AeroMark Images: Blog en-us Unless marked otherwise, all images are copyright (C) by Mark Bennett, all rights reserved. (AeroMark Images) Wed, 15 Aug 2018 02:56:00 GMT Wed, 15 Aug 2018 02:56:00 GMT AeroMark Images: Blog 92 120 The People Manning the Unmanned Vehicles Except for very specialized vehicles and missions, unmanned means only that a man, or woman, is not on board, and a photographer does a disservice to the operators if the photography doesn't encompass them.

In these images we see how focus and composition are used to create much more than a "nice" photo of a drone.


The above image is the opener to a story in the Summer 2018 issue of Rotor magazine. In that story I look at the training side of drone operations through the experiences of four organizations. The two women, Jessica Bautista and Elizabeth Rohe, are digital journalists with the Town of Gilbert, Arizona. Though they appear clearly focused further in the article, I left them out of focus here since they are obviously connected to the drone.

By focusing beyond the student and instructor in the foreground, our attention is directed to Challenger Aerospace President LeRoy Aday and the red drone. Aday is visually smaller in this image than the other two people, and the drone is half-hidden, but we still know what I wanted us to focus on. (And I'm sorry, I don't intend to pun the word "focus" all the time — it's unintentional.)


Camera placement and lens choice give this Mesa, Arizona, Fire Department drone great visual power but Deputy Chief Brian Kotsur, towering over it, is obviously in charge.


And here, despite the identical relationship between operator and drone, I've taken the opposite approach to tie the pilot to the aircraft — though the latter is visually tiny, mirrored in City of Scottsdale Police Sergeant Austen George's sunglasses, that mirroring immediately tells us where the pilot's attention is focused.

Four images; four approaches showing people and their unmanned vehicles, shifting from drone-centric to pilot-centric. Those connections are important to the story, so it is important to the photography.


]]> (AeroMark Images) composition crew drone focus inclusion lens manned operation operations photography pilot quadcopter remote technique UAS UAV Wed, 15 Aug 2018 02:55:48 GMT
We Can Fly Because They Care Recently I put the spotlight on the airborne crewmembers not operating the aircraft. This time I take a look at ground crew, the men and women who prep, check, and in myriad ways support the mission by making sure aircraft are safe and ready to fly.

As I've mentioned previously, I love photographing people doing their jobs, and these images show me doing just that. While these folks are doing their thing I don't want to distract them, but I have my job too, which is to clearly tell the story. I do that with composition, color, and honesty.

Above, I framed this mechanic against clouds building south of Puerto Rico, with lots of diagonal elements that impart energy to an activity that is important but visually serene — he is intent on his inspection of the K-MAX rotor system while our attention keeps coming back to him.

Below, a fluid check is just one of the many small steps required to send this QF-16 into the skies above Holloman AFB in New Mexico. The orange safety gear contrasts with the otherwise low chroma aircraft and surrounding scene.

There was very little color in the F-5 or the garb of the mechanic working on it at MCAS Yuma. However, there were colors in the out-of-focus background elements, which tended to draw our eyes away from the action. Solution? Kill the color and, thus, emphasize the shapes.
Sikorsky Aerospace Maintenance

Yet another example of focused attention, this mechanic at Fort Polk, Louisiana, is one of many who keep the Army's UH-72s ready for flight. The major elements of this composition point toward the upper left, giving a clear indication of where the action is.
Sikorsky Aerospace Maintenance with LUH aircraft

Since none of these images was posed, which often is revealed by a subtle, if not outright corny, sense of unreality, the alignment of this crewmember's outstretched hand and the rotor blade of this Bristow S-92 is most likely just happenstance, but I'll take it since it helps our eyes connect his signal to the aircraft.

Each person in the above photos is seriously focused on their job, which is fine and appropriate, but sometimes the fun of working around aircraft comes through!

Marshal Parks MD 900

]]> (AeroMark Images) action airplane aviation background check checking color composition crew crewmember fighter flight focus ground helicopter inspecting inspection maintenance photography preflight prep preparation prepare work worker Tue, 31 Jul 2018 19:30:40 GMT
Playing with Crayons EA-18G Growler on or above NAF El CentroEA-18G Growler on or above NAF El CentroPhoto call at NAF El Centro

A couple of articles ago I showed a "before, during, and after" series of my taking a blah photo and making it work with brightening and emboldening and a bit of color punching. The result was reasonably realistic while attracting a viewer's attention in a way the original never, ever would.

This time, I share a few examples of pushing the color to the edges and, maybe, beyond. Above, an E/A-18G lights out of NAF El Centro. I converted the original to boldly contrasty black-and-white for the entire image save for the flame from the Growler's afterburners. My eyes dart about the image, but always back to the flames.

Phoenix PD AS350East Valley Wildland Fire training

In a comparatively muted example, this Phoenix PD AS350 is headed for water as the crew trains for wildland firefighting. The colors here are natural but pumped up just a bit.

B787 main LGaircraft and details

Technically the colors in this Boeing 787 main landing gear are natural, but have been pushed so far they've fallen off the reality chart. Eye-catching, yes, though not always appropriate.
A-10 at Libby Army Airfield
This A-10 got the none-but-one color treatment, which brings the simplicity of black-and-white but with a color kick. This technique can be used to unify graphics thematically, applying either the same color to other images or applying complementary ones from a coordinated palette.

B787 engineaircraft and details

Wrapping up, I've moved to two complementary colors. In this case the term "complementary" means not "nice together" but, rather, "opposing" as in, on opposite sides of the color wheel. This pairing brings an electric vibrancy to the image that definitely grabs the viewer by the eyeballs. As always, that is the primary mission for a photo in service of marketing and, even more importantly, for advertising.

]]> (AeroMark Images) 787 a-10 airbus airplane as350 aviation boeing chroma color douglas e/a-18 emphasis emphasizing eurocopter f/a-18 fairchild growler helicopter hornet manipulation mcdonnell McDonnell Douglas northrop photography republic saturation technique Wed, 18 Jul 2018 15:14:42 GMT
The Folks Not Flying the Ship It is common when flying a photography mission in public safety/emergency medical aircraft for the full complement of crew to be present. Sure, we'll try to take care of the photography, but if a call comes in, they will be ready to respond and photography be damned!

So when you are flying such a mission, don't forget to capture people besides the pilot(s). If an observer or paramedic is in the ship with you, be sure to come back with photos of them.

EMT-P Terry Neal

Above is Emergency Medical Technician–Paramedic Terry Neal in the back of a University of Tennessee Knoxville Lifestar Bell 407. We were en route to rendezvous with our target aircraft, their Eurocopter EC135, of which I got some great shots before, as it happened, the 135 got a call and we trailed along for that too!

Trooper/Paramedic Edgar Bissonnette[filenamebase}

Here is Trooper/Paramedic Edgar Bissonnette of the Arizona Department of Public Safety. We are in the department's Bell 429 approaching a local mountain that's popular with hikers and Bissonnette is alert for signs of people in distress. The photo flight was to capture a through-the-cockpit shot for a two-page spread in an upcoming issue of a trade magazine. (The photos turned out great, so look for that soon.)

Tactical Flight Officer Kyle CarmichaelMesa Police Officer scans the scene of a reported disturbance.

Observers are critical to police aviation. Above, at the scene of a reported disturbance, Mesa Police Tactical Flight Officer Kyle Carmichael scans the surrounding areas. We circled and Officer Carmichael continued to keep an eye on events until ground units had secured the location.

In almost all cases, these people are the reason there's a helicopter and a pilot, so to ignore them is to miss the real story.

]]> (AeroMark Images) aviation cabin crew crewmember emergency medical EMS EMT first responder helicopter medical mission officer paramedic people person photography police public safety rescue SAR Sat, 30 Jun 2018 02:32:35 GMT
Turning Yuck into Yeah! I came back from an air-to-air photo shoot with plenty of good images, but one image didn't look so hot. What it looked was dark. Deadly dark almost to the point of featurelessness. And I know why (hint: it was on purpose).


There it is.

The flight started before sunup and as we cruised toward an intended location, we were passing this dramatic topographical feature. The sun had not yet crested the mountains to the east, however the clouds had a head start and their peaks were already brightly illuminated. That presented me with a challenge — how to not lose all detail in the clouds while retaining enough of my subject and the midground to later create something dynamic. So, I exposed the image darker than the camera was inclined to. It looks pretty bad, doesn't it?

To head toward that dynamic result, first I lightened the overall image without, as we say, "blowing out" the highlights in the clouds. This reveals the details that had appeared nearly black but overall the effect is probably worse than the original. Take a look.


