Wigs Over Houston

OK, not really – it’s WINGS Over Houston, but I figured, with the wigs on the site and all…you get the idea.

Yellow Rose
B-25 – The Yellow Rose

Going back to October, this year’s Wings Over Houston Airshow was Oct. 17th, and I went with my dad (as usual) and my boss/friend from work. She’s a former employee of US Airways (now part of another airline, can’t remember the name right now) and loves airplanes, too, so it was fun to share the experience with someone else.

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MK959 Spitfire

I told myself that since I wasn’t very satisfied with my aerial pics last time, I’d focus on shooting the planes during the viewing hours of the show, when you can get up close with them before they take off. However, once the planes got in the air I couldn’t help myself, and since I knew a bit more this time about what settings to use on the camera for decent shots, I managed to get some really nice ones this year. I also made sure to try for shots that would be more unique or interesting than the typical stuff everyone else snaps – the two above were taken during a war simulation, and I particularly liked the effect the smoke from the faux-bombs created.

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The Breitling Jet Team – from France

The Thunderbirds were there this year (instead of the Blue Angels who performed in 2014) but my friend and I were wise enough to leave before the final show; my father and I spent over an hour in the shuttle line the year before since we left with everyone else, and since there were two performance jet teams this year, I still got to see some high flyers before we took off. It was a good idea, since it meant we walked right onto a shuttle instead of waiting in line forever.

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In 2014 I saved my camera strictly for photos of planes in the air and didn’t even take it out when we were wandering around viewing the planes, but since this year I wasn’t planning to take any aerial stuff anyway I took my camera with me to the touring area earlier in the day, and got some nice shots there too:

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Standing beneath the wing of a C-17; one of my favorite shots of the day

I took my telephoto lens again this year, but am considering taking the wide-angle next year; it was hard to get all of the planes in my shots while we were walking around with the zoom lens, and it wasn’t the most convenient lens for these types of shots. We stood in line to tour the inside of the C-17 and my lens was pretty much useless inside it; I could not even get a shot of the cockpit once we got in there because it was so small – and we stood in line for over an hour to get up there! I did get a shot of the stairs leading up to it, though:

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I also got a few shots of one of the servicemen standing in the cockpit and looking out the little round window that overlooks the huge cargo area where we were all waiting in line, but with the lack of indoor light and my inability to get my settings right, all the shots of him looking through it were crappy and blurry. I processed one of the shots, though, and just edited the hell out of it to disguise the fact that it’s a bad photo – I had to process it, because the dude was looking right at me in the shot.

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There was also a nice big United 737 that I took some snaps of; I tried to keep all the crowds of people out of these shots so it might appear that I was actually just getting super-close access to a plane on a runway instead of at an exhibition; for the most part I think I pulled it off:

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Another thing I wanted to try this year was taking pictures of interesting people, as well. There certainly are a lot of them:

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Yes, “interesting” is one way to describe these guys

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I love it when I get to piggyback off someone else’s staged shot; this veteran was posing for someone else so I snuck up behind them and snapped the same photo:

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That’s actually a composite of two shots I took of him; in one, a woman walked into the frame right as I snapped the shot, and her body covered up half the flag. In the other, she wasn’t in the frame, but his features were not as clear and the shot wasn’t quite as focused, so I layered that less-focused shot over the better one and erased the woman’s body out of the frame. And there you go.

Last shot for now – I snapped this one quickly while we were waiting in that hour-long line for the cockpit of the C-17; I snapped a bunch of one-offs through the open cargo doors since there wasn’t much else to do and nothing I could get decent photos of inside, and right after I took this one I looked at it on my LCD screen and realized it was a nice one. How much more alike could these two look anyway?

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Yep, definitely related

I processed this one in black and white because the color just didn’t add anything to it. I especially like the young guy’s shadow on his dad’s (I assume) shirt. They were probably looking up into the cargo hold at all the people standing in line inside and thinking to themselves, why on earth would those idiots stand in line so long just to spend two minutes inside a stuffy cockpit? Well, because we can, dude. That’s why.

I edited most of these shots over the past two days; that’s how busy I’ve been and have just now gotten around to really editing these photos. I’ve decided I need to start dedicating myself to editing at least one photo a night since I’ve got such a backlog of stuff and what I’m really craving is a good old portrait-and-jumping photo session. I don’t want all this other stuff to get completely forgotten, though, so I’m trying to work through it all now. Still lots I’d like to edit from this set, as well as my trip out to IAH back in September, so more planes to come.

Next week – vacation! I can’t believe it’s Thanksgiving already. A whole week off, and I’m going to try and take my portrait shots then.

 

Sunday Shots

I’ve not taken any self-portraits in quite awhile, but I have been taking photos here and there when I’ve had the chance.

