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06-12-2009, 10:14 AM   #1
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Going to an air show

Yes, I'm probably going to an air show next weekend and I need advice. I have a K10 with the kit lens. Last year I was taking some snapshots with my P&S and this year owning a DSLR I would like better pictures. I'm mainly worried about the technical stuff. Do I just shoot stuff or are there any details I have to pay attention to? I don't know if the 18-55 is enough but it'll have to do.

I've been searching for a similar thread, but didn't find anything...
Thanks

EDIT: I just realized I probably should have posted this in Pentax Q&A. Damn these multiple tabs, I had them both opened.

06-12-2009, 10:57 AM   #2
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Mr. B,

Since you are limited to the 18-55mm I'd say to pretty much forget shooting individual aircraft as they fly by. Concentrate on the formation passes of multiple aircraft and wait until they get as close as possible. Shoot lots of stuff of the static displays.

Plan on doing a lot of panning. Use 1/500s (minimum) on passing jet aircraft and for propeller aircraft, slow your shutter down to 1/120s -1/180s (or lowerif they are going real slow) in order to keep blur in the props.

Oh, and for the panning shots... TURN OFF SHAKE REDUCTION! The camera often mistakes the background blur and ends up blurring out what you are panning on.

Good luck and post some of your shots when you're done.

Mike
06-12-2009, 11:16 AM   #3
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Some basics

Hi.

I've been photographing planes at airshows for 25 years now, and here are some things I like to do.

For aerial displays, check the lighting out when you get there and try getting a good spot close to the display with the best lighting you can manage. Have Shake Reduction turned off for panning shots - you'll most likely only need it for static exhibits.

You have to be a bit patient if you want a picture of a plane on the ground without any people in the way - you may have to wait a minute or two, and sometimes people notice you're waiting and stay clear until you're done.

Security personnel generally do not appreciate being photographed.

The 18-55 is a good lens. f5.6 - f8.0 Is good for depth of field and image quality. You don't want a picture of a plane with the fuselage in focus and both wingtips out of focus. If it's cloudy, shoot at ISO 200 and use Shake Reduction for non-moving subjects.

Remember to meter for lighting on the subject.

For aerial displays or flypasts, I set Exposure Compensation on my K20D to EV +0.5. But since the K10D shot typically darker images, I set mine to EV +1.0. This compensates for a really bright sky interfering with the cameras light reading.

I use Spot Auto Focus for ground shots, and Continuous Auto Focus for displays and flypasts.

And that's about it. The rest is creative on-the-spot input.

Cheers.
06-12-2009, 01:34 PM   #4
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Thanks a lot, guys.

You mentioned some things I would never think of. Hoping to cacth some nice fly-by shots and of course posting them here.
Two years ago a MiG 21 flew at full speed no more than 100 feet above me, it almost blew my ears out! Hoping to get some of that next weekend.

06-14-2009, 07:42 AM   #5
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QuoteQuote:
Oh, and for the panning shots... TURN OFF SHAKE REDUCTION! The camera often mistakes the background blur and ends up blurring out what you are panning on.
Hmm... My understanding is that shake reduction works by using angular velocity sensors to detect camera movement, not by the optical properties of the captured image.

Nevertheless, Pentax recommends turning of shake reduction during panning, as the angular velocity sensors will be detecting movement and the system will try to correct for that. The result will be a blurred subject, as you point out.
06-15-2009, 08:57 AM   #6
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I left SR on with 55-300 couple weeks ago when shooting an airshow. Did not notice any ill effects and I did some serious panning. Also, Bigma would be preferable to the kit lens, I found 300mm to be barely adequate.

Cheers. Mike.
06-15-2009, 11:06 PM   #7
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Well, don't I know that... But have what I have and no money to get anything else. I was thinking of a DA 50-200 and DA 55-300 and Sigma 70-300 APO. The price goes up in that order. Guess I'll be limited to ground photos and maybe some low fly-bys, with cropping...
06-16-2009, 12:03 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Mr. B Quote
Well, don't I know that... But have what I have and no money to get anything else. I was thinking of a DA 50-200 and DA 55-300 and Sigma 70-300 APO. The price goes up in that order. Guess I'll be limited to ground photos and maybe some low fly-bys, with cropping...
There was a forum member who posted pics from an air show in the mini challenge forum. I spent the last 30 min. trying to find it as I saw it last night.

