Topic: Aerial (12 posts) Page 1 of 3

Significant

In the fall of 2019 I took a day to drive up to the Hampton Airfield to fly over the marshes that are just in from the coast near the Seabrook Nuclear Plant in southern New Hampshire.

Gold, bronze, brass, copper, chestnut, russet were the colors that day.

Incredible really and such a vivid contrast to what I'd shot in May a few years earlier of the marshes just south of the NH border near Newburyport and Ipswich.

But why the title "Significant"?

Ever since I began to make aerial photographs the formula for success has been whatever Nikon DSLR I was using at the time, be it the D3X, the D800E, the D810 and now the D850 with whatever generation Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 lens I was using. So very many successful photographs that it seems impossible to single any out. 

Here are a few:

https://nealrantoul.com/projects/wheat-2019

https://nealrantoul.com/projects/aerial-wheat-2016

https://nealrantoul.com/projects/salt-lake-utah

If you go to the site and search through the aerials, they are all with some Nikon DSLR, except one: The New Hampshire Marshes.

By about 2010 or so I was clamping the Kenyon Gyro Stabilizer to the tripod fitting  on my camera when I was making aerials. Initially, starting with a too small unit, later upgrading to a larger one as my heavy camera needed a bigger gyro to work effectively. This made a tremendous difference in my aerial imagery and brought me close to 90% sharp compared to more like 30% without it. Vibration is no joke from a small airplane.

I won't bore you with the steep learning curve to making good aerials. Email me (nrantoul@comcast.net) and I can steer you in the right direction. 

But, ever since I started with the Sony mirrorless cameras I wondered how things would go using one when making aerials. Initially, I was working with earlier versions of the full frame Sonys known as the A7r's. From the II to the III they were making files smaller than what I was getting with the Nikon, but when I switched to the IV at 61 megapixels I knew I'd need to try it from above. 

The NH Marshes pictures were made with the Sony A7R MK IV and the Zeiss 70-200mm F4 lens. I used the gyro stabilizer on this shoot with internal and lens stabilization turned off.

The end result? A major success. Excellent files, a good percentage sharp and well exposed. Lighter to hold too, as with the stabilizer this is a heavy set up and my arms get tired after shooting for an hour or so.

This one above was in a group show at the Concord Art Association this past winter (2021)at 40 inches across. It looked very good. 

How often can you make pictures for research and have them turn out to be useable for your practice?

Would I photograph aerially with the Sony again? Yes, absolutely. It was just too good. This therefore removes the last obstacle to selling off the Nikon kit, sadly. It is always hard for me let go of gear that has made me really wonderful pictures. The days of the Nikon D850 and a slew of first rate lenses are numbered. Photography has always been dependent on technological changes to making better pictures. From analog to digital and more recently from the single lens reflex to mirrorless. 

Thanks for reading the blog, always. 

Topics: Commentary,Aerial,Northeastern

Permalink | Posted April 25, 2021

Wheat Three 2019

(Apologies: the blog was delayed as I took off for a week or so, first to the Cape and then to Martha's Vineyard. Just escaped the big winds from the edge of Dorian yesterday as I left the island. The ferries shut down after I left in the late morning.)

In the last post we looked at work fom Day 3 and 4. For this one we'll move on to Day 5 (the aerials) and Day 6.

For the past fifteen years or so I have included photographing aerially in most of the locations I go to. While some projects are aerial only, the Wheat pictures combine aerials with photographs made on the ground.

Day 5

There are so many variables in working aerially that you can't always predict the flight's success. To name a few: turbulence, clarity, time of day, time of year, temperature, where you choose to fly. With the prevalence now of consumer drones I often get asked if I use drones to make my pictures. I do not. In an hour or so over the Palouse I can cover a massive amount of territory. A drone is much more limiting and has to be landed, put back in the car and then driven to a new area.

Although I got a few from this year's flight that will remain in the portfolio, my success rate was lower than in past years.

Sometimes the photo gods ignore you and sometimes they shine down on you.The day before from the plane I'd made this one:

Day 6

Then, on Day 6 I came across this:

Day 6 was good, clear and calm. Wind can be bad, it makes it difficult to hold the camera steady making for unsharp photographs. Tripods can lose their effectiveness as they shake too in the wind.

After now many years of making pictures in the Palouse, I know that some of my photographs will sift down to be iconic in support of the overall work, standing as symbols for the work made that year. For instance:

1996  (from the permanent collection of the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)

or:

2009

or:

2010 (from the permanent collection of the Houston Museum of Art, Houston, Texas)

Back to my original intent with this series of blogs: experience counts. Got something you feel passionate about? Does it have an element of time to it? Is it something you could go back to and photograph again and again, building the  quality of the work over multiple trips, taking months or perhaps years to complete? Stick to it. Who says the first time you see something is the best time to photograph it? Different seasons, different days, different light, different times. Excellent landscape work is often improved through a deep knowledge of what is in front of you and the camera. Want substance, subtlety, nuance and emotion from your landscape photographs? Don't go for the cheap shot: over saturated colors, fake skies, cliche, enhanced, over cooked, super sharp. Fake Fake Fake, I say. Keep the long view on your work, don't go for cheap thrills.

