Photographing Planes

Ah aviation, the one area that you never have to worry about finding a subject. It’s the one truth to aviation that isn’t in Wildlife photography, you can always find a subject and it will be there. It may not be flying and it may not get pulled out of the hangar, but every running airport has planes. Photographing planes comes down to four major areas, static, ground to air, air to air and people. These are the four basic realms in which all aviation shots exist. Each one is unique and each one has it’s own skill set.

AVRARMY0744

The one nice thing is it doesn’t take a lot of gear to fulfill these areas. They really do overlap. Static means the plane is parked on the ground. Ground to air means that the plane is flying and you are photographing the plane as it goes by while you are on the ground. Air to air is possibly the most fun but the most work as it means getting in a plane and photographing another plane. People is the most obvious as portraiture is a big part of aviation but often gets overlooked. Now static, air to air and portraiture requires a lot of the same equipment. My preference for all three is the 24-70 f/2.8 and the 70-200 VRII. Those two lenses get a lot done, provided a flash also for portraiture. Ground to air require a bit more like a 70-300VR, 80-400VR or my choice the 200-400 VR. In each area you have to make the plane seem desirable which isn’t always easy since they are out in the middle of the day most often and are in fact machines. But each plane has it’s own story and that’s what makes them special.

AVFOFSC2204

Now I know not everyone was at Photoshop World and knowing this they did something really clever this year by having the instructors who are teaching on the Expo floor put their classes on their website. So if you go to the top under tips, classes, downloadable classes you will see a link where you can download a PDF of my class. Isn’t that handy!

Working with the subject as it Flies by

Only half of the fun is spent on the ground, but the real thrill comes when that plane comes roaring overhead going hundreds of miles an hour and are gone as fast as they are seen. This is the time when you have to have good panning technique because those planes move by way to fast and you don’t always get a second chance. Even at an airshow when the planes schedules are often the same on multiple days, the skies are not always same. Besides the image being sharp the most important element after that is the background. When planes are flying they have to be seen as going fast because they are. There has to be something in the image to show off that momentum. Clouds in the background are a great place to start.

AVRARUD2132

Clouds are a great place to start because they are everywhere. You just have to be panning when the plane is going by an area that has clouds to get that nice shot. In some instances the plane can be made to look like it’s going by even faster by having something behind that had more structure. If the plane is flying low enough or if you are standing up high enough something like a mountain can be compressed with a long lens and look like a blur behind the plane. This adds the speed and depth to the image.

AVPOFASFT1723

With prop planes there is one essential element that has to be shown moving and that is the propeller. If the prop is frozen then the plane looks like it is a model on a string and not moving. The only way to get that blur is with a slower shutter speed. There is a ratio of the number of blades, to how fast the prop is turning equals how slow a shutter speed. This can be as slow as 1/30 of a second to get a full 360 degree disk. If you don’t have good panning technique then the image won’t be sharp. Practice is essential to making it all work properly.

AVPOFASFT6257

One other really key element to ground to air photography is paying attention to what comes next. You have to be planning on what planes are coming next, how many are coming, what direction and where is the best light coming from. You have to be constantly scanning the skies. If you’re not scanning the skies then by the time that plane is overhead and you’re not ready, you’ll probably miss the shot.

The Return of the Military Performers

Yes! Finally after much waiting the military performers are back and they are a welcome sight. I’m not a huge jet fan but I do enjoy when the come out and do their demos. The F-22 is one that always has my attention. First off it just has a bad ass look. when flying, static, profile or even from the tail it just looks like it means business. Then once it starts its performance you just can’t keep your eyes off it.

AVPOFAFT1463

AVPOFAFT1487

Using the D4, 200-400 VR and SunSniper Strap, I really like this combo, it’s pretty darn simple to get that shot of this plane. Unlike when photographing prop powered aircraft, jets are very simple. Why is that? Well I can shoot in aperture priority at 1/1500th a second and that fast shutter speed makes a huge difference. I can’t do that with a prop plane because I want that prop to be blurred not frozen. Pilots don’t like frozen props and somehow they have this uncanny ability to always find images of their planes. This means having to shoot in shutter priority at less then 1/125th to get a blur. This past weekend it was 1/80th and 1/60th the whole time. Now I’ll be honest I ended throwing a lot away due to being a little rusty but the keepers, as you can see in my last blog post, have great props.