The aircraft now stands stark against a dull, lower-contrast sky above hazy terrain, with everything tinted blue. To make an omelette…

Next I selected an element of the image I knew to be neutrally colored and sampled that element to "correct" the blue — that element might be the skids or the spotlight, maybe even the white paint. I say "correct" because the colors we see, above, might be technically accurate, but they are not effective as an attention-grabbing and -holding choice. Here's what I got by shifting away from the blue and also increasing the contrast.


That's looking much better! Still, I think it can be even more dynamic, if even less technically accurate, so I further increase the saturation and got this.


I hadn't even noticed the green grass in the lower right corner until I made that change. One more tweak and I called it done — a little judicious cropping to enlarge the relative size of the aircraft in the scene.


The final is dynamic and eye-catching, job one for a photo in service of marketing — first the reader must stop, then they can see your message.

]]> (AeroMark Images) arizona aviation color helicopter md600n neutral photography sky technique terrain weavers needle Tue, 19 Jun 2018 01:40:49 GMT
Blurring For Focus Air Logistics

One of the opportunities I often take advantage of when photographing helicopters is to compose them against a background that not only gives context, but adds visual energy. Either by composing the elements in the scene, or by taking advantage of the mixture of low altitude and low shutter speeds, each not unusual when shooting helos, to blur the background with motion.

The S-76, above, jumps off the page with its vibrant livery contrasting with the muted colors below it, then I further separated the two by motion-blurring that brown field. As a bonus, the dark lines in the field act to frame the aircraft and offer a sense of direction, funneling the fuselage through the image.

An out-of-focus background helps to bring extra focus to the subject, but because of those low shutter speeds, required to render the blades in motion, the aperture in the lens must be small to restrict the volume of photons entering the camera, and a small aperture tends to render the background in glorious, distracting, clarity.

Well, there's more than one way to reduce that clarity, and motion is one of those ways. (You can read about shutter speed and why you don't want too much of it in a previous article, here.)

MD 902 FlightCare

Of course, for there to be motion blur, something has to be in motion, and for the blurry thing to be the background, the aircraft must be in motion relative to it, and the camera and the subject need to be moving together. No surprises there, I hope. The effect is more noticeable the closer the aircraft and the passing background are to each other, so lower altitudes are your friend, at least photographically. This red MD Explorer is probably no more than 50 feet above the terrain so, even though we're probably sliding along at only 30 knots, there's plenty of blur in that background (and in the rotor blades, for that matter).

The S300C, below, shows off its three-blade main rotor from, perhaps, 200 feet above this corn field, and the blurred corn makes streaks of color and contrast, emphasizing motion, more so than even the creek bed flowing past the Explorer.
In and around Rotors of the Rockies of Broomfield, just outside Denver. As always, the first goal of a photograph is to prompt a reader or passerby to stop and look. Get their attention. Putting some blur in a photo puts some energy in the photo, and that energy is used to stop a reader in motion. "Look at me; something is happening here!"

]]> (AeroMark Images) action attention aviation background blur blurring blurry composition design dynamic dynamism focus helicopter photography technique Mon, 21 Aug 2017 22:38:25 GMT
Cover Photo? No, Maybe, Done. In the world of aerospace marketing, air-to-air images are often the default for magazine covers. But what if the important story has no budget or time for an air-to-air shoot? What if you must shoot from the ground?

It helps if the subject of the photograph is inherently dynamic, like a fast jet, but fast jets can be rendered dully and a wood-and-fabric biplane sitting on the grass can, through the photographic arts, be rendered as an eye-catching siren. Here’s a jet, not as fast as some but still traveling about 140 knots. And below it, a biplane sitting on grass. What would recommend each for or against a cover position?

This MD82 photo as a cover? Umm…no.

MD-82 AA San Jose 20080729 12xz

First, of course, this is a majorly horizontal image. The aircraft, as presented, is very wide in the frame. Cropping to fit the cover of a magazine would excise most of the aircraft and leave swaths of uninteresting background. Admittedly, that would provide plenty of space for the flag (often mislabeled as the masthead) and cover lines (text), but it would be more space than needed.

The lighting is fair. There’s plenty of it, so everything is clear, but it’s mid-day, not a sought-after hour because of the generally harsh nature of that overhead sun, though the evident haze softens that harshness and pales the background, allowing us to better focus on the subject. A good news/bad news situation. But photographed from the side the fuselage appears as a simple tube visually broken only by the vertical stabilizer and landing gear. The wings and horizontal stabilizers have no dimension from this angle; the engine is its own tube but doesn’t otherwise relieve the simple profile of the airliner.

The nose gear is still in the air, which is a plus, and the smoke trailing the main gear indicates they are just touching down. So, there is some actual action but the side-view composition mutes much of its potential. There are too many factors working against this as a truly effective cover shot. See?

How about a Hawker Fury? Maybe.

The photo is tall. Vertical. Portrait. Whatever term you use, the image has the orientation and proportions suited for a magazine cover. Step one — check. There’s plenty of sky above the upper wing to fit the magazine’s flag, and room down both sides of the fuselage to take those cover lines. So far so good.

The lighting is, again, fair. (I discovered, in the metadata for these two images, they were shot within minutes of each other on their respective days — the MD82 at 11:13, in San Jose, California; the Fury at 11:06 in Virgina Beach, Virginia, though four years apart.) Thus, again, mid-day sun. The Fury photo also has some atmospheric haze to soften the light but not enough distance for the haze to pale the trees. (I’ll get to that in a bit.) Here, however, I've chosen an angle to the sun that puts it more in front of me (I’m facing south) instead of coming over my shoulder (facing northeast in San Jose) so it gives more dimension to the shapes.

And there are more shapes. The fuselage is seen along its length, so tapers visually in addition to its structural tapering. The upper wing forms a straight bar across the frame. The lower wing has some dihedral, which adds slight diagonal shapes and, because its silver skin is in the shade of the upper wing, it appears blue by reflecting the sky. Struts and wires and tires, oh my! Lots going on, though the Fury is going nowhere.

Now let me address the elephant in the photo or, rather, the out-of-focus vertical stabilizer in the photo. I had to let that go out of focus if I wanted the cockpit and wings in focus without, and here’s the key, without the trees also being in focus. I wanted the aircraft to not merge with those trees. So, to keep them from being sharp, I had to let the vertical be not sharp. I almost got it all — notice how the horizontal stabilizer is good, but being a couple feet closer to the lens, that vertical just couldn’t make it to the sharpness party. (Admittedly, at the small size in this article, the trees appear to be in focus, but all full, magazine-cover, size they are blurrier than the airplane.)

Bold shapes and colors, lots of contrast without losing detail, composed with room for the other elements of the cover. It could work.

The ringer — K-MAX with Firemax tank.

K-MAX N267KA Kawak tank first flight 20050615 196z

Would this photo be suitable for a cover? Yes. Is that just my opinion? No. Rotor & Wing thought so too. (I can’t find the issue online or in my files. Sorry.)

Why did it make the grade? Portrait orientation. Bold composition with big diagonals, of both the aircraft and the cascade of water, plus the crossed main rotor blades. Great lighting. Room at the top for the flag. Room down the sides for the cover lines. The image tells a story, shows action, and since the sight of a K-MAX dropping water from a fixed tank was totally unique at the time (this was the first flight for the tank), knowledgeable people would certainly want to crack open the magazine and learn all about it. Shot from the ground but I met all the requirements. Done, done, done!

]]> (AeroMark Images) action airplane aviation composition cover art cover line cover lines design dynamic dynamism editor flag helicopter magazine magazine cover masthead photography publisher technique Tue, 01 Aug 2017 02:08:21 GMT
Going Wide Boeing 747-8F at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, 24 June 2010. Photographers have a plethora of tools they can bring to bear in creating images to support their clients. A photographer's skill at ideation and problem solving are critical, and sometimes the idea calls for, or the problem is solved with, the right lens.

A lens that mimics the human field of view is called a "normal" lens, while one that captures a more expansive one is called "wide angle" (and one that zooms in to capture just a small portion of a scene is typically referred to as a "long" lens — why it's not known as a "narrow-angle" lens is just one of the many incongruities in photo nomenclature).

Thinking about wide-angle lenses, there are a few situations that call for them.

The photo above, besides being created using high dynamic range techniques (see my article on HDR), was captured with a very wide-angle lens. We see the aircraft, sure, but we also see a taxi light and markings, giving the scene a setting, and the texture of the asphalt is a visual bonus. Not just a picture of a plane, viewers will spend more time examining the photo and more time spent means more time to share your message.

