The Grand Plan

May 15, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

 

  Do you plan your airshow photo outings? Perhaps you should, it may save you some frustration and help you get the shots you’re after. Your plan can be as simple or detailed as you like if it works for you. The important thing with your plan is to keep it flexible. Stuff happens. At airshows, that stuff is usually the weather. The rest of this article will be a walk-through of my plan for my next airshow.

  The very first thing I do is pin-point the airfield on an app that displays both a map and the position of the sun and it’s light. Sun Calc is an excellent web based app for this. There are also several apps for your smart phone that do the same thing. By knowing where the sun is, I can position myself to take advantage of the light.

  Next, I’ll check the weather forecast. I want to know what the cloud coverage is going to be since it will affect the brightness of the sky and my decisions about exposure. I also want to know which direction the wind will be from, since it can affect the direction of take-offs and landings and I can take that into consideration when I choose a location to shoot from.

  My next airshow is a World War II weekend complete with re-enactors. I’ll get there early, hopefully beating the crowd, and photograph the aircraft on the ground.  I’ll also wander through the re-enactors ‘area and get shots of them. My personal goal is to photograph the re-enactors going about their business, not posed.  When people see the photos, I want them to question if they were taken today or seventy years ago.

 

This is only one of two Avro Lancasters still flying today.LancasterThe Canadian Warbird Heritage Museum's Avro Lancaster Mk X. This is one of only two Avro Lancasters still flying today.


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  All of the flying aircraft are propeller-driven except for the Me-262 jet. Low shutter speeds and very accurate panning is called for here. The sun will be in front of me all day. There is no way to put the sun at my back for this show. The flying aircraft will be backlit against a washed out sky. This is very important information. It lets me know that I’ll need to add light (add exposure comp) to what the camera’s light meter is telling me, otherwise the aircraft will be very dark or silhouetted in the sky. How much exposure comp? I’ll add as much as I can get away with, without blowing-out the highlights.

  I’ll shoot all of the propeller-driven aircraft at ISO 100. My target shutter speeds, depending on the type of aircraft; ~1/100 - 1/160 for take-offs. In-flight; ~1/125 - 1/250. Landings; ~1/125 or as low as I dare. Taxi; ~1/60 or as low as I dare. Stationary with the prop spinning; 1/30 or lower.  For the jet, I’ll up the shutter speed and set an aperture value of f/7.1-9. I’ll probably need to turn the ISO up to 200 to get a comfortably fast shutter speed. At ISO 200 I’ll accept whatever shutter speed I can get. The aircraft will be back-lit; I don’t want to lose anymore image quality by upping the ISO further. 

 

deHavilland DH 82, Dragon Rapide on take off.Royal Rapidede Havilland DH 89 Dragon Rapide on take off.

Military Aviation Museum
de Havilland DH 89 Dragon Rapide
NX89DH / G-ADDD
Painted in Guard's Colours to replicate His Royal Highness Prince Edward's DH 89.

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For commercial use, please email me through my
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  I want to nail take-off and landing shots. There will be trees in the background and little of that washed-out sky. The trees will blur giving the photos a sense of motion and direct the viewer’s eye to the sharp aircraft. For the in-flight photos, I’ll zoom-in tight on the planes, preferably on the cockpits and the pilots. I want to fill the photo with the plane, which will help block a lot of and de-emphasize the ugly sky.

  I’ll stick around once all of the flying is done too. Most folks head for home so I’ll again have views of the parked aircraft without a crowd around them. If I’m not exhausted by then, I’ll break out the tripod for some sunset/ twilight photos.

   That’s my plan. What’s yours?

Merlin MagicMerlin MagicP-51D Mustang, Double Trouble Two, starts up the Packard V-1650-7 a license built version of the Rolls Royce Merlin engine.


To purchase a high quality print or digital download for private use, click the cart on the right, above the thumbnails.

For commercial use, please email me through my
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