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In fact, now that I look back over what I’ve processed the past few weeks, it’s quite a few shots. A few weeks ago, while out buying groceries for the week, I stopped by the floral department and picked up some flowers to shoot, then spent the rest of Saturday taking photos of them. In the shot above, I was mainly trying to catch the reflection of the petals when the flower was lying on top of a plastic handbag liner I yanked out of one of my purses (it’s a piece of plastic you can insert into a handbag that lacks shape to give it some across the bottom – #themoreyouknow!). It was a challenge to get a whole lot of the reflection into the shot without getting into some really weird framing, but I guess it came out OK.

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Simon ended up in a lot of the shots because, well, that’s how he rolls:

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Sprocket and Penny got into the mix for a bit too:

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I also saw some flowers that were wrapped in netting to keep their shape (no, I don’t know what kind of flowers they were) and I really liked the pink and purple color combination that created, so I took photos of them without taking off the wrapping, although that may actually look stupid. Still, I liked them:

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I unwrapped them eventually, and took some super-macros of the petals:

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Then eventually I ended up putting all sorts of crap on them, just to see how it would look:

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That’s baby powder on the rose above, which I was hoping would look like snow. I also threw some glitter on the pink flowers, but I haven’t processed any of those shots yet. I took about 600 pictures of flowers, then got distracted by work and pool drama and ended up not processing nearly enough of them. For about a week there I didn’t process any shots at all, although lately I’ve had time to work with about one each night. This is the last flower shot I’ve had a chance to edit so far, but I know there will be more to come from this set later:

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Then, at one point during all the pool construction drama, I looked in the back yard and this tipped-over, mud-covered wheelbarrow caught my eye; I thought it’d make a good picture, so although it was already dusk I grabbed my camera and braved a trip into the muck to get a few shots. My husband almost had a cow when he looked out the window and saw me crawling around back there, because he knows what a klutz I am and how easily I can hurt myself just walking into a room, much less wandering around a construction area with a camera. But, I survived, and got a few cool shots out of the deal:

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I have a few more, of course, to process from this set (don’t I always?) but I have yet to get to them, either.

Now, if I thought Doug would have a cow about me scavenging around in our backyard with a half-constructed pool in the vicinity, he would have really flipped his lid if he’d seen where I was hanging out this past Sunday:

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I drove out to my usual planespotting location at IAH Sunday morning, but when I got there I realized I’d mis-read my flightradar24 app in thinking the airport was utilizing that runway for arrivals, and in fact there were no planes at all flying in that direction. Since it was early and I was already out there, I decided to be a little brave and try to find a second planespotting location I’d read about – I’d always been wary to try it out before because I’d heard you had to call airport security to let them know when you were there, and that alone sounded sketchy enough to me to discourage the trip. Plus, it’s not uncommon for the areas around an airport to be less than ideal locations to start with, and since I’m always by myself when I take plane pics I’d been a bit chicken to give it a try. But I was feeling up for it this time, plus I’d driven all that way and didn’t want the drive to be a total bust, so I found the dead-end road that stopped right up against two runway fences, made the airport security call, and got to work.

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These two runways are used mainly for departures, and they were pretty busy, although mostly with United planes – I didn’t get very many unusual planes this time. I did get some new angles than what I can get from the official observation lot, but the planes are farther away, so I was once again feeling the limitations of the 70-200 lens. It did the job, but I would have been happier had I been able to get closer. And the clarity isn’t the greatest either; I think I had the ISO setting too low this time. Still, the weather was nice, and it ended up being a fine place to shoot although, as I said, my husband probably would have freaked out had he known I’d driven to a dead-end road, parked the car, and hiked up a hill all alone to take plane photos! Actually, while I was up there I saw a lot of cars come and go; mostly people with kids taking a moment or two to watch some planes take off, but still. When I really stopped to think about it, it probably wasn’t the wisest decision. Not to say I won’t go back, of course.

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I say this so much you can probably all say it along with me by now, but once again: this is all I’ve had time to process from this set  so far, so there will be more to come. Although I haven’t been able to get dolled up lately for a selfie shoot, at least I do have a lot of photos to work with when I get a spare minute here or there.

Okay, tomorrow’s Monday, so let’s get back to it.

Plane As Day

thisis me
And no, I don’t care about the commercials either.

Last night when the Stupor Bowl was about half-done I fled fromTwitter and Facebook to write this blog post until it was all over. However, in defense of the Stupor Bowl (defense – get it?) I will say this: there is someone I dislike so much that I did actually want the Seahawks to win, because this person is the most ridiculous Patriots fan I’ve ever seen – it’s practically his entire identity. So it’s really true how they say hate destroys the soul, because my hatred for this person actually made me care just slightly who won the Stupor Bowl. Of course I now know the dude is going to be intolerable for the near future; all the more reason to avoid him more than I already do. Moving on.