As I demonstrated in "Inside Out," photographing from inside a helicopter can benefit from a lens that shows the exterior scene and the interior. This inside-and-out shot from an R44 shows off the spacious view from the cockpit as well as the Sikorsky S-333 we had just been photographing, plus our destination as we RTB (Broomfield, Colorado). The composition and camera settings work to de-emphasize the near elements, as large as they are in the frame, and allow the focus (figurative and literal) to be on the far objects. In and around Rotors of the Rockies of Broomfield, just outside Denver.

Here is an image that uses a wide view to emphasize the subject by featuring it near, and thus relatively large, compared to the farther details, rendered relatively small in the frame due to the lens. The subject, by the way, is Bob Odegaard refueling the "Super" Corsair known as Race 74. The F2G-2 "Super Corsair" "Race 74" visits Coolidge, piloted by Bob Odegaard.The F2G-2 "Super Corsair" "Race 74" visits Coolidge, piloted by Bob Odegaard.F2G-2 Coolidge 20120303 24

Each of the preceding images could have been shot with a longer lens, but the effect would have been significantly different. This next photo, of a boom operator in a USAF KC-135, required the use of a wide-angle lens if I wanted any chance of showing Sargeant Sanchez (assigned to Phoenix Air Guard Copperheads) in his workspace. Those who have flown the Stratotanker know — it's cramped back there!

What did I do in this next photo? Well, it would appear to be a Boeing 787 with a fantastically long wing, but it is just a normal 787. Using a wide lens, though, allowed me to show off the (then) newly developed wingtip that brings the efficiency of a winglet without some of the downsides of same, while still showing the fuselage, which looks fairly normal. Not a good approach for every photo, but appropriate and effective here.  Finally, this BA609 was given the "hero" treatment by my lying on the ground with a wide lens and shooting up. Not only does the composition put the subject on a figurative pedestal, thus treating it as a hero, but as with the Race 74 image, above, the wide lens reduces the visual clutter of the background, dimensionally in the frame and, thus, effectively in the eye of the beholder. Bigger subject, smaller background, cue the trumpets!

A lens is a tool. Having good ones, and knowing which to use, is part and parcel of effective photography. Wide-angle lenses can be just the thing, whether solving a problem or creating a better image. Choose wisely and, when the time is right, go wide.

NOTE: The image of the two TAV-8B Harrier IIs, the one you see on the top-level "Blog" page, is the result of a nine-image panorama stitched together such that at full size it has sufficient resolution for a print 8 feet wide.

]]> (AeroMark Images) aviation background composition detail emphasis focus hero heroic photography scale technique wide wide angle Tue, 18 Jul 2017 15:46:42 GMT
On The Line Some of my favorite photography is when I get to capture people working on the flight line. They are alternately serious and relaxed, focused on what they are doing yet also, sometimes, displaying the lighter side of their personality. Above, a volunteer at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Wash., pulls the prop through on a B-25, preparing the engine for starting. Sure, you see effort in her expression, but I see a smile in there too.

Sikorsky Aerospace Maintenance

At Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, many of the ground and maintenance crews for the Corps' aggressor squadron have been supporting these missions for years. That familiarity, with the pilots and the operations, leads to a looseness without sloppiness and, inevitably, to their personalities shining through. The DC-10 911 "Vicki" at PMGA while fighting the Wallow fire of May/June 2011.

Sometimes it's the scale of things — people versus machine — that catches my eye. This woman, inspecting the firefighting DC-10 "Vicki" between firefighting runs, is dwarfed by the aircraft at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. Boeing 747-8F at PMGA for hot-weather testing And here, not just the size of the aircraft — a Boeing 747-8F, undergoing hot-weather testing at the same airport — but also the complexity of these machines, is put into context with people in the frame.

When the assignment is a wide-ranging article, or especially an annual report, people and their world should be shown together in ways that tie them together.

]]> (AeroMark Images) aviation complex complexity composition context crew flight line ground crew photography scale size technique Thu, 29 Jun 2017 19:34:18 GMT
Inside Out _MBP3377 When you're photographing from a helicopter, the standard approach is to exclude any element of the aircraft, to capture pixels only of the subject — the scene, the structure, the aircraft — that you are there to capture.

Sometimes, though, take the non-standard approach and also show some of the aircraft you're in. Like this shot, above, from a police helicopter over an area they sometimes fly into for search-and-rescue missions. By including some of the aircraft, the scene gets not just a sense of scale, but a sense of mission (you're in a helicopter and there's a searchlight, so, search-and-rescue, right?) and it adds another layer of interest to the composition.

This police helicopter is practicing placing a load onto a predetermined spot. In this case the load is a substantial hunk of concrete, painted pink, and the spot is a tire lying out in the desert. I also shot this exercise from the ground but, here, with my camera shoved down under the fuselage at the end of my arm, I've put everything — aircraft, cable, load, tire, aircraft's shadow, terrain — into the frame from an unexpected perspective.


Look Out!
Next we gaze over the shoulders of the crew of this offshore helo formed up with a utility aircraft. My target (another offshore aircraft) was not yet in position, but this composition shows the crew doing what they should be doing — watching the other aircraft and keeping a prescribed distance. PHI

Finally, some double-vision. Not only do we see outside this EMS aircraft through the windscreen, etc., we see the view that the pilot sees, reflected in his visor — the expanse of terrain and clouds and sky.

Note that each of these images was created using a very wide-angle lens, equipment you'll also need to use if you want to capture the aircraft and its environs. The payoff is a more interesting perspective on the equipment, the missions, and the people.


]]> (AeroMark Images) air crew air-to-air aviation composition context crew flight flying helicopter interior photography technique wide-angle Tue, 20 Jun 2017 22:48:25 GMT
Linking for Value I sent invitations to complete a survey, about LinkedIn usage and value, using both direct emails and in postings to LinkedIn itself.

The survey was a mere five questions in length, multiple choice, and could have been completed in well under 60 seconds, so it's not an exhaustive investigation into the service or the opinions of its inhabitants. It is but a snapshot against which you might compare or contrast your own usage, confirm or upset your notions of its value.

These were the questions:

1. Do you have a page on LinkedIn?

The responses were presented as

  • Yes
  • No
  • Not Sure

2. How often do you "use" LinkedIn, whatever that means to you?

  • Daily
  • Often
  • Sometimes
  • Almost Never
  • Never
  • N/A

3. When you do use it, for which purpose(s)? (Check all that apply.)

  • Initiate business contacts
  • Correspond with business contacts
  • Research background/experience of competing person/company
  • Research background/experience of prospective hire/vendor
  • Read articles or linked articles
  • Post articles or link to articles
  • N/A

4. How do you rate the value of LinkedIn to your business? (Zero means "no value," ten means "great value," and you can turn this rating up to eleven!)

The input was a slide with values ranging from zero to 11 that entered integer values depending on where the respondent placed the control pointer.

5. How are you involved in your business? (Choose all that apply.)

  • Owner
  • Employee
  • Independent Contractor
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Human Resources
  • Recruiting
  • Engineering
  • Manufacturing
  • External Customer Service
  • Internal Customer Service
  • Other involvement (please specify)


Of all the respondents, only 1 did not have a LinkedIn page. That person is an owner/independent contractor, seldom uses the service, does so only to read articles, and skipped the question of value (number 4). Let’s call it a zero (though they obviously find some value…)

Of those with a page, a third use LinkedIn daily, a bit more than that use it often, a fifth use it sometimes, and one in 12 almost never use LinkedIn.

As for what they use it for, corresponding with business contacts is the most cited reason, with over two thirds of respondents declaring that. Very nearly that many votes were cast for reading articles or linked articles. A bit more than half initiate business contacts, while a solid half research prospective hires or vendors, and very nearly half research a competitor or post articles themselves.

The average value ascribed to the service is, in round numbers, five, though technically it runs just a little bit higher than that: 5.2. And, remember, that's on a scale of 0 to 10.

Business involvement ran pretty much the gamut of available choices, with owners (42%), marketers (38%), managers (33%), and sales functions (29%) leading by a wide margin over the other choices.

Drilling Down

If we look at the combined responses of owners and managers, we find 26% of them use LinkedIn daily and 32% use it often. Another 26% use it sometimes and 16% almost never do. So, nearly 6 in 10 owners/managers use the service daily or often, but conversely, more than 4 in 10 use it infrequently or nearly never.

