  But when I look at it, I get the sense that it could be better in black and white.  Here’s what happened.

Not to bad, but it still seems like something is missing.  My next thought was how it might look had it been taken with a film camera in the 1940’s.  This is the result.

Most of the WWII (and earlier) photos that I’ve seen are faded, or just plain worn out.  The paper they were printed on has texture, and there are a lot of imperfections.  That’s what I love about them, all of the imperfections.  Personally I think it gives these photos character, something that a lot of technically perfect photos from todays cameras lack.  Just because a modern photo is tack sharp and has optimum bit depth and blah blah blah, doesn’t mean it has character, or in the case of a WWII era photo, a sense of history.  I guess what I’m saying is that a lot of todays perfect photos have no soul, some of mine included.  It’s something I’m working on with my post processing.  Every once in a while I think I’m getting close.

How about you?  Is there a type of photo that moves you or speaks to you in a way that others don’t?  If so, get your camera and favorite editing software and get busy!  Go over to my Facebook page and share some of your work – upatdawnphotograpy (just click the link).

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