APEX Insider: Mastering Aviation Photography with Alister Thorpe

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Learn how London-based automotive and aviation photographer photographs aircraft cabin interiors and what his recent work with British Airways entailed.

APEX insider is made possible by the support of Global Eagle

Host: Maryann Simson – @jetwayMJ
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Hi everybody, you're watching APEX
Insider, the video series bringing you insight and opinions from the world of
aviation. This week we're going to be talking about aviation photography and
learning how a seasoned pro gets breathtaking images of aircraft and
aircraft interiors. APEX Insider is made possible by the support of Global Eagle.
Connect, Entertain, Empower with innovation from Global Eagle.
I'm your host Maryann Simson and our guest this week is London-based
automotive and aviation photographer Alister Thorpe, welcome Alister. — Thank you very much Maryann, it's a pleasure to be here. — Thank you for joining us. Now Alister, you've
been photographing the machines that move us for quite some time now, how did that all get started? How did you become an automotive and an aviation
photographer? — Well, it began like all great things, it began at home. My father
built a darkroom at home and that generated my initial interest in
photography and it grew from there really, and so I went into the world of assisting, learned my profession and then
started out as a portrait photographer. — Okay, so I know the the portrait
photography evolved into automotive before you got into aviation, so can you
tell us a little bit about some of your automotive work and how that led to the
aviation work? — Of course, yes. So the automotive element of my work like all
things in photography you really have to have an empathy with your subject and as
a young boy I was always keen on cars and racing and so I lent myself quite
well to it and learned how to photograph cars first of all outside and then in
the studio and things became you know I came up through the ranks and
suddenly I started getting phone calls from big car companies to photograph
their exteriors and their interiors you know and in turn, the interior element of
cars of course has some similarity to the world of aviation where the
study of ergonomics and the design of someone's seated area where they're
going to be for quite a while comes into play. That was how it it sort of
transformed. — Okay, so how long ago then, I know that you've done some
extensive work with British Airways, so how did that come to be? How long ago did that start and can tell us a little bit about that
brief or that project? — Yes, so it began when British Airways started buying
Dreamliners, 787 and A380 Airbus' and were having their cabins designed
by you know a top British design company called forpeople, who in turn called me
in to photograph these new cabins that were being designed for British Airways
and that was actually how I got started in the world of aviation, so
straight in at the deep end. — Alright, so you've done the 787 — Yeah — But that's
not the only aircraft type that you've photographed for them. — No. I've done quite a few of the Airbus',
A320, A321, 777 for Boeing and you know quite a few of the wide-bodied and
narrow-bodied jets, yeah. — Okay and and which different classes did your photograph — Well, for example with British Airways they have World Traveller, World Traveller Plus, Club and
First Class, so four very different briefs from the design teams and four
very different environments, so that's something that as a photographer I have
to really record and show to the public. — Okay, so why don't you talk
us through the process a little bit, because I understand it's
quite a technically challenging brief to photograph an aircraft interior and
I imagine the airlines are very discerning, they're very specific about
what they want to show or what they want to convey through those pictures. —
That's absolutely true, they are very specific about what they want you to
record, but I think in the case of British Airways, if you think about their
their emblem, their motto 'To fly, to serve', they're looking to really put
the emphasis on service and quality of service and if I was to say anything
about British Airways I would say they hang their hat on that quality label, so
the photographs have really got to represent that quality which you know
which is why my job is quite difficult sometimes you know you have to take a
space and maximize it and make it look as beautiful as possible, but within the
realms of, it's got to be realistic otherwise you know if you were a frequent flyer and you get onboard an aeroplane and
it's not like it is in the pictures then you'll be disappointed. — Okay, what
about some specifics, I mean with some of the different cabins, the different
classes, when we were chatting a little bit before this interview you discussed
some lighting, some of the challenges of shooting within a smaller environment —
Yes. — Even something as little as the wind outside moving the plane can affect
the shot, so what are some of those specific challenges and how do you work
around those? — Yeah, so there are many variables. It's obviously a confined
space, so you have to work in a very methodical way and you know that
includes for example bringing models onto the aeroplane, if you're on a narrow-bodied jet you know there's only one aisle, you you have to be very procedural
and of course if you have lights up there's lots of health and safety.
Sometimes the plane will have 13 Amp power, sometimes it won't, so you need to
use battery operated equipment for most applications, you've got to have two
of everything because if something breaks you can't call something else in,
it won't be there, you've got to get it through passport control and it's not
going to happen so the logistics are very important and all of that has got to happen before I make a nice photograph, and then of course
planes are expensive to keep on the ground, so I have to work quickly
and I have to work through a shot list, I have to think about the different, for
example, color accents of a particular cabin, let's take Club class
with British Airways, they like a cool blue accent with that particular cabin,
if I go into First Class it's slightly warmer and so on, plus all the
styling associated with that, it's quite complex. — Okay and just going further onto that point I guess are there any tips and tricks that you would give not
only for people who are trying to capture the ambience of the space of an
entire cabin, but many of our viewers would be manufacturers or producers of
specific cabin parts of the in-flight entertainment systems or the seat
fabrics or maybe the overhead bins, so you know how do you get a great feel for
the overall cabin but then if you wanted to focus in on a certain product and
highlight it, how would one do that? — So, for the overall views I would say get
back as far as you can, you know in my case we often put a camera inside one of
the overhead bins to simply maximize the space, but for closer-up shots of
let's say an in-flight entertainment system or even an armrest that has a
little you know popup section and a table comes out, then obviously you know
to get in closer for the camera. I would say have a tripod, use the
daylight and also use the mood lighting in the plane because it's been
designed by somebody so if you turn it on and dim it, it can look very
attractive so you know that's something we have to do, we have to work through
all the different lighting scenarios on onboard a plane. It's all there
for a reason. — And what about in post-production? I
know first of all you talked about a layering technique that you used with
British Airways, so maybe you can talk a bit about that a little bit, how did you maximize the value out of maybe one static shot, but then also in
post-production is there anything that we can do with levels or filters are
very popular now for everybody on Instagram and snapchat you know, is there a quick
fix in post-production to maybe take an image and make it shine? — To answer the
first part of your question — It's a tricky one — No that's alright, we use a
layering technique where I lock the camera off on a tripod and then we work
through all the different lighting scenarios, the seat positions, the table
positions, magazines in and out, coffee cup or wine glass in all those scenarios,
daylight, night time, we work them all on one camera position and by doing that
we're then able to say to the client, whether it be British Airways or any
other airline, is we say now if you like you can choose this, you can have this
with mood lighting, you can have it as a daylight scenario with or without
talent, which is another word for a model, and so on, so it gives the client
plenty of potential to get variation from from a shoot where maybe they've
had the plane on the ground for eight hours or
something and we give them a lot of variety and then the second part of your
question is a retoucher comes in and he or she facilitates that process of
putting the layers together in Photoshop. — Okay so that's a whole separate job
then? — Absolutely and it's a very, very important job. People don't realize how
important that is, you know we live in a world where CGI has had its, it will
always be there but there's a moves back towards conventional
photography at the moment because of the sense of reality, people like
reality and so what I do is I give them reality, but I need a retoucher to
piece it all together for me. — Alright, well Alister unfortunately
we've run out of time today, but thank you so much for joining us. — It's been a pleasure. — Right and if people want to get a hold of you in real life, how can they go about
doing that? — Well, I suppose the best way would be by my website which is
www.alisterthorpe.com. — And also, don't forget to visit www.apex.aero to learn more about the Airline Passenger Experience Association and what we do, and subscribe to this YouTube channel for more great aviation interviews and videos.

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