This group’s usage is almost universally at lower rates as compared to the entire population of respondents. They are 7 percentage points less likely to initiate business contacts, and 13% less likely to correspond with those contacts. They are nearly 10% less likely to research a competitor, 3% less likely read articles, and 9% fewer post articles. Only in researching a possible hire or vendor do they overtake the responses as a whole, and that by fewer than 3 percentage points.

Perhaps it is not surprising that their average value rating is slightly less than 5, though admittedly 4.9 is still pretty much a solid 5, albeit lower than the average of all responses.

When we turn our attention to those in marketing and sales, the numbers perk up a bit. In round values, 40% of those respondents use LinkedIn daily, and 30% use it often or sometimes. None almost never use it (that was a fun sentence!).

Comparing usage to all respondents, marketing/sales people uses the service more broadly than the population as a whole. For every purpose except one we see higher involvement: initiating business contacts is greater by 26 percentage points. Corresponding with contacts? 29% greater. Four points separate the two populations for researching competitors, three points for reading articles, and four points for posting. Only in researching prospective hires or vendors do the marketers/salespeople use LinkedIn less, though that’s by a full 30%.

This group gives the service a 5.8 in terms of value.

So, what does the service look like to those who use it daily? The big takeaway would be a much higher percentage use it for reading and posting articles as compared to the respondents as a whole — 20 percentage points higher in reading, and just shy of double the usage for posting with nearly 90% of these respondents doing so! They also research competitors much more frequently, three out of four availing themselves of that ability. In fact, it is only in the two business contacts categories, initiating them and corresponding with them, that daily users trail the general population, otherwise they are much more active.

And that activity seems reflected in their judgement of its value — 8. Does their daily use lead them to value it, or does their appreciation for LinkedIn lead them to using it daily? This survey didn’t attempt to discern that, but they are obviously connected.

What about those who find little value? Well, half of those respondents who conferred a value rating below 4 use LinkedIn for corresponding with business contacts. Significantly, that is a smaller percentage than for any purpose among the full population, and that fifty-percent-usage is the highest-rated-usage among the low-value-rating respondents. Confusingly put? Sorry. What I mean is, those who value the service least also use it the least, across the board.

How little do they value LinkedIn? They give it a 1.1 score, though the equivalent question arises for this group as it does for the daily users: is the value judgement driving their usage or does their low usage lead to a low valuation? And, again, we didn’t examine that but a connection must exist. These respondents are mostly owners, with managers and marketers the key functions represented.

Coming at the value number from the other end, what about those that place a high value on the service? Two-thirds of respondents assigning a score of seven or greater use LinkedIn daily, with the balance using it often. They identify themselves primarily as owners, marketers, in sales and management, and are more likely to avail themselves of the myriad capabilities of the system than the population as a whole. In every category of purpose, they exceed the whole by between 4 and 30 percentage points.

The average value score for the group is 8, though if we look at those complete subgroups as defined by business involvement, and count the value scores for all owners, all marketers, etc., not just those who give it high marks, we don’t see universally high value scores. Owners actually fall below the full-population average, with their subgroup average value score of only 4.8. Management nearly matches the overall average with a 5.1. Marketers rate LinkedIn as 6.0 and sales gives it a 6.6, the highest subgroup score.

Sales and Marketing

Given the high value scores ascribed by those in sales and marketing, let’s look a little deeper at these two subgroups. (For convenience, I will refer to the groups as salespeople and marketers.)

Salespeople are more likely to use LinkedIn daily, 57%, compared to 44% for marketers. They are much less likely to use it only often, 14% versus 33%, then pick up frequency with 29% reporting using it sometimes, versus 22% by marketers. So, pretty consistent usage by both groups in proportions that are not surprising.

The purposes for which they use LinkedIn are of similar magnitudes, though not identical. In descending order the top five purposes for salespeople are correspond with business contacts, read articles, post articles, initiate business contacts, and research competing person/company. Each of those is engaged in by at least half of all salespeople. Marketers’ descending list of involvement is correspond with business contacts, initiate business contacts, read articles, post articles, and research background of competing person/company. Similar to sales in order, but in magnitude the last two are engaged in by only 44% of marketers.

Summing Up

The respondents in this survey are predominantly owners of businesses, with heavy representation in marketing, management, and sales. This seems a logical population since these are the roles most involved in the business of business, rather than the business of making things or serving customers or etc.

In general, LinkedIn is seen as a solidly mediocre value with an average value score of 5 out of 10, derived from inputs of every possible value from 0 to 10. The subgroup identifying themselves as employees give it the lowest score, 3.6, though not all subgroups had sufficient data to evaluate. The highest subgroup score was among those in sales, followed closely by marketing.

Those who use LinkedIn daily/often, as opposed to sometimes/almost never, do so by a two-to-one margin. Keeping in mind that this survey was not completed by a randomly selected group, but by those who chose to accept the invitation by email or outreach via LinkedIn, it’s perhaps likely the frequency of involvement, among all those with LinkedIn pages, is lower — the more active users might be the ones to more actively take a survey?

This last point, about active users being more likely to complete the survey, and how that might affect the results, also applies to the value scoring. It would not be surprising to learn that those who use the service only infrequently, or never, since creating their profile page, find little or no value in LinkedIn. But, conversely, those for whom LinkedIn is a valuable tool, connecting with these infrequent/never users is perhaps correspondingly of no value, which is fine by both parties.

So, Why Use LinkedIn?

I’m struck with the image of a public pool where the majority of the bathers are not in the pool, but lounging on the decking. I’m not sure why most came just to sit high and dry, but at least they’re not in the way, right? Those who came to swim, or float, or dive, or play Marco Polo are in the water. And if that’s what you came to do, this is the place to be.

The value calculation for respondents must be a mix of cost, in dollars (or Euros or Lire or Yen or whatever, if they are a paying member) and time, versus the benefits they receive or extract. While the financials are either small, in the bigger picture of doing business, or non-existent, the greatest cost to using the service is most likely the time spent.

So it is here that I urge a realistic review of your own cost/benefit calculation. Time can be spent only once, and if you are not getting truly good value from LinkedIn, spend your time elsewhere. We all know that social media, of which LinkedIn is merely a business-facing manifestation, can suck an awful lot of minutes out of your life. Make sure those minutes are delivering good ROI.

Circling Back to LinkedIn Photos

I recently wrote about the bad, the good, and the ugly of LinkedIn profile photos, where I showed examples of each and counseled using good photography…of course. You can read that here, but I figured I’d follow up with the technical specifications as detailed by LinkedIn.

In most settings your photo will be displayed within a circle, so crop your portrait to be square with your face in the center. That’s if your portrait is mostly a head shot. If you choose a wider view, say, a head-and-shoulders shot, crop so your face is higher in the frame, but don’t cut off the top of your head because LinkedIn’s circular presentation will exacerbate that. (Also, don’t accidentally squash or squish the photo — just cut off the excess area to leave a square image.)

LinkedIn recommends that the image you upload be at least 400 pixels on each side, and they allow images up to 20,000 pixels. I mean, 20,000 pixels!? Frankly, stick with 400 x 400 pixels — that’s plenty large enough to see you clearly and it keeps the file size reasonable. (They limit your file to 8 megabytes, but I saved a 400 x 400 image as a JPEG with maximum quality and it consumed fewer than 130 kilobytes — less than 2% of their limit.) A smaller file means it’s quicker for you to upload and quicker to display.

They allow files in JPEG, PNG, or GIF formats, so use whichever you prefer.

Here’s their page with this information and more: If they move the page, just search the internet for “LinkedIn photo specifications” and choose an official LinkedIn link.

]]> (AeroMark Images) linkedin photography portrait portraiture questionnaire social media survey usage valuation value Sun, 04 Jun 2017 21:08:49 GMT
Diangularity Composing a photograph for commercial purposes is balancing the needs of multiple audiences across a range of media. Even if a photo is expected to have a single application, it often is repurposed to further support a brand or campaign. With such a range of requirements and restrictions, here is advice that is almost always in service of those requirements and won't usually run afoul of those restrictions. Diagonals.

It's just a tilt to the left

The opening photo, above, shows the simple power of a diagonal. By tilting my camera to the left, the horizon is no longer horizontal and, as importantly, neither is the aircraft. The tilt of the image gives it energy that would be missing if everything were all squared up. Even though we can easily recognize this cheat, that it's not what the scene "really looked like," perhaps, that doesn't dampen the benefit of the effect. The image is more dynamic and, thus, more eye-catching. Step one for any image in the service of commerce.

Below we have three diagonals happening and the result is not only an initial burst of energy in the composition, but the viewer's attention will continue to bounce around the image: helo, highway, dirt road, helo, highway, dirt road. And more time spent viewing means a greater chance of getting your message across.

