Sunday, May 19, 2019

Eagle Watching from a Tree

This is the accompanying Eagle in the Trees image from yesterday when I had to get a bit more creative to capture a good image of my local Eagle.  This is a different perspective.  I have shots from under the nest tree.  I have shots from 'in front' for the nest.  I have shots from 'behind' the next tree.  And now this is a shot from one 'side' of the nest.
This is the farthest I've been from the Eagle to take the image.  And the most aggressive crop.
I've been using some sharpening software from Topaz, notably AI Clear and Sharpen AI.  Technically, I have a few days left in the trial period for Sharpen, but I do like it.  Time to start looking for a coupon.
I think the software has allowed me to crop more aggressively.  There could be more detail in the Eagle feathers and the limbs.  And there is enough detail to be a good capture.  But for as far away as I was, I'll take this.

Not much more needs to be said.

And it is sharp on the monitors.

Pelican Banking

Pelican Banking.  That is way too funny.  If I could draw, I'd have the Pelican in a line of Pelicans in front of a bank teller or ATM.
This image from South Carolina is pretty much straight out of the camera.  That is to say I question if it is level or not.  I seem to remember in one flight sequence as the bird was flying almost directly over my head, I was still snapping away.  And when I think of the angles, this could be the result.  I thought about leveling the image to the clouds, but it did not work as well for me.

I didn't know Pelicans had blue eyes.  Looks blue to me.  I didn't do it.  Or enhance it.  Swear.
To me the image is intensely sharp.  The thousands of sea gull shots I took to practice getting in focus BIF paid off here.
The blue, black and red of the Pelican eye is catching.  Stark difference to the yellow of my Eagles.

Lots of interesting things.  the close wing tip with the feathers turned up.  I'm not sure about the tip of the bill, but I'll bet there is a evolutionary reason for it.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Eagle talking

I had to work for this one.
Yes, in mid-Michigan we now have those pesky green things that attach themselves to trees.  And block views.  And actually it is a good thing, it signals warmth.
However leaves are beginning to block my view of the local Eagle's nest.  The Eaglets are moving quite a bit but I can only get some brief glimpses for now.  Maybe at another time they will go to another part of the nest that I can see better.  So for now, the nest is almost off limits.  But Dad is still watching from a close by branch.  Out in the open.  Almost.
From my favorite Eagle paparazzi place, I have a clear path to view Dad, except for one lone branch that is attached to the limb he is sitting on.  If he moves four inches either way, good view.  And he doesn't move just to move his feet.  I was there for half an hour and he stayed put.
And that's OK, because he stayed put for the next half hour while I moved around.
I found another spot around the small water 'lake' with a clear view, but quite a bit farther away.  The images came out alright and one may make it to the blog.  I had to work for that one as well.  Lot's of brush to move through.
Then I tried the first location I used many months ago.  This is sneaking up to the tree that supports the nest.  And it's not easy to get to.  Again, working to get the image.  And in this case, I would be getting the back end the Eagle, not facing it.  Maybe it would work?
I was lucky.  When I found a place where the spring tree limbs with new leaves didn't get in my way, it was pretty heavy bush.  Gotta do what you gotta do.
I finally found a good place.  Every now and again, the Eagle would turn its head and I'd have a good shot.
Then two things happened I didn't expect.  First, the wind picked up and starting moving the leaves and branches (not helpful) and the Eagle began to chatter (helpful).  I'll take that trade every day.

This was at 600 mm.  I'm getting a lot more confident with the 1.3 size mode that allows me to get the extra reach.  Of course, I could really use a 500 or 600 mm lens as well.  Another time, another post.
And it was a healthy crop.  Looks good on the monitor and that is all that counts.

