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09-10-2021, 05:55 AM   #1
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Any tips for photographing air show?

I'll be going to the "Thunder over New England" airshow tomorrow. I'll be bringing my K-70 along with the HD DA 16-85mm and the HD DA 55-300mm PLM lenses.

I do have experience with using a Panasonic Lumix FX300 bridge camera at previous airshows, but notice that focus is more fiddly with the K-70, so I'm especially looking for tips on focusing or pre-focusing for capturing sharp images of the aircraft during their air demos. Any other advice is welcome such as recommended exposure bias etc. when pointed up at the sky. I do RAW development so can recover blown highlights or shadows somewhat.


Thanks.

09-10-2021, 07:44 AM - 5 Likes   #2
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For propeller aircraft: use Tv and try to keep the shutter speed at or below 1/250 sec in order to have blurred propellers. Flying aircraft with "stopped" propellers look very unrealistic.

For flying displays: use EV +1 or more. Otherwise the aircraft easily become silhouettes. [I originally erroneously wrote -1, sorry]

Generally: don't be afraid to up the iso - it's good to be able to stop down a couple of stops, otherwise the depth of field may be too shallow.

Last edited by LaHo; 09-11-2021 at 02:17 AM.
09-10-2021, 08:29 AM - 1 Like   #3
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I, too, like somewhat blurred props

but others have complained about that in some of my photos

take a look at the exif on these

Photo Opportunity - Information on air show in Topeka KS June 26 and 27 2021 - PentaxForums.com

also look at exif on photos posted here:

post your shots of the airplanes - PentaxForums.com

and here

=planes, trains, boats and automobiles= - PentaxForums.com

if your show features a " heritage flight " be sure to grab a lot of photos

a lot of my photos are cropped btw
09-10-2021, 09:42 AM   #4
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The 55-300 should be fine, just make sure Shake Reduction is on. As far as possible when shooting aircraft in flight, fill the frame. Yes that dot was a rare P-51B in French markings but it’s a dot. Also review your shots to check exposure through the day.

Have a great day, I expect you’ll shoot hundreds of images, so format memory cards before you go!

09-10-2021, 10:58 AM   #5
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Thanks for all the advice. The weather is supposed to be perfect (75°F and clear). Unfortunately, the way the airport is oriented, the sun will be behind the planes in the afternoon. I do prefer the blurry propellers myself, so will try to keep my exposure times at 1/250 or so for the prop planes. I do have 2 memory cards and 3 batteries, so should be all set. I did use TAV for a recent visit to the zoo and that worked out well, so will most likely do the same here.

Any advice on AF settings? Should I use the full 11-point, center weighted 5-point or spot?
09-10-2021, 11:03 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by LaHo Quote
For flying displays: use EV -1 or more. Otherwise the aircraft easily become silhouettes.
Shouldn’t you increase exposure to correct backlit silhouettes not under expose?
09-10-2021, 11:27 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by LaHo Quote
For flying displays: use EV -1 or more.
I think he meant to say +1 or more. You can take a meter reading off a gray airplane on the ground which fills your frame. Make a mental (or physical) note of the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Then, when shooting against the sky, adjust + exposure compensation to give you the same values. Of course not all planes are gray (usually just military planes). For white or brightly colored planes, back off or eliminate + exposure compensation. Or take meter readings on them when they are parked and use those values later when they are flying.

Since flying planes are going to be a considerable distance away from you, my guess is you could get away with middle aperture values (5.6?, 8?) and still have enough DOF. According to this DOF calculator: A Flexible Depth of Field Calculator, with your PLM lens set at 300mm and f/5.6, for a plane 200 feet away your total DOF is 32 feet. If the plane is 300 feet away, your DOF is 72 feet. Change to f/8 and DOF becomes 105 feet. The planes may be more than 300 feet away when flying past, which translates into even more DOF.

For jets you'll want fast shutter speeds for sharp images. Maybe 1/1000 or faster? Just a guess. Panning the camera helps, but I would still want a fast shutter speed. Like LaHo says, don't be afraid to crank up the ISO. I think the K-70 can tolerate it reasonably well. Better to have some noise in the image which can be removed with good software than to have blurry images which can't be fixed.

As far as shake reduction goes, if your shutter speed is faster than the reciprocal of the focal length you are using, I think I would leave it off. Others will have other opinions on this.

09-10-2021, 03:22 PM - 1 Like   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by cdw2000 Quote
I'll be going to the "Thunder over New England" airshow tomorrow. I'll be bringing my K-70 along with the HD DA 16-85mm and the HD DA 55-300mm PLM lenses.

I do have experience with using a Panasonic Lumix FX300 bridge camera at previous airshows, but notice that focus is more fiddly with the K-70, so I'm especially looking for tips on focusing or pre-focusing for capturing sharp images of the aircraft during their air demos. Any other advice is welcome such as recommended exposure bias etc. when pointed up at the sky. I do RAW development so can recover blown highlights or shadows somewhat.