Next, a bevy of diagonals composed to move the eye and also expand the subject beyond mere beautiful image of an aircraft. The tail boom of the EC135 dominates, thrusting in diagonally, while the B407 comes in at another angle. The building is, of course, rendered as diagonals and the helipad markings are helping by zig-zagging through the frame (though, of course, that is more luck than planning on my part).

Notice how the three images, above, incorporate varying dimensions of diangularity (a word I made up, by the way). The first image is air-to-air, both aircraft at the same altitude, so there was little natural angle to the scene. The horizon was straight across, the aircraft is a bit nose-on, but is visually compressed because of the narrow-angle lens I'm using. The far river bank forms a bit of a diagonal, but not much. With but a single dimension to work with, I tilt the camera and, voilá!

The shot looking down on the aircraft, with the orange tractor-trailer (total stroke of luck, considering the livery on the aircraft, but I'll take it!), has the opportunity for two dimensions of angles and I made use of that opportunity; the aircraft is shown diagonally in the shot and the roads have their own, other, angles.

When I ducked under the tail boom of the EC135 I was taking advantage of three dimensions, courtesy of my being in the midst of the scene. The converging lines of perspective come into play, with or without aircraft, easily visible in the building, creating diagonals that are emphasized by my use of a wide-angle lens. Then, by composing the shot from under that tail boom I add a big dose of diagonal, while the Bell comes in on a different heading, providing a different visual angle and, as I mentioned, the zig-zag markings were a bonus.

Finally, this air-to-ground has a flurry of diagonal angles, which would naturally appear from this angle (no pun intended), but I include the example to illustrate how I also composed this to showcase the aircraft not by excluding other elements of the environment, but by including them, off to the side. All those brick diagonals of the buildings, and the windows and mechanicals and such are visually busy, so the clean, colorful aircraft sitting in a visually calmer spot in the photo provides our eyes a place to rest after they tire of evaluating all that busyness. The aircraft is where we want to focus, but placing it in its environment tells the broader story.

There you have it! Look for diagonals to capture in your images for more stopping power and greater loiter time. And if you don't see a diagonal, make it up by tilting the camera or changing your position. Your images, and viewers, will thank you.

P.S. Thanks go out to the management, and flight and ground crews, at the University of Tennessee Medical Center for their cooperation.

]]> (AeroMark Images) Knoxville Tennessee angle angular aviation background commerce commercial composition diagonal energy foreshortening helicopter interest perspective photography Mon, 15 May 2017 15:01:12 GMT
Making Aerospace Art aviationary 208 B747
B747 engine Marana 20150115 25xz

Back in 2015 I wrote about balancing art and commerce in photography and, in that article, focused on the commerce side of the equation. You can revisit that here.

Well, I'm spending a lot of time selecting and preparing images for an exhibition of my work so "art" is on my mind and it's what I'll share today. Not just because I like this work, but because whoever is pressing the shutter button should keep in mind that, sometimes, a solid artsy approach will yield images that spark new opportunities for marketing. And we can all benefit from new opportunities.

What I See/Saw
The image at the top is looking through the empty nacelle on one Boeing 747 to another empty nacelle on another Boeing 747. I spied this while scouting a desert "boneyard" in Arizona for a magazine article. The colors and contrast are amped up, which suits me fine, as they work with the stark composition to grab a viewer's attention. And that's step one.
CH-34 001 20060322 Choctaw Army One
aviationary 044 CH-34
The second image, just above, is from the military boneyard on Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, Ariz. This roundel, in quite the state of decay, is on the empennage of a CH-34 Choctaw, and not just any old (very old) Choctaw — this was one that flew as Army One for President Dwight Eisenhower. The paint has weathered, sure, but the airframe is still in pretty good shape, thanks to the desert environment. Maybe one day it will be rejuvenated and displayed in a place of honor. Again, bold colors and contrast but, again, I like the look and it could work in the right application.

So what about reducing the color? This nose-on of a DC-7 has that approach, fading the colors to almost nothing, but not quite. This lets the shape of the plane take on greater importance and, in this composition, there is plenty of nearly blank sky on which to fit copy.
_MSB6618 Here's a detail of a B-52 rendered in muted colors, thus focusing our attention on the details and shapes. The color still plays a part, though, as it sets the emotional stage for the image. aviationary 175 B-52G
aviationary 175 B-52G
The USAF Armement Museum at Eglin AFB.B-52G Eglin AFB 20141023 19xz

I'll wrap things up with a return to bold colors; an F-16 between flights at Edwards AFB. Bold colors, sure, and bumped-up contrast, but there's a different feel to this approach, softer than the first two. It's a detail, not a fuller illustration of the subject yet, while the Choctaw roundel would have been recognized by only the very experienced and eagle-eyed, many would see this exhaust for what it is. Still, unlike a more pedestrian representation, this one makes the viewer stop.

aviationary 072 F-16Edwards AFB 20100303 069xtz Photography should definitely be more than the sum of its parts; more than the photons that pass through the lens. And for that to happen, the photographer should keep their eyes open for opportunities in the field and at their computer — fresh thinking might just be the result.

]]> (AeroMark Images) bold composition concept experimentation insight intent marketing muted photography think thinking Tue, 02 May 2017 16:13:45 GMT
Looking Like Linking LinkedIn (/ˌliŋkt.ˈɪn/n. A business-oriented social networking service. (Italics mine.)

I visit LinkedIn occasionally to market my services, catch up with business associates, and read articles posted by members. It works fine but I'd like to complain about something that's not LinkedIn's fault. It's yours.

Well, maybe it's not your fault — you exactly — but it's the fault of many who appear on the site. Being a photographer, my complaint is unsurprisingly photographic in nature and I'm going to deliver this rant on the assumption that people have a LinkedIn page because they want to do business, and I want to be clear up front, "if the shoe doesn't fit, please don't kick me with it."

Here's the thing. When I visit a person's page on LinkedIn, I want to see what the person looks like. We are business people and I want to see with whom I'm doing business. However, I see many profile photos that do not meet my expectations. The transgressions are numerous.

Examples, you demand? Okay, here are some and my reasons for criticizing them. (This is not a criticism of the person or their product or service — just my personal belief that their photo is not functioning on LinkedIn as I would expect it to.)

The Bad

I'm sure the person on whose page this appears is the one in the middle, but who are the other people? Why is the intended person so small? The tutus grab my attention but the face under the blue hard hat? I think it's a dude, but I could be wrong — and how does this presentation make me want to do business with him?

This guy on the right: he's also small in the picture plus the photo has been squeezed left-to-right. He's holding a cup of coffee in a nearly empty hangar. Is that supposed to communicate something positive about his business or business acumen? I wouldn't be able to recognize him on the street or in a meeting. Why, oh why, such a crummy photo?

I'm not looking for a horseman, and the guy on the horse is not selling his horsemanship skills on LinkedIn. Yet, here's his photo. I'm just going to be blunt and say I don't care that you roped a calf. You're too small to identify, though I might have some luck pointing to your horse in an equine line-up…

Here's a proud father or grandfather or I don't know. I'm sure he loves whoever this child is, and at least the man's face is large enough to recognize, but this photo is also distorted — to fit in man and child, both? But why show the kid at all? It doesn't make me more interested in you. It tells me something about you, I suppose, but I find the little tyke more eye-catching than additive to your profile. I like kids. I don't look for them on LinkedIn.

Okay, we're getting there. No children or horses but is this supposed to be an artistic composition? "Still life with woman and…", um, whatever that is in the background? It's not that hard, people! She seems like a nice person, but less than half this photo is helping me understand her; the other half I just don't comprehend.

Somehow this person thinks showing their back, doing their thing, makes a prospect want to reach out and buy what he's selling? This photo does not prove, to me, that he knows how to teach firearms, but it shows he doesn't know how to market himself.


The Good

Finally! Here's a straightforward example of what is appropriate for LinkedIn. A pleasant expression, professionally photographed, presented large enough to know who I'm dealing with. I see the person, get a sense of their personality, and am not distracted by extraneous elements or artistic croppings.

This woman's image is not cropped as tightly, but I still see who she is. I'd know her in a meeting or passing in the hall. Simple. Effective. Appropriate.


And here we have what might be termed an environmental portrait, except it's just a candid shot out in the world somewhere. But it's fine because what I see is a big ol' smile and his eyes looking right at me. He's not in a suit. He's not in a studio. But a suit and a studio are not required. All that matters is this image tells me who this guy is.


Same with this woman. Either a candid, well shot, or an environmental portrait shot with care to look candid. A large, smiling, face that gives me a sense of who she is. I like it and I already want to like her.


The Ugly

Just what in the hell is going on here? I don't know nor, based on this photo, do I want to know this guy.

And what about this guy/gal/space-alien? I'm not familiar with a rationale for putting up no photo, though perhaps a reasonable one exists. I would counsel against it, though, unless you feel there is a personal safety threat. You're on LinkedIn — be on LinkedIn.


The Wrap-Up

When it comes to LinkedIn, I'm not interested in your hobby, your hubby, your pet, or your "unusual" portrait — unless they apply to the business at hand. Put those portraits on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tinder, or wherever. For LinkedIn, especially in the world of aerospace, where we need clarity and honesty, use an image that let's us see who you are.

You might think I'm being a fuddy-duddy, but I'm totally open to interesting portraits where applicable, if they contribute to the cause, even on LinkedIn. The thing is, I've seen very few "interesting" portraits on LinkedIn that support what I feel is the purpose, the value, of the service: Connecting and interacting with business people.

P.S. If you hadn't guessed, that is me at the top of this article. Not in a suit, but with a hint of a tie, loosened, head tilted with a slight smile. You see some sense of me, yes?

]]> (AeroMark Images) business composition concept crop cropping expression intent photography portrait pose posing profile size sizing Mon, 17 Apr 2017 06:17:58 GMT
Send In The Clouds 02090109 A-4 blue sky crop-v

I wrote a few months ago about shooting in less-than-clement weather and how broken clouds can contribute to more-than-usual images. (You can revisit that here.) Today I'll put the clouds into the picture because that can be a good thing too! 

Clouds as Background

Whereas my earlier piece was how cloudy weather can lead to interesting lighting, here I'll look at clouds as the actual backdrop or accent to the subject. Clouds bring their own energy and eye-catchingness, but with a softness that doesn't compete with the typical crisp details of an aerospace subject.

Here's an A-10 Thunderbolt II against mid-summer clouds. The aircraft is littered with contrast and edges and details; the clouds are not. Sure, the composition would work against blue sky, but the clouds are a more suitable canvas on which to showcase those details. A-10 Thunderbolt II Fort Huachuca 20050816 037

Clouds can play a more active role, accentuating the drama of a composition. This C-130J slipped into NAF El Centro as the sun was dipping behind the horizon and storm clouds scudded overhead. I've beefed up the contrast and colors and textures with quite a striking result.

C-130J NAF El Centro 20140227 14oa
Near or on Naval Air Facility El Centro.
You might have to squint to see the Boeing 737 against the cumulus cloud, below, but it's coming our way and, in the video from which this frame is grabbed, the result is 25 seconds of gentle aviation cinematography. Despite the scale of the aircraft against the towering clouds, it is still that object that commands our attention. The clouds are billowing and shifting in the winds, but their graceful dance is easily overshadowed by this tiny metal tube racing through the sky. storm clouds brewing Arizona 20160815 8 Lastly, a storm rolled through Williams Gateway Airport (now Phoenix-Mesa Gateway) as I waited to photograph a Western Airlines Boeing 737 on its inaugural flight into the airport. The bad weather didn't deter me from bringing back some very nice images in the golden light. Allow me to set the scene.

This first image shows the weather — rain on the ramp, reflecting the tower, and a rainbow rising into the roiling clouds. WGA rainy day 20070119 56o
Williams Gateway Airport
Then, helped by my switching to a "longer" lens, a Citation X rose to the sky and I took this parting shot. (Fine. She was the one parting, so only she could take a parting shot, per se, but still…) It's not Photoshop, folks, as some have suggested — it's good timing and keeping my eyes open. WGA rainy day 20070119 33o
Williams Gateway Airport
With cooperative weather, even if it might not seem cooperative, you can bring back more than a plain ol' picture of a plane. Bold colors, subtle colors. Near or far. The energy of the weather can add energy to your images.

(The particularly sharp-eyed may have noticed a Piper departing WGA, in the far upper left corner of the wide shot. It is particularly tiny in this article, so I figured I'd not mention it. Extra points to you if you did notice.)

]]> (AeroMark Images) airplane aviation backdrop background cloud clouds cloudy composition inclement photography rain rainbow storm weather Sat, 01 Apr 2017 15:16:15 GMT
Shooting the Show MDHI press conference HE17 20170307 017o

Heli-Expo 2017 was marked by a sense of enthusiasm and optimism that has been building for a couple of years. There was plenty to see and plenty to shoot. I did both.

Above we see MD Helicopters' CEO, Lynn Tilton, addressing an open-to-the-public press conference at the company's booth. This image shows how the gathered crowd had ample room and almost no structures interrupting their view of the podium. I'm not here to report on the show, per se, but to note that this photo would help an exhibitor "see" their booth in a way they may not have — probably not in a computer-generated illustration, nor as it would appear when all set up but hosting no visitors. This photo, then, is better than some mere snapshot because it serves a purpose beyond "snapshot" and it does it better.

Questions, questions!
So, are there techniques for capturing better photos? And what would "better" mean? The answer to the second question will lead to answering the first. And you should start with a third question, and its answer, first! That third question is: what is the purpose of the photo(s)?

Do you want a photo to document how your exhibit was set up so it can be replicated at the next show? Or, how it was set up that caused a problem? Will the photos be shared with stakeholders or the press in some medium to declare "we were there"?

A good photo might even answer some unasked questions. Like, why is there an empty water bottle sitting front and center on the reception counter? Why are our briefcases and jackets in an unsightly pile? Why are my people not watching the passersby, engaging them, asking about their day or if they have any questions? My people are, instead, futzing with their phones or talking with each other! My neighbor's signage is overshadowing my more subdued graphics. Not his fault, maybe, but I don't like it.

Heli-Expo 2017 20170309 031o II
First, if the purpose of the photos is in any way connected to showing the booth as it was, either as a reference or to say "we were there," at least one well-composed image should follow the rule of keeping the vertical elements truly vertical. What, you ask, does that mean?

This photo of the Indra booth shows the result of pointing the camera up to capture the height of the booth with no regard for keeping the vertical elements of the structure vertical in the image. (I apologize, Indra, for showing your booth in this way — I actually shot it properly but distorted it as an example.)

This photo of the Air Comm booth shows off the verticality of their exhibit structure. To accurately represent those verticals my camera was level in both pitch and roll. If I had pointed my camera somewhat "up" to capture all of the height of the booth and not bother with the carpet in the foreground, those vertical lines would have been converging; the ones on the left leaning right, toward the center of the image, and on the right they would be leaning left. It's a geometric distortion we commonly encounter in photography. When the booth is viewed by our eyeballs at the show, our brains ignore that convergence, but on the printed page or a computer monitor the distortion is unyielding and usually unwelcome.

Heli-Expo 2017 20170309 031o II 1800c

I agree all that carpet is not doing much good in the image — sucking up pixels and inches without helping us evaluate or celebrate the booth. So I crop the image after it's taken and now we see the booth, no extra carpet and still distortion free. (Of course, if the camera were not level, in roll, the entire image would be tilted, an easier condition to note before you take the picture and to correct afterwards with a computer.)

In the MD Helicopters photo, the booth was crowded. The Air Comm booth had only the company people in it. What if you want to show the booth with some people in and around it, but not throngs? Position yourself then wait for the elements to align nicely, as I did of this Rolls-Royce exhibit. The verticals are vertical and there are people near, far, walking past, and visiting. Sure, you are somewhat at the mercy of the passersby, but patience will usually reward you with a fine array of signage and people. Keep your eye on the viewfinder and your finger on the button.

Heli-Expo 2017 20170307 388o II Must you always, always keep the verticals vertical? Of course not. Just be sure it's a choice and not poor technique. Here's an Airbus H145 shot from floor level looking up. What in reality are vertical structures are converging wildly, adding intentional energy to the composition. The rafters and rotor blades are zig-zagging across the top, the nose of the helo is thrust toward us, and the spotlight, FLIR, and others accessories are highlighted. Good stuff! Heli-Expo 2017 20170308 252x

This doesn't cover all the factors that figure into photography at a trade show, but it gives you a good start at coming back with images for which you don't have to make excuses, right? And if you're like me, you can also come back with an image that makes you smile. Here's one such image. Enjoy.

