Portraits At Harrowbeer
There are many types of photographer, but it could be said that there are those who photograph people and those that don't. I generally fall into the category that don't. Or more correctly should I say don't at the moment. I have in the past photographed weddings, but I have never turned my lenses to candid photography. It feels. slightly awkward and very intrusive to point my lenses in a complete strangers face and take their picture, not having permission nor any idea of their reaction carries risks in today's highly suspicious world.
I have visited RAF Harrowbeers 1940's event a couple of times, but with an interest in aviation and photography my lens has been trained more on the aircraft than the people. But this year I had different plans.
RAF Harrowbeer holds its 1940s event in August, every year it gets bigger and attracts more Reenactors, and displays of military hardware. This year i wanted to to turn my attention to the people, and being a bit of a coward when it comes to candid and street photography organised events such as this where the Reenactors are used to being photographed solved my dilemma.
Armed with my Canon 7D with a 75-300 zoom I spent several hours at the event. For some one who avoids photographing strangers this gear does nothing to hide the fact you are taking their photograph. What it did allow was for me to keep my distance and pick out situations where the Reenactors were engaged with other visitors and did not notice the camera. And when they did see as expected they ignored it and carried on a few stopped and looked into the lens, sometimes creating a momentary powerful connection, but mostly destroying the image by acting out of character. I soon realised that they did not mind having their photographs taken, and soon my confidence grew. I stopped thinking about not being caught with the camera to my eye and started concentrating on the essentials focusing on the eyes, looking for non distracting backgrounds.
With most of my photographs I have the end image in mind when I take the picture. And it was the same with these. This makes processing easier as many of the issues are taken care of in camera, with portraits I wanted plain unobtrusive backgrounds, I wanted to exclude the trappings of the modern world we live in and take the images back to 1940. I wasn't my intention to recreate 1940's film, but take the viewer away from any modern distractions, and by using a warm tone create (all be it a cliché) an old world feel. I try to stay way from presets and the effect on these images was created by me. I manipulated tone, added grain, vignetted all the images, and made minor tweaks to exposure and contrast as I would with any other image.
In summary this was a great experience and certainly one that I will be trying again. So if you think street photography and candid shots of strangers is a step too far from your comfort zone, get along to an event like this and see what you can do.
Low Level Aviation Photoshoot
My interest in photography began whilst photographing aircraft at an Airshow over Plymouth at the end of the 1980's. I don't go to as many shows as I did back then. I still really enjoy aviation, and alongside photography it remains an interest of mine.
Unless you are fortunate enough to have special access to airfields or aircraft it is likely that the best opportunity you will ever get to photograph aircraft is at an Airshow. I try to make my images hide the fact they have been taken at displays and try to include a natural background, which compliments the aircraft. The ultimate photoshoot for an aviation photographer has to be an air to air shoot, closely followed by low level ground to air work. So imagine my excitement when I was invited to take part in an exclusive low level air to ground shoot over Dartmoor.
It wasn't exactly your usual photoshoot, more like a bunch of lads wild camping, in less than perfect weather. As with all photographic subjects a certain amount of patience and perseverance is required, and today was no different. On a windy Tor above Burrator, four stalwart aviation and photography enthusiasts sheltered under pop up tents and tarps hoping the low cloud encasing their temporary camp would lift. I must say that we were treated considering the conditions to nothing less than a gourment BBQ of burgers and sausages! Four hours of gloomy damp hopelessness gave way to 60 minutes of joy as the cloud lifted enough for some of the planned aircraft to come in and play before our lenses. In many ways waiting made the final outcome all the more rewarding.
Having photographed extensively at air shows I had no concerns about shutter speeds, apertures or the technical aspects of the shoot but composing images along an unpredictable flight path looking for good backgrounds and considering how the final image will look presented new challenges and exciting opportunities. This unpredictability of the shoot created by the freedom allowed to the pilots; not tied to a rigid crowd and controlling display box meant they could approach from any direction and take any route giving due consideration to health and safety. And as the photographs displayed here show they did not disappoint.
It was also the first time I had used my new lens a Canon 70-300 L series. I have for many years used and still use Sigma lenses, and honestly for cost effectiveness you will struggle to get better. As I look towards the future and consider what camera upgrades may come, I need to upgrade my optics first to ensure that I get the best possible results from the new sensors, and top class glass has to come first. The Canon performed brilliantly, with fast and near silent focusing, the results are pin sharp, probably helped by the image stabiliser, another first for me. I'm sure this lens has much. More to offer when I get used to it.
The less than perfect lighting conditions, moody skies and Dartmoor backdrop suited my style of photography and allowed me to work in my beloved monochrome, making the images that but more personal. In post processing is great being able to work in my own style, and mixing up aviation and landscape photography was a real treat.
Team Raven provided close formation fly pasts, getting low enough to capture the Dartmoor landscape in the background. The amazing agility of the Autogyro display low over Burrator provided an interesting backdrop to show off the aircraft against. And final fast pass by the Strikemaster (Not shown). The day has relit my love of aviation photography and although there were a couple of planned aircraft missing due to the weather my passion for aviation photography has once again been awakened, and I look forward to future opportunities. ( Hint to pilots and event organisers everywhere! ).