Tag Archives: Mount

Guarding the Gate That Doesn’t Exist Anymore

Over the years, many military installations have been closed down.  In what form they get handed back to the local community varies.  Close to us is Alameda.  This was once a big base for the Navy with many ships based there and an airfield that was home to many operational aircraft.  The whole thing is now closed with the runway having garnered most attention as the location for many a stunt by the Mythbusters.  The layout of the base is still much as it was beforehand though.  The hangars are still there now being home to local businesses.

The aviation theme shows itself in some relics of the past.  Gate guardians are common at air bases and Alameda has a few.  Drive into the old base along one main road and you go around a grassy circle which has an A-7 mounted on a plinth in the middle.  It is loaded up and looks pretty dramatic.  Another gate near the water has an A-4 Skyhawk mounted just inside.  It has the name of some local dignitaries painted on the side.

Another Skyhawk is not far away.  This one is not on the base itself.  Instead it is mounted outside a local school.  The Jet is not as dramatically painted as the others but it is still a pretty cool thing to have outside your school if you are an aviation nut like me.  It actually looks like it could do with a repaint before too long.  It’s good to see that they are still on guard duty, even if the thing they were guarding is no more.

Cool Kit If You Are a Video Person

I shall start by pointing you at a blog that is far better written and far more informative than this one. Not a huge challenge of course. However, the author of this blog is a fantastic photographer and now also a director – Vincent Laforet. Vincent’s blog can be found at blog.vincentlaforet.com and he posts quite frequently on the subject of film making, techniques and equipment. Vincent started out as a photographer and a very good one at that. He has won a Pulitzer Prize and is a Canon Explorer of Light. I first saw him at an ISAP event where he talked about his aerial photography as well as a very moving description of his experiences after Hurricane Katrina.

His life changed dramatically when Canon released the 5D Mk II. Vincent had early access to the camera and made a short called Reverie to demonstrate the video capabilities. This short went viral and suddenly making motion pictures with SLRs was a big deal. Now he has moved geographically and professionally and works in the film business. (As an aside, if you ever get the chance to hear him speak, do go as he has some fascinating experiences to share and may well move you in the process.)

Recently, on his blog, Vincent talked of some new device that he considered a game-changer that he would be announcing. The anticipation got quite a few people interested and, when the announcement came, it did not disappoint. The device is called the MOVI (there is a cool stylized way in which MOVI is written that this blog is not going to do justice to I’m afraid) and it is made by Freefly. It is a stabilized mount that is handheld and provides the ability to get smooth shots with a single hand allowing some very creative approaches to moving the camera.

I am not much of a video guy. However, when I had my first SLR with video capability, I started experimenting with shooting video and this has progressively become more important on the projects I am working on. Video provides a very different way of presenting some subjects and it complements the stills well. My video shooting and editing skills might not complement my stills quite as well but we have to keep learning.

Since I am not investing in a significant amount of video equipment but, instead, I shoot video as part of my stills efforts, I have to be limited in how adventurous I can be. Steady handheld shots without a rig are a challenge but can be achieved. Moving is out of the question without making the viewer feel very uneasy. I recently shot some cockpit video from a jump seat during the takeoff roll and during refueling and the vibration made the majority of the footage unusable. A few small excerpts showed the experience but not long enough to make people uncomfortable.

Getting a stable platform in difficult situations is a great step forward. The MOVI is a very cool piece of gear. It is not cheap but, compared to other pieces of equipment, I think it is very affordable. More importantly, it is the start of something new. People will take this concept and run with it and we are likely to end up with many types and levels of complexity of stabilization that will suit different pockets. This could mean something that works for me. This is why I am so excited. The MOVI is great and I would love one. I don’t have the justification for one for my projects but I feel confident I will see something come from this that will make my work easier in due course.

Cheap Macro

wpid5358-AU0E4107.jpgWhile the idea of trying macro photography has always been of interest to me, I have never got around to actually doing it aside from an old lens I had in my pre-autofocus days that had a macro setting.  The idea of renting a macro lens had occurred to me but the reason to do it hadn’t come up and I didn’t feel like renting the lens without having something to use it on.

wpid5360-AU0E4111.jpgThen I remembered reading about reversing a lens to use it for macro.  I have a 50mm that I I hand held in reverse to see how well the macro effect would work.  It seemed pretty good so I decided to get a mounting ring to reverse the lens on the camera.  Amazon came up with a bunch of options and the one I got set me back the enormous total of $8!

wpid5362-AU0E4114.jpgThe simple answer is that it works.  It is a little inflexible to use compared to something designed for the task but it does work.  The depth of field is extremely shallow and you get some odd distortion across the edges of the image.  Obviously there is no focus or exposure control.  I just set the camera to aperture priority mode and dial in the normal f/1.8 of the lens and the exposure seems to work out pretty well.  Then it is a case of moving the camera around to get focus.  Not something I am going to do a lot but, for $8, I don’t have to worry about getting a lot of use out of it!

Indy Air Show

The beginning of the air show season has already arrived but my plans for the year are rather sparse.  Some things I had originally planned to go to have been overtaken by competing events so there are relatively few shows that are presently a firm fixture in my calendar.  That is fine.  If the other things weren’t things I wanted to do, they wouldn’t have taken precedence.  Besides, when I am looking at a show, I am looking for something a little different since there are a bunch of acts, all good in their own right, that I can see any number of times through the year.

The show in Indianapolis caught me off guard therefore.  I hadn’t really been thinking about heading down to it.  I had read that the lighting is a bit harsh and had originally thought I had something else on.  However, I ended up being free and they had some aircraft that piqued my interest.  Besides, it is only three hours to drive down.  The forecast was looking mixed but I decided to give it a go.

The drive down was not inspiring!  Crappy conditions in Chicago as I left got worse as I drove down through Indiana.  At some points, the fog was quite bad with the wind turbines looming out of the murk as I headed down I-65.  However, as I reached Indy, the skies parted.  We were pretty lucky for weather for the rest of the day to be honest.  There were bursts of sun but mainly clouds.  However, I watched a few heavy looking downpours approach and they all passed east of us – at least until I was back in the car!

The show had a nice mix of performers.  I had never seen the PV-2 or C-1A fly before and that was nice.  They organized some warbird combined flights which were pretty good and photogenic – well, if the light had been better they would have been.  Overall, a good mix of things to keep me interested.  The light was tricky all day and there are a lot of shots that will never be seen in public because they are just blah!

All in all, though, a good day out and it was nice to get back into practice of shooting things moving rather fast.  Also nice to bump into some familiar faces during the show.  Good to see you guys!