I’m back from a 2-week trip to Alaska to find that the National Parks Traveler has published my latest photography article. Extremely short on words but lots of photos to prove my point. If you want to check it out, click on this link.
Thunder Bird B-17G Flying Fortress
I’ve lived in Texas for a little over 16 years now, and it’s taken me this long to discover Galveston’s Lone Star Flight Museum. I still probably would not have heard of this place had I not been Googling around for some other aviation-related item and just happened to chance upon this site.
I’m interested in all things WWII-related. If you’ve read my previous post “Remembrance”, then you know my father was a WWII paratrooper who jumped over Normandy on D-Day.
I’d just finished editing a large set of wedding photos and decided for my first free Saturday to take a little drive along the Gulf Coast toward Galveston and visit this museum. Naturally, I took along one of my cameras (the 1DX with the 16-35mm lens). I also brought along my 24-70mm lens but exclusively utilized the 16-35 because I wanted that wider-angle perspective perfect for capturing most, if not the entire, plane view.
The museum is well-lit, but it’s still an interior venue; this means I set my camera to a relatively high ISO of 640; I subsequently brightened up the images a little more during the post-process stage.
First sight that greets the museum visitor’s eyes
Some people think that these buxom, scantily-clad women (not including that winged tiger) are denigrating to the female sex. I totally disagree! But maybe it’s because I – on occasion – have the opportunity to photograph very lovely women (sometimes scantily-clad), myself, and thus I see the beauty in what was captured on the plane’s noses. Don’t forget that this artistry was also a great morale booster to young men very far away from home. The museum has a great explanation of the nose art you see here in these two photos. My favorite piece of art is ‘Surprise Attack”.
Willys MB 1943
Planes are not the only items on exhibit in the museum.
Tarheel Hal P-47D Thunderbolt
Special Delivery – B-25 Mitchell Bomber
During the time I visited, a James Doolittle reenactor was recounting Doolittle’s Raid to several listeners (including yours truly) . I had a chance to speak to the gentleman afterwards, who told me he’d been doing this for 4 years, during which time he had the good fortune to speak to several survivors as well as to Doolittle’s biographer.
Bum Steer P51 Mustang
According to the placard for this plane, the engine didn’t “meet the expectations of the U.S. Army Air Corps”; Britain re-fitted the planes with the Rolls Royce Merlin engine which greatly improved performance.
“Annie Mo” F4U-5N Corsair
The wing configuration reminds me of the imperial shuttle on Star Wars. My tour guide Kevin told me that George Lucas is a huge WW II buff.
“Marlene – Uncle Ho’s Nightmare”
As a photographer, I absolutely LOVE the nose art on these planes. Those artists were amazing.
Surplus Stearmans were sold as crop dusters and stunt planes after the war. This gorgeous yellow model immediately brought to mind the yellow bi plane crop duster I sometimes see on my way home from Houston, swooping around and flying low to the ground.
Ready to Roll
The museum offers 25-minute flights on both the Stearman bi plane and the T-6 Texan Trainer (for a price – check their website for more details). Flights are offered on Saturdays, good weather permitting. During the day I visited, the cloud ceiling was too low, otherwise I would have splurged for a ride (had I not been saving for my upcoming Alaska trip, I would have probably taken a ride in both, because they both looked like awesome fun).
FYI – I recently read an online article indicating the Lone Star Flight Museum will be moved inland to Ellington Field sometime in the spring of 2016. You see, Hurricane Ike did a number on the museum (to the tune of about $18 million) and damaged several planes. There’s an American flag hanging on the wall above one of the jeeps; this flag bears a dirty water mark indicating the height of the flood waters that rushed into the museum’s hangars.
Becky and The Texan
Special thanks to museum photographer Kevin McGowan for snapping some “me” shots in front of the Texan and the Stearman. The show woman in me wants to return all gussied up wearing a 1940’s dress for some more photos.
I’m not a full-time wedding photographer so I don’t have a wedding scheduled every week like some photographers with whom I am acquainted. I’m happy with the three weddings I have booked for this year (I *do* have a day job, ya know).
The first wedding in the books for 2014 was Kyle & Adrienne’s nuptials on June 21st, located at La Tranquila Ranch in Tomball, Texas. Adrienne’s parents attended a wedding I’d photographed in early 2013, and her father liked my work enough that he convinced his daughter to use me.
A couple of months prior to the wedding, they hired me for their engagement photos. Bonus!
The ceremony was set to be conducted beneath the sheltering, shady branches of a stately, 85-year old oak tree stationed at the end of a long, wide swath of soft, summer-green grass.
I’d arrived early, as is my wont, and scouted the area for locations in which to place myself and my small step-ladder during the ceremony and afterwards for posed shots.
Hot and sweaty from the humid environment, I finally entered the villa, site of the reception. Ahh, AC.