Some of the distortion in the sky are out of focus leaves that are in the way.  And I caught a bit of him doing some left wing maintenance, air it out in the breeze. But to get the timing of the Eagle chatting I'll live with it.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

F4U Inverted

When reviewing all the images from the air show earlier this month, I over looked this one because it was a bit on the fuzzy side.  Not bad.  Would look good, or OK, on a small medium.  But it really is a nice shot.
There are three interesting parts of this image to me.
First, and foremost, is the prop and the front of the aircraft.  Prop is blurred, the yellow tip of the prop is coming across the blur paint of the cowling.  You have the yellow prop hub.  And there is some silver stuff going on.  The yellow prop tips coming across the cowling set this image apart for me.
Another area is the cockpit.  You can see the pilot's headgear.  Close enough you could talk with the guy.  The canopy glass is clear.  And since he is pretty much inverted, there is no sun spot or cloud reflection.  Just clear.
And this may sound odd, but the yellow tail tip gets to me as well.  Just makes me look at the entire tail section.  And maybe that's what kept me away earlier from this image, the writing on the tail section was just too blurry.  The decals may be a bit soft in the final image, and I'd like them to be a bit more crisp.  But as is it doesn't ruin the image for me.

All things being equal, I don't like shooting at f/25.  I feel that is not my best opportunity for a crisp image.  But when the subject is in the air, with no cloud cover, you just do what you have to do.  Fix it later.
That 600 mm (math) reach at 1/160 second doesn't help much either.  So spray and pray and hope fore the best.  (Sometimes you get lucky.)
At least the ISO was in the ball park.  Something that worked for me.

There is more software work in this than I'm usually comfortable with.  But software was created to be used.  This one might cost me though, the trial period is almost over.
For me, this is the  best of the air show bunch.  It is inverted, you can read the decals and there is pretty good prop blur.  That one will run the blue ink out of the printer.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Extra Gear

In the SRI maintenance area there are many unused (?) rail cars.  Each one is a treasure to itself.
Way in the back, I found a flat car with a wood deck.  On the deck was so much stuff.  All sorts of odds and ends.  And plant growth.  And synthetic rope.  I didn't want to irritate our generous hosts by climbing all over the cars so I could get a good frame on the entire deck.  So you do what you can.
On the back corner was this gear.  Looked heavy.  Looked weathered.

The 1/800 second shutter speed and ISO 2000 are a bit of overkill.  But this isn't going to be a fine art image.  A little noise isn't going to hurt this one at all.

I was in debate with myself on if the branches should be removed.  In the end, the location demanded the scene needed to stay as is.  The subject to me is the gear, and the branches are not in the way.  The detail in the metal is starting to get to me like the detail in wood.  I usually prefer to 'add' some to the rust color, but here it didn't work for me.  This shade is just right.

Metal Wheel Stuff

I had fun photographing 'stuff' at the Steam Railroading Institute maintenance area.  In the old and new stuff, lots of interesting shapes, forms and contrasts.  There were so many targets of opportunity.
There were a number of older, naturally weathered cars that reside in the maintenance area.  Some of the cars were recognizable such as tankers and box cars.  Other cars were more of a single purpose maintenance vehicle with large pieces of machinery attached.
Other targets were lots of stores of spare and fabricated parts.  In those areas there were many shapes and colors.  Great stuff for 'artsy' images.
Hopefully we'll get a chance to go back at a different time of year when the trains are out of the shed and maybe some better light.  But for now, this excursion was an excellent time.

This is part of a wheel assembly of the next railroad project for the SRI.  When I entered the parking area I saw the bottom frame skeleton of a steam engine.  I was instantly fascinated.  Rust.  It was outdoors and it looked it.  Rust.  On the other side was this placard with the rest of the story.  So it is there for a reason.

This skeleton as it is now is just a mess of shapes, light and rust.  This was soooo coool.  Rust.

So the following is part of the (as you are looking at it) right side toward the front wheel.  Looks a bit odd, but this part of the wheel has the offset weight.  I wanted to get a number of seemingly unrelated shapes.  Did I mention, I dig the rust?

This is definitely out of my comfort zone.  Screams "Artsy"!

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Blue Angel 6 Ship Formation

Of all the images I viewed when looking at airshow images, probably the most common of the Blue Angels was something along these lines.  The aircraft streaking across the sky in formation with smoke.  And all I can say is, I now have mine.

Blue Angels Gear Up

As I don't know a lot about the Blue Angel program, my host told me to watch for the maneuvers shortly after getting into the air.  There is a transition from four in a straight line (for going down the runway at the same time) to a four ship diamond formation.  This four ship diamond formation is the start of their program.
In order to do this, one aircraft must leave the straight line and take place (below) behind the lead aircraft.  Thanks to my host, I was waiting for this to happen.
I wasn't disappointed.  Half of me wanted to see the maneuver, and the other half wanted to see it through the camera.  Guess which half won?

