An Afternoon at the Torrey Pines Gliderport
This past Sunday was a beautiful day; Nice mild conditions with blue skies and scattered clouds. Due to the favorable conditions, my wife and I decided to travel somewhere near the beach to enjoy the weather, so we headed down to the Torrey Pines Gliderport to catch some sun and enjoy the paragliders.
How to get this type of shot
For safety reasons, there is an area designated for pilots only which is adjacent to the take off and landing area. Therefore, close access to the paragliders is somewhat restricted. I ended up shooting most of my photos from a single location just outside of the restricted area (see below). This turned out well for the camera/lens combo I was shooting as almost all of my photos did not require much cropping.
Depending on the angle of the subject to the camera and the sun, the paragliders were slightly to severely backlit for most of the afternoon. Therefore, I chose to shoot some of the images with my Speedlite. So despite shooting fast action, I had to set my shutter speed to the maximum flash sync speed of my camera, 1/200s (High speed sync would have too greatly reduced my flash output). If I go into 100% pixel view, I can see some motion blur in the photos with slower shutter speeds, but IMO this beats having an underexposed subject or a totally overexposed background. Due to slow flash recycle times (I believe the Canon 600EX-RT has around a 4s recycle time after a full discharge) I had to be more selective with my shutter finger on some of my shots and could not merely tear off 6 fps. Despite being light on the trigger, I still ended up with around 220 exposures that afternoon.
Another challenge I had was during post processing. I used a circular polarizer to darken the sky and to reduce reflections from the wings. Depending on what direction I pointed my camera and what orientation I shot (landscape versus portrait) the degree of polarization varied from shot to shot. I attempted to even out the saturation and brightness of the sky as much as possible during post processing. Had I not shot with the polarizer, many of my shots would have been severely washed out by the 3pm sun, so despite the extra effort it caused, I felt it was worth it.
About 30 minutes into my shooting, Brian, one of the paragliders flying that day, asked me if I could take some photos of him in action. He must have seen me wielding one of Canon’s whites and pushing buttons and twirling all sorts of dials so he probably assumed I knew what I was doing (I can fake it pretty well). This was an excellent opportunity for me to take a photo journalistic approach to document Brian’s day paragliding (Above three shots). I tried to get photos of him during his prep phase, take-off and, most importantly, in mid-flight. I had a great time and hopefully Brian got some photos that he can proudly share. A win-win session for the both of us. He has since offered to take me “Behind the line” to the pilot prep area. I plan on taking him up on his offer in the future, and hopefully, I can get some better photos with the increased access next time.
LocationTorrey Pines Gliderport in La Jolla California (Coordinates: 32.890127,-117.251286)
As you can see I was very busy taking photos this weekend. Please stay tuned for another post tomorrow!