Magazine Article


The Mission


The Mission

Text and Image by André Costantini
Technical and creative Supervisor, Tamron USA, Inc.

The idea for this image came to me one evening while watching a performance piece a friend created, involving modern dance movement and WWII film footage of flying planes. I enjoy shooting performers of all sorts, especially when I can incorporate elements of their work into photographs. In this case, I had a pretty good idea of how I wanted the final image to look. All I needed was an old plane and a great sunset. I filed this away in the back of my mind and passively searched for the location.

Three months later, I was driving in northwest New Jersey and passed this little airstrip. Upon seeing this old plane, immediately I knew this was the location I was looking for. Several weeks later, we drove out to the location on a Friday evening hoping for the shot I had envisioned months before. We equipped our borrowed van with lighting, film, props, costumes, and even a camera. As we soon discovered, our loaner van was also equipped with no gas and a bum gas gauge.

I knew we had encountered our first obstacle when we were coasting to the side of the Interstate, fuelless and frustrated. Luckily a good Samaritan-Greg, a Navy SEAL-happened our way and gave us enough fuel to get to a gas station (and gave the ladies in the crew a lot to talk about). Our second setback: timing. We had arrived during the opening weekend of the local county fair.

Sitting in heavy traffic, however, did give us the opportunity to watch the beautiful sunset we had hoped to use in our photograph. Unfortunately, we experienced it from the interior of our van! By the time we reached our destination, it was dark. Having made the grueling trek, overcoming unforeseen obstacles, we were determined to get our picture.

I took out my Bronica ETRSi and slapped on the Polaroid back. We set up two Lumedyne strobes; one to light the plane with the standard reflector, and one to light our young model, with a white umbrella. Because the sun would have set behind her, and the plane and the girl would have been completely in shadow anyway, we lit the scene the way we would have even if there had been an actual sunset. We metered the strobes, fired off a couple of Polaroids to check our lighting ratios and coverage, and then quickly switched over to film backs.

I had determined ahead of time that I would use the PE 40mm lens, which is comparable to a 24mm in 35mm format. The wide-angle lens made the model more prominent in the image and also let more of the sky and plane into the frame. I wanted the subject really close to the lens for additional drama. We shot at f/11 for 1/125 second, which gave enough depth-of- field to keep our subject in focus, while adding a moody soft focus to the plane.

We missed the sun the day we shot. Rather than reshoot, I decided to take advantage of technology to create the final image. So where did the sky come from? In the following weeks, I kept a Canon A-2E with a Tamron AF 24-70mm zoom with me. Any sunset I saw became a contender for adding to the image.

All of the skies were shot at the 24mm setting. Because the 24mm on a 35mm camera and the 40mm on a 6x4.5 camera provide similar fields of view, it would not look unusual if the two images were combined. Joining similar perpectives creates the illusion of a single image. To recreate depth-of-field, we just had to blur the sky. When I had found an ideal sunset, I scanned both images and combined them on my Macintosh G3 using Adobe Photoshop. At last we had our final image.