This image didn't need a lot of help.  There is a little cropping for the frame but other than that, it all worked.  By this time of day the sun moved into a better position and was not directly overhead.  As it was also behind us, no shadows.  Recipe for a good image.

The gear is coming up and the #4 is moving into position.  
It always amazes me how light is captured through a lens and funneled to a sensor or film can get detail.  In each aircraft, you can clearly see the pilot and the sky through the cockpit canopy.

Blue Angel Pilots

One of the subjects I wanted to work on for this airshow was to get closer to the pilots in the cockpit.  I've seen pictures of pilots close up with helmets on and visors down.  Really impressive.  This image was at the maximum extent of my lens, with all the math it is 600 mm.  Plus a little cropping.
That being said, it is still a good image.
I had taken quite a few, but this is the best of the lot.  I want a shot with both pilots looking at the crowd.  If both were waving, that would be a bonus, but I'll take one wave.

This was an interesting image to work with.  There are areas of sharpness, and some with blur.  It took me a while to figure out what was going on.  The blur didn't look 'natural' or camera initiated.  The blur on the rear aircraft is caused by the engine exhaust from the pair in front of this pair.  Issue resolved.

Unfortunately this is about as close as the aircraft got to us, just before taking a taxiway to the runway.  But I'll take it.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Niles Tool Works

Last fall I got hooked on the steam railroad engine, PM 1225.  After the holiday run, the engine spends the winter going through maintenance at the Steam Railroading Institute in Owasso, MI. 
Today, the Flint Photography club had the behind the scenes tour.  As far as the tour goes, we were paired up with a few volunteers who had a wealth of knowledge, and made sure we didn't hurt ourselves.  And although the trains and support cars were interesting, my end of the rainbow was all the unused/forgotten cars.  What stories could they tell?
Some of the machines, I had no idea what they were for.  But the colors and textures were too good to pass up.  The rust, the cracked pain and metal, just can't find that anywhere.
So this is not a picture of a train, per se.  It is on a train car, trust me.  This appears to be a mobile maintenance tool.

I worked with a 35 mm prime lens for the day.  I traveled light and if I had to do it over again I'd do the same.  In later indoor shots, I could have used a flash, but I didn't, and that decision could use some review.  But the outdoor shots were pretty good despite the bland sky.  Or in shots with no sky, it all works out.

This could be a winch of some sort, but most of the internal mechanics are gone.  But that is OK, the exterior is just fine.  I like the layout of this, I usually don't get this lucky for everything to fall into place.  And what would this look like in Paint?

No favorites here, I like both!

Eagle Mom and Eaglet

You go away for a few weeks, and....  The Eaglets arrive.
This morning I went to the nest early and caught a most interesting scene.  Dad Eagle was sitting out of the nest, but keeping close.  Mom Eagle was in the nest with what looks to be two Eaglets.  This was so cool.  I wasn't able to stay long, but will return soon.
Back to this morning.  I've been lucky on previous trips that the sky has been a favorable blue.  Today, not so much.  Back to Michigan flat.

As always, this is the reach of my equipment - and a pretty aggressive crop.  The subject is too good to not show.  It is acceptable on the monitor test.  And will look good on a tablet.

Maybe next time I can get a family portrait? 

Green Anole

Taking a break from the airplanes, both on the trip and now.
My host and I decided to ditch the airshow on the second day as the images probably weren't going to get any better.  And I wanted to see more of South Carolina than an airstrip.  So the day was swamp critters and pelicans.
We started the day at Charleston County Park.  The Caw Caw Interpretive Center is a wonderful place to see, in my case, a bunch of small critters.  Didn't see any alligators.
But we did see plenty of these little green guys.  Or gals.  I don't get to see many of these types of critters.  Unless I'm walking though the Pet Store.

By this time I change the metering mode to SPOT.  Life is now much easier.   Anyway, this little guy, or gal, was the first critter I saw that day.  I was really happy.  My host for the day wasn't too embarrassed with my excitation over a common lizard.  Ha.  Friends with a sense of humor, priceless.

