This one is pretty self explanatory, take photos of the people. The whole point of events like EAA Airventure is to bring people together who enjoy Aviation. They celebrate the culture, the heritage, the adrenaline, the camaraderie and of course the stories. Without these people the Fly-in wouldn’t happen. How do you capture this?
There is no one method. You walk and talk and watch the people. Watch the pilots, the crews, the reenactors and of course the audience. Let their enthusiasm be the story but remember to be respectful and polite. It’s a public event so you can photograph everyone that comes in but be nice about it, especially those that keep the planes going. Talk to those guys and share YOUR enthusiasm with them. As for gear, I’ve taken people shots with everything from an 18-35 f3.5-4.5 to the 200-400 VR. It all depends on what kind of story you are trying to tell.
Continuing on with Airventure advice, many of you will probably recognize the Martin JRM Mars water dumper that was at Oshkosh two years ago. It’s the largest flying boat still flying today and was one of the main attractions in 2016. It’s easy to see why. Airventure always has aircraft in the skies. Whether it’s planes flying in or out or the actual airshow routine, there is always something going on. This is why it’s really important to keep an eye on the show guide which usually there is a hard copy available for those in attendance, the app or their website.
When it comes to flying aircraft I instantly go to the long lens which in my case is the 200-400 VR, along with the Nikon D5, which combined with the ability to go to High Speed Crop in the camera, provides a good focal range. For those that aren’t familiar with High Speed Crop, it’s a simple function in Nikon cameras that allows you to go from the image area of FX to DX which changes the aspect ratio but increases magnification. Sometimes that is a good thing.
With flying aircraft the other areas that you need to focus on is having a slower shutter speed if the aircraft has props, such as under 250th a second and proper hand holding technique. Elbows in, twist at the trunk and hands resting under the lens barrel. All of these elements will help you get cleaner, sharper images.
There is no event on the planet that is quite like EAA Airventure in Oshkosh, WI. Hosted every year by EAA at Wittman Regional Airport, Airventure is the world’s largest Fly-in with over 10,000 aircraft usually in participation throughout the week. Hundreds of thousands of people attend every year and for the true aviation enthusiast there is nothing better. For a photographer, it’s paradise because there is more photograph then you have time for. With so much available how do you not get overloaded?
Unfortunately this year I will not be able to attend Osh, but having gone multiple times over the years I have plenty to talk about and advice to give. The big thing to start with is to not get overwhelmed. There is a lot to see at Oshkosh and it’s really easy to feel like you have to see and photograph everything. The simple truth is you can’t. There is just too much. Your best bet is to research the different areas and setup a basic schedule for where you want to be and when. For instance, down at warbird alley, getting there early in the morning is a great way to get static shots of just the planes and not the crowds. Or like the image above, staying late to avoid people in your photos. Remember to go tight and to go wide. Something like the Nikon D5 with the 18-35 f/3.5-4.5 or 70-200VRII to give multiple options with the static planes. Oshkosh is great because you can get close and get those detail shots so take advantage of that.
The one thing that there is more of at Oshkosh then planes is people. It’s really a pretty amazing place to have thousands of aviation enthusiasts show up for the week. Not just fans but pilots, historians, re-enactors, and of course veterans. They all have stories and it’s impossible to hear them all.
When it comes to the people shots I don’t in any ways consider myself an expert. But what I can say is that the best moments are often the ones that aren’t scripted. There are of course the events that are meant to bring people in. Then are those candid shots that you only see by watching the people enjoy the show. That’s one of the great things about EAA Airventure is that you can just stop and people watch. My favorite combo in the past and will be slightly upgraded this year is the D5 and 200-400 VR. The 70-200 VRII works well too but the 200-400 allows you to zoom in and isolate those moments between the crowd and the planes. As opposed to taking everything in you then isolate on just those candid shots. The two images I posted are exceptions to this, these were both captured with the 70-200. Why did I post them? Well I love seeing the re-enactors who are devoted to their craft and the veterans who come out to tell their story.
Well EAA Airventure Oshkosh has come and gone once again but the images still remain. While I wasn’t able to go to Oshkosh this year I have been to Oshkosh a couple times in the past and as a result I do know the challenges that come with finishing images that come from Oshkosh. I thought today might be a good day to talk about some very simple techniques to help finish those images.
The first thing that you have to realize about Oshkosh is that there is stuff going on everywhere and there are people everywhere. It’s very hard to find clean backgrounds as a result of all of this. With Aviation a clean background is one of the most sought after elements in any photograph. It’s a challenge though because of the distracting elements. With Oshkosh and with such a huge gathering of planes it’s almost more desirable to find ways to incorporate those backgrounds with the images. The re-enactor area sits on the other side of Warbird Alley and is sandwiched between the trainer planes and the speaking area. The tents act as a great background because they do bring back some of the feel of how the airfields were setup during WWII. Those airfields were not always luxurious, they often were comprised of a couple of buildings and then a lot of tents. What’s important here is to remove the distracting elements like the cars parked by the tents, the ropes, flags and any other oddity that takes away from the “old timey” feel.