As I ramble I will share some more airplane photos as well as a few random others I’ve edited the past two weeks and have yet to upload. I didn’t realize how behind I am on sharing plane shots; there’s a whole slew of ’em to show. So, here you go:

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That baby right there is a British Airways Boeing 747; it was the biggest plane I saw when I went planespotting last Saturday; really impressive. I took several shots of it:

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This next shot was taken at the same time of day, but on its own it was rather boring, so I decided to really go for broke with my Topaz filters and attempt to make it a sunset shot. Judge for yourself how it turned out:

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It’s not perfect, and personally I can tell where I did a little cloning to edit out the stupid wig hairs that were on my lens, but overall it came out better than I expected. For grins, here’s a before and after collage:

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There were several pretty cool planes that landed that day on a different runway, so although I was able to snap photos of them, they were quite far away and my telephoto couldn’t handle the distance; at some point I’ll have to cough up a LOT of dough for a 100-400, I think. This one is great, but when it comes to planes I still could use more zoom. Anyway, I went ahead and processed the teeny little shots I have because, what the hell, I was there and I took them, but they aren’t thrilling at all:

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Lufthansa #LH440 Airbus A380-800 flying in from Frankfurt
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Volga-Dnepr Antanov AN-124 #RA-82045, flying in from Paramaribo; the photo was crappy so I played around with editing to pretend like it was intentional. It wasn’t.
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Star Alliance flight; couldn’t read the registration number to get any information about this one.
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US Airways Airbus A320-232; flying in from Phoenix. Couldn’t make out the registration number on this one either.

One thing I tried to do this time out was take some interesting close-ups of parts of the plane I don’t usually photograph, just to see how that turned out. I was seeing loads of United Airlines planes, since IAH is their home base, and I knew I didn’t want to sort through thousands of shots of the same plane to get to the unusual ones, so I got a little creative when they flew by to give me some images to mess with later. Here’s what I came up with – all of these shots are of United Airways (which I still want to call Continental) Boeing 777 #N78003, flying in from Amsterdam:

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Wheels! Yay?
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Love me some lens flare
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Fuselage – YEP

Then, I also took a shot to show how close the traffic was coming in that day (between 3 and 6 PM seems to be the best time to go on a Saturday as far as air traffic goes):

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There’s one gaining on ya!

Believe it or not, I still have a bunch of shots to edit, but we’ll see if I get time to do so this week. Let’s close this out with a few shots of Simon, who can always be counted on to provide me with a few poses whenever he’s around. I think this first one was taken during one of my purse shoots; I had a stool with a black blanket over it in front of a black background to photograph the purses, and at some point Simon leapt up there and made himself at home. Of course, much posing ensued:

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And here’s one I shot back on ladybug day, when I didn’t capture the ladybug and took pics of Simon instead:

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So there! I think that catches you up on all my recent edits. Much more to come, just not sure when. Happy Monday everyone!

Plane and Simple

So, here was my thought process this morning: I really should take some pictures today, it’s been awhile…I’m not in the mood to shoot any doll shots, though, OR get dressed up for self-portraits…it’s a gorgeous day out, I should get out today, maybe take Sherbet with me and do some weird doll shots out in the open…nah, I really don’t have any ideas for that right now, and I’m not in the mood, but I hate to waste this lovely day and all that great lightOMGAIRPLANES!!!


As usual, forgot to film with my iPhone in landscape mode, so skinny framing once again. I’ll never get that right, will I?

I called up my handy-dandy FlightRadar24 app, and sure enough, IAH was definitely using the runway across from the observation area. In fact, they were using the hell out of it, so I got my gear together and headed out. It was the perfect day for planespotting – not quite 60 degrees, a little breeze but not too windy, bright winter light, and just enough clouds in the sky to create interest in the pictures. Traffic was manageable, and I made it to the parking lot by 1:30 PM (slight delay caused by getting lost, which is par for the course with me). The only downside was my father could not join me; he’s been wanting to go back out there, but he couldn’t come along this time. Too bad, because there were a lot of people plane-watching and tons of air traffic to boot. Ah well. As I’ve learned, it’s hard to plan ahead for this sort of thing too much because you have to be sure the airport is going to use the proper runway in order to see much of anything, and that can’t be determined even a day ahead of time (at least, not that I can figure out). So, it’s a spur-of-the-moment thing, which certainly makes it harder to bring others along for the ride.

