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Airwolf vs BMW - A Scale Model Project by Alpha Whiskey Photography

Spoiler alert: BMW loses.So another trip back to the 80s, this time with Airwolf, a mach one attack helicopter with the most advanced weapon systems in the air today.... Ah, you had to have seen it. Well, I wanted to make just a few random shots with the die cast helicopter model but my friend Brubaker suggested we make a series.Oh boy. It seemed like more work than I was intending to give this project but hey ho, more opportunities to eat and drink. So these were made with a £2 1/43... 
scale die cast BMW that I found in a supermarket and that happened to be a similar relative scale to the helicopter. I would have preferred a model of Street Hawk but nobody seems to have one.Once again, and on two separate occasions, we set up the shots on our makeshift studio table, arranging the car and helicopter at the positions we wanted. Airwolf was either hung from above with string on mounted on its accompanying stand (later edited out in post). As before, we tried to have as many practical effects and elements as possible to achieve as much as we could in camera. For instance we used smoke for mist in the lair and breadcrumbs for gravel/desert. For the black road we spray painted a sheet of cardboard and stuck two thin strips of yellow electrical tape down the centre. For water we used a pre-crumpled piece of aluminium foil with a blue sheet in the background so that it would catch the colour. We tried to create chain gun bullet impacts in the breadcrumb gravel but our attempts were unsuccessful so I had to try it with brushes in post. The explosion around the BMW was once again from a section of the exploding galaxy I had used previously. The die cast helicopter actually has a button-activated spinning rotor but I decided to create the rotor effects in post too.More often than not we photographed the background first as a master shot before placing the car and the helicopter in the scene. These were then cut, copied and pasted into the master shot along with any of the desired effects. As before, backgrounds were added from my archives (mainly from Colorado for this set) and headlights were added in post too. Everything was edited with layers. My friend Natalia provided valuable feedback on each edit. Despite the potential for ridicule I can honestly say that photographing scale models can teach you a tremendous amount about lighting, composition, framing and processing, all of which are essential to any genre of digital photography. It's certainly not as easy as you might think and does require a modicum of thought, imagination, invention and planning. In that respect it has been just as stimulating as taking images on my travels. Anyway, I'm reasonably happy with our results. There are a few people out there shooting scale models and dioramas (and being paid handsomely for it) but I have yet to find anyone else creating these kind of action scenes. Arguably no one else is that sad! Once again a fun time was had by all and we more or less got the results we set out to achieve. That in itself made completion of this project satisfying. 

Scale Model Action by Alpha Whiskey Photography

And now for something a little different.This will either invite complete ridicule or slightly less than complete ridicule but it sure was fun to do. Inspired by the work of Felix Hernandez, who is known for creating realistic scenes using miniature models, my friends and I decided to have a go, albeit with more meagre and makeshift  resources. And arguably this is as much about processing as photography but there don't seem to be many people doing this kind of work with scale or die cast... 
models. And while our results were nowhere near the vicinity of being anywhere near Mr Hernandez's works of art I was sufficiently intrigued to try.Thus one evening recently we set up a makeshift studio with some lamps, blue canvas background and tin foil wrapped around cardboard for reflectors. To soften the light and dampen shadows the lamps were covered in material from that sheath your laptop comes wrapped in (told you it was makeshift). We used flour for snow or breadcrumbs for gravel.We started off with fairly easy shots, cars in the snow or in the blizzard. completely unoriginal but I figure I have to walk before I fly. Sieved flour in front of a small fan created the blizzard effect. Icelandic scenes in the background were taken from my own archives and added in post, as were headlights. Then we decided to get little sillier.Alas, we can't go back to the 1980s, the greatest decade in the history of world, so we tried to bring the 80s to us. We decided to ask the Knight Industries Two Thousand to turbo boost over the A-Team van, both scale models. We hung KITT over the van and used several practical effects: an e-cigarette provided smoke, exhaust trails and dust, a birthday cake sparkler gave us bullet impacts on KITT's body while oats. We shot the scene from two different angles. Each effect was shot separately and then blended together as desired using layers in Photoshop. A sky background was added from my archives. For solitary shots of KITT the e-cigarette wasn't giving us the right smoky texture so I inhaled an entire Cuban cigar and placed an LED light near the driver's cabin to create some beams.Then we decided to be little more ambitious, using smaller models to create Hollywood style action scenes. I initially used a firestorm action in Photoshop that I found online but it was buggy so I pillaged sections of an exploding galaxy and used that instead. Finally, we decided to blow up the world's most indestructible car. We hung KITT upside down with the detached sunroof sections hanging with thin black wires that could be easily removed in post. We used the birthday cake sparkler again on the body, and to get flames coming out of the bonnet and the boot we used lighter fluid and an aerosol spray (don't try that at home kids). We placed thin skewer sticks to mark the positions of the bonnet, cabin and boot and then removed the car so we could spray the flames at those locations. Alas, the results just weren't what we were looking for when merged with the car so the exploding galaxy was rehired. I'lll be the first to admit my post-processing skills aren't that great and I don't enjoy spending a long time in front of a computer screen (my sympathies for those with desk jobs). But life is short and rather than be tethered to just one genre I'm willing to try new things and gave this one a shot, so to speak. Feel free to point the finger of ridicule but you'll have to take a. number and get in line. Worst case scenario a bunch of friends had a fun nostalgia trip playing with toys; best case we created something a little different. Perhaps we'll try again sometime. I'm sure Airwolf is hovering over Street Hawk around here somewhere... 

