Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Son...The Russki's don't take a dump without a plan!!!

Well, you may have noticed that I took the month of June off from the blog. Not that I am ever that prolific to begin with...it just always seemed that I had other stuff to do. I was getting ready for the annual summer visit with Ms.E. Then her pseudo big sister/cousin/very good friend that we refer to as Big E had a horrendous accident that nearly (but thankfully, only nearly) cost her her foot. Then I had a little business travel to deal with. Finally, I began making some ...plans...for an upcoming couple of shoots at the end of the summer. First up was the Fourth of July...

Ms. C pushed me to go out this year and take my annual Independence Day fireworks photos without the company of herself and Ms. E. She knows that when I have the two of them in tow, I tend to focus more on the girls than I do on my photography and, though she will never say it, both efforts end up suffering in the process. She offered to drop me off near my desired vantage point and  pick me up afterwards at the same rendezvous point. I then proceeded to the location I had selected and I got my gear set up. I set myself down in my chair and enjoyed the cold sports drink that I had brought along with me while I waited for the show to start. I was the first one there...and I had about an hour to kill before the show was to start. So I just relaxed and let my thoughts drift along with the warm night breeze.

Another photgrapher came along. He introduced himself as Wayne Wendel. He told me that he had taken a photo of me that I would probably enjoy and that he wanted to send it to me. We exchanged business cards and chatted each other up about equipment, photography in general, travel and our lives in general. I didn't give the remark about the picture another thought.

Wayne is one of those people you want to meet at some point in your life. He is a retired Houston Homicide Detective who has also served our country as a member of the United States Air Force. He is pursuing his third career as a wildlife photographer, with forays into the world of travel photography and even a little portrait work here and there. You can see more of Wayne's photography at http://birdshooter.smugmug.com/  and you can read his thoughts on photography at http://shutterstuff.blogspot.com/ .

We had a great time talking as first one, then a couple of more photographers came upon us and asked us if this was "the best place" to watch the fireworks show. There are many good vantage points in our fair city to take good fireworks photographs. Saying that you picked out the "best" location would be , most likely, pretentious and untrue. However, it was the best location for what I wanted to accomplish with these photos. You see, I knew that I wanted to capture images that had the full fireworks bursts and at least part of the city skyline in the backdrop. This meant that I was going to have to be far enough away on a certain line of sight with an unobstructed view of the projected burst area. Since I knew approximately where the launch area and burst area were, this pointed me to a certain area to scout for a location that allowed public access. I had driven around the area enough to know that there was a nice greenspace along the bayou leading in toward downtown that should be  a prime location for my shots that evening.

As it turned out, I was right.

I have had the pleasure of photographing fireworks at a number of pretty cool locations. The one thing about this type of photography is that it is always a crapshoot - you never know what you got until you finish shooting. You can end up with great shots of single bursts or even of a cluster of bursts. Or you can end up with mediocre shots of the same bursts...the difference often being just a second or a fraction of a second of exposure. So, to hedge my bet this year I decided that I would be doing some composite shots for final printing that would be compiled from multiple individual burst captures. To facilitate this type of multiple exposure photography, I knew that I was going to need a clean background photo capture that was properly exposed for the background elements to use as the foundation for layering the individual fireworks images. So, before the show started, I took just such a photo to use when I went back to the digital darkroom.

All of this leads us to the title of the blog. It is a line out of the film made from Tom Clancy's book "The Hunt for Red October". In the scene, a US Navy Admiral is admonishing a CIA analyst for not understanding that every step being taken by their adversary, though seemingly ad hoc, was anything but because..."the Russki's don't take a dump without a plan!"

So let's recap:

1. I scouted the "best" location for what I wanted to accomplish during this photo shoot
2. I got to the location early (BTW - this is the photo taken by Wayne Wendel. Personally, I think he has captured my best side!)

3.  I got my camera set up, verified all of the settings on the camera and set up my composition based on the expected action area.
4. Right before the show started I took care of any foundation work that I would need later.
5. I relaxed, met some new people, helped out where I could and I took care to hydrate myself
6. When the show started, I took a few early pictures...did a spot check on exposure and composition and made a few minor adjustments.
7. I took images throughout the remainder of the show...without a worry in the world.

Yep...looks like a plan to me. Executed pretty well also, with the help of a lot of very nice folks. And at the end of the day, it resulted in about 20 images that will go into the archives. Here is one to prove that a little planning can go a long way.

Before you go out for your next photographic adventure...or any adventure for that matter, do yourself a favor. Take a few minutes and make out a plan. It will make life a little easier...and allow you to enjoy your adventure a little more. You might even have time to meet someone like Wayne.

Keep the faith.


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