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Lots of families there watching the planes

Each time I do this, I learn a bit more, so this time I kept myself calm so as not to go home with eight thousand photos of the same damn plane (in this case it would be United, when spotting at HOU it’s Southwest Airlines) only to run out of space on my CF card when something different finally shows up. And, I tried to get some interesting shots and unique perspectives, rather than just making getting the entire plane in the frame at least once as it passes by my entire goal. However, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t screw a few things up: I should have parked my car on the other side of the lot to at least attempt shooting on the same side as the sun, but I’m not sure it would have mattered; as it is, the sun was behind the planes which created some awkward lighting situations I’ll have to try and repair in editing. Also – and this was the big one – next time I need to remember to CHECK MY LENS and give it a quick cleaning before shooting; this is a totally unique screw-up to have, but believe it or not, there was a dang WIG HAIR stuck to the lens the entire time I was shooting! So far I’ve been able to edit it out of the shots I’ve processed in Photoshop, but honestly when I first pulled up the photos on my computer I nearly had a heart attack, thinking there was a huge scratch on my lens. Imagine my relief to discover it was just a strand of synthetic hair. Still, it’s a pain to get out of the shots, plus it obviously got blown around by the wind because throughout the shoot it moved all over the place. And, it totally ruined the video I tried to take with my 7D, not that it was much good anyway (you have to use Live View to film video, and in the bright sun I could NOT see at all what I was filming, so I just pointed the camera in the direction of the planes and hoped for the best). And no, I could not see that hair on the lens at all while shooting, even when stopping to chimp my shots – again, it was too bright to get a good look at them outside.

If you’d like an example of how it looks to have a wig hair stuck to your lens, well, here you go (I have no idea how to edit video beyond the free Movie Maker that’s on my hard drive, so I lack the skill to edit the hair out):


Obviously, there’s a lot more wrong with video than the wig hair – and damn, it looks like there were two of them!

I did catch some new planes while I was there (new for me anyway), although some of them were using a different runway and I could only get very distant, rather grainy shots. Still, I managed to snap a Volga-Dnepr Russian cargo plane, a Lufthansa, and a Singapore Airlines off in the distance, flying in over some trees and an airport hotel. Up close the big winner of the day was a huge British Airways double-decker 747-400 – it came by quickly, of course, and it was hard to get it all into the frame, but I think I got a few good ones of it as it passed by. I also got up-close and personal with Spirit Air, AeroMexico, and an American Eagle. So far, I’ve only processed an American Eagle shot:

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I didn’t get the color quite right, because with the sun behind the plane it came out a bit dark and I tried to lighten it the best I could, but it made the tone a little warm and I spent some time trying to cool it down; not sure I totally succeeded, but for what it’s worth, there it is. I’m almost nervous to work with the rest of the shots, because I got so excited every time something other than a United jet flew by that I may have gotten a little twitchy and screwed something up. But I think I can get at least one decent shot per interesting plane, along with some close-ups of the cockpit or the underbelly on the plane that I tried to do. Oh, and I could also get some nice landing shots this time from behind the plane; the angle of the runway to the observation area at Hobby makes that impossible, but here it can be done since we’re directly behind it:

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I wanted some people shots for perspective; I mainly liked the reflection in the puddles on this one, and the sky, not to mention the kid holding his arms out like a plane. In other words, I guess I like all of it.

Obviously there will be more to come; you’re either looking forward to it or already planning to avoid my blog for the next week or two. Sorry! I loves me some planes. And today’s jaunt was just what I needed; not feeling like setting up anything for a shoot + needing to get the hell outside and enjoy a pretty day = photographer satisfaction. Here’s looking at another, week, folks; hope you have a good one!

Odds and Dead-Ends

I have a few more photos from the air show to share, then some stuff I tried to pull off this weekend and failed at, for various reasons. First up, the air show:

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Here’s another shot of the B-17; this is about as far away as I prefer to get when shooting planes, and I realize if I’m going to be happier with my shots next year I’ve got to get my hands on a longer zoom  lens. Since even used on eBay a longer zoom sells for a thousand bucks at the least, I may say to hell with it next year and just take all my pics of the planes when they’re on the ground.

And now, more Blue Angels:

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Those last two are shots of the C-130T Hercules the Angels use as a transport plane; it’s dubbed “Fat Albert.” Again, I couldn’t slow my shutter speed enough to blur the motion of the propellers here, but I tried.

And now, for my weekend fail: Saturday afternoon I decided to try some levitation, but I needed to do it quickly, so I set up, slapped on some makeup, threw on a new costume, and got to work. The results, however, were less than impressive. It took me awhile to figure out what went wrong, but in the end I realized that I need to work on my lighting for such shots. It was too bright, and it flattened me out and made me look like a cartoon. On the plus side, I’m getting better at adding shadows, and I played around with some of the new filters I now have with my Pixlr app since I signed up and became a member. But in the end, Pixlr wasn’t enough to save the shots. An example (and yes, I made it small ,because UGH):

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This next one was the best of the bunch, I think:

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Not bad, but nothing to write home about either (although I will blog about it, apparently). My bottom foot looks huge, but I liked the movement of the hair (I also thought that having my  face covered up would help conceal the flatness my bad lighting created on my facial features). And, I used a different layering technique here than I usually do; although it took twice as long to do, I think the end results look better.

