Archive for May, 2012|Monthly archive page

Soldier’s Angels – Known by All

Black TeamGolden Knights Black Team LOVES Soldier’s Angels! 

I recently had the privilege to accompany the Army’s Golden Knights Parachute Team on a jump at the South East Wisconsin AirFest in Janesville Wisconsin.  It was a privilege and an honor to hang out with the Black Team. (The Golden Knights have two demonstration teams — Black and Gold)

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You can’t help but admire these young men (their average age is 26) when you consider they represent the best of the best, coming from active duty units. They are seasoned parachutists with hundreds or thousands of jumps under their belts and put on one heck of an arial show.  (Want to learn a little more about the Golden Knights, checkout  this  post.) 

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These guys are a popular attraction, not just for the great arial stunts they perform but for the time and energy they spend on the ground with the general public.  After each jump they’re always available to meet and greet the public and sign team pictures.

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They certainly know who Solider’s Angels is . . . !

During my brief time with the team, I had the chance to ask about Soldier’s Angels – the mere mention of the name brought instant recognition, appreciation and stories about boxes, letters and “goodies”.

Haven’t heard of Solider’s Angels yet?  Want to help, get involved or learn more?  It’s a very rewarding experience and highly valued by our soldiers, airmen and marines.  Learn more about the organization here.

One young soldier recanted a story about a previous deployment where his unit had so much support from their angels that they were able to use some of the supplies to take with them on good-will missions out to the local villages, greatly enhancing their position and even further easing their jobs.

Soldier’s Angels is so respected that one jumper asked to carry the group’s flag with him into the air.  He placed the flag shown in the opening picture into his suit, close to his heart and jumped with it.  That flag returned with them to their operating base – and will continue to serve as a daily reminder of how much we care about them.

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Preparing for Flight

While the jump team practices the upcoming maneuvers and synchronization required, the ground crew and pilots ensure the plane and all equipment is ready to go.  Safety of the crew and passengers is priority number 1.

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The Golden Knights travel to shows and jump from their own aircraft.  The jump plane used for appearances away from their main base is usually the C-31A Friendship as seen below.

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 Photography in the Air

In-flight photography was a real challenge (that’s me below) due primarily to the tough lighting conditions.  You’re shooting within a dark cabin along with a bright light peaking in from windows – or blasting in from the open doors.

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A high ISO was mandatory if there was to be any chance of success.  You also have to be quick on your settings as the jumps begin, the exposure settings were night and day different – literally.  As with any other shoot, prepare yourself (as much as you can) in advance.  Visualize the images you think you’ll be making and plan for the settings and conditions.  As always, luck is a big part of it – but never forget, “luck favors the prepared”.

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Take some time and check out the links below.  Make sure you catch up with the Golden Knights at a show this summer.  And if you’re not already a supporter of Solider’s Angels, pay them a visit.  Being a supporter has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.  Some of our “adoptees” have become life long friends we will always cherish.

Golden Knights Solider’s Angels

Stay in focus,

Mark

Revisit Your Work

2010 Edit

What a difference three years can make!

I mentioned in a previous post to never go back and delete your older work – always save it as a reference of how far your photography skills have come.  I still hold firmly to that statement, even though your previous work may be obviously sub-par to your current capabilities – keep it as a timeline of your progression in the hobby.  There is another reason, however, why you might want to go back and revisit some of your previous work  . . . your editing skills have probably improved significantly.

Go back and take a look at some of your older images – ones that you still feel have pretty solid photographic elements – take an original copy of that photo and reprocess it as you would do it today.  You may be very surprised at how far you’ve come.

The opening image in this set is from an air show three years ago.  The image capture is pretty solid, with good exposure – and it demonstrates my processing skills circa 2009.  The picture below is the same image, processed with my 2012 skill sets – the difference in skill growth is obvious to me in several areas:

  • Composition: a much better crop demonstrates a better grasp and positioning of the main subject
  • Contrast: more detail (that was in the original image) is now popping out
  • Selective editing: sharpening, shadow work and color corrections are now applied to only the areas that need them

2012 Edit

So don’t go back into your past albums and delete any of your images – but do go back and revisit some of them.  You’ll be amazed at your progress – and may just find some hidden gems waiting for your contemporary skills to be applied.

Stay in focus,

Mark

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