Sunday, October 12, 2014

Once In A Lifetime

 I won a once in a lifetime chance to fly on my choice of a WW2 B-17 Flying Fortress or the WW2 B-24 Liberator. When the event promoters called me up and told me I had won two seats, I was stunned, when they asked me if I was free that day, I told them, practically shouted at them, "Yes!" and my choice was automatic, the iconic B-17. So I gave them my name and my friend's name (wasn't a difficult choice on whom to pick to go with me) and they sent me the details and locations to be.
Fate having a twisted sense of humour, in cahoots with Mother Nature, ensured it was
 raining cats and dogs. Undeterred, I packed by best gear and went in search of the plane.
There is something about standing in the shadows of history that gives one pause. The men who fought and died in the plane, and damage it took, the sheer awesomeness of it all, it wasn't something to be approached lightly. With the, at times heavy downpour, the colours, already muted with military greens, were further rendered into drabness, all the exterior images have been converted to Black and White.

Despite the rain, there were a fair number of people about, both inside the plane touring, and outside, so taking a picture of each plane without people around was a matter of patience. We waited a fair amount of hours for the rain to let up, which it finally did, at least enough for the crew to take the B-17 into the air. Inside the bomber was much more cramped than I expected, given the tremendous size and moving about required dexterity and flexibility, but once we were settled in, the captain and co-pilot taxied us down the runway, waited for the green light, and then opened up the engines. 
The sonic wall of power and fury assaulted my senses and I was awash in the roar and motion as the B-17 tore up the tarmac and launched itself into the sky. Once up we were free to move about and explore, with the only off-limits area being the ball turret inside and read tail gun. Given the fortress had no fancy electronics, or radar, we stayed reasonably low, above the rain and mountains, but not so high up as to freeze us. Nonetheless I was glad for a heavy coat. I do not recall how long the flight was, but it was worth every second and even now my ear still hum
 with the sounds of the Wright Cyclones bass rumble.
I will probably never again have such an opportunity, but in this case, one will be enough.




Sunday, September 28, 2014

Learning From Success

You can learn much from your failures, but you can learn equally from your successes. Case in point: this shot.
I was approached by a friend, who needed some pictures taken for a job she was applying for. She sent me the list of requirements for the pictures, and boy were they long.
And detailed.
And involved.
And on occasion, contradictory.
I wasn't sure I was good enough to take the pics, but I said I would try. So I read and re-read their requirements, pulled out some of my photography books on lighting and poses, read some more, and set up my gear.
I had a black cloth backdrop to absorb some of the light, she (and my snake, Pokey) in front. A hair light shining down from above, one strobe at a 45 degree angle on the left side about 4 feet away, and another one at 90 degrees from her at the same distance.
I used my 50mm lens at F/14 (now, a sidetrack here: F/14 isn't a "real" f/stop in the classic sense, but it worked in this case) set the ISO to 200 and shutter to 1/250.
One of the requirements of the shots that are submitted is they cannot be photoshopped in any way, straight from the camera only. So what you see is what I took.
I took about 30 shots, and she submitted the ten best. All ten were accepted and she got the job. I was super happy for me, but also for myself, for it showed I could pull off demanding shots in an area I'm not well versed in.

Learning from Failure

A local photography group had a themed shoot where the main focus point of the image should be the colour red. Being an inventive sort, prone to thinking outside the box, I thought I'd shoot in infra-red.
Well, too clever for my own good it seems. I'd scored a mint condition Nikon D1x (with buffer upgrade even) on eBay for pennies (literally, it was condition unknown) which I thought would make a perfect IR camera. Grabbed a 720mm IR filter and went to town on the shoot.
Sadly, the day was partially overcast and the IR-look I was after didn't quite pan out. There were several challenges in getting this shot, one, the bike was sandwiched in a parking lot between several large cars, so I had to decide how best to isolate it from the background clutter. This meant getting down low, so I broke out the tripod, set the camera for a 2 second exposure on my 17-35mm lens, and fired. 
I did this about 10 times from different angles and positions until I was happy with the result. A little post processing and here you have it. More Black and White than IR, but it was a learning experience. In addition, when I get the spare cash laying around, I'm converting the D1x to a pure IR camera so be on the lookout for some (hopefully) otherworldly shots.

Up Close and Personal

One of the wonderful advantages of the 80-200mm lens, is getting right into the action, and coupled with the track not being that wide, gives me the chance to fill the frame with the biker. 
The downside is you really have to be quick on the focus and tracking, not an easy accomplishment when you're being pelted with gravel spray. I tossed more than one shot like this where I missed the focus.

Falling Behind

I've gotten way behind in posting pictures, so the next few posts are not going to be in chronological order. Life has gotten in the way (as life seems to do from time to time) and while I've made time to take the shots, I've not made time to post them.
Here is another dirt track bike race. As always, they are great fun to shoot, part action, part noise, part getting pelted with gravel spray. Everyone there was friendly, even the Canon users (and to all my Canon fans, they only thing more insufferable than a Canon user, is a Nikon user) and we had a great time swapping stories. Given this was a race for real-world money, hotdogging like this rider here was a rarity. I think he recognized there were more than a handful of photographers on site and was simply showing off for us. And we thank you for it.
Taken with my rock-solid, never-say-die Nikon D2x and impossible-to-kill Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Being Careful

Most of the band members could play multiple instruments, so they could switch out and take turns bashing each other around. They were respectful of the (many) photographers there, but the fans get rowdy and accidents happen.
I had to shield a little person who was trying to take pics with her cell phone, all while trying to get good shots myself.
Ultimately we both got pics we were happy with. Here you have dueling guitarists.

Pics From The Show

The Gwar-BQ of 2014 was utter and complete chaos. They expected 5-6 thousand people, what they got was over 11 thousand screaming metalheads.
The ran out of food.
The ran out of beer (not that I drink)
They ran out of soda.
They ran out of water.

But they didn't run out of insanity. Witness the following band: Eat the Turnbuckle. EtT are a wrestling-themed thrash band who flail around and smash each other with various things, doors, chairs, etc. The music is energetic and the fans are into it, but the blood they spill from each other is real.

Like I said, insanity. Can't wait to go back next year.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Just a Statement

I have a media pass to photograph all the bands in the upcoming Gwar BQ this weekend, very excited! The Meatment and Ice-T will be there, as well as (of course) Gwar, Iron Reagan and many others.
In other news, for those that know me personally, I am free now. Broke, but free.

It's a good feeling.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Need More Cowbell...errr...Colour

 I realized I didn't have enough smiling faces or colour for the summer, so here is a batch of happy people from the Colour Run. All shot with my absolutely wonderful Nikon 50mm on my Nikon D2x. Stellar combination really. Perfect for people.




Monday, July 28, 2014

Back to basics

Many years ago I experimented with Infrared Photography, with reasonably pleasing results but I was new in the world of cameras, so I tried a bit of everything and it fell by the wayside as I concentrated on other subjects and techniques.
This weekend, along with the colour run (see below) I dug out my ancient Nikon D1x, my 720nm filter and had a go at IR work again.
Still the same old problems with using the filter, focusing is off (because the camera focuses on visible spectrum, not the IR one) so the image is soft, setting the shutter speed is highly dependent on the sun (or lack thereof) and a million other issues (the D1x hasn't been used in years and it's developing hotspots on the sensor) but if you don't look too closely at the image, it's acceptable.
One day I will get a dSLR converted to full time IR, but not this year, unless anyone wants to donate a dSLR to me, then I'll take pics in your honour.