A friend and I bought photo passes to the Wings Over Houston Air Show last weekend. The folks in Houston really do it right too. The photo pit was right on the flight line, roomy, and had a great riser platform to get well above the fence. They provided coffee in the morning, soft drinks and lunch — even sunscreen. Well done.
It’s easy to go crazy at an air show and fill up a half-dozen memory cards. From the sounds of the shutters around us I think some guys did that in fact. Eight to ten frames per second, firing away every time a plane was in sight. My friend and I were much more conservative in our shots. I came home with barely more than a card full of shots. It’s nice to not have so many photos to go through when I got home.
The shot above is Major Henry “Schadow” Schantz, pilot for the F-22 Demonstration and Heritage Flight team (more on the Heritage Flight some other time). It was pretty cool being right next to the plane as it went by and getting a nod (and a finger-point) from the pilot.
Many of these pictures are reruns but I thought I’d post them in honor of Pearl Harbor Day. The aircraft carrier in the top image is the USS Lexington (CV-16) which was in service from 1943 through 1991 and now sits as a (very cool) museum in Corpus Christi, TX. This image is a 3-exposure HDR. I’m getting some odd pixelization on export from Lightroom which I can’t figure out but the point of posting this is not for the image’s sake itself anyway.
My grandfather joined the Navy during WWII (sometime after Pearl Harbor due to his age) and went through training to become a Navy pilot. I am very fortunate to have a 90-minute recording of him recounting his Navy experiences. My favorite quote: “I graduated from flight school on August 14th, 1945. The Japanese heard I was coming and surrendered the next day.” This is the most recent snapshot I have of him.
Hope you enjoy the rest of these photos from various air shows I’ve attended.
My wife saw that quote on a billboard as we drove out of the DFW area last weekend (I believe the billboard used a military ship as the backdrop). I had just attended the Alliance Airshow in Fort Worth the day before and I thought the quote was appropriate for a shot of the Thunderbirds.
A friend and I bought photographer passes for the show. The passes were sold to 70-ish photographers and granted access to the show 2 hours before the general public so we could photograph the static displays without the crowds. We also had a designated area at the flight line — just to one side of the show’s announcer at show center. Plenty of room, free water ($3 per bottle if you buy at the concession stand), and lunch provided. It was well worth it.
Editing was simple: “Auto” preset in Lightroom, set daylight white balance, added some clarity and a little fill light. Vignette and deep blue sky are courtesy of the polarizing filter I was using.
I had to snap this photo of all the glass in the photo area. All I could think of is Mark Garbowski’s blog title “Too Much Glass”. It was entertaining to watch the chorus of lenses scanning the sky in synchronicity as planes flew by. I had some serious lens envy with my puny 70-200mm f/2.8 IS.
I had never seen an F-22 Raptor perform live until I attended AirFest in San Antonio a few weeks ago. While I’ve always been impressed by other fighter jets that I’ve watched, and despite the fact that a high-speed pass is still my favorite thing to watch, the F-22 adds a new dimension to the performance of a fighter jet. I was completely amazed by the maneuverability of the Raptor at slow speeds. At some points it almost appeared to have the same capabilities as a Harrier. I know basically nothing regarding the technical side of aircraft maneuverability and stability, I was nonetheless left wondering how the control surfaces of the Raptor could possibly maneuver the jet while it was hardly moving. Even the slow-speed pass was rather impressive — nose was pointed way up and the ground speed was very slow. I couldn’t figure out how it was getting enough lift to stay aloft. I suppose that it’s a combination of lift from the wing (probably minimal at that angle of attack) and the sheer thrust of the engines.
The photo at the top of the page shows the F-22 as the pilot exposes the open bomb bay for the crowd. I panned this shot using aperture-priority mode and auto focus. It’s reasonable given the speed of the jet and the zoom I was using. I’d probably go into full manual mode, set the focus ahead of time, then turn auto focus off if I were setting up for this shot again.
The shot below is quite blurry but illustrates an interesting phenomena call “shock diamonds” or “mach disks”. The standing wave in the exhaust of a jet engine comes from the difference in pressures of the engine exhaust and the atmosphere. For you techies there’s a pretty good explanation here: http://www.aerospaceweb.org/question/propulsion/q0224.shtml and also some information on wikipedia.
