This is well overdue! Also unfortunately this can’t contain any of the shots I talk about us flying around and doing, but I wrote about it just for a bit of context. Click the images to see them larger.
This shoot was one I’d been looking forward to for about 7 months. This shoot was originally planned to happen in and around the Filton Families Day in September 2010, but owing to a tech issue it never went ahead. A few months later, we started talking about it again and all of a sudden, I was sat in flight ops waiting for Grizzly 3 to announce he was homing in on the UK.
We got up in the air about an hour before the A400M arrived to shoot some ariels of the Filton site – as well as some ariels of other locations they were working on. We then zipped about checking out locations for the heli and what track we wanted the plane on. With the door open at 3000ft in the middle of March it was a bit chilly when you’re done shooting and you’re just having a look! Finally we were told the plane was inbound, we had a quick fuel stop and got back up in the air as quickly as we could.
This was the view from my door as were circled around:
Visability was pretty poor, and we had to maintain a minimum alitutde that put us in the haze throughout the shoot
Our notes showed he planned to do a center-line run down the runway, and then peel off to repeat it a further 2 times so the video guys could get a good take, and so that I could relay any instructions to the A400m pilot – either higher or lower, or to the heli pilot – right or left down the length of the runway – so we could get the best possible shot. I asked him to turn on all his lights, then waited. Visibility was an absolute dog, and suddenly out of the haze appeared the big Grizzly, and he plotted a course straight down the side of the runway, closer to the factories and hangers. This line was perfect, and gave us a fantastic angle for the shots. After this pass the radio in the helicopter cut out. This was a bit nerve wracking as we knew he was circling to do another run, we couldn’t see where he was and we couldn’t contact Filton on any frequency. The pilot called out that we were going to have to land on the grass as we couldn’t cross the runway back to the helipad, but with the last attempt to contact Filton, the radio came back. Thankfully it stayed functional, and we were able to get what we needed. After getting a few shots of the Grizzly over the Filton site, we moved on to shoot it over the MOD buildings, and over the Clifton suspension bridge, before returning to land at Filton. We had a bit of time before the A400M was due to land – Airbus were keen to keep to schedule as a lot of workers were going to come out to see the aircraft for the first time, so we had a bit of time to roll around shooting some passes, which you can see below:
A400M peeling off after a run along the Filton runway
A400M pulling up hard after a missed approach at Filton
A400M backtracking along the Filton runway
My alternative title for this blog was “Photographers Lunch – Or How I Learned To Stop Craving And Love Energy Drinks”
Something I never get asked is in regard to the more physical side of being a photographer. It isn’t all sitting around having runners bring you cups of tea and munching salmon sandwiches. I decided to write a little blog about what my lunches often end up being.
I once had a multiday shoot where on one day, we get excellent food (I can’t recommend Singapore Airline’s first class lounge room in LHR enough! The food is lovely. The little scones in particular were a favourite of me and the video crew!) and the next day I worked from 5AM (that’s starting work, not the time I woke up!) until 5PM without a drop of water or bite of food. After that happened, I made sure I always had *something* in my bag, no matter how small.
Firstly, liquids. Taking on liquids is good, needing a toilet break is bad. The realities of the job is the more time spent not shooting, the more chances of missing something great. So, keep it small, and keep it hydrating and energising. To this end, 1 bottle of Lucozade, 1 bottle of Powerade. Powerade keeps me hydrated, the lucozade keeps me feeling awake.
Next, foods. This is where things get complicated. It can’t be anything sticky as you don’t want sticky fingers on camera gear. It has to be eaten by hand, as there’s no time to sit down and use cutlery. Any resulting debris must be stuffed straight back into a camera bag, so nothing that leaves anything wet behind (apple cores, banana skins etc.) This pretty much leaves me with a choice of a sandwich, and chocolate bars. I like chocolate bars. So, I tend to have 2 “duo” type bars (Snickers or Mars bars, or Boost if it’s going to be a really long day). The duo bars are ace because you can half a bar without a problem, so you can get back to work quicker.
I also tend to take a lot of sweets. Again, things that can sealed back up, and ideally not sugar coated. This rules out things like fruit pastels, but theres goodies like Wine Gums and TicTacs instead! A good backup is the mini-bottles of Red Bull and Lucozade. The really, really small ones. If I’m ever flagging, I have one of those and I’m straight back into it.
So that’s it. A photographers lunch is basically the most sugar packed meal possible without any crumbs, sticky fingers or potential for camera gear getting dirty. Shoots are never scheduled around photographers having a rest, so any moments of peace, get something with as much glucose as possible, and get back on it!