Good way to start the day.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

F22 Raptor

This might be the story of the only weapon system to be cancelled early because it was too good.  Of the original 750 planned for, only 187 copies were built.  Like anything the government does, there were lots of delays, cost overruns and bad luck.  But when it is in the air, it is the baddest unit in the sector.  For a few years, the Pentagon said this system outpaced the 'other guys'.  So the program was whittled down bit by bit over the years.  Now that the 'other guys' are catching up, it will cost too much to re-start the program again.  Government.
As to the show at the Air Show, the demo was great.  Lots of yanks and banks, and pretty much constant after burner.  Loud and plenty of vibrations.   If this doesn't inspire one to be part of air power - well nothing will.

Catching a little A/B in the day is pretty cool.

The day was dry, so no vapor trails or clouding.  Too bad, that would have been icing on the cake.

Class of 45 Demo Team

The class of 45 Demo ( team tours many air shows every year.  The team consists of two WWII era prop driven fighters, the P51D Mustang and the F4U-4 Corsair.  Both aircraft have thousands of hours in restoration invested.
This is one of the acts that really excited me to go to this year's show.  I've seen many P51s in flight and P51 kit planes as well.  I've seen a static display of the F4U, but never heard one or seen on in flight.  Bucket list item.  Bucket list item now crossed off the list as completed.
I could listen to WWII aircraft engines all day.
The show was fun to watch, as both aircraft performed many maneuvers.  
The photography part of this was challenging.  First absolute sunshine.  The blue reflection off the metal skin of the P51 had a blueish tone.  And the P51 is at one end of the light spectrum and the F4U is at the other.  And to capture the prop blur correctly, the shutter speed has to be slower.  I took maybe 50-55 shots of the act and maybe only 5 came out to be usable - my standards.  many would look good on smaller medium like a phone or table, but we march to the monitor test here.

This is at the furthest reach of my equipment, 450 mm.  Just another argument to go shopping.

One of the new tricks I've picked up from this trip, from perfect blue skies is to use a graduated filter for the light level.  If there is no definition in the sky, make some.  Looks fairly natural to me.

C17 Globemaster Take Off

Not that I'm an expert in four engine fixed wing heavy cargo aircraft, but I know more about the subject than I do fighter aircraft or helicopters.  The C17 entered the inventory in 1993, just after I exited the inventory after flying eight years on the biggest of the big, the C5 Galaxy as a Flight Engineer.  I remember news of the C17 testing.  And I remember the news of no Flight Engineer station.  As the wave of the future, that did not play any part in my decision to exit.  The C5 will always be irreplaceable in my Air Force.
But this post is about the C17.  I think I'm over not liking it now for purely personal reasons.  And when I did see it fly up close, it is an awesome example of a heavy cargo aircraft acting like a fighter.
I did get on a C17 when out at Reno last year and had a chance to chat with the flight crew.  I took some good natured ribbing about the FE being replaced by some box with a few switches in the pilot's overhead console.  I didn't mention that pilots have been replaced for years by George, or Otto, or whatever the current name is for the auto-pilot.  No sense getting tossed on the tarmac.  Live to kid another day.   Seriously, was a great conversation with the crew.
The C17 can haul a lot of cargo.  It can load up with just over 170,000 pounds of cargo.   Like the C5, it has multiple configuration for either cargo, troops or med-evac.  There are very few places where the C17 can't operate.
When I watched the take off of this aircraft, it took me back to the days when I was on the other side of the crowd control barrier.  For an air show take off, we'd sit at the end of the runway, run up the engines to peace time maximum, sit on the brakes for a while to build up as much energy we could.   When the brakes were released, our empty aircraft would hurtle down the runway until the pilot would pull back on the column and that big cargo aircraft would leap off the runway and climb.  And climb.  And climb.  Very few rides at an amusement park could match what we were doing.
And so this C17 did the same thing.  The process to build up energy was the same, and the flight path was the same.  For a ex-cargo hauler, it was awesome to watch.

Photographically speaking this is interesting as the sky almost matches the aircraft color scheme.  Coincidence?  Maybe a camo paint job would have been better?

