Shooting aircraft in flight..

Discussion in 'Photography & Video' started by Vladdo, Jan 27, 2019.

  1. Vladdo

    Vladdo Member

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    I wrote this piece for a recent magazine article but they only grabbed a sentence so rather than waste what I wrote, figured it may be of interest to some with the upcoming Avalon Airshow.


    The most common question I get asked is, “What gear do you use?” I’m a Canon shooter and use 2 bodies; a 1DX Mark II + 500mm f4.0 II lens + 2.0x Extender III and a 5D Mark IV + 100-400 II lens + 1.4x Extender III. The 5D IV is great for take-offs, formations and larger aircraft and the 1DXII is used for single aircraft at dynamic angles without cropping.

    My biggest tip is practice. Practice until you can't get it wrong. Get to know your camera and experiment. Learn what each setting does and how it effects your images. If you have a local airfield, spend some time each week practicing as a big event can spell disaster for those unprepared.

    I keep my camera settings simple and shoot high speed continuous, AI Servo mode with shutter priority, auto ISO and 61-point auto selection auto focus. For take-offs I shoot 1/50th/sec to get a full disc. Aircraft in flight I use 1/100th for props, 1/250th for turboprops, 1/1250th for jets and 1/30th for rotorcraft. If starting out, aim for 1/320th sec and lower it once you hone your technique.

    Light plays a huge factor in the quality of photos. Overcast days usually result in flat, uninspiring images and bright blue skies with the sun at your back is best. Golden hour light, fluffy clouds, smoke or backlit subjects can produce some amazing images. Crop images to ‘rule of thirds’ and don’t be afraid to break the norm. Chopping off wings can give you extra wow factor provided it’s obvious in composition.

    I shoot in RAW format as I can recover detail that would otherwise be lost. Specifically adjusting shadows and highlights can transform photos from dark blobs to works of art. White balance and colour profiles are key. My RAW editor is Adobe Lightroom and I use templates to edit large numbers of images quickly and consistently.

    Lastly, use the power of Facebook and Instagram to get your photos seen by more than just family and friends. It can be a powerful networking tool to broaden industry contacts and ultimately, your audience.

    Duncan Fenn.

    www.duncanfenn.com
    https://www.facebook.com/drfphoto/


    Grumman Avenger VH-MML. Canon 5D4, Canon 100-400mm II + 1.4x extender. 280mm @ 1/60th sec, f/13, ISO 100.
    [​IMG]


    Robinson R44 VH-WDR. Canon 1DXII, Canon 500 II + 2.0x extender. 1000mm @ 1/50th sec, f/9, ISO 125.
    [​IMG]

    Boeing F/A-18 Hornet. A21-33. Canon 5D4, Canon 500II + 1.4x extender. 700mm @ 1/640, f/5.6, ISO 320.
    [​IMG]


    Wolf Pitts. Canon 5D4, Canon 100-400mm II + 1.4x extender. 560mm @ 1/50th sec, f/16, ISO 100.
    [​IMG]

    CAC Sabre. A94-352. Canon 5D4, Canon 500 II + 2.0x extender. 1000mm @ 1/1250th sec, f/9, ISO 500.
    [​IMG]
     
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  2. die_piggy

    die_piggy Member

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    Thanks for the pointers, I went to Avalon last year and didn't get much worth keeping. I'm going to be trying all your tips in the coming months!
     
  3. money_killer

    money_killer Member

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    Nice pics not bad at all
     
  4. phreeky82

    phreeky82 Member

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    Interesting to see some different techniques/tips from others. I've been to Avalon a few times before and I'm going again this year. Like most of us I started out before auto-ISO was a thing and so traditionally have used either M or Av mode - I don't like my aperture fluctuating. Av mode for jets, M mode for prop/rotor blur. The last airshow I attended (small regional one) however I did use M-mode with auto-ISO and liked it.

    My biggest tip for panning is to focus on feet placement. Position yourself so you're facing straight ahead where you expect to nail your shot (i.e. mid-pan), then twist your body to face to approach. Otherwise you'll find yourself all twisted up as you're getting your ideal shots.

    Some other tips:
    - Don't forget your background. Some nice ones from Vladdo there, especially the Hornet.
    - Composition. It can be easy to get obsessed with detail/sharpness and so crop in tight, however often it's the vortices, other trails or even heat waves that add the motion/energy to the shot and need to be included.
    - Don't spray the shutter too hard. Let the cameras AF work between shots, especially those on older or more AF-challenged gear, and wait for your shot to come to you.
     
  5. mtma

    mtma Member

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    Is 200mm equivalent going to be insufficient for an airshow for some form of decent shots?
     
  6. phreeky82

    phreeky82 Member

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    On what body? What lens exactly?

    Generally you can get some good shots at 200mm (on APS-C), but you'll often be wishing for more reach and will be cropping heavily.
     
  7. mtma

    mtma Member

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    My camera's a Pentax Q7. Didn't mean to lower the level of discussion with my toy! The lens I'm thinking of is the telephoto zoom, maxes out at 50mm native which is about 230mm full frame in reach. Changing systems isn't on the table right now.