AVPOFAFT1523

AVPOFAFT1585

I’ve seen a lot of great heritage flights but this one I really liked. It was just a great combo between the rugged P-47 “Jug” Thunderbolt, the P-51D Mustang, the Fork Tailed Devil P-38 Lightning, and the F-22 Raptor. From then till now it was great to see the evolution.

The F-22’s Sure Make Their Presence Known

After a busy day of working on articles and images there’s nothing better than working on the blog. I know i could be playing games or watching movies but I felt the desire to bring more to the site and the photographic world. I might have been starring at this monitor to much today because i cannot believe the words i just typed nevertheless I do have a fun blog to post. One of the great demos that we had this past week was of the F-22 Raptors. Now my brother had been talking about the F-22’s for sometime and are his favorite aircraft, but for myself i haven’t had a chance to photograph them. Until now.

This movie requires Flash Player 9

This movie requires Flash Player 9

This movie requires Flash Player 9

This movie requires Flash Player 9

This movie requires Flash Player 9

This movie requires Flash Player 9

The power, prescion and performance of these planes is very impressive. Now the part that i found funny is that they brought in two in case one breaks. Well the first day of the demos, one broke down. They then flew in a third plane and sure enough the second plane broke down. So it was an interesting to watch that whole military event. The planes themselves are awesome, the capabilities of the thrust and turn radius are truly impressive. It was fun watching. Although very difficult to get a shot during the high speed pass. Go figure right.

In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D3, 200-400VRII, Sunsniper Strap, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Why do i Keep Getting Asked This?

It seems like every time I tell people what I do and I explain that I photograph airplanes, i get the usual excitement. Then they ask is there a preference in the planes, older planes as opposed to newer ones. I always answer “I prefer working with the Warbirds.” Then they always seem depressed with my answer. I never understood that. A preference is a preference nothing more that my own like. It’s not like I photograph only warbirds merely i enjoy them the most. It’s hard to beat the stories that they tell.

This movie requires Flash Player 9

The reality to photography that most people outside the business and even some in the business don’t understand is that you can’t always work with that one thing that you want to work with. Photography has always been about following ones passion even if that means photographing what normally one wouldn’t. In order to succeed you have to be flexible and do the work that not only comes your way but at the same time going after the jobs that no one is offering you. Flexibility is the key to success.

This movie requires Flash Player 9

Before I was taught anything else about photography my Dad told me that there will be those times when it just sucks to be a photographer and then there are those times that you are glad to be one. Those are the good times. All of that goes into the next project and it’s how we become better. Here in this post I show four images that I have taken within the last couple of years of basically all modern military aircraft. The A10 is a little stretch but still well within the last 20 years recent activity. The L39’s are the only one well dated. I decided to post these shots because i wanted to show that even though they aren’t my favorite shots, even though i have no plans on using them anywhere, and even though i know no stories about any of them, I still enjoyed photographing them. Each one taught me something new about photography and that made them worth while.

This movie requires Flash Player 9

Preferences aside I enjoy aviation photography. Basically anything that flies is worth while to shoot. The difference is that which i can do something with afterward and that which the afterward is only another file added to the collection. Everything comes down to time. The one disadvantage to Aviation Photography is that everything needs to be processed in post afterward. In wildlife nothing gets post work. Deciding what to spend time on is the difference between success and failure. If it’s not evident enough I try to do a little bit of everything. For me if it flies it’s in the files or at some point will be. Perhaps the best answer to that first question that people ask me is, “I photograph whatever is in front of my lens.”

This movie requires Flash Player 9

The Air Show

Tomorrow is the start of Photoshop World. Before I get started sharing some of what goes on at this marvelous and overwhelming event, i wanted to bring to you some of the aircraft that was at the Florida International Air Show. Everything you see was up flying both days, giving some fantastic performances.