That's a pretty good climb angle for a cargo aircraft.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

F-35B Lightning II Driver

I left this air show thinking that what I saw just wasn't fair.  And like the fabled bumble bee, none of this stuff should fly.  But these craft do fly, and more.  And when the air show announcer starts off the F35B introduction saying that what you will see is not the full capability of the Lightning II because those capabilities not shown are still classified, that is way too cool.  And a lot of what I saw should have been classified.  What else can this do?
Still images can not do the F-35B justice.  But I'll try.
In this image, I wanted to get the pilot.  I tried to do this with a lot of the aircraft (when I remembered!).

There were no issues with this image.  It is cropped for framing purposes.  My interest when I saw this was the helmet.  From what I see, the helmet itself is $400k.  Wonder what the helmet bag looks like?

This isn't your daddy's fighter jet.

Pelican Water Landing

While in Charleston, one must see the pelican circus that is in continual performance.  For the most part, I get to see only sea gulls locally.  So I had a request to see pelicans when in Charleston.  We spent some time on a waterway and I now have over 400 pelican pictures.  At least one must be good, right?
I am always in awe of nature photographers that display their catches of a critter in action.  And that action that is part if the image.  With birds in water, wither the landing, take off or fish capture.
In this case, the pelican is in the process of (a crash) landing in the water.  For me, there's lots going on.  The bird, the bird's colors and the water.

This is at the full length of my lens reach, essentially 450 mm.  And it is cropped a bit.  That being said, it is pretty crisp and clear.

In my efforts to "fit a frame', this does it about as well as I can.  In this image, the bigger the better, looks great on the monitors.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

CH-53E Super Stallion Approach

In the times we all have of wondering what other paths in life we could have taken, flying a heavy lift helicopter like the Jolly Green or Super Stallion was one for me.  I was lucky to be part of the C5 cargo aircraft crew and would have been happy working on the helicopter heavies as well.
This is the CH-53E Super Stallion.  At the airshow, the event was listed as MAGTF Demo.  MAGTF is the Marine Air - Ground Task Force.   The unit is designed to work together with Command, Ground Combat, Aviation Combat and Combat Service Support.  As part of the demo, there were F/A18s, an Osprey and the Super Stallion.
This helicopter has been in service since the early 80's when 177 were built.  The aircraft will lift just over 17 tons and fly at speeds up to 170 knots.  The size is limited due to a requirement to operate from ships.  Even with the limitation , the helicopter is the one of the largest in the world.
This one was coming in for a landing as part of the Demo.

The image was shot at 1.3 image size.  The effective focal length is 320 mm.  With the shutter speed at 1/200 sec, that is a recipe for disaster.  But the target was large and slow allowing me to get a pretty good capture.

There are seven titanium - fiberglass composite main rotor blades and the flex can be seen here.  That unit can move a lot of troops and equipment.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Brown Pelican in Flight

Until last week, I had very few shots of a pelican bird.  That changed.  I mentioned this to my host last week and as a great host would, he provided more pelican shot opportunities than I could hope for.
We spent a few hours in the Charleston Port area.  Like any water area with fishing and shrimping as a way of life, there are many avian scavengers.  And in this case, the avian part are the pelicans.
This pelican however is just cruising from one place to another.
This image however is more of a story about not screwing up with a good opportunity.  And seeing the combo of the D500 and 70-300 lens getting a fast focus lock and keeping the lock.
There are many pelican shots that will probably make the blog, but I really like how this turned out.  I like the green bokeh and the other flying critter.  The subject bird is razor sharp all the way through.  I think the frame is right, no need to crop any closer.

This image shows the difference between the normal image size and the 1.3 image size use with many of the aircraft shots.  In my opinion, just a much better image quality-wise.

It could be a good birding season for me.

AV-8B Harrier II

The AV-8B Harrier II is a decedent of  Harrier jet I saw when stationed at Okinawa AB in the early '80s.  The design is late 80's as an American version of a British Harrier.  The purpose of the aircraft is V/STOL, Vertical Short Take Off and Landing.  This design allows the craft to essentially hover and fly close to super sonic.  Daniel Bernoulli is rolling in the grave.  A fixed wing aircraft is supposed to use Mr. Bernoulli's principals to create lift over the fixed wing by moving forward at some speed.  The makers of the Rolls-Royce Pegasus engines have overcome gravity.
The aircraft is multi-purpose.  It has been used for close in air support, escort, fighter, and many other roles.  It can be outfitted with missiles, bombs and has a 25 mm cannon.  Gun at a knife fight sort of stuff.  (I said this a lot at the show.)

