As I went through the last batch of images from my shoot at the Valiant Air Command's Warbird Museum, I was hoping to do something special with the images I shot of an F/A-18 Hornet on display within one of the museum's hangars. The F/A-18 Hornet is the Big Dog of the Blue Angels' aircraft, the latest, greatest aircraft they are (or at least were) flying in air shows. Somehow, a static image in a hangar, cluttered up by other planes and paraphernalia, just didn't feel right to me. If there ever was a time to push the envelope and tap into what little creativity I have, this was it.
This is the base image I had with which to work. I shot numerous images of the jet after shooting this one by walking around and triggering a flash remotely, and one option I had for a final image was to layer some of those exposures over the top of this one and brushing in the flash highlights to augment the lighting. But, this was something I had already done on a couple of other aircraft images so I didn't want to reprise something I'd already done. Cutting the the F/A-18 out of it's background and dropping it into a different background was my next thought, but I'd already been there, done that with an F86 Sabre so that seemed lame. Then a thought crossed my mind - why not do that but create an entire squadron of F/A-18's on a separate background? That was the ticket.
I found a background that I thought would work and ran it through Perfect Effects to adjust the way it looked. Using the Transform feature in Photoshop after enlarging and stretching the canvas, I adjusted the perspective and cropped the background with enough room to fit a squadron of planes and keep the horizon on the upper third of the image (Rule of Thirds, don't-cha know).
Next came the process of selecting the F/A-18 and creating a New Layer With Mask. Bippity, boppety, boop, Quick Select here, Refine Edge there, Brush in/Brush out and the selection was ready for Perfect Effects. In Perfect Effects, I added Clarity, Tonal Contrast and HDR Exaggerated Edges & Tone.
I dropped the F/A-18 into the background, duplicated the layer five times to create a total of six aircraft and began moving them around as I tried to decide which way to position them. After deciding where to position them, I adjusted each F/A-18 layer with the Transform feature's Perspective, Skew, Distort, Rotate and Scale tools to hopefully make the squadron appear to be parked in the desert landscape. With the Burn tool, I burned in some shadows beneath each plane to further the illusion.
Bingo. A squadron of F/A-18 Blue Angel jets waiting to take off and do their thing. Now if only we could see them fly again....