Cameras and I awaited the arrival of the bride and her entourage…and the flowers…and the cake…..and the guests.
As I was photographing the bride beside the windows of the reception room, the sky dumped a flood of rain upon the area. The outdoor wedding was switched to an indoor wedding. Although the bride was disappointed, the precipitation did nothing to dampen her excitement and happiness for the day.
Despite the quick change in ceremony venue, everything – to my eye – went off without a hitch.
Here’s the thing with wedding photography: it’s more than just a matter of taking pretty pictures. There are a *ton* of “required” images every photographer must capture, and you’d better get them because weddings are one of those situations where there are NO do-overs. You’d better have the professional equipment with which to capture those images (and you’d better know how to use said equipment). You’d better get the couple exchanging rings during the ceremony; you’d better get the couple kissing at ceremony’s end; you’d better get the couple’s first dance; you’d better get the father-daughter and mother-son dances; you’d better get the toasts and speeches; you’d better get the couple cutting the cake; you’d better get the couple in their get-away car; you’d better get all those little extras like the bride getting ready and the groom and groomsmen and the reception set up and etc. etc. etc. And then, you sure as hell had better know how to process those images after all is said and done. You’d better know how to capture the mood, lighting and emotion of the players on that day. So much to do for a wedding photo shoot!
Here’s the skinny on how I got the shots.
Lenses – all Canon:
Note: these are all considered “fast” lenses because of their ability to open up at a wide aperture to allow in the maximum amount of light – perfect for low-light situations.
Because the wedding and reception were inside, I knew I would be using a relatively high ISO – anywhere from 1000 to 3200+. I made as much use as possible of the beautiful natural light streaming through the glassed-in reception area windows because I dislike using flash unless/until I absolutely must. I *did* use a flash, though, for the reception party and dances as the sun set and it grew dark outside.
The posed images were all taken within the villa. The rain had ceased after the ceremony, but because it was so hot and steamy outside (hello, it was Texas on the Summer Solstice), the difference in temperature between the air-conditioned building and the area outdoors not only steamed up my camera lenses but my glasses as well. It would have taken too long to acclimate the cameras and there were too many requisite shots to get in too short of a time span before the reception party began in earnest.
Ultimately, the only outside shots I got were the ones of Kyle and Adrienne in the “get away” car. I had to stand outside by myself for about 30 minutes to free the camera lens of condensation. In hindsight (and that’s always 20-20), I should have put a camera and lens in a bag and just left it sitting outside for an hour or so while I stayed within the villa capturing other shots; after all, I *did* have three camera bodies. Ah well, every wedding I work provides some new lesson/insight for me to use for the next occasion.
Everything was hand-held. No tripod. No timed shots. Only one lens possessed image stabilization (IS). So, I applied what I jokingly (and other photographers disparagingly) refer to as the “spray and pray” method of capturing an image. The method is simple: hold down on the shutter button and click away for about 4-5 shots. Rule of thumb is that, out of all of those shots, at least one of them will be nice and sharp. The downside is that it uses up a lot of memory card space and adds to your post-process time as you go through each image to find the sharpest one. The upside (for me) is that I have *a lot* of memory cards (48 cards varying from 4GB to 16 GB).
By the time the party ended at 10PM and the bride & groom were ensconced in the car and down the road, I had captured over 3000 images (remember, “spray and pray”). Ultimately, those images were culled down to 360 “keepers” (took me 3 weeks of post-process work).
I use Lightroom *and* Photoshop on my PC when editing photos. I find some tools easier to use in Lightroom than in Photoshop and vice versa. I also work with Layers in Photoshop. A layer is a non-destructive way to edit a photo without changing the original. Layers, however, make for a much larger file, which is why I save my images to either a 500GB or 1TB portable hard drive (actually, I save to two different portable HDs because redundancy is a photographer’s saving grace in case something happens to one of the drives).
Noise reduction software, either stand-alone or as a plug-in, is de rigueur when shooting within low-light environments. I use Imagenomic’s Noiseware and there are other, equally good, noise reduction applications on the market.
I also applied a number of special effects presets from OnOne Software’s Perfect Effects program. I used this particularly for the groom, his groomsmen, and some of the bride & groom shots.
It was a fun wedding, everybody was really photogenic, and I captured some great moments for the bride, groom, their families and friends.
Next wedding: late September, here in Texas.
To see more images from Kyle and Adrienne’s wedding, click on this link.
Just a little reminder that the Chihuahuan desert can be a dangerous place. I was driving toward the Chisos Mountains and noticed ahead of me what looked like a traffic jam. As I got closer, I noticed the truck was a National Park Service truck. I drove slowly and glanced to the right side of the road to see one very angry snake lunging at my car as I passed by (look at the lower left of this photo).
In my single-minded pursuit to photograph the beauty of the park, this was a reminder to me to be ever-observant of the more venomous side of the desert.