Devon by Alpha Whiskey Photography

Last weekend I drove down to Devon to spend a few days around Dartmoor National Park. At the invitation of and in the company of others there wasn't much time to stop and set up shots, and the inclement weather seems to be following me around lately. But I managed to eke out a few shots.Once again, and increasingly so nowadays, it was more about enjoying the experience than taking photos, and to that end we all had a great time, particularly so hiking around Lydford Gorge, a few hours of... 
which culminated in the impressive White Lady waterfall. We stayed at the same hotel that Charles Dickens had been snowed under at in the 19th Century, a nearly thousand year old building where he passed the time writing the first half of The Pickwick Papers. Dartmoor is know for the views from its many tors and we ascended perhaps the most famous, Brent Tor, where the small church at the summit was still open. Despite the cloudy end to the day there really were some stunning views. En route we had stopped in at Buckfast Abbey, a small but no less ornate example of medieval architecture. We popped down to Plymouth to visit the National Marine Aquarium. The charity does exemplary work in conservation and education, but I was somewhat disappointed with the aquarium itself, having only tow large tanks and scattered smaller exhibits. I realise its focus is on education, especially important given Mankind's impact on the oceans, but having visited the aquarium in Toronto last year that became a point of reference for me.Finally, we spent a sunny day in Torquay, a slightly more upmarket seaside town and marina, of which I took some unoriginal shots at sunset and dusk. Good views were had overlooking Thatcher's Rock.A good break with plenty to enjoy. 

Back To Iceland by Alpha Whiskey Photography

By some miracle Alpha Whiskey is still alive. When they told me to get lost I decided to go for another drive in Iceland. Life is short and it's important to do the things you enjoy before it expires and I happen to enjoy driving around Iceland. It was definitely more about the experience than the photos as the incessantly inclement weather on the planet's third windiest environment literally dampened the scenery. One particularly memorable experience was getting my 4x4 stuck in the snow in... 
the middle of nowhere on top of a mountain for hours; a ridiculous problem to have given that I had just driven through a lake to get there. Adding to my predicament my phone decided to stop working too. But Lady Luck must have been watching over me. A couple from Germany turned up an hour later hoping the see the same waterfall, only to find me in their way. But they stayed with me for nearly five hours, trying every possible solution to free my vehicle. Eventually we got traction, jacking the wheels up and shoving under them planks of wood that we had 'borrowed' from a nearby empty barn. Everyone said their good byes and left and then came the scary part. The lake had become deeper after several hours of melting ice and driving through it completely alone with no point of reference and no feeling of any surface under the vehicle was an exercise in terror. I was basically steering a boat along what I hoped was the road below. If I became stuck here I was done. But the road finally crept up to meet me through the water as it joined the main highway and my vehicle clambered out. I made it. On this trip I stayed mainly in the south of the island, taking in sights I had seen before but capturing images that I hadn't managed to on my previous trip such as the mountain at Vestrahorn and tide trails around the ice on Diamond Beach. I had started at Geysir and finished at Kirkjufell in the north-west. A particular highlight was a glacier hike and the ice caves, with shimmering light undulating along their glassy walls. Anyway, here is a small sample. The overcast skies, rain fog and wind meant that I have processed these to have a deliberately moody look. 

