Aviation Photography Workshop, A Talk With Pro Photographers

Aviation Photographer Tony Granata shooting the CAF Dixie Wing SBD-5 Dauntless.
Aviation Photographer Tony Granata shooting the CAF Dixie Wing SBD-5 Dauntless.
Aviation Photographer Tony Granata shooting the CAF Dixie Wing SBD-5 Dauntless.

It all started off with a good idea. We were set for an early morning arrival at the Commemorative Air Force hangar with a photographer to capture some sunrise shots of the aircraft. He was even bringing his own “talent,” a model that he had scheduled via the Internet who had experience doing “Vintage Pin-Up” work. So with a great deal of excitement, we showed up half an hour before sunrise and started to un-stack the aircraft from the hangar, though with the photographer nowhere in sight. Since he hadn’t given us any detailed plans for the aircraft layout, it seemed best to lay them out in front of the hangar, as sunrise was going to be somewhere behind us.

About fifteen ‘til sunrise, the model showed up, her presence announced by the clicking of her high heels on the tarmac as she ran up to ask, “Have you seen my makeup girl anywhere? She was supposed to be here by now!” Thankfully about that time, the photographer arrived in his minivan with the makeup stylist, who just happened to be his kid sister. Fifteen more minutes of drama over makeup colors and hair styling coupled with much grumbling and rooting around in a rolling foot-locker-sized bag from the photographer, the sun started to crest above the horizon, bathing the flightline in a gorgeous orange tone. Simultaneously it also painted a perfect hangar-shaped shadow across two of the three aircraft we had placed in the tarmac for the shoot.

Matt Genuardi's outstanding sunset picture
Tony Granata’s outstanding sunset picture.

I don’t think I’ll forget the photographer’s sigh of resignation that sounded across the silent airfield almost as loudly as if his camera had hit the parking apron. A few half-hearted attempts to capture the model in front of the aircraft as they were half-bathed in the morning light soon gave way to the realization that an opportunity had been missed. As the photographer walked away, his half-zipped bag flapping in the morning breeze, I heard one of our pilots mutter under his breath: “No reason to help us put the birds away, as you didn’t help bring them out, either.”

In an effort to save both photographers and aircraft owners from the situation described above, 3G Aviation Media has begun a series of workshops to teach the skills necessary to pull off a successful sunset or sunrise static photo shoot. As stated by 3G, the mission of these workshops is: To provide attendees an opportunity to learn, plan, execute and develop as photographers in a small-group environment while working with first-rate aviation subjects.
More simply, the 3G team boils this down to four words:

  • Learn – Plan – Execute – Develop.
  • Learn the skills required for your photoshoot.
  • Plan the details of the shoot so that as little as possible is left to chance
  • Execute the photoshoot, staying flexible and adaptive
  • Develop as a photographer, learning from your experiences, both the good and the bad.

3G Aviation Media is a joint venture between a group of aviation photographers who wanted to partner for specific projects while still retaining their own brand and artistic identity. The three “G”s of the team are: Tony Granata, Matt Genuardi and Doug Glover. Each of them has a different shooting style and each also brings a unique set of skills to the table. As an instructor, Tony Granata brings his expertise in post-processing of an image, and has a wealth of experience shooting from helicopters. Having spent quite a few years as a photography manager for a major entertainment company, Matt Genuardi specializes in working with models and professional lighting equipment. The itinerant nature of his previous life in the US Marine Corps has made Doug Glover the expert in “packing for the location,” and as a Forward Air Controller instructor (ground and airborne) he is the team’s flight briefer and pilot liaison.

Doug Glover's sunrise photo of the  "Zero". A heavily modified AT-6 and was built for the movie "Tora! Tora! Tora!".
Doug Glover’s sunrise photo of the “Zero”. A heavily modified AT-6 and was built for the movie “Tora! Tora! Tora!”.

When asked why these three photographers decided to partner under the joint venture of 3G, they naturally each gave a different answer! Tony finds “the value of partnering on projects with Matt and Doug is our inherent nature to support each other’s vision and build upon each other’s strengths.” Doug takes a slightly different view stating: “I enjoy the artistic candor and the constant pressure to not only shoot your best work with these other two photographers, but to not let them down when you are playing a supporting role. It doesn’t matter whether you are the primary shooter, the light-stand holder, or the behind-the-scenes documentarian, all three of us demand the best from each other, and I thrive working in an environment that constantly challenges me.” Matt sums it up with: “All three of us have a different style of shooting, as well as different strengths around aircraft. Whether we are coordinating from the air, shooting from a back seat, or taking over the role of pilot, each one brings a different skillset to 3G. But when we are on the ground, we take the time-whether photographically or in post-production work-to learn from each other and from outside sources, to make our production work and our instructional skills that much better.”

The 3G Team had started planning a series of aviation workshops for early 2014, but in April of this year, 3G Aviation Media made a connection with the CAF Dixie Wing through the International Society for Aviation Photography (ISAP). During an ISAP lunch at SUN n FUN, the 3G team first met with Moreno Aguiari, The Dixie Wing’s Marketing Coordinator, who had recently joined ISAP and was looking for photographers to partner with the CAF. After several discussions over the course of a few months, it was decided to accelerate the workshop timeline and host the first event at the CAF Dixie Wing facility at Falcon field in Peachtree City, Georgia.

Tony's picture show the perfect execution of the "panning" technique.
Tony’s picture show the perfect execution of the “panning” technique.

 

As the 3G Team and CAF-Dixie Wing started to collaborate on the workshop, it became obvious to both parties that a lot of damage had been done to the reputations of photographers and the CAF by others.  The CAF was gun-shy of photographers editing images of their aircraft and removing the CAF logo, while photographers were wary of the CAF’s blanket image rights statements that had been handed out at airshows previously.  “I wasn’t going to accept the status quo”, says Doug, “I was determined to negotiate a compromise between photographers and the CAF that showed both could achieve their aims while not trampling on the rights or needs of the other.”  In concert with a team of intellectual property lawyers, the 3G team drafted a “limited photo release” to protect the work that individual photographers did during the workshop, while also drafting a very detailed list of things to “Not Do” that would ideally keep photographers from making the same mistakes as their predecessors. With these contracts and guidelines in place, a foundation is being laid to rebuild the bridges between freelance photographers and the CAF based on mutual trust and respect.

The first 3G workshop will be 15 – 17 November, at the CAF Dixie Wing.  The focus will be on the planning and execution of sunrise and sunset photoshoots, working with models / re-enactors and the use of small off-camera speedlights.  This last topic will be taught by Jose’ “Fuji” Ramos, an internationally renowned photojournalist and instructor, as the “Guest Instructor” for this specific 3G workshop.  More information on the workshop subjects, agenda and venue can be found at:

3G AviationMedia – CAF Dixie Wing Workshop

 

 

2 Comments

  1. I had previously suggested that you consider adding Creative Live into the mix for your workshop.

    Creative Live is making a name for themselves by broadcasting seminars, many about photography, over the internet while the actual event is taking place. They often have a live audience and they have a huge international internet following.

    You can view the seminal live for free. A video is always available and is offered at a reduced price if purchased within a special time frame. It would seem to me that they would provide an additional partner, bring a much larger audience to the table and the CD’s would provide ongoing revenue.

    I do not have any contacts there but I have watched a number of their photography seminars. Their website is http://www.creativelive.com/

    • Thanks Rick, that is a great suggestion! Perhaps this would be a possibility for future workshops as I am not sure there is enough time to work this out for November.
      So will you be joining us at CAF Dixie Wing?

      Thanks
      Tony

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