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Exploring Life Flight

March 16, 2011
life flight helicopter

A young boy sits behind the pilot seat in a Life Flight medical helicopter in The Dalles. Copyright Mark B. Gibson/The Dalles Chronicle

An open house at the Celilo Cancer Center in The Dalles included this Life Flight helicopter. The landing pad here is in a circle of buildings, and in summer the winds make landing a highly-skilled endeavor. These pilots are good.

Events like this can be a challenge to photograph in an interesting way. There is a lot of “circulating” and “hobnobbing” with lots of community leaders and such. I keep an eye open for interesting aspects of the event, and look for people actually interacting with the items featured in the “open house.” This boy was fascinated with the large amount of equipment crammed inside this medical helicopter.

I metered and exposed for the inside of the helicopter, which was in shadow. I knew this would result in the sunlit portions of the background being severely overexposed: This overexposure was partially removed using a “recovery” setting in the image editor, which uses any surviving detail in any color channel to add detail back into the overexposed areas. (This requires shooting in a “raw” format.)

Some areas remained massively overexposed, with no detail to rescue. These highlight areas have been darkened (burned in) using an image editing program set to burn in highlights. This creates a grey wash over the white areas, and does not add or bring out any additional detail. This graying out of the brightest areas simply directs the eye away from these areas… our eyes are attracted to the brightest points. I also burned in the corners with the same settings, to direct the eye to the subject, something I do with most of my photographs.

Purposeful overexposure is very useful in this sort of situation: I could have exposed for the outside light, and brightened the inside of the helicopter with the image editing program, but the quality would not have been as good: Bringing up shadows creates noise and decreases contrast in the image. I could also have used a flash to fill the helicopter with light… this would likely have worked very well, but would have required more set up time.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. May 13, 2011 08:20

    You are truly an artist. The blue colors in this photo cause the eye to circle around the picture, from one point to the next, until the entire picture has been perused. Stunning.

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