    Beyond this the options left would be manual lenses, which leads me to 350 or 470mm eqv. primes. I have zooms that reach here but they don't render well enough for my liking.
     
  8. phreeky82

    phreeky82 Member

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    There is no harm in giving it a go, but yes you'll be reach-limited a lot of the time. If you spend time focusing (duh) on the larger aircraft and some formations then you might be happy with the results. Otherwise spend your time on photos of the static aircraft, not to mention putting the camera down and remembering to watch, take it in and enjoy the show!
     
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  9. Derfman

    Derfman Member

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    Nice shots as usual Duncan, and great avation specific tips.
    Can you please shed more light on when and where to shoot from at Avalon?
    I will probably be down this year for the first time over Saturday and Sunday.

    Is there an actual flight schedule up anywhere yet?
     
  10. Sico Music

    Sico Music Member

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    Clickbait title, came here expecting a question about planes or drones being shot at.
     
  11. OP
    OP
    Vladdo

    Vladdo Member

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    My tips for Avalon.

    Get up early. Like real early. Plan to be at the gate by 7am for when the gates open at 8. It's then a mad rush to get to the fence line where you can set up your 'camp'. Bring your chair, backpack, plenty of sunscreen, earplugs, water bottle.

    [​IMG]

    That said, this is where I usually set up shop for the day as it's where most stuff rotates so you get a nice 3/4 shot over the piano keys. It's probably a bit too far down the runway for anything landing but I prefer full power take off shots.
    Just to the left of the marked area is show central. This is where the media area usually sits, as it's on the corner where the main taxi area is. It's also show central, for where the pilots aim as their main point of focus.
    I've never been in the stands so can't really comment, but looking at how far down they are, aircraft have taken off and most aircraft have usually turned around and headed back at the southern end.

    If you're only going for 1 day, pick a saturday or sunday and look for the best weather. If you're going 2 days, get the friday night alight show and a sat or sun. Admittedly, come 2pm you will be shooting into the sun but that can have benefits provided you use it to your advantage. Long lenses.. crop senses.. backlighting.. you will struggle for light and will end up with silhoulettes but shoot in raw and really try drag the most out of the shadows and highlights.

    I spend 3 days there as you really don't know what the weather is going to be like on any given day. In 2017, there was an hour of humidity during the Raptor show that literally blew my mind. The amount of vapour that we got was extraordinary, combined with backlighting made it perfect for rainbow vapour. First (and maybe) last time I'll ever see it like that but yeah.. you just never know what you're gunna get.

    There's no airshow program as yet, and even the confirmed list 3 weeks out is a bit lacking. That said, I can't imagine the complexity of organising such an event with so many participants, it must be hard to nail down a confirmed list.
     
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  12. spectre257

    spectre257 Member

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    I'll be heading down to Avalon this year too, for the Friday night alight show if you or anyone else is keen to meet up and prop up an OCAU sorta camp?
     
  13. OP
    OP
    Vladdo

    Vladdo Member

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    Not really sure what my movements are at this stage as I've been promised a media pass. I'm hoping to be on the other side of the runway on that friday night (purely for light)..

    But yeah.. should be an awesome weekend..
     
  14. Kevlarman

    Kevlarman Member

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    These tips are awesome, thanks!
     
  15. phreeky82

    phreeky82 Member

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    I've previously always driven to Avalon, any tips for considering public transport from Melbourne CBD?
     
  16. Pbx_Jnr

    Pbx_Jnr Member

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  17. Kung_F00L

    Kung_F00L Member

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    I'm lucky to work in the industry so have access to the trade days.
    Will be there Friday first thing, see what i want to see that is static, then head out to before the public arrive to get my camping chair from the car.
    I usually setup a little further left than vladdos setup area, from memory there is a taxiway between the business units and the end of the runway.

    Be nice if they would cement the program a little more.
    Pretty sure the C130 will do a flare drop at the night show.
    F22 and F35 should be there too.

    BTW. Nice shots vladdo.
     
  18. CaptainHappy

    CaptainHappy Member

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    Thanks Pbx_Jnr, I have been reading this thread. Love all of Vladdo's work. Great post by the way Duncan :thumbup:.
    I won't be back in Aus until May this year, so will miss the show.
     
  19. jackdaw

    jackdaw Member

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    Though I live close - My first airshow.
    Will be using 1DX with 500mm f4.0 II and 5D with 100-400 II. 1.4x converter too.

    Should I go handheld or bring the monopod for runway takeoff shots?
     
  20. phreeky82

    phreeky82 Member

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    I wouldn't want to drag around a monopod, but I guess it depends on how mobile you want to be. That being said I'm not lucky enough to have a 500 F/4. 500 on the 1D with 1.4x on hand sounds like a good setup to me, albeit a relatively heavy one.

    I'll be shooting with my 400 F/5.6 again (I think the 3rd Avalon it has attended), on an APS-C body. Wider shots using the FF body with a 'normal' zoom.
     

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