Thanks.
I use manual Focus and trigger the shutter with catch in focus setting. I have photgraphed 6 or 7 'Thunder over the Boardwalk' shows in Atlantic City and have found this gives me the most keepers. Higher Iso to allow smaller aperature is also good advice given by others as is the advice to up the EV to prevent planes being to dark.
09-10-2021, 03:42 PM - 4 Likes   #9
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Airshow success depends as much upon familiarity with the location and format for the show as for 'photo stuff'. Things like knowing where to park so as to be in a good place to shoot from in a timely manner and where the sun will be. Local map study is useful.*

Check predicted weather for gear and appropriate clothing. Avoid comfort distractions.

Use spot exposure verification on similar targets using instant review and histogram BEFORE the show. If you have correct exposure for acft in flight the basic setting isn't going to change from shot to shot unless the lighting changes -- no where near as much as trying to dynamically pan and track the target for auto exposure and focus.

Manually and precisely pre-focusing on static scenery at the show target areas may prove more reliable than AF while panning. Steady speed fly-bys are very predictable. The abrupt changes in flight path are also predictable and occur more toward either end of the runway.

Everyone gets shots perpendicular to the flight line at show-center. Try to set up at the far ends. You may get fewer shots but they will be different taken from 45 degrees angle-off or from the ends of the flight-line and may involve less panning motion.

Look for locations that capture the action on the ground without spectators in the scenery. Get to the acft parking areas early. An occasional shot of the folks watching the action is a nice change. Ground level shots energize taxi scenes.

If you can stage off the end of the active runway AFTER the show you may get some fine beak-to-beak shots of departing show acft.



You learn a lot the first time you attend any airshow location -- so go back often.

Lots of pics to study at -- All Photos (page 1) - FlightAware
and right here on PF Aviation Social Group -- Aviation!
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09-11-2021, 02:18 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by UncleVanya Quote
Shouldn’t you increase exposure to correct backlit silhouettes not under expose?
You are quite right - I meant to say +1, i.e. to increase exposure by a stop or more. Sorry.
09-11-2021, 02:44 AM   #11
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Top tip - make sure your sensor is spotlessly clean. Dust bunnies show up really well in clear sky shots,
09-11-2021, 04:06 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by cdw2000 Quote
Thanks for all the advice. ...

Any advice on AF settings? Should I use the full 11-point, center weighted 5-point or spot?
I like spot

[ I have photographed 1 air show ]

Especially with multiple planes in the air

Remember that if you photograph jets only no one should complain about the blur of the props

Above All [ pun intended ] Enjoy the Experience
09-12-2021, 10:03 AM - 1 Like   #13
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Thanks for the advice all. It came in handy. The weather was perfect - initially clear blue skies, but some high clouds came in later to add a little interest to the backgrounds. As predicted the sun position was not ideal, but I still got a large number of great shots. I took over 1,100 photos and after an initial culling, I still have nearly 800 to go through. I would say that the hit rate on focus was better than 80%. Exposure a little less, but all correctable in ACDSee. I will post some photos to the Aviation section once I get through the processing/final culling. All in all, I'm very pleased with the performance of the camera and the 55-300mm PLM lens.

I shot entirely in TAV mode with Aperture set to F/11 and exposure set to different values depending on the type of aircraft was in the air at the time. I found 1/250 good for prop blur, but not fast enough to get the aircraft sharp. I found a good compromise around 1/400 -1/500 second. For the Thunderbirds I used 1/1000 sec. I varied the exposure bias from +1 EV to 1-2/3 EV.

OK. Here's one photo as a teaser.
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Last edited by cdw2000; 09-12-2021 at 10:25 AM.
09-12-2021, 12:47 PM - 1 Like   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by cdw2000 Quote
Thanks for the advice all. It came in handy. . . . OK. Here's one photo as a teaser.
If you had fun and enjoyed the experience

You had a successful day

IMHO

Last edited by aslyfox; 09-12-2021 at 03:56 PM.
09-14-2021, 07:49 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by cdw2000 Quote
I'll be going to the "Thunder over New England" airshow tomorrow. I'll be bringing my K-70 along with the HD DA 16-85mm and the HD DA 55-300mm PLM lenses.

I do have experience with using a Panasonic Lumix FX300 bridge camera at previous airshows, but notice that focus is more fiddly with the K-70, so I'm especially looking for tips on focusing or pre-focusing for capturing sharp images of the aircraft during their air demos. Any other advice is welcome such as recommended exposure bias etc. when pointed up at the sky. I do RAW development so can recover blown highlights or shadows somewhat.


Thanks.
I used my K-70 at an airshow in July. Used an older Tamron 28-300 lens. With low fly bus that way enough to get me close.

I set focus on continuous, Auto ISO for changing light conditions. I shoot aperture priority. It's tricky finding right shutter speed. You don't want to stop the propeller. A blurred circle is best.

Other tip...take lots and lots of shots as planes approach.

Here's link to a few of my shots.

AirExpo 2021 - Flying Cloud Airport - July 24th - Google Photos
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