SUGGESTIONS FOR WHAT TO BRING TO AN AIRSHOW
AIRSHOW PHOTO TIPS
(Also checkout my PSA Journal article on "Photographing Airshows" at https://www.digitaldaydreaming.com/psa_airshow.pdf)
After serving on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier and more than 15 years photographing air shows I started to question, “why go again”. Seen it all before, have many images of just about every aircraft and not likely I'll get a better shot. I guess it’s similar to why an aging golfer keeps going back, even after scoring a hole in one. There’s just something about hitting a good shot and exhilaration when the club head's sweet spot hits the ball.
Air show photography presents a myriad of challenges. Among them, choosing the right shutter speed to keep propellers blurred so a plane doesn’t look like a toy hanging from a string. Or the challenge of keeping a fast moving jet in sharp focus. So what are the techniques that contribute to successful air show photography?
First and foremost is using the following proper shutter Speeds:
Shutter Priority mode should be used when shooting propeller planes with consideration for the type of aircraft and specific situation. When some of the old Warbirds are really cranked up to full speed, the shutter can be pushed a little faster. Conversely Idling planes on the ground may need to be slowed below the minimum. The sound of the engines and type of aircraft can often give a hint.
Slow shutter speeds requires a smooth panning technique, without a pause when squeezing the shutter. Using a camera’s burst mode often results in a sharp second or third image where the push of the shutter might be a factor.
Image stabilization or vibration reduction can often be helpful when there is no panning, such as aircraft approaching from a near direct angle or overhead aerobatics. If available, use a lens panning mode when shooting fast moving planes passing by.
Generally, the fastest shutter speed possible is best for shooting jets. A fast shutter combined with a long focal length, however, will result in very shallow depth of field. Unless a camera and lens autofocus system is very quick and accurate, fast moving aircraft can easily end up out of the range of acceptable focus. Set your camera’s Aperture Priority mode between f/8.0 – 11.0 with high enough ISO to maintain a minimum 1/1,500 sec. shutter.
The static displays at airshows also provide a multitude of great photo opportunities. Arrive early and take turns with friends saving a good spot to shoot on the flightline later. Some shows provide up close, early access with "Photo Tour" passes providing opportunities for shots such as the image below and other benefits throughout the day!
Just as that afore mentioned golfer has good days and bad, weather influences, etc., so goes my air show photography. Regardless, there's always the pure beauty of just watching those old war birds fly and memories of my time working on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. More airshow images by “Hutch” can be seen at http://www.DigitalDaydreaming.com/airshows.