When you think of photographing jets above rising cityscapes, some of you may think initially of a "Mission Impossible" type of situation: a daring photographer in a flight suit and goggles strapped to the back of a military-looking plane with the cargo ramp down, snapping off shots as they fly through the air. Sure, it's been done, maybe not to that extreme, but you get the gist. However, Dallas-based Automotive Photographer Pepper Yandell shows you his trick to getting those picture-perfect photos, and it's much less dangerous and extreme than what you may have first thought.
When you look at a multitude of photographs that you see being used in marketing nowadays, just about every single one of them has had some sort of digital manipulation. Whether it's through something simple, such as a basic color correction to clean up a photo or something more drastic, like dropping in a plane that's in fact not airborne into a sunset sky. As a commercial photographer, this is sometimes a necessity in order to get a client's vision to become reality, and for Pepper Yandell, this was just another day in the office.
When you think of a boat, generally you think of a boat in water. Whether it's an oil tanker or a kayak, most people will instantly envision a boat in water. In reality, a plane is no different, except for the simple fact that they fly. So, when a client comes to you and says: "I would like a photo of my plane above the Dallas skyline," how would you go about accomplishing that? Sure, you could try to create that Mission Impossible action sequence as detailed earlier, and it might work, might not. Aside from the danger which is inherent in doing something like that, the cost to do so is also greatly increased with the use of fuel for the planes as well as the pilots and crew operating them.
With the clever use of a small single-engine aircraft, a scouting run ensued in order to capture all relevant lighting conditions and plate shots needed in order to accomplish the objective of the project. Once the images were collected and sorted, the remaining shots were analyzed and the final shots were selected, which established a shot list as well as a set of parameters as far as lighting conditions needed to set the plane convincingly in the scene. Thus ensued a period of time waiting on the sun to be in the correct position in order to create the necessary highlights and shadows for the scene. Armed with his trusty camera and the use of a scissor lift, he crafted his images piece by piece and shot by shot until he reached his final conclusions.
The Finished Product
There's nothing more natural than a plane soaring above the clouds or over a city, and these images definitely will leave an impression on the viewer. Some may scoff and say it's too much Photoshop, but in reality, it's the right tool for the right job. And I think more importantly, it's perfect proof that you don't need a million-dollar budget to create exceptional images; just a little know-how and some patience is all you need, and of course, access to a jet and scissor-lift. For more information and more of Pepper's work, hop on over to his website.
Images used with permission of Pepper Yandell.