Sunday, October 16, 2011

Dallas Cowboys Stadium Aerial Photograph

I’ve yet to actually enter “Jerry’s World” but, I certainly find it impressive from outside.  We bought tickets to Taylor Swift’s performance for my daughter for her birthday.  When my wife and I went to pick our daughter and her friend up from the performance we parked in one of the lots and walked up to the building to wait outside for them. 

The building has huge sets of window that they had blocked off with huge black curtains inside so that people would actually pony up the ticket price instead of just party outside and watch on the big screen.  It probably also helps with the show if they can darken the room down.  We were able to peek through a probably six-foot gap in the curtains to watch the action on one of the “small” side jumbotron (oxymoron alert!) screens.  We were watching probably a 30 foot across high-definition T-Swizzy performing live.  It was pretty impressive. 

It's pretty impressive from the air, too.  I almost didn’t photograph Cowboy’s Stadium.  I had an early morning flight planned out to photograph the Dallas skyline as the sun was rising. I usually like to stick to whatever plan I have as much as possible.  After I was done with downtown Dallas, I was flying from the east, south of the DFW airport restricted airspace when I noticed the whole Arlington, Texas area being bathed in early morning light.  Nice little surprise!

Arlington is really the playground of the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex.  I think that all of the local folks know that Arlington has Cowboys and Rangers stadiums as well as 6-Flags amusement park and Wet-N-Wild water park but, from the air you get to see all of it at the same time.  It looks like one big playground, which it is.  It was fun to shoot, too.

Click on the image for a full-sized view.


Thursday, September 15, 2011


Sometimes a photo just grabs me.  That is my definition of a great photo, even if it is one of my own.  I took this one with an iPhone in a diner in Salt Lake City for my other blog, Bill's Triple-D Restaurant Review.  This is the Blue Plate Diner which is scheduled to be posted in December.

I just feel like this one captured the diner culture for me.  Like a lot of people, I travel a lot.  I've spent a lot of time in diners all over the country.  The arrangement of catchup, salt, pepper, pepper-sauce and big sugar bottle is a sight that is pretty much exactly the same no matter where in the country you are.  These objects are in the shadows which is what you feel like at diners sometimes.

It is kind of lonely.  Again like a lot of people, the time I spend in diners is usually alone.  There are no people in this photo even though there is evidence of people.  The motorcycle parked in the restaurant is unusual.  It doesn't belong yet it speaks to the point that diners are part of the transient nature of a lot of the people who visit them.  You feel like you could just hop on and make a quick getaway without the bother of walking out to the street or parking lot. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Let Me Out!

Sometimes inside of a bad or mediocre photo is a good photo begging to be released.  I took the photo above as a reference photo to a place that I want to come back to.  I don't consider this photo to be great.  It was taken too far away for the focal length, there's no real subject and the perspective is off.   But, I think that the location has the potential to be great. 

It is Lake Arrowhead near Wichita Falls, Texas.  When I was flying toward the lake, I thought that it looked pretty cool because I thought that there was a sailboat race going on.  It was early on a weekend, so it seemed possible.  When I got closer, I realized that what I thought were boats were actually oil or gas rigs.  I'd never seen rigs like this except on a much larger scale in the Gulf of Mexico.

I find the white rigs against the blue water and red earth to be interesting.  The very fact that the rigs exist in the water give a sense of depth and perspective if anything else happens to be out there also.  It would be cool if I caught an actual boat whizzing around the equipment. 

I couldn't loiter around because I had someplace to get to but, I'll be back here again ready to shoot.  I will do my homework on when the best light will be and be ready to shoot.  I'll try and see if there are any events planned to happen on the lake.  I'll have my longer lens with me and an assistant most likely.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Good night, sleep tight

The beginning of this year went by in a blur.  I was really busy on every level of my life.  My back burner was piled with figurative pots as one issue after another occupied my front burners.  Not my ideal situation. 

Flying by myself has always been one of those things that I value because it helps me to find center again.  When I'm done I find myself at peace again.  I usually realize that the noise of everyday life just seems to have washed away when I'm driving home later.  This is especially true when I get to see a nice sunrise or sunset.  I always sleep really well at night after having one of these days.

This image kind of reminds me of a town slipping into that kind of peace.  The sunlit jet contrails remind me of the last bit of the day's craziness slipping away as the peaceful blue/green tones of a the night washes the noise and insanity of the day away. 

