Growing up I had a dream of becoming a pilot in the Air Force. I would like to thank the movie Iron Eagle for this. But, one day in 6th grade I started to have trouble reading what was on the chalk board, I needed glasses. With my lack of 20/20 vision I knew that becoming a pilot was no longer in the cards, but my love of aircraft has never gone away.
With the Chicago Air and Water Show this weekend and the Quad Cities Air show coming up in a couple weeks, I thought I would share a few tips on capturing some great photos at these events. With many of the jets passing by at more than 500 mph it can be quite a challenge to get the shot.
This type of photography does require some upgraded equipment in order to capture, you will not be able to get these shots with your iPhone or your point-and-shoot. You will need a DSLR or a similar type of camera that allows you to manual focus and gives you either a manual or semi-manual mode. You will also need a telephoto lens since the planes will be quite a distance from your viewing area. Here is a list of lenses that would work out get the job done, most brands have the equivalent focal range. I will list the focal length recommendations:
- 18-200mm f3.5-5.6 (Tamron has an 18-270mm, f3.5-6.3, I own this one)
- 70-300mm f4-5.6 (many have this a part of a kit)
- 70-200mm f2.8 (can be a little pricy)
- any lens 200mm and up (can be very expensive, I recommend you rent this one)
Now you have the gear how do you use it. I suggest you either use Shutter Priority (S or Tv) mode. I recommend a shutter speed of 1/500 or faster for the jets and a shutter speed between 1/100-1/250 for the propeller planes to achieve the blur of the prop. The slower shutter will allow you to achieve a nice blur in the prop. Shooting at a lower shutter speed will be more of a challenge, so set your camera to continuous or rapid mode. Use the lowest ISO setting you can in order to achieve your desired shutter speed depending on the subject. As far as the aperture that will be set automatically in Shutter Priority mode, so there is no need to worry about that. Now set your lens to Manual Focus (MF) and rack it out to Infinity (∞) and leave it there, just don’t forget to put Auto Focus (AF) back on for the static shots. You will also need to practice your panning skills since the planes will be moving all over the place.
Feel free to leave a comment or send a question to me over at Facebook if you have any further questions. Most of all have fun, don’t get frustrated and enjoy the day at the Air Show.
All of my shots that I have posted were taken with my Canon 50D and Tamron 18-270. Feel free to share any of your photos from these events on my Flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/groups/dfpnewsletter/