I wish these had turned out better, but not every shoot produces good results. Switching my backdrop to black probably worked against me too, since I haven’t used it in awhile and it creates harsher light than the gray one does. I probably could have just used my Speedlight and abandoned my umbrella stands entirely for this, but I couldn’t tell the light was a problem until the shoot was already over. I actually thought I’d gotten some really good stuff, too, so processing the shots was disappointing. But at least I tried.

Another busy week ahead, so not sure when I’ll have more to share. Hope you’re all wrapping up a nice weekend and getting ready for the week ahead. I know for me, Thanksgiving break can’t get here soon enough. Two weeks to go!

Some Time to Com-Plane

OK, so here’s the rest of my airplane photos! I’ll start with what ended up being my favorite one, but I’m also going to throw a little whining into the commentary that has nothing to do with airplanes:

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Even though I failed to get the entire plane in the frame, this was my favorite shot from Saturday. I think the sky really makes this one. It was pretty cloudy, so in some shots the sky was flat and white, but there’s some nice drama to the clouds in this one.

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I’m never as interested in the far-away shots, but lots of people do take them and upload them so I thought I’d process a few and see how they fared. My poor little airplane pics do not generate much interest on Flickr, but I’ve noticed the photographers I follow who upload nothing but plane photos don’t get many comments either. I guess there’s not too much to say about them really. It’s a pretty narrow interest, so you either care or you don’t. Having said that, let’s upload more photos none of you care about!

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Another JetBlue! I actually took some time last night to upload some plane shots to my Getty Images page, as well as several other shots that do not require model releases. I have 19 for sale through my account right now, and have only ever sold one; it looks like I can upload as many as 50 each week so I really need to make it more of a habit to do that. My goal is to update my model release this week and submit some more portraits too, but they are such a pain to fill out. Still, the one shot I sold was a portrait, and it was my portraits that initially got Getty interested in my work, so yeah, I should get on that.

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More private planes

There’s nothing really stopping me from  filling out model releases right now anyway; in fact, I am feeling rather bored the last few days and it’s bumming me out. I think it’s because we are doing so much work to the house that involves a LOT of sitting around waiting for people to show up, which makes me anxious and restless. It seems like every day there’s some new appointment I’m sitting around waiting on, if not having to rush out and fulfill. Lots of doctor stuff too, and in fact, I need to call my GP back and tell him the steroid treatment was a fail because as soon as I was done with it the arm started hurting again. But then that’s yet ANOTHER appointment for me to kill time over. Bleh.

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Oh look – another Southwest!

Another big frustration right now is the carpet installation. Last week Doug and I went to the showroom that did our last install, took home some samples, picked the carpet we wanted, went back to the showroom, signed a contract, and wrote a down payment check. Then a few hours later, while I was out shooting planes, the salesman called me and said he was ‘concerned’ about a few of the measurements and wanted to come by the house that evening to double-check them. I was busy at the time, so I just said fine as he claimed he was trying to ‘save us some money’ if possible. He came by later that day, re-measured, reassured us everything looked good, then left. Then Monday afternoon he called me on my cell to inform me that the original measurements (the ones that were used to install carpet last time without any problems) were completely wrong, and had in fact left out our entire master bedroom, so our total cost was actually ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS MORE than the quote on our contract. Sigh.

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I do like this one, even though it’s a little private number

We demanded to see the original measurements as well as the ‘new’ ones that included the ‘missing’ bedroom, and the salesjerk promised to scan and email all that to us by the end of the day. Of course, we received nothing. So now we get to call him back tomorrow and fight with him to get what we are rightfully owed, which is carpet for the house at the price given to us on the damned contract. I don’t know why things always have to get so nasty when it comes to dealing with home repairs; we try to be upfront with people and pay our fair share without demanding unrealistic discounts or accommodations. But no matter what we do, some snake tries to cheat us out of more. I don’t get it, and I swear customer service in this regard is getting worse every year. There was a time when, IF a salesperson made such a huge mistake as to mis-measure an entire house (and that’s a big if as I think the guy is just trying to swindle us) he would have honored the original quote he gave us because the mistake was his, not ours.  But no longer. Now everything is a fight and if you as a customer aren’t willing to get ugly, you get ripped off. So, ugly it will be. Sigh. And we’ll probably have to cancel the down payment check to this showroom and start all over somewhere else. Now you know why our current carpet is in the state it’s in. Every time we try to get it replaced this is the sort of dishonest dealings we have to navigate, and I get angry and disgusted and give up.

