Aviation Photography in New Jersey

Posted by & filed under Commercial, Editorial Photography, Lifestyle, New Jersey, People.

Crop Duster Aircraft spraying crops with aerial application (Steve Greer)

Crop Duster Aircraft spraying crops with aerial application (Steve Greer)

Making aviation photos for the National Agricultural Aviation Associaton, or the NAAA, the concept was to create a unique image of an aerial sprayer in flight. We’ve all seen crop duster images from the ground, and sometimes alongside in flight from the vantage point of a chase plane.

But hey, what would it look like if you could see into the cockpit, and see the pilot’s face, as the plane flew directly underneath you? Gulp! No problem, these pilots have nerves of steel and are known for flying insanely close to the ground. But what photographer is going to dangle 32 feet in the air, hanging from a bucket crane, and let one of these planes fly under the suspended bucket? Sign me up!

To get the most attractive blur on the propeller for this image, the shutter speed had to be determined in the planning stages.  With the plane on the ground and it’s brakes on, the engine and the pitch of the propeller were set at the same RPM as it would be in flight.

We tried various lighting positions and shutter speeds to find the ideal blur. Our tests revealed 1/250sec was best with 2 gridded strobes at a 60 degree angle to each other. Anything different, and the propeller would look like it’s not turning and you wouldn’t see a screened effect in the turning blade.

Considering the plane flies at 180 mph, the next challenge was to make a tack sharp image with this low shutter, in a swinging bucket. As much as you could plan, this question would be answered only on the day of the shoot.

So on a bright overcast calm morning it was go time. After a few test passes at a safe distance alongside my position, the most predictable sharp focus results came from using center weighted AI Servo.

Time for the money shot. The plane banked hard, came in low, and positioned itself for the first pass directly underneath my position. Thankfully the first frame produced this image! The pilot made more passes, with variations on a theme, making exciting photos all morning.

By the end of the session the feeling of vulnerability changed to exhilaration. Still, I was thankful to hear the sound of my little Willie Wonka elevator gently thud to the ground.

Aviation Photography in New Jersey

Aviation Photography in New Jersey

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Editorial Photoshoot in New Jersey

Posted by & filed under Lifestyle, New Jersey, People, Pine Barrens.

Forest Wildfire, Wharton State Forest, Pine Barrens, New Jersey (Steve Greer Photography)

Working on an Editorial Photoshoot in New Jersey, for the State Forestry Service, I was making photos for a public awareness campaign on the importance of Prescribed Burning in the New Jersey Pine Barren Forest.  In anticipation of the summer heat and possible drought like conditions, reducing the hazardous accumulation of forest fuels is an annual event in early spring.

For this assignment I carried two Canon camera bodies – one with a 17-35mm lens and the other with a 24-105mm.  I certainly didn’t want to be changing lenses with all the floating ash and smoke swirling in the air.  Both cameras were mounted to a camera body harness for easy access to keep up with the fast changing scenes.

Photographing a controlled fire requires respect for the forces of nature.  It’s one of the few times I have to be more focused on my unpredictable environment than I can be on my subject.  The intense heat, the roar of the flames, and the choking smoke and dust in the air, made for a challenging landscape to illustrate the story of the firefighters who protect New Jersey’s forests and safeguard the residents living nearby.

An important lesson I learned is to photograph while standing in the black burnt out ground.  It’s hot and smoky, but it’s a place where the fire will be less likely to burn the protective coating off your lens, never mind your eyebrows – yikes!

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Portrait Studio Photographer, working with models

Posted by & filed under Commercial, New Jersey, People, Portrait Photography, Studio Photography.

Excited Young African American Man (Steve Greer)

Excited Young African American Man (Steve Greer)

The best part about being a portrait studio photographer is I can control the creativity in my concepts. As an event photographer, I have to wait and be there at the right moment to capture the image – no second chances.   More often, I’m enjoying creating the moment rather than waiting, and hoping, the moment will happen.

