ABFriday Forum Week 49

World War II Flyover

Last week we witnessed a rare event in Washington, DC.  Successive waves of World War II aircraft flew down the Potomac River to Memorial Bridge where they made a left turn and flew over the National Mall.  I thought it would be a perfect subject for Week 49 of Stacy Fischer’s AfterBefore Friday Forum, where participants can exchange views about different post-processing techniques. My Before Image is shown below.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 49 Before

The “Before Image”

A total of about 50 planes were involved.  In the weeks leading up to this day, every local photographer with a telephoto lens was plotting where to be for the perfect shot. My choice (above) was Theodore Roosevelt Island, located about one mile before Memorial Bridge and the left turn the planes would be making. It had a perfect view of the Key Bridge and Georgetown and I was sure that they would be flying right over the bridge (so said the published schedule) before starting the left turn.

It was a great location, shaded from the bright sun, a comfortable spot to sit while waiting, and only one other person found his way there.  Many other strategies were apparent:

2015 05 15 Flyover 02

Stand Up Paddlers move into position

2015 05 15 Flyover 03

Office workers claim spots on the Key Bridge

2015 05 15 Flyover 12

Kayakers ready for the action

The first wave—4 small trainer aircraft– arrived on schedule, but far too high to be included in the frame with the bridge.   A trio of  bombers approached in a nice tight formation.  Unfortunately, they were way off to the left.  The image below is heavily cropped with 85% of the frame (all sky) excluded.

2015 05 15 Flyover 04

(Technical Data: Hand Held Nikon D800E with 28-300mm f/3.5/5.6 lens extended to 300 mm; Exposure: 1/3200th sec. @f/8.0, ISO 400)

There was enough time between each wave to change lenses or make other adjustments.  Eventually, I switched to my 70-200mm lens with a 1.7x tele-extender.  This is a much bulkier combination than the little 28-300 so I ramped up the shutter speed as an even larger plane came in, again too high and just to the left of the bridge.

2015 05 15 Flyover 06

(Technical Data: Hand Held Nikon D800E with 70-200 0mm f/2.8 lens plus 1.7x Extender, extended to effective range of 340 mm; Exposure: 1/5000th sec. @f/8.0, ISO 800)

Shortly afterward, another group swooped in and the 340mm lens was able to get only three of them.

2015 05 15 Flyover 07

Again, too high and too far left.  But don’t get me wrong.  It was very cool to see all these planes roaring overhead.

It was clear by now that there would be no enormous print of a WW II plane buzzing the Key Bridge hanging on my studio wall.  But all was not lost—ABriday Forum was coming up and the theme is “No Rules Post-processing. “ So perhaps if I didn’t like what I saw, perhaps I could create something I did like.

So, using the original image of the three planes above, I “cloned” them into the Before Image of Key Bridge, taken a few minutes before the Flyover started.  The result is the “After Image” for this week’s AfterBefore Friday Forum.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 49 After

The “After Image”

Eagle-eyed viewers might notice the trio is arranged differently and also that the propellers are blurred a bit.  An aviation expert told me slow shutter speeds are needed to get a more realistic effect with the propellers.  Problem is, naturally, that the entire plane would be blurred becaue both the camera and the planes were moving.  So a touch of the Radial Blur filter in Photoshop provided the effect.

It would, of course, be unethical to pass this off as a real photograph of what happened. But it didn’t turn out terribly bad.  I had better luck with the first four planes in the Flyover, the only ones that actually did fly over the bridge.  They were too high to be seen as shown below, but the angle of view is less weird.

2015 05 15 Flyover 09A

The Clone Tool in Action

Please check out Stacy Fischer’s Visual Venturing Blog and see the contributions by the other participants.  They can be found by clicking here.

20 thoughts on “ABFriday Forum Week 49

  1. Pingback: After-Before Friday Week 49 | Visual Venturing

  2. (Oops – hit “post” before I meant to) What I meant to say was despite the photos not being true-to-life, they definitely embody the excitement of the flyover! And great effect with the blur tool, by the way. Thanks for the fun submission!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Its really amazing what can be done nowadays in post processing. Every time I sit down to work on an image I seem to discover something new. I love it. Its exciting for a nerd like me! And your photos are equally as exciting. I think the most exciting part is that you explain how they were accomplished and why. Great job!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I loved reading this post Robin, really liked the pics of the people getting ready to watch the planes. Love your after image, it really is amazing (and a little scary) what can be done post processing, a really cool picture!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Katie. Yes, it is scary.One doesn’t want to do anything like this without revealing the whole story. Anyway, I’m glad you liked the scene setting. We got to our positon about an hour before the event and it was interesting to see how the crowd gradually built up. My colleagues who had various spots elsewhere indicated that lots of people were out everywhere there was a good chance to see them. It was especially crowded inside DC and any building with a roof top terrace apparently was packed.


  5. That is a really good idea to get a an image that will remind you of the day. Adding the blur is fine with me. I think shooting head on with the slow shutter speed wouldn’t work but if you were slightly more parallel then you could slow down and pan. A great example of the usefulness of Photoshop.


    • Thanks, Ben. In general, I like the stop action better unless there is an uninteresting background (e.g., race cars on a track, figure skater on a rink). I’d be more inclined to use panning then. But my aviation expert friend, who is also a photographer was interested in how one could getr the blur so, as you said, another example of thje usefulness of Photoshop .


  6. You still got some cool plane photos (and, probably, an interesting experience), so a success all around! Excellent post, I loved reading about your journey to get this shot.


    • Thanks, Sabina. And you are right, it was an interesting experience, even the “planning where to be” part. Of course, the best part was watching all these antique planes flying at 1,000 feet through some of the most restricted airspace in the country. Thanks for visiting!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I think I heard one or two of these machines flying overhead, the night before this event. It was an airplane noise I had never heard before. I didn’t know about this event until the following day and then it fell into place…


    • That was probably a few of them coming in before the event. No reason why one would extrapolate that into what happened here in DC. There wasn’t a lot of coverage until just before. As usal, word got out informally among the local photographic community because many of my colleagues were swapping ideas on where to set up. The individual who first alerted me is a docent for the Air and Space Museum as well as an excellent photographer.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Your pictures submitted to this forum are so helpful to inexperienced people trying to take photos like me. I tried to take photos of planes (or birds) but the photos never come out as good as yours. But your post gives me some tips. Thanks so much!

    Liked by 1 person

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