Heli-Expo 2017 20170307 067o

]]> (AeroMark Images) aviation booth convergence distortion exhibit exhibition helicopter parallax photography purpose question questions technique trade show vertical verticality Wed, 15 Mar 2017 17:41:38 GMT
All Spun Up and No Place to Go  

At Rotors of the Rockies of Broomfield, just outside Denver. In this follow-up to my most recent article — about getting good images of a flying aircraft when you and your camera are on the ground — I look at what you might do to get interesting, useful images when you and the aircraft are on the ground.

Timing, Lenses and Angles

Although I and this Sikorsky S-333 were on the same ramp, and I would be flying with it later in the day, I still wanted to make images that could support marketing and advertising efforts by the client. I used a range of techniques to accomplish that.

First, was the time of day. The image above was made pre-dawn and, being in the heart of summer, that means pretty dang early. But the light is beautiful at that hour, so an Oh-dark-thirty wake-up it was. The result? The pre-dawn sky is raking the side of the aircraft, highlighting the textures and forms, and painting a background sky with gorgeous pastel colors. They had launched the aircraft from its towed platform to position it for our flight later in the morning, but for now I took advantage of the turning rotors and flashing lights to show a little life.

A bit later, with the sun up, I approached the aircraft for a formal, side-view, portrait. Here's what that looked like. Okay. Clean enough, I suppose. But there's something missing… or, rather, there's too much of something. Too much of what's not the aircraft! Too much asphalt with cracks in the foreground. A diagonal stroke of sunlight across the foreground. Too much bright grass, that building, the mountains intersecting with the outline of the aircraft. But that's what's there, right? How can I improve things? I go low. S-333 Broomfield ROTR 20100822 092o
At Rotors of the Rockies of Broomfield, just outside Denver.
S-333 Broomfield ROTR 20100822 096o
At Rotors of the Rockies of Broomfield, just outside Denver.
Look how much more focused we are on the aircraft by my lying on the ground with my camera. The asphalt in the foreground still occupies the same amount of space in the image, but by visually compressing even more of that asphalt into the same space, the previously noticeable textures are, effectively, disappeared. The slash of sunlight barely registers. The golden grass is now but a narrow band and the mountains are lowered to intersect the fuselage at only two points.

(In the previous image, the mountains go into the windscreen, then through the cockpit, they poke above the tail boom, then go below the tail boom, then run into the lower vertical stabilizer, then past the stabilizer into the tail rotor blade. It's subtle, perhaps, but that's a lot of interference and it will register in our brains even if our eyes don't really notice. It's messy.)

The two images are separated by about five feet of vertical distance and 40 seconds in time, but a world of difference in effectiveness.

Here's another angle, literally and figuratively. I'm on the ground but shooting from the front quarter. I'm instead using a wide-angle lens instead of the narrow-angle lens (AKA as a "long" lens) of the side views. This would be considered a "hero" shot — chest out, shoulders back, chin thrust to the sky. And, again, a low position, the camera pointed up at the aircraft, which minimizes the noticeability of the foreground and background both, letting the shape and, because of that beautiful sunrise sky, the details and livery shine. S-333 Broomfield ROTR 20100822 055o
At Rotors of the Rockies of Broomfield, just outside Denver.

Later, I came back to the same location on the ramp, but lifted my camera into the air to get this top-down view. It has some things going for it, but the asphalt is a little distracting and the background calls too much attention to itself. It could be better, is what I'm saying, but if the client later asked, "hey, do you have any pictures looking down on the aircraft?" I could at least say, "yes I do." S-333 Broomfield ROTR 20100822 175o
At Rotors of the Rockies of Broomfield, just outside Denver.
Finally, an example of picking out details and making good choices to make a good image. From aft of the aircraft, I highlight the tail rotor (gearbox, actuators, blades, etc.) by getting up close. The challenge is showing off those details in the context of the rest of the aircraft without letting the background draw too much attention. It may be difficult to discern, in the smallness of the image as presented here, but by using an appropriate setting on the camera (a wide aperture, for those keeping score), I am able to keep the near objects in focus while pushing the far objects out of focus. S-333 Broomfield ROTR 20100822 197o
At Rotors of the Rockies of Broomfield, just outside Denver.
Over the course of two days of flying, I brought back nearly 1,700 frames of air-to-air with this turbine-powered Sikorsky, but by not ignoring the opportunities on the ground, I provided a more complete collection of useful imagery. You can do the same by keeping your eyes open and your camera handy.

]]> (AeroMark Images) airport angle aviation composition equipment focus helicopter lens photography position technique Sat, 04 Mar 2017 06:01:48 GMT
From the Ground Up…or Down MD900 N57RP San Jose aerial 20080729 193o I shot the above image from the ground. The client wanted to sell this helicopter and, rather than pay for a full air-to-air shoot, they asked for — and I was able to provide — a ground-to-air solution that satisfied the requirement for high-quality marketing images and that fit their budget. If your budget is extremely limited, how we worked this out could work for you.

That image, while dynamic and not overly obviously shot from the ground, does have some of the telltale graphic elements of an earth-based photograph: we're seeing the underside of the aircraft, which also means the shadows of the underside. Not the more attractive "side" of an aircraft, and not the best lighting.

A couple of things going for this image are, it does not appear to have been shot at an airport, which is good, and there is interesting (but not too interesting) terrain off in the background. But it would look even more air-to-air if we were looking down onto the aircraft — and not just having the aircraft bank very sharply to provide a brief top-down angle on the airframe. We want to look from above and see terrain below. So, that's what we planned for and that's what we got.

Getting High, Man
We launched from San Jose International Airport, California, and flew southwest to the hills and, most importantly, the ridges adjacent to the valley. My assistant and I egressed with our gear on one such ridge and for the next half hour the pilot made his way from one side to the other, above and below and to the side, banking and hovering with pedal turns, coming and going.

MD900 N57RP San Jose aerial 20080729 071o Which is how I was able to provide the client with a broad range of images showing off this beautiful aircraft from what was, essentially, an air-to-air photo shoot — it's just that the chase ship was a skinny ridge fixed high in the air and the target had to do all the dancing.

MD900 N57RP San Jose aerial 20080729 376o MD900 N57RP San Jose aerial 20080729 389o MD900 N57RP San Jose aerial 20080729 091o Air-to-air photography would yield a greater range of terrain, lighting, and compositions, but creative and skillful planning and execution can bring home plenty of good stuff. Perhaps enough to do what needs to be done.

P.S. The mirror of this article would be about photographing the ground when you're up in the air — read about that by clicking here.

]]> (AeroMark Images) aviation budget composition ground-to-air helicopter photography planning technique Fri, 24 Feb 2017 16:36:52 GMT
Is It Coverworthy? Part 2 In this follow-up I share additional guidance from the people who decide what shows and what blows on a magazine's cover, plus add my own observations and advice. (You can read Part 1 here.)

To start at the beginning again, “The primary purpose of the cover is to get someone who is scanning a newsstand to reach out and pick up the magazine. It has to be a magnet that tells enough of a story to turn a passer-by into a potential buyer.” That was Caroline Sheen, photography and art editor of Air & Space Smithsonian magazine, refreshing our memory. As you're no doubt aware, her publication is noted for the quality of its images and much of the credit goes to Sheen. (They also have great writing, but that’s not the point of this article, so…)

Mike Reyno is founder and group publisher for a bevy of aviation magazines, including Skies, and he offers this view on the importance of the cover: “I often look at the cover as my own…advertising, to, ‘come look at my magazine.’” Or, stated from another angle, “Without a strong cover, your magazine will more than likely be the last one picked up.”

Randy Jones, former publisher of Rotor & Wing, and recently the founder of consulting firm SageVision, puts those two viewpoints together with, "The whole purpose is to say, 'pick me up and read me.' It should say, 'I’ve got something valuable, something interesting or something you didn’t know.'" Skies cover

And just because a magazine shows up in mailboxes, without the need to attract a passer-by, doesn't mean the cover is unimportant to passers-by — when I visit clients I always look for the magazines they have hanging around. Even there, in a lobby or break room or corner office, the ones with strong cover imagery and designs are more likely to be on top or selected as the pile is shuffled. That action may not bring another dime to the publisher, but it brings them value, as it does to the subject of the cover and, for that matter, to the advertisers within. It can be years after publication that a magazine is picked up and perused by someone with time on their hands.

In Part 1 we saw advice from editors and publishers on what they look for in a cover image. In short, their criteria were along the lines of: interesting composition of an interesting aircraft (or whatever story is being illustrated), typically the more dynamic the action, or composition, the better.