This movie requires Flash Player 9

This movie requires Flash Player 9

This movie requires Flash Player 9

This movie requires Flash Player 9

This movie requires Flash Player 9

This movie requires Flash Player 9

This movie requires Flash Player 9

This movie requires Flash Player 9

This movie requires Flash Player 9

This movie requires Flash Player 9

This movie requires Flash Player 9

This movie requires Flash Player 9

This movie requires Flash Player 9

Images captured with Nikon D3, AF-S 200-400 VRI, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

From Hawaii to Florida

It’s hard to believe that our trip to Hawaii is already over and that we are now making our way to Photoshop world. It seems like like those past couple of weeks went by way too fast. Before heading to the convention we spent some time in Punta Gorda attending the Florida International Airshow. This was the first time that either Dad or myself had been to this particular show and we were pleasantly surprised to it’s format. Every museum and airshow has their own unique style of presenting the planes. Museums are definitely more difficult for photography due to the amount of planes in hangers and their tendency to be next to active airfields with lots of security measures, including fences. This Airshow was great. It was huge, it didn’t have a ton of planes but it did have some very nice planes. It was setup around a big grass field so the background was clean which is always a plus and best of all the planes flew overhead close up instead of way out in the distance.

This movie requires Flash Player 9

We spent this past weekend photographing the event. If you’re wondering why we were cramming this in before Orlando, and i do mean cramming; the three of us got back to Reno Thursday at midnight, spent four hours in a hotel room, repacked and went to the airport for a 6:15am flight Friday morning to Orlando to be here for the airshow. We did this for one reason, Dad was filming another Kelby training video on aviation photography. It’s a whole new idea of his, which is kinda typical of him, that will hopefully get more people interested in these planes. As some of you might know Dad and I have been working hard to get into this community of aviators, so that we can get access to more planes. These planes, especially warbirds, are a piece of history that sadly are vanishing. These planes that flew in WWII are 70-80 years old and will eventually stop flying. It is a sad truth that the airframes eventually will not be able to support flight so it is imperative that people get interested in the planes before they become statues.

This movie requires Flash Player 9

Now on thing that makes these shows is the people, the volunteers and the veterans. Most of these airshows are completely run by volunteers, this particular one had 300 volunteers working this past weekend. That’s truly awesome to have that many people spend their time with these planes. From what i saw most of the volunteers were kids, which is even better. As i said it is also about the veterans, the guys that actually flew the planes. This event we were fortunate to have three of the five remaining Dolittle raiders present signing autographs. For those of you that don’t know, the Dolittle Raid took place on April 18th 1941 against Tokyo. 16 B25’s Bombers, the plane above and below, took off from the USS Hornet in Japanese waters knowing that they would be unable to return to the carrier due to a lack of fuel. This attack struck a blow to the hearts of the Japanese after their attack on Pearl Harbor. It was a battle that changed the way we perceived war, for both sides. It was great to see these guys even better to get a book signed from them, stories of what happened during the raid. The sad truth is that the vets are disappearing faster than the planes. Just last year was the B25 Dolittle Raid Tribute reunion, 17 B25’s came in to Dayton, OH to fly for those that took part in that raid. At that time 4 of the remaining 8 showed up to honor that event in 2010, this past weekend 3 of the remaining 5 showed up for this event. In 1 year three of those members had passed away. All veterans play a big role in history and we are losing them faster then their stories can be brought to people’s attention.

This movie requires Flash Player 9

Photography isn’t just about making pretty pictures and trying to make money from them. It is about telling those stories that not everyone gets to hear but everyone should know. At the top is a photograph of the F22 Raptor, the armies top of the line aircraft at present. At the bottom are two B25J’s, the Killer B and Panchito. The great thing thing about Airshows is they show the evolution of aircraft. From where it came from to the where it is today. What got me during this event was not only the amount of people at this small of event, but the amount of people that came up to me asking when did the jets go up, especially the F16. It amazed me how few young people knew about the prop planes and what they were used for. These planes are a big part of our history, and which needs to be preserved for our future. Photography can do that.

This movie requires Flash Player 9

Images captured with Nikon D3, AF-S 24-70, AF-S 70-200, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

error: Content is protected !!