Archive for March, 2010

Aviation Photography Secrets Pt. 2

Posted in Aviation, Photography with tags , , on Sunday, 7 March 2010, by Stan


Two techniques that will help you get better pictures of airborne aircraft are ‘panning’ and ‘follow-focusing’. With panning, you move the camera with the subject while keeping it in the viewfinder. Make sure you have a firm stance or are seated. Pivot from the waist, not the neck, in a fluid motion. Continue panning with the subject for a second or two after you have released the shutter button. This will eliminate any camera shake caused by abruptly stopping your pan when you press the shutter.

With follow-focusing, it is just as the term implies; you follow the subject while continually focusing on it. Many of you have purchased auto-focus cameras so you would not have to focus yourself. That’s what you ‘bought the camera to do’. Well, in many cases an auto-focus does get the job done. However, auto-focus has an annoying tendency to ‘hunt’ for the subject before it ‘locks on’ if there is too much sky in the background. It may cause you to miss some great action shots. It is recommended that you select manual focus on the camera.

Panning and follow-focusing techniques take time to develop. A great place to practice them is at your local airport. But you don’t even have to go that far. You can practice this on cars driving down the street. Make sure you are in a safe area when you do this, such as on a sidewalk.

Miscellaneous tips

It helps to know your subject. Pick out identifying characteristics and highlight them. For example, the unconventional angular shape of the F-117 Nighthawk, the Stealth Fighter. Try to get a photo that shows its odd shape. Or the AV-8B Harrier, the jet that can hover like a helicopter. Get shots that show it in hover, or shots on the ground that shows the engine and nozzle arrangements that allow it to hover. The B-52 has an enormous wingspan. The photo you see here B-52 shelters aor show crowdshows another use for those massive wings. Any photograph of a jet in full afterburner is always, well, hot! Knowing your subject can help you anticipate the peak of the action and be ready for it when it happens!

Fill the frame with your subject. If that is not possible, try to include interesting and/or related background. Be aware of other things in your shot such as light poles, telephone lines, etc. If you are working with a shorter telephoto lens, you can still fill the frame with the aerial demonstration team formations, i.e. the Thunderbirds or Blue Angels, if the single aircraft are too small.

If you are using automatic exposure, be aware of sun’s location in the sky. It could render your very colorful aircraft down to a dark silhouette. A very bright sky has the same effect. Walk around the airplane to find a better angle. If the aircraft is flying, wait until it moves to another part of the sky. For the most part, setting the exposure manually can minimize this problem. A trick is to take a light reading with your camera off a pair of dark blue jeans (dark blue, not the lighter stone washed variety) if it is a sunny day. Set your camera according to the reading. Another thing to be aware of is shadows on the ground, especially your own.

A note about wide-angle lenses

Wide-angles are great for getting close enough to the aircraft to eliminate people from your picture and still get the entire plane in the frame. However, if you are not careful, a wide-angle lens can seriously distort the plane. Experiment. Some of these distortions may turn out to be very appealing.

Good luck with these aviation photography secrets. You are now on your way to shooting like the pros! Click the Aviation link on my website to see some of the photographs I made using these tips.