While it’s not easy to find clean backgrounds they can be made by merely blocking them out with bigger aircraft. Out in Warbird Alley the number of subjects to work with are endless. It’s easy to overload your senses here and as a result it’s easy to miss shots. One of things that I find helps in these situations is to keep it simple. These three B-25’s for instance, Betty’s Dream being the closest, is truly a straight quick shots. In the early morning light the planes looked great after the previous evenings thunderstorm. The drama was helped by adding two graduated filters to the image, one on the bottom to merely darken the grass and bring your eye up and the other up top to bring your eye down by bringing down the color temperature. This gives that cool and darker feel of the morning. Simple steps in ACR that can help direct the viewers eye through the image.
Of course it’s not always about the whole picture, there are a lot of tiny details that make up an event like Oshkosh so focusing on those details is really important also. This helmet was sitting in a Huey Helicopter and happened to be one of the responders on scene after the crash at the Reno Air Races back in 2011. The light was coming in through the glass so there wasn’t any reflections from using a flash. Using ACR and the Radial Filter you can essentially add a vignette to bring down the edges and make the more important elements more visible. Vignettes are a great way to get the minds eye to go where you want it to when dealing with crowded areas like these ones.
Lastly of course is the flying. There is so much flying going on that you have to be shooting. The one downside of course to photographing planes, especially with prop aircraft, is the amount of dust that gets kicked up. When working with prop planes the other obstacle is getting that prop blur. In order to do so you have to shoot at a low shutter speed which means a greater depth of field. That greater depth of field will show every single spot of dust that you might have on your sensor. If this does happen ACR offers another really helpful tool and thats the spot removal tool. Really simple to use when select hit, go to the bottom and check the box visualize and then you’ll see very dot on your sensor. The best part is after you clean one image you go over to the left and can select all the images and have all those dust spots removed without having to go back over any image. It’s a very handy and time saving tool.
Now the great thing about all of these tools is that they can be found in the latest Lightroom as well. This makes it so that no matter what your workflow is you can get your images finished quickly that way you can get back out shooting sooner.
With everything going on right now in Wisconsin at EAA Airventure Oshkosh, I thought to myself, “why not write a post about Osh.” In the aviation community Osh is like nothing else. Just the name gets everyone attention because it seems like everybody has gone to Oshkosh at least once. It’s one of the largest gatherings of airplanes and aviation enthusiasts in the world. People from all over the world come to watch and enjoy in the spectacle. The best part is ever year is different. You never know what will show up.
There are two ways to stay at Oshkosh, in a hotel which fill up a year in advance, or camping. Probably the most fun way to stay is under a wing of an airplane. There’s nothing quite like flying across country and then camping under the wing of the plane. Then again if it’s not for you then the campground is pretty darn nice to. Having done both of these, I can say each one is it’s own experience.
The great thing about Oshkosh is there is something there for everybody. From Warbirds, sports, homebuilts, seaplanes, jets, modern military, building classes, guest speakers and more. The amount to do there is just endless and you can quite literally wear yourself out just walking back and forth to see everything. This particular shot taken down in Warbird Alley where there are usually over a hundred warbirds parked on the grass of every make and model for the aviation enthusiast to enjoy.
If the static planes aren’t enough then the afternoon performances will definitely make you stop and look up. From aerobatic displays to military demonstrations, the list of aircraft that take to the skies is always impressive. It’s not everywhere that you can layout on a beach blanket and look up and see all those great planes overhead. In 2013 there was a great bomber formation that flew over with the B29 “FiFi,” three B-25’s and two TBM’s. For a single display of firepower this one was pretty good.
In the end it all comes down to the people. The volunteers making everything happen. The pilots that are flying the planes. Least of all the people that show up to watch. Non of this would be happening if there wasn’t the fan base to keep it alive and in the end it’s all about having fun.
Warbirdsnews has got a great program going on for everyone this week. The Warbirds in Review brought to you by EAA Warbirds of America and Flying OnDemand are live streaming on the Warbirdsnews home page. Each day features different historic planes with some amazing stories behind each one. There is schedule of events posted on the EAA Airventure Website. Right now it’s Sierra Sue II a P-51D Mustang with an amazing story!
The great thing about the Aviation community is that it is a small community in the respect that everyone seems to know everybody. As a result of this everyone wants to know whats going on right now. Well EAA Airventure, Oshkosh is starting next week and the Texas Flying Legends Museum is heading back with their fleet of amazing historic warbirds. Warbirdsnews is broadcasting live the Warbirds in Review section that are being featured everyday in Warbirds Alley throughout the week and they wanted to know what TFLM are going to be doing at Oshkosh. Head over to the Warbirdsnews website to see my news release on the Texas Flying Legends Museum activities during Oshkosh.
It’s funny the things that get you thinking in one direction or another. This past weekend was one of those times when i just started thinking about some of those people that get to work with these awesome machines and just how cool that is. My first time at Oshkosh I was overwhelmed with the amount of aircraft. Literally as far as the eye could see was nothing but planes. Everything was a photograph but there wasn’t enough time. Looking back at it now I realized how many people were there and how few shots I have of them.
It’s one of those lessons you learn the hard way unless someone tells you otherwise. So I guess in some way this is how I tell everyone else to keep looking for the shot behind the scenes, and I don’t mean just the production shots, but what really happens when everyone is facing forward and you turn around and see what no one else sees. Those are the shots worth capturing.
In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D3, 70-200 VRII, 200-400 VR, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film