365 Project Complete - Statistics by Sandra5

I started the project 27th of December 2016. That's when my new camera arrived and I decided to drain the life out of it by snapping every day. The project was officially finished 31th of December 2017, but I decided to extend it into the 2018 because I was skipping days. The last picture in the album was taken 7th of February 2018.During 2017, I made 16854 pictures and turned the camera's internal counter back to the beginning somewhere in July. I skipped 31 days, meaning a whole month, but... 
I decided to keep going. Initially I wanted every photo to be taken on a different day, but when in May I didn't have enough photos, I decided to use more than one photo from the same day. This turned out to be a good idea, as I stopped having a delay and all the photos in an album are from the right month of the year. The albums became related only to the specific month and not to the beginning of the next month too. My best months were March, July and August with only one day skipped and my worst month was January with 5.My most exploited topics were the city, sky, interiors, through my window, animals, lamps and artwork. Many shots were objects from my house and they were usually taken when I didn't have anything better to photograph. On some days there were other things to do besides chasing a good shot around town. Most of the year I did the same things and walked the same streets so finding something of interest was a challenge. However, now when I take a look at all those pictures in an album, there is very much to see.I avoided people and images that are too personal. I wanted to keep my things to myself. Pictures can reveal many things about how, where and with who I spend my time with and this is not what the project was about. The only subject that I needed to include was my best friend, neighbor and photography buddy who I spend much of my time with (usually with the camera).Selection was the trickiest part of the project. On some days I had several hundred photos and on some only one or two. Meaning, there were really great photos I took that couldn't enter the project, and the really bad ones that entered because there was no other choice. But the value of this kind of project is not the quality of photos taken, it's the process of photographing through time. Many invisible moments appeared. Going through the piles of photos I took, I see a very good fraction of what was life in 2017. Not only mine, but the life in general. The life that is usually forgotten as soon as we get distracted by something big and important.

365 Project - December Highlights by Sandra5

So I survived the final month! I noticed I made significantly less images in December. From more than 1000, how much I had in November, I dropped to less than 300. December was a month for doing other things, so I didn't have much time and energy for photo shoots. But anyway, my camera was with me all the time so I caught a bit of the atmosphere wherever I went. Theme of the month was off course the New Year holidays and interiors, since the weather was mostly cold and uncomfortable for... 
hanging out outside.After completing all 12 months of the challenge I notice I much more easily select the subjects that I want to shoot. It's also easier for me to know what I want from the picture and how to organize it. In the beginning, I use to take too many shots without thinking through why I want to capture that scene. I still take many shots, but now I know what I want to achieve. The project highlighted the topics that interest me the most. I'm still having trouble with the organization of the images, but I must say I like my photos better after a year of everyday practice. Also, I have an incredible review of the year.Before I end the project, I need to state that I am guilty of skipping days. I skipped exactly 31 days, so I'll extend the project for one more month. In average, I skipped 3 days a month, and those were usually the days I was sick, tired from traveling or overflown with work. I didn't let that stop the project although I needed to cheat in order to complete it in time. So the project continues...

Distractions From Sweden by Alpha Whiskey Photography

A typically dry first few weeks of the year, photographically speaking, but I did manage to squeeze in a brief trip to Sweden. Still didn't do much photography as the weather wasn't great and I was busy enjoying the company of my friend. But I did manage to eke out a few shots from time killed at The Universeum and The Volvo Museum.Photography isn't something I need and can easily live without it for long stretches of time. I have plenty of other distractions to occupy myself with. Nevertheless, as an opportunist snapper I usually take my camera with me on the off chance that I see a potential shot somewhere. But life is to be experienced and enjoyed first and photographed a distant second.