Rotor & Wings' Jones added some depth to this guidance, though, observing that in a newsstand setting, a crowded newsstand particularly, magazines fight for visibility such that the photograph can actually fall lower in ranking compared to the other graphic elements. It's possible for a recognizable flag, peeking above the next lower row of magazines, or the two-inch-wide space along the right edge, to have greater importance than the image. This article doesn't aim to cover these sometimes competing elements, but know that while a photo must still be compelling, how it is incorporated into the finished whole can reflect other considerations.

When asked what makes an image desirable, Air & Space Smithsonian's Sheen replied, “There is something about a well composed image that appeals to the eye and the mind. It is an intangible that the art mind sees. It has to suggest to the guy on the sidewalk — who could be anybody — that when they are done reading the issue they will 'know' the inside story of some facet of aviation they may never have realized even existed.” That’s a lofty view and it elevates the goal of a cover image from merely catching an eye to making a promise. How might you attract her eye? “A quality, artful, delightful, powerful image, something from a different perspective than the rest.” Again, lofty, but provide an image that meets those criteria, tied to a story of interest to the magazine’s readership, and though your goals might differ somewhat from an editor’s, you’ll both reap the rewards.

Speaking of rewards, “The cover position is gold, especially if you have a strong brand,” declares Vertical's Reyno. And he should know because he introduced a B2B publication, Insight, that will put your photo on the cover and your story inside— for a price. It’s not cheap and they still won't feature a photo unless it meets their standards. You might be paying for the space, but the magazine is still his brand.

His advice for an appropriate, attractive, cover image includes some additional, more practical, guidance: “Is the aircraft in an unusual attitude? Is it being operated in a safe manner within the limits of the aircraft? Does the company have a good reputation?” That last one might come as a surprise, as it did to me, so file that away as something to understand as among the editor's considerations. Plus, and this won’t be in your control, but Reyno points out that the product or brand chosen for a cover can be influenced by how recently that same product/brand was featured on his, or a competitor’s, publication.

Jones points out that not all editors are looking for the same thing, depending on both their personal preferences and the style of their publication. "Do your homework," he advises. "Pay attention." And further, "exclusivity is always important… If you offer multiple images to multiple publishers, all (the images) obviously taken from the same photo shoot, you are not going to make any friends…" If you noted Reyno's observation on recency in the previous paragraph, imagine if competing magazines each had your product on the cover, using the same or closely related compositions, in the same month — you might have double the coverage that month, but you may get no more coverage for a long time after.

Once the photographer has attended to composing a dynamic image of a dynamic subject that ties to an interesting story in the magazine, what might disqualify an image, or at least lower its chances of being featured on a cover? The common reasons are technical: low resolution (not enough pixels), poor focus (wrong focus or motion blur), and "noisy" images (from high ISO or from JPEG compression). Their solutions are simple enough — use a camera and lens combination that can capture enough pixels, focus on the important elements and don't let the camera or subject move during the exposure, and don't set the ISO too high or the JPEG quality too low. Books are written on these techniques, so we won't cover them here, but at least now you know what to study and practice, right?

No matter the time frame or setting, the cover is calling card and preview of not just the cover story, but a primer on the character, style, and quality of what’s inside. The cover — image, graphics, typography, etc. — are meant as a promise that you can judge this book by its cover. Perhaps Dave Hook, publisher of General Aviation Security, sums things up with this simple observation: “Magazine covers are first impressions.” Publishers are keen to make a good one, so give them what they want and they could return the favor.

]]> (AeroMark Images) action airplane aviation composition cover art cover line cover lines design dynamic dynamism editor flag helicopter magazine magazine cover masthead photography publisher technique Mon, 06 Feb 2017 17:50:47 GMT
Looking Inside HDR In 2015 I showed an example of what is called high dynamic range, or HDR, photography. My example was the Boeing 747 that had served as the testbed for an airborne defensive system, the airborne laser. Today I'm moving the discussion from large, exterior, photography to small, interior, to see how HDR can have value there, too.

Above is the interior of an Embraer 300 shot on location at Scottsdale airport (KSDL) showing diagonal slices of the five separate images used to create a final. No single set of exposure settings on a camera could have captured clean detail in the full range of brightnesses, from the clouds in direct sunlight to the carpet under the seats, so I used HDR techniques to get the desired result.

Below are those five separate exposures — on the left, the clouds have full detail but the interior is completely black, while on the right the interior is a bit too bright (good for seeing under the seats) while the sky is just a featureless white glow. Each step, from left to right, represents a doubling of the amount of light admitted to the camera's sensor.

Embraer 300 interior HDR spread Fooling Our Eyes
The challenge is not just the camera, but the medium by which we view the image because, get this: the reality of the original scene has brightness levels that are about 19 doublings from lightest light to darkest dark. A computer screen is capable of showing only 10 such doublings. And the brightest paper with the best printing can show only 7! So how can we possibly represent reality?

We fake it.

With the goal of preparing a single image that appears to show the full range of brightness and detail, we use software to combine the five separate exposures into a single one that appears natural. The key word is "natural." We've all seen HDR images that look like this:

Embraer Phenom 300 cabin 20121110 HDR 00 overdone If this is the intended result, great. Typically it is not. This hyper effect is, essentially, the HDR process gone awry, but it can be instructive for our purposes.

What you see is the computer transitioning elements in the image from light to dark, as our eyes expect, but since neither the monitor nor a print can display the full range of brightness, it represents changes in brightness in discrete areas. For instance, in the above hyper image, the clouds go from dark to light (let's call it going from a brightness of 7 to 10, with the latter being pure white). Then the portion of the seat near the window goes from, maybe, 6 to 9. In reality the bright part of the seat is nowhere near as bright as even the darkest part of the clouds, but being separated in space allows our eyes go along with the deceit and we perceive it as realistic.

Thus, if we capture the proper set of different exposures and process the images, individually and then as an HDR group, we can create a final that looks real and natural. Like this:

Embraer Phenom 300 cabin 20121110 HDR 00x16 Details, Details
As with any marketing-level photography, details are important. For HDR the quality of the final image depends, in large part, on making the images consistently the same and different. Each frame must be shot from the same position — no movement of any kind, shot-to-shot — and with equal difference in terms of exposure — how much light enters the camera.

The former is best accomplished with a sturdy tripod that doesn't get jostled between shots. Make sure the legs are tightened at whatever length they are, their feet are firmly planted (be especially careful on carpeting or loose ground), that the camera is firmly attached to the tripod, and that triggering the shutter release doesn't cause camera or tripod to shift or tilt or wobble. A wired or wireless remote shutter release can help with this last dictum.

For exposure, the software that puts the disparate images together typically prefers equally spaced exposures, usually in 1-stop (a single doubling) increments. In my example, the five separate exposures are spaced like that which, combined with the camera's rated 13.1-stop (13+ doublings) dynamic range, yields 18+ doublings to effectively gather detail in all the relevant areas.

Next, the separate images should be processed carefully, to not over-improve each individual frame, and then loaded into software that specializes in the transformation from disparate images to unified whole. Adobe 
Photoshop has some built-in abilities, as does Adobe Lightroom. I use a plug-in for Photoshop from Nik Software called HDR Efex Pro 2, which I value for its ability to yield naturalistic results. Still, sometimes there's something about the images that comes out better when processed with Photomatix Pro from HDRsoft. Each of these can also produce a range of less-natural results, from subtle to outrageous and, of course, there are other apps out there, so you might research the web to find one that best suits your situation.

What Else?
I won't (continue to?) bore you with details, but the other important tip for shooting for HDR is to keep the aperture unchanging from shot to shot. This means your shutter speed will be the exposure factor that will vary and, depending on the light levels you encounter, this can lead to speeds that are longer than you're accustomed to, bringing more importance to the stability of your tripod/camera setup. (Changing the aperture from shot to shot would result in different portions of the scene being in or out of focus — not a good thing.)

If you're finding those long shutter speeds to be a problem, though, don't be tempted to increase the sensitivity, the ISO, of your camera when capturing the images. If you do, the resultant digital noise will end up emphasized by the HDR process, with sparkly results. It might be pretty, but it won't be what you're after. Unless it is…

Some subjects or situations present important opportunities for image making that are not also accompanied by ideal lighting. The above image could have been rendered in a single shot if artificial lighting had been brought into the aircraft, then configured and arranged to illuminate that interior in a naturalistic manner without damaging any of the furnishings, being unduly reflected in glossy surfaces, or appearing in-frame. So, time and money and risk. In this case, HDR was the right solution.

]]> (AeroMark Images) Embraer HDR advice aviation business jet high dynamic range interior photography process technique Mon, 16 Jan 2017 05:24:14 GMT