10 THINGS YOU CAN DO BEFORE YOU PICK UP YOUR CAMERA AGAIN
Ready to hit the afterburner on your aviation photography once again? Here’s a rundown of what you can get going right now, before the events start to open up, especially for the Fighter Pilot Podcast Aviation Photography Group (FPPAPG rocks!)
1. STAY ON TOP
Yes, this is an obvious one, but we like to look after our FPPAPG shooters! There is so much information out there, so go to your reliable source (hey, not always Facebook – who knew!?) and keep checking the local authority’s rulings about where they are at. Things are changing all the time and there’s a lot of inconsistencies, so a timely check on a region’s status will do harm. Easier said than done… But take a break from the media, find an authoritative source that you like and can trust, and go with it. This will be applicable as we start to come out of Lockdown and begin to think about gatherings and events. Don’t go blindy into it. I’m not even going to go there on air travel at the moment… That is super complex.
2. GET WITH IT
Realise that there’ll be rulings and requirements that will be inconvenient and annoying. This could result in short tempers in a hot summer, made worse by extraordinary queues if there are any events that come off (think temperature checks, sanitization etc). The world has changed and, if the event you’re going to has survived long enough to be staged in some form, then go with the flow. Things will get easier, smoother, quicker, but maybe not yet.
3. REFRAME YOUR EXPECTATIONS
Events are starting to creep out of the darkness, but they will not look and feel the same as they used to for a while yet. You won’t be crammed into a grandstand or bleacher, or shoulder to shoulder on a fenceline. There won’t be easy movement around the ground. People will feel uncomfortable and there’ll be longer queues. But whilst these roadblocks will need navigating and any new rules will need observing, aviation will be there, and so will the same familiar faces (albeit behind a mask) and we will be able to enjoy it all. We’ll need patience and an expectations check.
4. LEARN STUFF
It’ll be a little while yet before we see a jam-packed event schedule that we had all grown to love. (Can you imagine nowadays having the luxury of having to choose where to go and what to shoot?! One day…) Use the time wisely to learn new photography skills. There’s little need for macro photography in aviation, and it’s a great discipline to learn Depth of Field, wildlife, fauna etc, as well as the post-processing of such images (think focus stacking in Photoshop). Maybe try portrait lighting at home – super useful to build your confidence in shooting aircrew and the like when the time comes. Learn new software, learn editing, learn mobile photography, learn video, learn social media. The opportunities really are endless. There’s a big “HOWEVER” coming now… There’s actually not that much out there that’s specific to our beloved aviation photography genre. Sure, there’s some good stuff to be found (and some excellent stuff in other genres that can be applied), but it’s not easy to get your fix of dedicated aviation photography tutorials and courses. Since March, I have been building a brand-new set up, called COAP Online, which I am aiming to be the best recourse for entertainment, information, education and training in the aviation photography community. It’s a long-term build of three new companies and there’ll be some special stuff in the mix for the FPPAPG, including an online Aviation Photography Bootcamp!
5. LOOK BACK AND EDIT
There’s something pretty special about diving back into old hard drives and looking at the results with a ‘fresh’ set of eyes. It could be that you were at an airfield or airshow to shoot something particular, but another thing happened, and you shot it… but never edited it or looked at it again! Go back through the folders… It’s super therapeutic to see what you’ve shot and recall the action and atmosphere. And do give the “B-rated” or overlooked images an edit – you WILL be surprised at what you uncover. Furthermore, existing edits can be redone with the updates of new software. New tools, new tweaks, go to town and experiment! But don’t get too hung up on the all-new, “Ultra-HD-Luminous-Sicksharp-DayGlo” tool and go the other way in your workflow… Look around and be inspired.
6. LOOK AFTER YOUR GEAR
As well as our own sanitization, we are going to need to sanitize our camera gear – not only before we use it again (mine gets so dirty!) but also ongoing, during a shoot. Certain alcohol wipes do a good job on the camera grips and lens barrels, but have to be used carefully and purposefully. Fire off a rack of shots, get the parts moving (hello mirrorless!) and check for oil splashed on the sensor. Some manufacturers and even certain bodies have more of an issue than others with this. Clean the sensor (self-clean if that’s your thing, or get in early to your usual supplier). Clean the lenses. All the things!
7. DOUBLE CHECK YOUR KIT
Chances are that your last shoot was not expected to be your last shoot… Check your cards, download them, back them up. Check your batteries, recharge them. Make sure your kit bag has got everything where it should be, in its usual place. Check over the functionality of everything. Twice. Run a mental check on how/where you have kept your camera for the last 3-4 months or so… A temperature-fluctuating garage or dusty attic is never kind. Of course, we will all have to find room in our kit bag for hand-santization, face coverings, gloves etc so check the policies and procedures of your chosen shoot location and get it sorted.
8. STAY SHARP
One of the hardest disciplines in our craft is the art of panning. And it’s a muscle, that needs to be flexed and used, and trained. You WILL have lost some technique there, we all get rusty. So, why not ‘hit the gym’ outside to hone in on some bird photography? This is a tough genre. Super tough. Aviation flies in fairly predictable lines… Birds have no concept of a display line! It is a great genre to get into anyway and trains your panning, your ability to predict action and your focus skills. Give it a go!
9. DON’T TAKE ANYTHING FOR GRANTED
Man, even a vanilla Boeing 737 seems exotic now right? Let’s never, ever forget how good we’ve got it. The action of airshows, the dedication of the warbird and preservation scene, the history embedded into museums and militaries that we know and love. When things start to settle into a new normal, let’s savour every single whiff of jet fuel, rasp of propeller, blast of noise, old timer’s conversation. Everything. Every time.
10. BE NICE…
Yeah, this is a soft-touch. But do it. Be nice, it’s been a rough time. People have reacted differently to this as individually as you or I. Just because I feel comfortable with something does not mean to say the next person is not totally struggling with it. Extend courtesy, friendship and patience – three very important values in the photography world. The craziness of the last few months has brought out the best and worst of society. Look after yourself and those close to you, but, in this special, tight community that we have, look out for each other too so that when the time comes to stand and shoot together (however far apart we might be), it’s as enjoyable as it always has been.