A Kickboxing Class by Alpha Whiskey Photography

If you'll pardon the pun it seemed like a good way to kick-start the New Year. When a friend invited me to her kickboxing class to indulge in some photography while she trained I accepted. Frankly I'm surprised it took me so long to get around to this subject; having reached 1st Dan in taekwondo in my youth I was always enamoured with the flexibility and physical expression these types of sport had to offer, enjoying less the pugilism and more the forms, aerial movement and speed. The... 
various moves were always visually interesting and demonstrative of how capable human anatomy could be.Purists would argue that kickboxing is more of a martial sport than a martial art and perhaps they are right. But these guys certainly made it look artistic and to me these kinds of physical movement are an art form regardless of where the blow lands. And when captured in a photograph it summons Yates' assertion that the dancer is the dance.While taking these photos I cast my memory back to graphic novels and old martial arts movies, when camera positions and framing where just as essential to the visual experience of the audience as the exponent themselves. Indeed today camera angles and editing are what give the likes of Liam Neeson their particular set of skills, enhancing the visceral impact through clever choreography and positioning. Not that the exponents in this class needed any help on that score. I would shoot from ground level to lend more height to the kicks, sometimes tilting the camera to bring greater dynamism to the movements (a typical technique used in graphic novels). Combined with wide-angles lenses, shooting from low enhanced the scope and impact of some of the movements. I even used the good ol' fish-eye to deliberately exaggerate some of the kicks. And akin to graphic novel art the best way to convey a sense of motion from a still image seems to be to depict the very beginning or end of an action, i.e. the intention or the impact. So while I reeled off a few clicks with high speed continuous shooting I tended to select the images at the extremes to edit.When I had finished picking my teeth up off the floor I switched to longer focal lengths to capture more intimate portraits (at the punching bag). The lighting in the gym wasn't ideal; alas no rays of soft sunlight lancing through an overhead skylight and penetrating a fine mist as backlit silhouettes performed reverse roundhouse kicks on a wooden crate. And the background had plenty of distractions and objects that cluttered the scene, despite using fast lenses. Thus, in processing these images I opted to apply a slight gritty, urban look, which I felt was appropriate to the subject. May or may not have succeeded. And despite shooting these at fairly high ISOs I opted to reduce the noise (and grit).Anyway, maybe in future I'll have the opportunity to shoot some competitive contests but for now I hope these encourage you to go out and shoot some images of your own (or take up some kickboxing classes). I wish to thank Chloe and her trainer George, a world champion kickboxer, at the GTC Studio for their hospitality and the opportunity to take these images. 

2017 - A Year In Pictures by Alpha Whiskey Photography

Are we here already? Well, don't say I didn't warn you this time last year about how quickly it goes. And it was another exhilarating  year of travel, exploration, revelation and most importantly, fun.In January my dear friend Christina hopped over the North Sea for far too brief a visit but we had a wonderful time around London and Cambridge. The spectacular stained glass windows of The King's College Chapel and the river punt in Cambridge were a particular highlight. In March I spent... 
a couple of days in Vilnius, Lithuania, including the island complex at Trakai. Vilnius is a small but colourful little capital that was easy to navigate. The end of that month I took advantage of an invitation to stay at Trump International Tower in Toronto from where I explored a vibrant and cosmopolitan city. I enjoyed many of the city's fabulous attractions, including the CN Tower and Ripley's Aquarium.   A bus ride from Toronto took me to Niagara Falls where, as beautiful as they were even from the helicopter, I wasn't as overwhelmed as by other large waterfalls I have seen around the world. Over the course of a day at the falls, however, I captured shots in a variety of positions and light and even had time to visit the Butterfly Conservatory.The Easter break took me to see some friends in Wales, en route to the spectacular Snowdonia, a landscape crossed between Iceland and Colorado. While there we saw the uniquely kaleidoscopic town of Portmeirion and hiked a mountain to see a lake shrouded in fog. In May I enjoyed a relaxing respite in Cuba, a beautiful country of colour and contrasts. Poverty rations a friendly and welcoming population that shares its island with gorgeous valleys, diverse and abundant wildlife and spotless beaches. Havana, in particular, was a riot of colour and character, particularly the old American cars. Some domestic excursions in July included shooting with a Fuji camera loaned to me by my friend Parrish for a session in London; and the typically energetic displays of the Royal International Air Tattoo. In August Natalia and I chased the Perseid Meteors and the Milky Way, only to be partially thwarted by a blinding Moon. Still, being in the middle of nowhere in the dead of night watching the meteors tear through the sky was far more enjoyable than any photography. At the end of that month Natalia and I visited friends in Wales again who invited us to join them at the thrilling demolition derby  of Bettws Banger Racing. September had us in the company of seals once again, and the most populated colony I have yet seen.In October we returned to Wales to capture the waterfall, Pistyll Rhaeadr, at sunrise and one of those images has since become a lovely canvas print adorning walls on both sides of the Atlantic. At the end of October Parrish and I executed our planned trip to Croatia where we ambled through the multitude of waterfalls emptying into the lakes at Plitvice. Finally, my final trip of the year was a wonderful trip to Christmas City Gothenburg to see Christina, who surprised me with a lobster safari in tumultuous waters that nearly had our seasick innards for jetsam. But what a thrilling experience.Well, the heart is still beating and the blood is still flowing so I cannot (and would never) complain. My life has been immeasurably enriched, not just by these adventures, but also by the kindness and company of dear friends. I thank them one and all. Photography is not something I need so I have no particular aspirations in that department for the coming year. My soul is not especially poorer without it and yet I do hope to continue encouraging others to enjoy Life, The Universe and everything in it. I suspect I may slow down a little myself but I do intend to experience a few more adventures. Life has been very generous and I want to enjoy it a little longer.I thank all visitors to this blog and from Alpha Whiskey Photography I wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. 