Finally, a very simple shot which IMO shows how sleek the F-22 looks while it flies. The rounded belly and cockpit make the “old” F-18s look clunky.
I recently spent a day with friends and family at AirFest 2010 at Lackland AFB in San Antonio. It was my kind of air show — lots of high-performance jets. There were F-15s, F-16s, an F-18, and an F-22. In addition, the Thunderbirds gave a great show.
It’s always interesting photographing aerial performances. The brightness of the sky can fool you camera’s meter into underexposing. If there are lots of puffy, white clouds it’s even worse and you’re often left with blown-out clouds if you want to get the exposure correct on the planes.
For the shot above I can’t even decide what exposure I like the best. Deep blue sky with slightly underexposed jets? Brighten everything up to lighten the jets? Use an adjustment brush to lighten the jets while keeping the sky deep blue (tried it — doesn’t look natural). You can see what I settled on above. In-camera I over-exposed 1/2 stop and increased the exposure a bit further in Lightroom. This is a shot which seems to vary quite a bit depending on the monitor you’re viewing on so your mileage may vary.
I spent the day shooting with my all-purpose Sigma 18-250mm because I didn’t want to lug my Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS around. It did OK but there is noticeable vignetting in many of the shots and just doesn’t match up with the Canon in sharpness (of course I didn’t expect it to). I’ll bring the Canon next time for sure.
As mentioned several times before, military jets seriously impress me. The amount of thrust generated by the engines above allows this jet to do amazing things. I took a shot of these F-18 nozzles at the Wings Over South Texas air show a few months ago. I’ve peeked at this photo here and there and finally decided to share it.
The final image comes from just playing around with Topaz Adjust, Photomatix, Lightroom, and Photoshop. The rough process: tonemapped a single hand-held exposure in Photomatix and brought it into Photoshop. I ran it through Noiseware to clean up the sky then masked the rest of the original tonemapped image back in. Played around in Topaz Adjust to taste and ran the sky through Noiseware again. Adjusted levels, curves, and used a black and white adjustment layer to fix up a bit of the clouds that Topaz had overdone color-wise. Sharpened the final image then used this tip from Nicole Young to fix a bunch of chromatic aberation.
(Many years ago) I was born on the south side of the Windy City in the Roseland neighborhood. My family moved to the south suburbs when I was pretty young, then out to a rural area (still close to the city) in high school. I went to lots of Blackhawks games in Chicago Stadium, Sox (and Sting) games at Comiskey Park, and even managed one Cubs game at Wrigley. Incidentally, I never made it to a Bears game — haven’t ever been to a pro football game to this day.
I remember watching Stan Mikita, Pit Martin, and Keith Magnuson play for the Hawks. I loved Sox players like Chet Lemon (when I was really young), Harold Baines, and Carlton Fisk. I had a home run ball hit by Brian Downing back in the 70’s. I wasn’t actually at the game and honestly don’t remember if he played for the Sox or the Angels at the time. I was at the 1983 game where the Sox *could have* clinched the division but they needed a win or loss from someone else so they didn’t clinch until the following night…something like that. I watched every game of the Bears run up to the Super Bowl in 1985 — what a fun season. I practically worshipped Karl-Heinz Granitza of the Chicago Sting.
I wasn’t big into autographs but I had Harold Baines, Walter Payton (got that one at the auto show in McCormick Place), and Johnny Morris (got his in the stands at Comiskey Park the same day I got Baines’).
Although I now live in Texas, the rest of my family still lives in the Chicago area and downtown Chicago is pretty much a yearly destination for our family. We take the Metra in to the Randolph station from the south side, walk the streets, and take in whatever attractions we feel like that visit. The kids love it. I haven’t visited since really getting into photography but I’m really looking forward to it. [Side note: One member of the family lives in Milwaukee but we Chicagoans simply consider that a suburb…those of you from Chicago appreciate this I’m sure]
The picture above was taken as my wife and I were landing at O’Hare en route to Paris. I grabbed the camera a bit late and missed some better shots but I’m still pleased with this one — reminds me of home.
I love my Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS lens. It’s simply awesome. The only problem with it is that it smells like cigarette smoke in a big way — can’t leave it in the bag or the whole bag stinks. Oh well, I bought it used, it’s in great shape, and I got a great deal on it.