So I’m in a bit of a funk right now, because I’m usually so mellow and satisfied with my summer vacations and that isn’t how this one is turning out – but it is what it is, and just I’m rambling. Enjoy the plane pics people! Or don’t, whatever…

Plane Storm!

Saturday morning I got up early to spend way too much money on new carpet. It’s ridiculous how much such things cost, but it is what it is. After that was done, I came home and found myself feeling a little down. I’ve been doing so much running around the past two weeks for the house that I haven’t really settled into the usual blissful lethargy of summer; I’ve been feeling antsy whenever I have a few free minutes, as if there’s some other errand I should be running. So as soon as I started feeling blue I decided picture-taking was in order, but I didn’t feel like gussying up for any portraits or jumping; in fact, I didn’t feel like doing any setup at all (I briefly considered more macro shots but couldn’t be bothered to set up the studio for them). I just wanted to grab a camera and go – so I pulled up my Flightradar24 app on my iPad and checked out the traffic at Hobby Airport. Lo and behold, there were a few planes scheduled to land that afternoon that were not Southwest Airlines planes (some JetBlues, Deltas, Americans, and a TransAir) and they were all coming in between 4 and 5 PM, so around 2:45 I grabbed my 7D and my 70-200mm and headed on out.

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Hobby is about 50 minutes from my house, as long as traffic cooperates, which it did this day. I managed to snap the American airliner and the JetBlue, but missed the Delta and the TransAir – perhaps they landed on a different runway (Hobby is pretty small so the planes are hard to miss, but the observation areas only cover one runway, so it’s possible). I made sure to set my shutter speed higher this time, and my ISO lower, so I think I got better-quality shots this time out, not that I was unhappy with my last shots, they were just a little grainy and soft.

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The sky came out nice in some of these too; there were sporadic showers all over the city as there always are this time of year, but none of them sprung up over HOU while I was there. It was hot as hell, but I just sat in the car with the engine and AC running and waited for the planes to arrive. For the most part I was not alone, and there was at least one other car hanging around waiting to take photos or video of the planes coming in. Usually I see people with little kids watching the planes take off and land, which is nice. And speaking of video, since I already have so many shots of Southwest planes, I experimented with taking video as they were landing. Some of the video was terrible, but I spliced two together here that aren’t bad; you can at least get a feel for how close the observation area is to the runway. It’s really exhilarating to witness:

Here’s one more of the American Eagle I snapped. Googling the registration number brings up lots of other photos of this plane; it’s cool to see where else a plane you photographed has been. Also, I have a friend who is a pilot for JetBlue, and she says she occasionally looks up the registration number of planes she flies to see if she can find any pictures of herself flying it (she can look it up by the date the photo is taken and know if she was the pilot). If you want to see some photographic history of this particular plane, try going here.

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My one stupid mistake of the day (because apparently I have to make at least one) was not changing my custom white balance setting back to Auto; I totally forgot that the last time I used my 7D I had a custom setting, which was set using my studio lighting. So I had to mess with the color a bit to get it right when processing the shots. But other than that, I’m pleased with how these turned out. Lots of private places landing at HOU today too:

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One thing about the shot above: I didn’t realize it was a propeller plane until it was too late to change my shutter speed. What you want to do when photographing a prop plane is slow the shutter down as much as you can so that you don’t “stop” the motion of the propellers, like I did here. When the shutter speed is slower, the propellers are just two circular blurs, which gives a much  better impression of a plane in motion. Oh well. Also, these private planes fly in much lower than the big jets, so it’s harder for me to get decent shots of them over the barbed wire fence. By the time they’re right next to me, they’re already below the fence line. In the next shot, the fence was just below the frame:

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All in all, I took about 500 shots and was back home by 6 PM. It was a perfect little jaunt for the day, and gave me plenty to work with for the evening. At some point I will have to venture out to IAH in the same manner; I hesitate because it’s a longer trip, but now that I know what I’m doing photographically (more or less) I’m pretty confident I could make the trip and have something to show for it at the end no matter what. Checking Flightradar was definitely a good idea as it ensured I was there at a time when traffic was high, and I was able to slip in, get my shots, and leave without too much hassle. The only disappointment was when I tried out the second observation area (at the other end of this same runway) and didn’t get any shots of planes taking off. One was taking off right as I pulled into the parking lot, which made me think more would be coming, but I got into place and waited for about 20 minutes to no avail. I’ve never been able to get shots from that lot, where the planes take off right over the heads of observers. It’s nice to have the other area see a lot of traffic, but it means I only get the same angles over and over and I’d like to get some shots going right over my head. More reason to try out IAH sometime soon too.