Lobster Safari by Alpha Whiskey Photography

After a short drive we arrived at Marstrand on the west coast, a picturesque little island town whose aesthetic was somewhat subdued by the wet, overcast weather. The colours still reminded us how vibrant and busy this town could be in the summer and the large fortress presiding over it was due our visit. During December the island was essentially in hibernation with barely a soul to be found on its cobbled streets. But Christina had a surprise for me. And after a short fika she led me to... 
the harbour to reveal it.We met our skipper, Mathias, from Havsservice, whose strong fisherman's grip welcomed us aboard his charming English vessel. A fine mist saturated the billowing wind but both he and his vessel were veteran sailors, indifferent to the weather. The sturdy deck, polished by rain, greeted our boots in a symphony of thuds. We were not so hardened, Christina and I, our bodies shivering and our teeth chattering as we took our seats inside the cabin.As the engine spluttered into life the surprise dawned on me. It was just the two of us. The only passengers on this boat, a private charter arranged well out of season by a resourceful Christina.The boat retreated from the harbour and began to carefully slice through the icy water. Casual observers gorging on their fikas could only watch from the colourful buildings planted at the water's edge. They may have wondered if it was just one person or in fact two, tightly pressed against each other, both crazy enough to brave a lake in the dead of winter. They were super curious, Christina would say, only her adorable accent would call them 'super couriers.'Ripples rolled out into the sheet of water before us, our boat the only disturbance upon it. But the water would not forgive the intrusion. Wind and rain lashed at the vessel and the livid sea threw a tantrum, smacking us with powerful waves that finished as foaming crests on the rocks behind us. Mathias and his boat were utterly unfazed, confidently bobbing through the turbulence like weightless flotsam. Photography was now beyond a luxury; staying vertical was the priority.Mathias invited unto the see-sawing deck to reel in the cage that was dragging the sea under the boat. He introduced us to the trio of creatures in our catch. A small jet black lobster, a large crab, and then something quite exquisite; a magnificent electric blue lobster with giant claws, its long tentacles probing our jackets as Mathias ran his fingers overs its orange segmented underside. A female, he said, with two mouths like a cinematic alien and small white horns projecting from all over her body. Even he was amazed to find such a rare catch that looked like a CGI concoction newly escaped from a Jurassic Island. After a futile attempt at some photos we laid our catch down and braced the churning sea as it hurled our boat onto its port and starboard sides. Both Christina and I had to hold onto the rails at the side of the deck and focus on the horizon. She was expecting to gift me with a pleasant, tranquil cruise around Marstrand Island and yet here we both were trying to stay alive on this bucking bronco with a our guts reaching for the nearest exit. I guess it was a surprise for her too.But despite the nausea each of us relished the exhilaration and we couldn't be more grateful to our captain for his skilled stewardship and hospitality on this unexpected adventure. There's probably a reason why he doesn't normally provide this service so late in the year and now Christina and I are somewhat the wiser.During a calmer season this would be a terrific excursion but even in a cold and wet December, and in addition to our stunning catch, we still collected some exciting memories. 

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