A while ago, I wrote a little bit about my initial reactions regarding the new Canon lenses (Link). After going to Canon Pro Solutions and getting my mits on all of them, here are my thoughts (basically affirming everything I thought initially. It’s nice when Canon do what they promise!)
8-15mm Fisheye: WOW. This lens is a LOT of fun, only got to try out a pre-production model, which still had some fringing issues at 8mm, but was told this would be tidied up before release. AF on this lens seemed pretty decent too, not that that’s much of an issue on a lens this wide. I can see LOTS of applications for this lens. The front element has a super smooth coating too, so rain drops etc slide right off, so the lack of filter shouldn’t be an issue. There is NO space for a gel filter at the back.
70-300mm: Pretty surprised by this lens. I was expecting it to be a bit of a dog, not really much use for any. The size (smaller than a 70-200) and weight (very nicely balanced) make this great as a travel lens, along with the length. The aperture movement is annoying and we can’t avoid that however, despite it being F5.6 on the long end, the bokeh is very pleasing indeed. The Canon Rep kept describing it as creamy – I wouldn’t go that far, but it’s certainly very, very good – surprising just how good it is, but creamy is an overstatement. Also, it looks absolute TACK sharp at 5.6 at 300mm on a 1Ds mk3. You’ll lose AF with it with an extender, but I’m assured by the rep it should work center point in bright sun. Overall, very useful travel lens.
300mm F2.8L IS Mk2: Wow, this lens has become fantastically hand holdable. I never had a problem hand holding the old one, but now it’s even more comfortable. Very light, and the IQ seems as good as the old one, if not even better – stunning pictures await! Much better placement of the AF switch, and other handling tweaks just make it feel a lot better setup. PF as an AF mode is a little finicky (you can’t have the focus preset turned on) but it works nicely for video
400mm F2.8L IS mk2: BIG wow. Crash diet ahoy! So much lighter, feels like the old 300mm now, very handholdable for long periods. Again the handling tweaks are very welcome. IQ seems very good, but inability to store images means I can’t compare it to the old one in that respect. Seems to be a beautiful lens, and I’ve got my heart set on taking one of these for low level shooting – great length, I’m positive it’ll take an extender well, and the weight of it makes it perfect for these sorts of adventures!
Client: Airbus, Underleaf Studio, Master Image
Date: July, 2009
Brief: Produce images that show how an A380 is turned around at a busy airport.
Gear: Canon 5D mk2 (x2), 70-200 F4L, 17-40L, 28-300L, 580 EX II, 50 F1.4.
These images are both copyright Airbus and Myself. The first image was a perfect storm, the planes weren’t posing for me, but passing on the tarmac, one plane was running late. I was shooting from the roof of T2, and everything just came together at just the right time.
Here’s a few quick thoughts from moi, only speculation but this is my working logic trying to decide if I need any of these!
That fisheye looks to be a lot of fun. Not a replacement for my 17-40 but still good fun. I think ultimate sharpness won’t be an issue (if it’s sharp, hooray! If not, well, it’s still only a bit of fun, right?) My only wonder is how they kept it fisheye at 15 – not being a full 180 at 15 by the looks of it, only 175 (only!) but still, opens up a lot of fun from the looks of it. F4 doesn’t bother me too much as I’m used to the 17-40 and lets face facts, ISO performance is so good these days it’s not a massive deal.
The 70-300 may be “professionally sharp” but the thought of using a variable aperture lens to replace my 70-200/2.8 IS? I don’t think so. But, for a travel lens (being but a little over a kilo) is very tempting indeed. What does bother me, is it looks like the zoom ring is at the front? Not too sure how much I want to reverse the way I hold my lens. But still, it is primarily a travel lens I guess, so not too much issue there.
I’m unsure just /how/ the 300/400 could be any better, BUT, the weight saving on the 400 looks to be the biggest practical improvement for me. It was just ridiculous hand holding the 400 for aviation work in the past – the 500 is far more comfy – so now it might make it a nice lens to hold all day long. I’m not sure what else can be said about these 2 lenses as they’re just refreshes, we need to hold out to see the MTFs and real-life sharpness compare – the 400 MTF does look absolutely nuts though. I hope the sharpness issues found in the 70-200 2.8 II aren’t present in these lens too, Canon doesn’t need another QC issue with it’s lenses. The 3rd setting of IS (only spinning up when exposure starts) doesn’t sound convincing, but never know, could turn out to be amazing! At least it’ll save a bit of battery .
The extenders look nice, and the anti-smear is no bad thing. If the AF is faster on the previous generation of 300/400 2.8s and 70-200s then it may be worth the upgrade just for that. I’m positive the 70-200/2.8IS mk1 will still be mush when used with the extender though! Redesigned optics sound nice though, but if the 2x will be useable with most lenses is still up in the air until we see samples.