Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tightening the View

Usually when I am at events like the C-17A 20th anniversary gig, I find myself looking for the unusual shot. This happens for a couple of reasons: First, you can only shoot so many side views, nose views, hero shots and people-crowded-around-the-really-big-airplane shots before you have more than you'll ever need or want to see again. Fortunately, in this digital age, you're only killing electrons, so the material damage - as in expensive film costs - are virtually nonexistent if you wish.

The second reason is unusual shots intrigue me. They show the commonplace in a not so common way. Sometimes its the lines that draw me; sometimes the light. More often than not its both. In any event I let my mind float until I see an angle that sings to me.

If you've ever had a chance to peruse old photo archives of newspapers, aerospace companies or other image-heavy institutions, the art of cropping becomes very apparent. It was a limitation of the fixed lens used by most company photographers, especially in the day of 4x5 Speedgraphic cameras. But while fixed lenses have their definite advantages, what I like about modern zoom lenses is their ability to allow me to "crop" in camera as a means of capturing the composition I want the first time.

The two images in this post are a good example. I liked the angle in the above shot and thought the orange Edwards AFB tail band made a good anchor for the composition. It was a tightly cropped picture compared to the normal, wider-angle style usually taken, and it made for a nice, pleasing image.

However, by going in tighter with the zoom from a slight different angle, I got the shot below. The orange band is hidden and the American flag takes center stage in a much more abstract and dramatic composition than in the first image. Because it was done in camera there is no loss of image quality or enlargement potential, which is a decided plus.

At the same time, the option of post-image cropping is still available if needed, which I have indeed used on occasion. They are, after all, tools and techniques to use in achieving what we see in our mind. In the end it's the result that counts - at least for photography.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tail Lights

I had the opportunity to cover the 20th anniversary of the first flight of the Boeing C-17A Globemaster III at Edwards AFB this past September. The CTF (combined test force) essentially recreated the flight from Long Beach to Edwards by having the number one aircraft (91-0003, also known as T-1) take off from Edwards, fly over the McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) facility where it was built and then return and land at Edwards.

After watching the landing out by the runway we were taken to the hangar where the official ceremony was to take place. There were quite a few people there from the test force and a lot of dignitaries, including the original first flight crew.

After several speeches, and a great deal of sober reflection on how close the C-17 came to cancellation after only 40 aircraft were built due to poor design and quality issues, the program could finally reflect on the success of its remarkable turnaround and the delivery of over 230 Globemaster IIIs to the Air Force.

The airplane is now a very critical cog in this country's ability to transport troops and their supplies overseas. It truly has become a feel-good story and a great lesson in perseverance and teamwork. One could say that hopefully the lessons aren't lost in today's environment, but personally I'd prefer not to see those problems occur at all. Hardship may build character, but it also makes one very old and tired from all the stress.

Be that as it may, after the ceremony we were allowed to wander around the hangar and go inside the airplane. I found this shot to be rather neat in its design with the ceiling lights and glowing windows of the hangar straddling the towering line of the C-17's tail. It produced a rather pleasing image to me - and hopefully to you as well.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Sand Reflections

While there are times I feel that color detracts from the image, there are also times when it becomes the main focal point. The above is one such case.

The broad beach fanning north from Morro Rock was incredible as the tide receded. The sand retained enough water to reflect the light as the setting sun cast its deepening hues off the golden coastal hills.

It was amazing to see how long that reflectiveness lasted, especially since it was happening more and more beyond the edge of the waves. Regardless, the wet, rippled sand made for a rather abstract image as it contrasted with the drier portions of the beach with their still discernible undulations upon them. Adding to the contrast, the lengthening shadow from the rock loomed
over the near portion of beach while the upper part was still in sunlight.

The mirror effect was captivating. It is not as captivating to me in black and white, as the adjusted image below shows.

In my mind this merely reinforces the lesson that whether color or black and white, it's the final product that matters.

Just for grins, I've included a wide-angle shot of the beach below. I am standing near the foot of Morro Rock looking north. You can see how far to the left the active wave action was occurring. They did not go beyond the middle of the image, so the sand was indeed very, very saturated.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Dock on the Bay

We managed to get away for a long weekend to Cambria and the Central Coast. It's apple season deep in See Canyon near Avila Beach and they sang their crunchy siren song to Tina, so we had to go.

Part of the trip was so Tina could paint and I could take photos. We left very early Friday morning and got to San Luis Obispo by about 9:30. After breakfast at the Apple Farm we spent the rest of the midday scouting locations in Los Osos, Baywood and Morro Bay. We found a nice spot, but decided to come back when the light was better.

When we came back later that afternoon, we discovered to our horror that the tide had gone out and the lovely estuary was now more a mudflat than waterway. So we came back the next day.

The spot we decided upon was at the foot of Doris Avenue where it crosses Mitchell Drive in Los Osos. Crosses is a bit of a misnomer as the other side is a small parking space between two houses and a footpath with "coastal access" trailing between them. That leads to two benches between two private yards, a foot path disappearing into the water's edge and a view of the estuary and bay from that spot along the shore.

But it was enough for Tina to set up and paint the estuary and tree-lined shore to the east and for me to shoot the private docks jutting northward into the shallow water. Morro Rock could be seen across the way.

I liked the look of the small docks. I used black and white film in my Mamiya 645 in a more formal setup, but took some grab shots with the Canon Eos 40D. Since my intent was a black and white image, I modified the above shot in Photoshop and tweaked the contrast. I really like the look of the structure and its reflection in the water. It has a more classical appeal than the original color image below - at least I think so. It's one of those cases where the color distracts from the overall effect.

The nice thing about shooting in digital is the ability to take a color image and convert it to black and white. That's a bit harder to do with film, although in this day and age I suppose I could shoot in color transparency and then do a high resolution scan and convert to black and white if I desire. That way I'd have more options.

I may do that in the future, but for this day, it was black and white film. I'm anxious to see how the shots turned out. Hopefully as good as the digital image!