For now, I’ll finish up with a few Southwest Airlines shots, and share the JetBlues and a few more private planes tomorrow. You can check out some flight history of this last plane here. but there’s not much, because it’s a newbie – only two months old!

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Terminal History

At last, I have edited more pictures from my trip with my dad to the 1940 Air Terminal Museum. It’s the site of what was the original terminal for Hobby Airport, which opened in, not surprisingly, 1940.

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This photo looks a lot like the photo on the website, the difference being I took this one. Also my dad is in the window. Other than those two things, it’s the museum sign, yep.

I was so excited to get out the back door and onto the tarmac that I didn’t take pictures of much else, but here’s a longer shot of the entrance:

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I have to tell you that as I look at these photos of the front entrance, all I can think about is that I locked my keys in the car when we were there, and we spent a ridiculous amount of time standing around in that parking lot during the heat of the day waiting for AAA to show up and break into my car. Except, once that happened, we discovered that my keys were not in my car at all, and had fallen out of my purse somehow and gotten lost somewhere in the museum or behind it where all the planes were. So my dad and I, along with all the museum volunteers, spent an hour or two scouring the place looking for my keys, only to have me discover while talking to a volunteer and glancing down into my purse that they were actually stuck in a side pocket the whole time. Mind you – this is after AAA showed up and broke into my car. I was too mortified to tell anyone, and kept it a secret until I got my dad alone so we could share a good laugh over the absurdity of it (the whole time I thought they were lost I kept repeating “this doesn’t make sense, I never lose my keys!” over and over, turned out I was right). Then we both decided not to tell the volunteers a thing about it, walked out to my car and pretended to dig around in the trunk some more, and came back in claiming the keys had been buried under the trunk lining. Good times.

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The museum’s foyer, restored to its original appearance. The museum hasn’t been open long, and does not yet have the funds to restore the second floor, so it is off-limits. Also, I think all of those people are looking for my keys.

One funny thing about the lost-keys fiasco was how one-track-minded the volunteers were about the whole airplane thing. Most of the volunteers and visitors were male, slightly older than middle-aged, and plane enthusiasts of one stripe or another. Many were photographers. There were a few married couples with small children wandering about, but overall it was an older male crowd. And me. It was also one of the friendliest groups I’ve been around in some time – full of information and ready to share. I had people suggesting good camera settings and spots to take pictures as well as offering background of different planes that were on the runway, like these planes, which are apparently planes from other countries that flew into the airport and were confiscated for one  reason or another:

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But back to the lost keys: so there we were, my dad and I, on my cell phone trying to call AAA and figure out the address to the museum. At this point I’m a little panicked because I don’t yet realize, of course, that I do have a way to start my car and get us out of there, and I’m wondering just how long we’re going to be stuck at the airport. Then in the middle of all that a man with a camera slung around his shoulder came over, exclaiming excitedly that a Frontier Airlines jet was about to queue up on the runway, and it was really rare to get a glimpse of one there, and I really should grab my camera and get ready to take pictures. I kept explaining to him, no really sir, I am on the phone with triple A, you see I HAVE LOST MY KEYS and am trying to find them, so no I really do not want to go take pictures of a Frontier Airlines jet right now, thank you. He totally did not get it. It was something else my dad and I laughed about later, how when a good jet came up the runway, no one cared about anything else in the slightest. Of course, when I looked up their airplanes on Google, they do look pretty cool, and I’m rather sorry now I didn’t just go outside for the ten minutes it would have taken to snap the photos and continued with my car key search afterwards, especially now that I know my keys weren’t lost after all.

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One of the planes you can view from the tarmac behind the museum

We also missed out on the opportunity to walk with a volunteer down to “the hangar” as they kept calling it, to view some planes up close and personal that I gathered were kind of a big deal, but again, car keys.

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It was such an enjoyable day, and I’d really like to get back there again. Of course, there’s the whole car-key humiliation to deal with, but it’s been awhile now so perhaps they’ve forgotten. I think the fundraiser this month is titled “Learn How To Fly Day” so I probably should sit this one out as I’d most likely lose the keys to the plane and ruin everyone’s day. But I gotta go back sometime to get a photo of a Frontier Airlines jet, if nothing else.

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One of the many planes I will not be flying

Plane and Simple

2014 isn’t halfway over and I’ve already fulfilled my photography bucket list – I held a real photoshoot in an honest-to-god studio, and now I’ve taken pics of airplanes. I wonder what I need to do next? I have no idea, but I am happy as hell with the airplane shots I got today. All in all, I completely filled up one 32G CF card and put a serious dent in the second, much smaller one I brought along just in case. About 1400 photos in all, and some of them were exactly what I was hoping for!