I could close my eyes right now.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Film Bug

I recently got the bug to pull the old film camera off the shelf and to try it out again.  I had a fantasy about maybe buying some chemicals and some developing equipment and going "wet" again for a while.  But first I had to get reacquainted.

The film choices have changed since I last used my film camera.  In 2005, every department store and pharmacy had at least a small section of films.  Not so much anymore.  I wanted to shoot black and white but, unless I wanted to really go out of my way, I would have to accept the new generation of black and white film.  They produce black and white images but, use the same chemicals for processing as color film.  This wouldn't work for my home brew darkroom scenario but, for this little experiment it would be fine.

One of the things that I miss about film photography is that each film type had its own personality.  Some were more vibrant, some more true to life.  Using a new film was kind of like going to visit an old friend just to find out that they had sent someone else to meet you instead.

I remember that the Kodak color film that I was using in 2000 when we lived in Europe was a lot different than the off-the-shelf Kodak film we were getting in the US.  It would produce very saturated colors.  I liked it.  The images were kind of surrealistic fairy tale-like which matched the bit of an adventure that we actually were on at the time.

So, I got the camera loaded with a roll of 35 B&W exposures and carried the camera around for a while.  I used a Canon 50mm 1.8 lens on a Canon AE1 Program camera. 

There were film cameras in 2005 with autofocus systems comparable with the modern autofocus systems but, the AE1 was not one of them.  It has the old prism focusing system whereby you have to use an area of the lens in the center that is pixilated with tiny prisms inside the camera and then turn the lens until the pixilated area does not look pixilated anymore.  It's very precise but, not very fast.  I can't believe that I used to shoot sports with this.

I shot a moving train.  In order to do this I had to focus on a mark then wait for the train to get to that mark and fire.  I used to do the same thing with sports.  I try to anticipate where the action would be then focus on a spot then wait for the action to reach that spot.  Sometimes you got lucky and sometimes not.  This would be hard to do from a moving airplane if I'm the one moving.

The actual image through the viewfinder on the old Canon is probably superior to my current DSLR, a Nikon D-90.  The whole frame is much larger to the eye than the D-90.  However, to operate the controls on the AE1 you have to take your eye away from the viewfinder.  So, for methodically shooting something stationary it would be fine but, for moving action I am already too far spoiled.

After taking an image on either film or digital, I always have an impression of what I intended the image to look like in my head.  With digital you can "chimp" right away which means to look at the display on the back of the camera and see how you did.  With film there is a much more delayed satisfaction.  I quickly missed the ability to chimp.

I had the film developed at a good local camera store.  They developed the roll and scanned it to digital images on a CD. I thought that the digital images were scanned a bit too bright.  The blacks were not a rich black. I also sensed a bit of a sepia tone to them. In the end, the results were comparable to a modern digital camera.  The most important thing to me is the feeling that comes across from the image.  They are both good tools. 

Technically, there are a lot more images possible with digital than with film.  One of the first things that I noticed when I was shooting with film was that I no longer had control over the ISO.  The film comes with a standard ISO setting and that is it.  The ISO setting on a digital camera, which is just a sensitivity to light setting is controllable on the fly in digital land.

One benefit of film is that it forces you to be more methodical about what you are shooting.  It costs money every time you click the shutter button.  I realize in hindsight that I do the same thing in digital photography probably because I started with film.  If digital-only photographers had to put a quarter in a jar for every time they clicked the shutter button then they would probably slow down and be more methodical, too.  I've actually taken my digital camera off of single frame mode and onto high automatic just to experiment.  Maybe being more intuitive than methodical has its advantages, too?

In the final analysis, I think that I'll just keep the digital around.  I might continue to experiment with film but, digital suites my needs much better right now.  It was a fun experiment anyway.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Change in Direction

I'm changing the direction of Bill Mellett Photography.  It's the next step in the evolution of the business as part of my own personal growth.

When I first launched my photography business it was all about taking action towards living a dream.  That dream was to earn a living doing one of the things that I most enjoy  which is taking photographs.  It's my attempt at "the persuit of happiness.”

The other things that I most enjoy doing are flying and lending my flying ability to volunteer with the CAP doing emergency services work.  We have a fleet of aircraft owned by the US Air Force and we use them to find downed aircraft, lost hikers and other missions primarily for the Air Force and Homeland Security.  Lately, we have been getting a lot of missions to photograph things like the aftermath of Hurricanes Rita and Katrina, the Gulf Oil Spill and some other things.

