Digital does things for you. Things film could not do. Back in the film days, at a certain point in the day, in fading light, you might have folded your tents. But with digital, you still have time, you still have life. A fighting chance. The digital chip sees things your eyes might not. The chip knows. The chip has confidence, even when I don’t.
We had spent the day flying, but doing a portrait of the legendary Lon Cooper was alway in the back of head, up there in the air. Couldn’t short circuit the main job, so I stayed up in the sky till the very last of the good light. Tip of the hat to Waldo Wright’s Flying Service of Florida.
Or sorta, maybe, the last of the light. We landed, and started scrambling. Pulled the plane into a roughly good position. Got Lon in a spot, and asked his patience. Brought in a Profoto B-1 and a softbox camera right, and started positioning two SB-910 units, gelled warm and set to SU-4 mode, in the way back of the plane, off to camera left. Wind caught the unattended, un-sandbagged B-1, and knocked it over. Bye bye, B-1. Yep, 35 years doing this, and I let a light topple in the breeze. Grabbed another B-1, stuffed it into the somewhat mangled soft box. Pulled an f-stop outta my butt. Got a shutter speed that gave me sky. Matched the B-1 flash to aforementioned f-stop. Messed with the position of the Speedlights to eliminate most of the glare and hot spots off the fuselage of the plane.
6:36pm Position the plane.
6:37pm Get a sky exposure.
6:40 Make sure the subject silhouette is clean.
6:43 Main light.
6:48 Backlights positioned.
Flaws. Hot spot from the ground placed SB units on left side of frame. Couldn’t completely finesse away the angle of incidence flare on side of plane. Told myself I actually liked it. (You can convince yourself of anything at the camera in these moments.)
Remembered to keep breathing. Got a couple decent frames. The light fell, faster than the light stand that busted my flash. But the wonders of the chip carved out a color in the sky, held the light for as long as it could, like pouring water in cupped hands, and watching it slip through the cracks.
Got a frame. That’s all you need on some days, just a frame. On a shot like this, I thank the pixels.