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My dad and I behind the aviation history museum

The aviation museum was great, and I got some photos of the space, but I haven’t processed those yet because I was most excited about the commercial jet photos. Once a month the museum opens up the back tarmac to incoming planes and serves food as a little fundraiser; it provides photographers a pretty close-up view of a nearby airport runway. That was cool, and my telephoto lens served me well, but honestly, the best shots were to be had at the ‘family viewing areas’ located around the airport.

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One of the two airport viewing areas opened to the public around the runways

It’s late and my arm is killing me, so I’m going to share some shots and keep things brief for now, but I’ve got loads to say about the day with my dad. It was tons of fun and we are raring to hit up the much larger Intercontinental Airport soon, which also has viewing areas where one can take photos, so I can get shots of a bigger variety of planes. Since Hobby Airport is home base to one particular airline, almost all the planes I shot today were this company’s jets. I’ll see if you can guess which one it is after you see some of the shots.

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One of the shots taken at the end of the runway right behind the museum

The runway behind the museum was pretty busy with planes taking off, and each time one taxied out to the end of it, it would turn around and face directly into my camera for a few seconds before turning off to the left and throttling up the engines. So I got loads of nose shots like that. Then one time this happened:

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Have you figured out what airline it is yet?

I like the heat waves radiating out from the underbelly of the plane, and the placement of them, obviously. As the planes took off, the runway angled farther away from me, so I didn’t get any decent shots of them lifting off – I took a ton, but the plane is too small for them to be exciting. However, I did snap a few good ones as the planes sped by:southwest takeoff_final

Even though most of them were blurry, I thought this one looked nice, and the blurring of the grass shows the speed at which it was already moving. The sky wasn’t all that pretty here, but as the day wore on it got better. Also it got hotter, and unfortunately I am now sunburned as I didn’t think to put on sunscreen.

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This plane is called the “Kangeroo Crew,” and it partners with Texas Children’s Hospital to fly children in need to and from its’ medical facilities. It just happened to be taking off while we were still at the museum, and the volunteers there were all very nice men and women who were sure to alert me when an interesting airplane was about to take off – even if they had to chase me down to be sure I knew about it. Great people.

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Believe it or not, there actually are other airlines at Hobby Airport besides Southwest, but to be honest, this American Airlines plane just wasn’t photogenic. The Southwest planes really stand out, and this one blends into everything so much that it provided very little visual appeal – at least, that’s how I feel about it. Still, I took pictures of it anyway, so there you go.

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I really wish this shot had come out better; it’s a cool placement of the two planes, but it’s pretty blurry and the color was blah. We were at the museum during the brightest part of the day, so color was tricky. Still, almost a cool shot, and the only decent one I have of wheels leaving the ground.

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Now, onto the shots I took from the viewing areas – these were where I could catch some real winners (and as is always the case for me, I’m saving the best one for last).

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I did not manage to get this entire Delta plane into any of my close shots; they moved too fast and came in at an odd angle that made it hard for me gauge ahead of time how much zoom to use. So, this was the best I got, but look how close it is! Way better than what I could get at the museum. Check this one out:

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I mean seriously! If the pilot had known I was down there, he could’ve waved at me and I would’ve caught it. These shots were taken at the end of the day, when I was sunburned and tired (due partly to the minor disaster of me locking my keys in my car at the museum – erm, sort of – more on this later) and almost out of memory on my camera, but next time I’m going straight to the viewing areas and hitting up the museum for french fries later. I have an app on my iPhone called Flightradar24 which tracks flight traffic all over the globe (but only if they emit from a certain type of transponder or something, still, it’s an amazing amount of flight traffic to monitor) and my dad sat in the car watching it while I stood outside with my camera ready; when he saw something heading our way he’d shout out where it was coming from and what it was, and in that manner we team-worked our way through the shoot. As I may have mentioned, my father is an airplane fanatic (although WWII airplanes are his thing) and he is as obsessive about his interests as I am, so he was totally game for all of this. In fact, I was the one who eventually conked out and had to quit – we were all about the airplanes from 10:30 AM to 3 PM.

And now, without further ado, the best damn shot of the day. This right here is THE EXACT SHOT I was going for – I didn’t care what type of plane it was, I just wanted to get this shot:

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BAM! Perfection! At least in my eyes it is!! Notice how much nicer the sky is here, and well, that the rest of it is awesome.

Much more to come, including shots of the museum and a JetBlue airliner, which everyone at the museum made a very big deal out of when it lined up to take off, so it must not be a plane that regularly flies out of this airport or something. My telephoto lens made me proud (lots of planespotters at the museum confirmed I’d made a wise choice for this kind of photography in buying it) and my dad and I had a real blast and are ready to try it again. I’m just going to have to remember to wear sunscreen next time, and to not (sort of) lock my keys in my car.