Lcdr Frank Weisser is the lead solo pilot in the Blue Angels team and is shown above flying in the show at Kingsville NAS in Kingsville, TX.
I captured Lcdr Weisser zooming by with a focal length of 185mm using a shutter speed of 1/1000, aperture of f5.6 @ ISO 100. I assume (but honestly don’t remember) that I used the lens’ IS panning mode. Turned out pretty nice. In fact, the image is amazingly sharp when cropped to view only the cockpit.
Certainly would have been cool to have some blurred clouds in the background to show some of the motion but there’s something nice about the simple blue sky too.
I happen to be one of those types who loves the military. I’ve never been in the services myself but many family members have. I’ve got nothing but respect for those who serve and it bugs me when people diss them.
I also happen to love (fast) military aircraft. I don’t geek out about them in the sense that I get to know everything about them — they just impress me to no end and my jaw drops when I see them perform. When I remind myself that the performance I’m watching (the Blue Angels for example) consists of jets performing maneuvers at one-third to one-half their maximum speed, I’m even more impressed. What I wouldn’t give to witness a high-speed pass at full speed! I remember the days when Bergstrom Air Force Base was still open in Austin. Several times a day pairs of (old) F4s would fly over our house. I loved how the whole house would rumble when they flew by.
The picture above was taken at Kingsville Naval Air Station (Kingsville, TX) and shows a host of T-45 Goshawk training aircraft used by the modern-day Navy to train pilots. When I saw these my first thought was of my grandfather, who did his Naval flight training in Kingsville and Corpus during WWII (he would have loved to fly these). My grandfather graduated from flight school on August 14, 1945 and says “When the Japanese heard I was coming they surrendered immediately”. These T-45s also bring to mind all the current pilots who are preparing to be the next wave of defenders of our freedom. I respect them.
The image above was created from three exposures which were then fused (not tonemapped) in photomatix. The single, center exposure wasn’t too bad but fusing brought back the blown-out sky and added subtle detail in the cockpit and landing gear. Did very basic curves and sharpening after that.
For the past several years I’ve taken my family to watch the Blue Angels perform in Corpus Christi. This year my family was out of town during the performance but nonetheless I made the trek to Kingsville Naval Air Station to watch them this year. I carried two lenses: a 70-200mm to capture some of the aerial performances and a 10-20mm wide angle which I used for 80% of the ground shots.
I took only a few pictures of the Blue Angels performance this year (I really like to *watch* and didn’t want to be overly distracted always trying to get the best shots). However, I took plenty of shots of the static displays on the ground. I bracketed many (shooting handheld) in hopes of generating some HDR images from the show. On side note, I did try the panning IS mode on my 70-200mm lens and it did an amazing job capturing jets screaming past.
The image above was generated from three handheld exposures and shows the underside of a B-1 bomber with it’s bomb doors open — and a couple young girls doing some modeling. It was quite a processing challenge (for my skill level anyway) due to the movement in the crowd. In a night shot I’ve found masking in crowds to be far simpler because the darkness of the shot generally gives you a lot of leeway. With a day shot like this I found it very difficult because when you mask in a moving subject from a particular exposure you often bring in bits of background (previously hidden by the moving subject in the tonemapped image) which severely differ from the tonemapped image. Adding to my difficulty was the smoke in the background sky from the Tora, Tora, Tora performance. As I worked to fix the background after masking this smoke created challenges in cloning in some sky…a great exercise for improving my skillset.
Here’s the rough outline of my processing on this image: Tonemapping in Photomatix and lots of masking to get the people looking OK. On a duplicate layer I played with exposure and contrast to adjust the sky to my general liking then I masked it in where I could — I wasn’t able to mask in everything around the people because of them being in a different position. To get around this I used the clone stamp to add sky where needed (had to do this a bit on the ground as well). I used Topaz Adjust to modify another duplicate layer and masked portions of that in. Exposure/Levels/Curves followed that. Finally, I tried a new sharpening flow which I picked up from @TipSquirrel today. It involved using “Stamp Visible”, converting the new layer to a smart object, then using unsharp mask with that layer set to luminosity blending. Probably unnecessary for this image but I wanted to learn something new.
I’m pretty happy with the image — my first handheld HDR (though it isn’t too hard to get decent exposures in broad daylight) and certainly the most challenge I’ve faced relative to the need to mask moving subjects. Do you like it…?