Use Light to Bring out the Details

A big part of aviation is actually the little parts. The details of each aircraft help to define that aircraft and need to be photographed individually as well as a whole. But how do you do that? One of the most romantic ways is to use a little spot lighting either with a flash, a pen light or in this case the light coming through the windows of a hangar. Then by dialing in minus exposure compensation, you get a nice moody romantic look to these otherwise cold planes. these detail shots are essential to the story and help to create another layer of depth to the planes. While they are rather simple to do not every photographer does them so I highly encourage you to try and incorporate this into your own photography.

Captured with Nikon D5, 24-70 AF-S, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

The Hangar tells the Story

As I talked about in my post yesterday, the planes are not always the most important element in the story. At Dekalb Peachtree Airport, outside Atlanta GA, the Atlanta Warbird Weekend was held in part at the Epps Hangar. Mr. Pat Epps bought the hangar and started his business at the airport many many years ago and has grown it into the second busiest airport in the US. While doing so he maintained the integrity of the place by keeping and still using the old WWII hangar that used to house the airports fleet of Corsairs. This hangar was a huge detail in the photographs when all five P-40’s were parked inside.


This hangar is pretty darn cool. As the sun moves throughout the day the light inside the hangar changes positions as it comes through the upstairs windows. As a result the inside becomes a very warm and interesting place to shoot. Now these are simple clicks with the D5, 24-70 AF-S, and the 70-200 VRII but it shows how big and characteristic the hangar is. This one diamond is of particular interest as it is the last piece of the original scaffold from WWII.

Family’s are Important for Planes

A big part of aviation is the people that come out to see the planes. While the planes represent a significant historical look into the past, they are also a tool to get kids and veterans inspired and educated on what happened throughout WWII. The planes truly would not be here today if there was not a demand to see them. At the Atlanta Warbird Weekend, there were several instances when this became apparent. The one particular moment that stood out the best was on Sunday when one man came running up to the line of P-40’s and was utter shock to see the five planes sitting there. Dad and I looked at each other and chuckled but realized later how or some people these sights are new.


In aviation photography, when overing an event you have to photograph the people. Veterans, singers, re-enactors, pilots, mechanics, and of course kids. The people tell the story and getting those shots are essential. There are basically two ways to go about this. First, is talking to people and asking for portraits with them and the planes. The second is what we call sniper mode. Standing back a ways and then shooting with a long lens for those key moments. Both techniques are useful and tell different stories. These two images are examples of sniper mode and in this case were taken with the D5 and 70-200 VRII. Why the 70-200 and not a 200-400? Well this event had a small ramp and a 200-400 was just too much lens. Knowing the area you’re working is critical when it comes to lens selection. Often times standing back and watching is a great way to learn the flows of the land. At the end of each day, just like any other shoot it is important to take an inventory of what is accomplished and what is still needed.

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