A multimedia show called “Petrochemical America” is at SPACE gallery right now and I’m proud to be a small part of it. Projects like this one (below) are the reason I entered the world of photojournalism. Documentary work provides the opportunity to create awareness and make a positive and helpful difference in the world.
SPACE gallery 812 Liberty Ave. Pittsburgh PA Through October 7, 2017
This multimedia exhibition opened last Wednesday and poses a highly pressing question about our region: Will Pittsburgh forget the lessons learned from its toxic past in writing the next chapter for its future? Via more than 40 photographs, drawings, audio recordings and documentary films. “Petrochemical America: From Cancer Alley to Toxic Valley” hopes to engage regional citizens in a frank conversation about our right to clean air and water. This conversation has become increasingly important with the new construction of a massive oil and gas “cracker” plant being developed by Shell in Beaver County PA.
The images below are part of my long-term documentary work on the impact of fossil fuels on air, land, water and people in western Pennsylvania. The first two photographs below are in the mentioned SPACE gallery exhibition.
My blogging virginity ends today. I hung back in the marathon blogging pack while others drafted the headwind. I’ve been observing, thinking and strategizing. I’m excited to share things I’ve learned and observed along my road less traveled.
My blogging goals:
To teach and share photographic insights, and back-stories of projects and assignments.
To share news and issues that are important, or impactful to photography in general, with an emphasis on photojournalism.
To share valuable and significant projects from friends and colleagues along with personal projects I’m working on.
I love looking at interesting and provocative photographs, but my favorite blogs teach me something. So my first blog post will hopefully help others. (The first blog (below) is geared toward amateurs.)
The Airplane Window
My favorite thing to do when flying commercially is making photographs from my window seat. In the days of film, it was difficult to make high quality photographs through the double pained plastic airplane windows. Digital photography changed that with amazing exposure latitude and quick iso changes. The fuzzy window effect can be reduced or eliminated in post and extreme bright and dark spaces can be brought back to reality, shooting in RAW mode. So give that isle seat to somebody else and enjoy the gift outside your window.
My tips for shooting through an airplane window:
Find a seat in front of the wing. Wings house the engines and the exhaust compromises visibility for those sitting behind the wing. I fly Southwest Airlines when possible because they seem to have the cleanest windows and the easiest way to get them. Paying the early boarding fee gives you a chance to scope out the cleanest windows in front of the wing. Seats are not assigned.
Wear black or dark clothing because the window will reflect light objects. If you don’t have dark clothing, I suggest purchasing a lens skirt to block reflections. www.lensskirt.com
Put your lens directly on the plastic window. This helps eliminate reflections if you don’t have a lens skirt.
When you find something interesting, experiment. Extra frames don’t cost extra $ and the delete button is always available.
I prefer shorter lenses at lower altitudes and rarely use anything beyond a 105mm. My favorite lens while flying is a 24-70mm zoom and a 35mm 1.4
If you use a long lens, use one with vibration reduction (VR).
Early morning and late evening light is the best for photography. Try to book your flights during these times.
Expose for the brightest part of the frame and shoot in RAW mode. It’s better to underexpose to preserve highlight detail. Digital photography is capable of making dark captures lighter but blown highlights are not recoverable.
The time during and just after takeoff and the landing-ish time, provides more opportunity to use shorter lenses that incorporate foreground and background.
(As a side note, making aerial photographs through a plastic airplane window is NOT the best method and approach. The best way is by helicopter, small airplanes and drones. When shooting from a helicopter or airplane ask the pilot to take the door off. Most seasoned pilots will do this.
Here are some photos I made through plastic airplane windows: