Saturday, 28 June 2014

Learning to fly

Yesterday we had a BBQ organised by the  Melbourne photographic society. It was an opportunity to socialise and at the same time take some photos. It was held at the local aircraft museum, the East Midland Aeropark which is also conveniently right next to the runway of East Midland airport providing great views of the aircraft taking off and landing.

From my youngest days I've always had a great fascination with aircraft and the Aeropark is a place I know well, so really this should of been grist to the mill for me. But in the end I felt the results from the evening proved to be less than stellar.

I can point to a number of reasons, however this time I can't really blame the weather. OK, It could of been better, but no rain and occasionally the sun did poke through which  for the UK constitutes a heat wave.

The art of combining social and photographic events can always be a challenge. I have to admit I tend to be a bit of a loner when it comes to photography, but you have to make the effort to talk to people in these situations. However while you are doing so something in the back of your head is always telling you that you are missing some great photo opportunity by eating that sausage

When I went to the park my original intention had been to try my hand at HDR photography. HDR photos are something I've always liked and while they can be overdone, old planes, especially those with bare metal should of been perfect subjects.

My camera has a in-built HDR mode, which while not getting the optimum results, allows the taking of good test shots. The intention then was to see what worked,  setup the tripod and do a series of shots to be combined into  HDR images later. In the end however I just couldn't get the HDR shots I wanted. I am still not sure why, but one possibility there was not enough contrast around in the subjects at that time of day. Obviously I still have a lot to learn about HDR photography.

So as the HDR idea was not working out, I just went round snapping photo's of anything that took my interest. Unfortunately I then got sidetracked by an idea. The park had a large number of swallows flying around between the aircraft. Now Swallows and all the associated passerine's have always fascinated  me and if I had the time I could lie in the grass and can watch them fly all day. It seemed a good  idea to try and get a a shot of a swallow against a background  of old aircraft, providing a juxtaposition of nature and the man made flight (A couple of swallows had actually setup a nest in the wheel well of a Vulcan bomber which I found deeply ironic.).

I have always had the ambition of getting a great shot of a swallow in flight. I have this vision of a photo of a swallow flying low toward me over some grassy hill, mouth agape. Anyone who has ever attempted to photo these birds will know how challenging they are to capture in flight, since they are so fast and random in their flight patterns. Capturing them at all, especially with the zoom lens at it's greatest extent, was always going to be a mugs game, but this is exactly what I tried to do.

Having a photographic vision in your head and trying to execute it, is not necessarily a bad thing.  However sometimes you get so involved in attempting it that you fail to notice better photo opportunities around. While I was trying to capture swallows flying, I took some of photos of plane details with my 300mm zoom. In hindsight these were the shots I should of concentrated on.

There is always a danger when taking photos of aircraft of getting a photo of the whole aircraft. These tend to be the boring shots that add nothing to the art. It is far better to try unusual angles or pick out parts of the plane. These are the shots that in hindsight I should of been doing. The same lesson applies to any man made object be it cars, trains or ships.

There was also the opportunity to take photos of the planes as they came into land at East Midland airport. I did take a few of these, but I always think that these photos are never very interesting unless you are an avid plane spotter(and there were plenty of those around last night. One group had travelled all the way from Leeds!)

Anyway my takeaways from the evening were as follows
  • It's all well and good to have an idea, but don't concentrate on it to the point where you miss other potentially great shots.
  • When photographing planes and other large man made objects, often it is better to concentrate on the details rather than the whole object.
  • HDR is a great technique, but you need to work out when and how to get the best out of it.
  • Trying to take pictures of Swallows in flight is always going to end in disappointment.

Thanks to everyone who organised the BBQ last night, especially Ian Petit who sacrificed valuable camera time to ensure we were well fed. Also to the volunteers of the East Midland Aeropark for opening up the park late at night and showing us around some of the exhibits. 

P.S I originally wrote this blog before I really had a chance to review my shots. I now think that perhaps I was a bit hard on myself. Some of the shots were better than  I thought. Anyway judge for yourself

A big yellow banana full of parcels lands EMA

Sunlight on a Vulcan

Not sure why I even took this one, but the shapes are intruiging

I wish i could say this was deliberate. It was only when I got back that I could see the humour of the  runners running from the propellers

Yay, got one. A swallow flies past the Vulcan nose

One cargo of dried Cod

Nice detail of a prop

Waiting to fly. A swallow rests on a propeller

Wessex's in the sun

Canberra's Nose

Close up of a Canberra's engine

HDR's Canberra from the rear

HDR lightening. I have to admit probably went over the top Photoshop wise here. Work in progress...

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