The biggest problem photographing aircraft at any museum is isolating particular planes for a clean, uncluttered, image. Indoor museums are the worst because in that confined space you have to deal with a ceiling, walls, and often poor light. So, my preference is doing photography of aircraft at airshows or in this case the outdoor museum at Lockheed’s Blackbird Airpark in Palmdale, California, and the Joe Davies Heritage Airpark right next door.
The Blackbird airpark gives photographers good access to an SR-71A an A12 and a U-2. There’s also one of the J58 jet engines that powered the SR-71 and one of the D-21 supersonic reconnaissance drones. We first heard about the Blackbird Airpark from our son who lives in Palmdale with his wife who is an engineer employed at the famous Lockheed Skunk Works; the top secret unit under the legendary Kelly Johnson that designed and built the famous SR-71 and the U-2 spy planes among other things! So, when we visited them last year they drove us over to see Plant 42, which houses the skunk works at site 10, with the Blackbird Airpark near by.
Here’s my isolation of the SR-71A…
|f22.0 @ 1/160 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 50mm
The first step was framing the Blackbird in tight; filling the frame and omitting its surroundings. The second step was in “post” with NIK’s Silver Efex Pro2 using their Antique Plate-2, which created a high contrast B&W effect and a white vignette that clearly isolated the jet engine nacelles from the dark background as seen in the original image here…
The original image has a lot of dark ground clutter that hid the plane’s details. I don’t think the color version here was helping either; after all the SR-71 is a mostly monochrome subject.
How about a foreground blocking isolation…
|f11.0 @ 1/500 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 88mm
Ducking under the wing of the SR-71 for a tight view of the nearby A-12 created a nice composition and showed some interesting detail on the underside of the SR-71’s wing. This “foreground blocking” technique was mostly an effort to block out a sky with a lot of power poles and high-tension power lines messing up the scene. The unexpected bonus was the nice curving shape (and that detail) of the underside of the SR-71’s wing.
And a “powerful” detail image…
|f8.0 @ 1/250 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 24mm
With one of its huge Pratt & Whitney J58 jet engines in the background and where it’s supposed to be, as the foreground center-of-interest, I like the storytelling juxtaposition of elements in this image.
And just one more of the SR-71A…
|f11.0 @ 1/640 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 142mm
Backing off and going to telephoto for some compression of the plane and engine nacelle…. This thing looks like some bizarre hydroplane! Its unique “chined” fuselage looks like the hull of a hydro racing boat.
The SR-71 still looks futuristic even though it was designed in 1959; truly remarkable.
In next week’s Blog we’ll walk next door to the Jose Davies Heritage Airpark. As usual should you have questions don’t hesitate to ask…
Author: Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman
Training site: http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com
Client site: http://www.TheStorytellersUsa.com