To ensure the concepts are realized and the look is genuine, it’s important to work with talented models.  An insincere smile or eyes that lack emotion can ruin your shot.  Make no mistake, modeling is acting. Telling my models how to stand with verbal cues can be confusing for a model to understand.  Visual signals are a much better way to communicate how I want a model to pose.

I prefer to embarrass myself by going on set and posing to show the model exactly what I’m looking for.   I look ridiculous when I do it, but when the model mimics me, he or she looks great.  I’m always impressed when a model can hold an expression or portray a character so convincingly.  Once the model has a good starting point I come back to the camera and continue to use subtle visual cues as needed.

Having said this, some of my best portraits have been captured in those moments between frames when the model thought I wasn’t shooting and relaxed their “pose face” or glanced/laughed off camera.  Watch for these moments.  They are gold.

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A Tribute to Love in the Golden Years

Posted by & filed under Commercial, Lifestyle, New Jersey, People, Portrait Photography, Studio Photography.

Senior Citizen Couple, New Jersey (Steve Greer/Released)

Senior Citizen Couple, New Jersey (Steve Greer/Released)

It’s a New Year, and as I watch the first snow falling around me, I’m drawn to revisit a personal project. I’ve been processing some senior citizen portraits for an upcoming photo contest, and I thought it would be worth paying tribute to this generation, in my first post of 2015.

Below is a video montage and some thoughts during the project.

From a photo journalistic point of view, I’ve always been interested in senior citizens. The obvious arthritic hands and weathered faces are just the tip of the creative iceberg to explore with a camera.

This is my visual attempt to share the insight, stories, and “elderisms” of a generation. Not so much for the sake of history, but for the sake of relationships. At this point in their lives, most have shed the trivial distractions of life and have reached a perspective only reached through important lessons learned on their respective journeys.

This personal assignment was a chance to go beyond the pearls of wisdom and clichés like, “life is a journey” or “do what you love”. Deathbed confessions, excerpts from diaries, and sharing old photos from a misspent youth, gave way to an emotional photographic exploration.

Some of these folks I know well, and others through their generosity allowed me a glimpse into their world. Seeing their challenges, and sharing joys, regrets, and values, I learned not all seniors are like Napoleon and Josephine. Or Gracie and George. It was more eccentric, crotchety, but never boring.

Thanks so much for all who revealed their lives and participated in this project. Our time together turned out to be more rewarding and far richer than any image created.

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Portrait Beauty Style Lighting for Sports Photography

Posted by & filed under Commercial, Lifestyle, New Jersey, Portrait Photography, Studio Photography.

Beautiful Swimsuit Model (Steve Greer)

Beautiful Swimsuit Model (Steve Greer)

When I was asked to photograph a Division 2 college swimmer, I had visions of the Sports Illustrated magazine covers. But once I saw how attractive she was, I asked if I could introduce more of a portrait beauty style lighting to this sports related photo shoot.

To achieve a high-key commercial look on the athlete, I positioned 2 Elinchrom strobes in strip boxes, one on either side of her. I also used flags to prevent any flare coming back towards the lens. The main light, or fill light, was an Elinchrom strobe attached to a large Softbox, positioned just off camera left and set for 2 stops under the key lights.

Thankfully the cloudy day outside the pool provided the ideal flat light for the indoor pool background. A sunny day would have meant high contrast light coming through the windows, creating harsh shadows and rendering a completely different scene and mood. Using my camera’s meter to expose for the overall scene, I then added 3 stops to overexpose the windows and give the pool a soft white atmospheric mood.

The swimmer was nervous being in front of the camera with all the lights and equipment. To make her feel more comfortable on set, I placed my camera on a tripod and setup a remote trigger. This way I could walk away from behind the lens, talk with the model, and give her a chance to loosen up and relax without me peering through the viewfinder.

After getting to know each other, offering her lots of encouragement, and cracking silly jokes, I could see the beginnings of a genuine smile. The expression and emotion that would make for a captivating image soon followed.

In post-production the model’s skin was already borderline flawless, making retouching easy. And with a little desaturation applied in PhotoShop, the glowing look and feel this athlete evokes is convincing. She could double as a beauty model!

The camera settings were 1/60sec, f5.0, 55mm, ISO320

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