Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Blue Angels And A funny Animal Stock Photo

The Blue Angels And Stock Photography
From my Sausalito studio I can catch glimpses of the Blue Angels as they make their practice runs for Fleet Week.  Whenever they fly overhead I have this vague sense of guilt that I am not out there photographing them. Last year at this time I decided that I would figure out something I could do with them for stock images. I even went as far as to pull out my longest lens (Canon 100-400 zoom) and shoot a few frames. I downloaded the images and pulled them up on my screen, then sat there puzzling?  Speed was the obvious concept with this image, but how could I take this further? What could I do to create an image that went beyond the obvious and the doubtless hundreds, maybe thousands, of flickr images of the blue angels?

Focus, Fire and Duck!
I began to go through a folder I keep of interesting photos that I think have potential, but pictures that I haven't figured out what to do with yet.  I came across an image of a duck in flight.  I had been on that little tourist train at the San Diego Zoo, with that same zoom lens at the ready, when two ducks came flying alongside.  I frantically tried to focus and fire and managed to squeeze off three shots before they were gone. To my utter amazement two of the tree images were actually sharp! That never seems to happen for me in those kinds of moments.

A Duck, A Jet Fighter, And Photoshop
At any rate, here is this duck image, which just jumps out at me.  I can put the duck in the formation of jets. If nothing else it will be a pretty funny picture.  This poor duck working like hell to keep up! But the shots I had of the jets were just too far away and they just weren't working.  Then I remembered that in my studio I had, packed away, a realistic model of a jet fighter.  It was left over from some project that I know longer remember. Luckily the box was labeled and in sight.  I pulled the model out and had a friend hold it up while I photographed it.  I used a clipping path in Photoshop to silhouette the plane and strip it into a sky background.  I did the same with the duck. I duplicated the plane image several times, positioned the elements into a formation that seemed to work, and then applied some motion blur to disguise some less-than realistic detail.

Believable Isn’t One Of My Criteria
This whole process took about two hours to go through. Isn't digital great? I uploaded the image to the Getty portal. Three weeks later they informed me that the image wasn't believable and rejected it.  Wasn't believable? Duh! “Believable” however, isn’t one of my criteria.  One test I have for my stock photos is, can I put a headline to it.  In this case it might be “Having A Hard Time Keeping Up?” or “Feeling The Need For Speed?”.  OK, marginal.  But another test I have is do people smile when they see it? And the answer with this image has been yes.

Funny Animal Pictures And Photographer’s Choice
I could have followed-up my Getty effort with their Photographer’s Choice program, in which case as long as the technical criteria are met they will take the image (and I pay a small fee).  However, in this case, because the image is pretty much a “funny animal” picture, and I was feeling a little miffed at Getty, I submitted the image to Kimball Stock, an agency specializing in, of all things, animals and cars. Maybe I should have had the duck driving a race car! Oh well….


donfarrall said...


What a classic editing miss-step on Getty's part. And to think I have had images accepted with the statement "it's so fake it's cool". Sometimes I really wonder? I can't complain, my accepts rate has been very high, but this is a clever image that would sell. Maybe the editors at Getty are too depressed to have a sense of humor anymore. I like it, and as you say it's not a hard image to ad a tag line to. Personally I would have gone the PC route, but best of luck with it. Made me smile.


John Lund said...


I love hearing that it made you smile!
Every agency I work with makes decisions that I don't understand. Oh well....


Unknown said...

JOhn - I like the fact that you started out going in one direction, shooting the Blue Angels, and then went with it as it led you somewhere quite different. It's a great example of the creative process.

Sometimes it is really hard to let go of our first thought, but that can be what opens us to new idea.

Great duck!

John Lund said...


Yes, that is one of the great things about stock...freedom to go with the flow!



Anonymous said...

Perhaps its unimportant, but I'm pretty sure those aren't the Blue Angels. The Blue Angels are bright blue and yellow and are F/A-18's - those appear to be F-16s, which the Air Force Thunderbirds fly.

John Lund said...


You are right, those aren't the blue angels. I started off trying to use a shot of the blue angels but ended up shooting a model airplane instead....