No luck.

The pics were awesome and the lens used was a Tamron 70-300.

Is that forum member reading this?

Please post your technique!

06-19-2009, 09:59 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by res3567 Quote
There was a forum member who posted pics from an air show in the mini challenge forum. I spent the last 30 min. trying to find it as I saw it last night.

No luck.

The pics were awesome and the lens used was a Tamron 70-300.

Is that forum member reading this?

Please post your technique!
I'm not the user in question (haven't participated in the mini challenge forum), but most of the pictures here are taken with the Tammy:

Andy Dodd : photos : 2008 Greater Binghamton Air Show

At $150 it is a worthwhile investment for airshow photography. In 2007 I used a 50-200, it wasn't long enough. The 70-300 did pretty well but this year it'll be Bigma.

I actually had SR on for most of my shots, no problems.
06-19-2009, 10:09 AM   #10
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I have the Tamron 70-300 and plan to use it at an airshow later this year, too. I see the purple fringing when it's wide open, do you have any tips to avoid this? I currently have a UV filter on the lens, and probably won't be able to use a polarizer, though I may try. In the old film days I got great shots with an 80-200 zoom using a polarizer. I do have a k-mount program-ready zoom on which the front element doesn't rotate. It's manual focus, but I should be able to manage that.

I know there's no substitute for experience, but I'd appreciate some tips or comments. I'm newly back to the SLR world with a K-10.
06-19-2009, 01:52 PM   #11
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Airshow canceled due to bad weather, rainy all weekend...
06-19-2009, 03:12 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Mr. B Quote
Airshow canceled due to bad weather, rainy all weekend...

That sucks. It's a pity we can't control the weather.

At least now you have a bit of time to acquire a longer lens for display flying.
06-19-2009, 05:38 PM   #13
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I am considering renting a nice lens for the airshow, I'll have good seats (we paid for that!) so it should be good. I can rent the DA*300mm lens, which is tempting for the aerobatics. I could also rent the DA* 60-250mm.

Anyone have experience with either of these. They're out of my budget to buy, but renting for this occasion is certainly possible.
06-19-2009, 09:02 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by TER-OR Quote
I am considering renting a nice lens for the airshow, I'll have good seats (we paid for that!) so it should be good. I can rent the DA*300mm lens, which is tempting for the aerobatics. I could also rent the DA* 60-250mm.

Anyone have experience with either of these. They're out of my budget to buy, but renting for this occasion is certainly possible.
If by "good seats" you mean close to the flight line, then the 60-250 might be long enough for you, and the zoom will come in handy. If you're a ways away from the flight line, the get the 300 as you'll want as much reach as you can get.

As someone else said, the Bigma is the perfect air show lens. The 500mm reach is handy for smaller aircraft, and the 50 mm "wide" end is good enough to capture a lot of the static displays, assuming you're back a bit. Where ever you're planning on renting the other lenses, they may have the Bigma (Sigma 50-500) as well. I'd suggest that.
06-19-2009, 10:53 PM   #15
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I disagree with the opinion of the Bigma being the "perfect" airshow lens. We can probably all agree that it is an excellent airshow lens, but far from perfect.

You're better off with high quality images of smaller subjects than lesser quality images of extremely large subjects. A couple of things to bear in mind. Firstly, having a larger canvas with a smaller subject gives a bit of room for cropping to decent proportions. Secondly, there's less likely to be camera shake and motion blur with a shorter focal length. This would result in better images that can be sharpened and cropped.

Having said this, one must use a shorter focal length zoom of much better quality than the longer alternative.

I used the 80-320mm lens and it gave me excellent results overall (but not always). It's soft above 260mm. But the results I got from 80-260mm with a smaller subject were much better than if I'd filled the frame at 320mm.

A final point - don't limit yourself with a prime lens. When a plane flies at you from being just a speck in the sky to being large enough to fill fifty viewfinders, the last thing you want is two images at the right size and nothing else. A zoom would give you far more opportunities. I typically zoom in as much as possible, take a couple of shots, zoom out quite a bit, take a couple more shots (all while the plane is getting closer and larger), and repeat until the plane has flown past and I have to zoom in again for more shots.

Your K10D will do an excellent job. I used mine at Oshkosh and the Gathering of Mustangs both in 2007 and got some great results. Just remember to compensate for a bright sky.

Ok, I'll step off the soap box now.
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