This was taken in the 1.3 image size, which means instead of a 20 mega-pixel, it is about 12 MP.  I get a bit more reach through the lens with this.  it says the focal length is 210 mm, but is is closer to 420 mm by the time all the math is done.
The original image is very dark.  I had to get a bit creative with creating duplicate images that were much lighter and then doing some blending magic.  There will be a lot of that in my future with these images.

At this time the sun was almost directly overhead.  Everything under the wings and undercarriage was dark.  The trick was to get some light in the shadows.  there was also some sun burn on the top of the aft section which needed some darkening.  The reflection of the blue sky is visible on the cockpit canopy.  There is a blue reflective haze everywhere.  The trees might be a bit over-saturated, but what the heck, I was in South Carolina.

MCAS Beaufort Air Show and other Southern Thoughts

Back from the Air Show trip.  In short, it was great.  Weather was absolutely perfect, and perfect for the sun tan (burn).  I thought the show was good.  That being said, some veterans of the show said it has been much better in the past.  What do I know, I'm only a rookie from north of the Mason-Dixon line that was happy to be in the sun for a few days, eh?  The Blue Angel program was a bit on the short side due to some show environmental issues but they did their bit, and it was fantastic.
Photographically speaking, I'll start listing the errors.
The biggest error I made was to change metering.  I went from spot to center weighted.  What was I thinking? Who knows, but this is another example of what I do best - take a working process and break it.  Most of the military craft shots taken with the sky as the background are very dark.  The flat surface of the aircraft played games with the camera sensors.  Stealth, right?  When I did chimp the pictures, the histograms looked OK, but in the sunlight I had trouble with the back display to see the images.  However, all that means is a few more steps in the RAW processing.  I was also purposely shooting at a -1 EV because of the sunlight and trying to reduce the (sun) burns in the image.  So erroring on the dark side is much better than the alternative.  That was the biggest blunder.
As to what went right, I chose prop shot speeds at 1/160 of a second.  That worked real well.  The only aircraft that didn't play well with that speed was the Osprey.  The blades are pretty much frozen in those shots.  That's still a little fast for taxiing shots, but stuff was happening fast.  No time to make changes.  Or sometimes, all day to make changes.  just the way it flows.  All in all, this worked out much better than the previous shots in Reno.  Progress.
All of the shots were taken in MANUAL with AUTO ISO.  I believe that worked well.  From what I can tell, only one shot creeped above ISO 400.  I did get a lot of practice moving the command dials.  I will say I missed only a few shots because of this practice, I shot some jets with prop speeds.  OK, but really didn't miss anything.  Aperture settings were all over the map.   Due to the bright light, I had to go higher than f/11 and I usually don't like to go there.  You gotsta do what you gotsta do.
Aside from the air show, I now have many pelican photos.  We spent some time in the Charleston port.  Along with the pelicans, there were lots of shrimp boats and shrimp boats taking a day off from the shrimping business and doing Sunday duty as a party boat.  Scary to think some of those people might be driving home.  Looked like pirate fun.
One of the non-advertised gems my host had up his sleeve was the Stono Church.  This building is completely run down, in an old south way.  However in the middle of the one room, there is an old piano that is passing in time away.  And on this piano are a number of maybe fake flowers?   This is the type of photo opportunity I see that comes along to others in my photo club, but not me.  Until now.  Hope I didn't blow it.
I spent some time in a southern wildlife area refuge.  Roots, newts and a few snakes.  I don't see this type of scenery locally, I was just like a kid at Christmas.  I don't think I embarrassed my host.  Much.
I had worked on a number of these images last week while traveling with my laptop.  However.  When I finally got back to viewing these on the home PC, it just wasn't the same.  So much of the work done on the road will have to be re-done here.
Great trip and time.  Already planning the 2020 version.   Looks like the Charleston AB Air Show is next April.  Getting that time cleared on my calendar.  I'll be ready for some warmth, again.