Well, the CAP figured out that I’m pretty good with a camera so, first I became part of the Aerial Photography team.  At first I was not excited about the idea of giving up a pilot's seat position for a back seat aircrew position.  But, that did not turn out to really be the case.  Now I am in charge of the whole Aerial Photography Program at my squadron.

In my work on Aerial Photography for CAP I discovered that I really like it.  I get to do the two things that I love the most of all at the same time. I appreciate the role that aerial photography played in early aviation and that aviation played in photography.  I believe that I am unique as both a photographer and an aviator in my passion and capabilities in both areas.  

I like it so much in fact that I am going to focus Bill Mellett Photography on Aerial Photographic Art.  I'm going to train my two passions on one unified effort.

I don’t have it all worked out yet but, the change of direction means that from a business point of view, I am going to focus on editorial work and sales of fine art.  I plan on doing some personal projects in North Texas to build up my portfolio in this area.  Then I am going to try and connect with art directors and publishers to get my work published. 

On the fine art side, I will produce an inventory of prints and try to sell them on-line and in person. I might self publish a small number of books and try to sell them at local venues.

The audience that I am targeting on the editorial side will be magazines, visitors bureaus, real estate professionals and anyone else who needs imagery of the areas that I will cover or that they employ me to cover.  I would love to see my work on the cover of Texas Highways Magazine, for example.  On the fine art side, I imagine my audience to be anyone with a special connection to the areas that I will cover.  I can imagine tourists to Dallas appreciating my aerial photographs of the city. 

This decision did not come lightly to me.  I’ve built up a client and partner base serving a small geographic area that I feel very loyal and imensely gratful to.  Without my clients, partners and friends help it would not be possible for me to have the courage to take this next bold step.  I’m not going anywhere.  I will still be there to service any of my existing base for whatever photographic needs they have and want me to handle it.  It would truly be my honor and I’ll continue to punt business back their way when I can.  I'll still volunteer my services to local charities.

I’m glad that fractured parts of my life are starting to dovetail together.  The next big challenge will be to develop the vision for my work.  I have some ideas that I'm exited to get started on but, I’ll leave that for now and save it for another blog post.

Monday, January 31, 2011

The iPhone Camera

There has been a recent trend in photography away from the ever increasingly more powerful computer technology in our DSLR cameras and even computer chips in our lenses to let us take tack sharp images even if our hands are a bit shaky. Any modern digital SLR can take incredibly sharp, accurate images even in very low light. They are really wonderful.

The problem is that this gee wiz science has been muscling out the art aspect of photography. It's been a little bit of a sterilization of the media. People get caught up in the fascination with the technology and forget about the art.

The quiet movement is called "The Best Camera" as in the best camera is the one that you have with you. Nowadays we all walk around with cameras attached to our cell phones. The beauty is that you can almost always be quick on the draw with it. A DSLR on the other hand is a fairly big thing that you tend to have with you only occasionally. Photography is art and the whole point is to get people to be creative and create art.

I know that I have had a lot of fun with my handy camera. A couple of Fridays ago I was in my office, not really in the mood to do any office stuff. So, I popped off some of the keys to my keyboard and rearranged them so that I got the letters TGIF to be together. Then I shot it with my iPhone just for fun.

I also like it because as I get more serious about my photography, a DSLR represents more serious work. When I've got the big gun out then that means that I have a purpose. It might be a real shoot for a paying job or it might just mean to hone my skill a little bit more for when I am shooting for real. Kind of like Tiger Woods hitting a bucket of golf balls, if I dare put myself anywhere near his category.

Cell phones are also really little computers that, by the way you can also talk to people with. That means that you can also program them. There are some really powerful applications for the iPhone that are a blast.

One of my favorites is Hipstamatic. Hipstamatic mimics old film cameras. You can change cameras and films that it mimics and just have a lot of fun with it.

As far as editing goes, photoshop has an app that is very powerful for a cell phone application. The best part is that it is free. The Best Camera also has an app that is not free but has some cool tools to quickly punch up a photo.

All of the photos on this page were shot and edited entirely with an iPhone.

I encourage everyone to unleash the inner artist and try some of these things. You've got nothing to lose.

Click the badge below to see my whole gallery of iPhone photos.