This one, above, and the one below will, I am sure, serve as iconic photographs for this year's trip

End of summary of days 5 and 6.

Next up, we'll finish. with my final photographs. Stay tuned.

Topics: West,Aerial

Permalink | Posted September 7, 2019

DEVASTATION

As you may know, I photographed firestorm damage in southern and northern California last winter. Now, in July, there are reports of new fires, some in the same region as before. I can't shake it.

I made up this short story. Let me know what you think. Neal's email

Dan thought he was doing better. He'd had that fight with Del last week about trying to be more present and holding up his end, spending more time with them. He knew of the fires and was worried but the day at work had been really something; the merger, the raise, the promotion. He'd picked up Sheila on time that day at school and was rushing home to feed the kids. As he drove up the valley it was quite smoky, the air thick. You could taste it. As he pulled up to the house he could see small flames in the trees on the ridge across the valley 5 miles away. That didn't look so bad, he thought. He called Del to find she was on her way up the valley too, stuck in traffic, gridlocked. He told the kids to clean up and set the table, start their homework and come down when he called that dinner was ready. He started to fix the meal, washing the broccoli in the kitchen sink and looking out the window thinking what it was he could do with $6k more each month. Oh man, that boat he saw at the show. Setting the rice boiling, and getting a beer, he turned back to the sink and glanced up and out to see something very different. As in a daze, he looked out at a raging maelstrom of fire coming right towards him from above, flashing down the hillside, the fire fanned by the high winds, flames blown horizontal. He woke up, left the water running in the sink and took the stairs three at a time yelling, "Get out, now, get out, we have to get out now!" "But Dad, I'm right in the middle of...." Kenny said. "Get out now, right now, no, leave it... out!!!!" And they're all tumbling scrambling down the stairs and out the front door, Lucy barking like she was possessed and into the truck and out the driveway and down the hill, it seeming like the fire was right on them as it was everywhere, thick smoke and the heat! Dan looked over his shoulder as they sped away to see his house fully engulfed in flames. They got down to the valley and Dan pulled over. They tumbled out, all three kids yelling at him, two crying as it began to dawn on them, their lives as they'd known them were over.  Everything was gone. There were hugs too for they realized they were lucky to be alive.

Dan realized he had nowhere to go as he dialed Del to tell her their house was gone.


Topics: Color,Digital,Aerial

Permalink | Posted July 9, 2018

Salt Evaporation Ponds

Above is the title page for the new portfolio of the same name. I had seen these ponds from the air on a commercial flight landing at the San Francisco Aiport several years ago and thought it would be wonderful if I could photograph them. It is a little tricky as the ponds often are in the landing path for jets coming in to land. I found that if we stayed below 1500 feet or so we were okay. So that's just what we did, flying under the big jets flight path in their approach to land.


It was dead calm, and the flight itself was smooth so the files from this shoot are exceptional. The Cargill Co. owns and works these ponds to make sea salt, the minerals in the water making different varieties. 

The full portfolio is now on the site: here.

Consistent offer. Want to see the prints? Email here

Topics: Color,Digital,Northwest,Aerial

Permalink | Posted March 17, 2018

Disaster

Drove up early yesterday morning from  Malibu where I am staying to Santa Barbara to charter a flight over the fire damage in the towns around Ventura where the forest fires were last fall. We also flew over Montecito where the mudslides were.

Think scorched earth and devastation with pockets of homes completely preserved. Odd.

The fires progressed from above in the hills back behind where the population centers are, but also threatened orchards, vineyards and horse farms, as well as homes.

In places, fire came right over Highway101 to the sea

(the darker areas here were caused by the fire as it jumped over the highway).

The mudslides in Montecito happened because the vegetation burned above the town, allowing the rain to flow down the valleys like a river, scouring and loosening the dirt.

(the lighter line of trees show the path of the mud)

some homes flooded and appearing submerged by the mud. Two story homes with just the roof left.

I found pockets of land untouched, whether from firefighters working to protect or land owners out for hours with hoses and digging fire breaks. 

The fire damage looking as if from a blast zone. How terrible to know this was coming towards you and powerless to stop it. All your worldly possessions and the small things: pictures, momentos from an earlier time, an anniversary, a wedding, a funeral. Gone in an instant. Watching your home catching fire and running to escape with your life and little else.

I wonder how many negatives or digital files went up in smoke, how many prints?

My heart goes out to those that lost so much. These two disasters serving as reminders that life and all that we hold dear is fleeting and can be gone in an instant.

Topics: Color,Domestic,Digital,Aerial

Permalink | Posted February 10, 2018