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Old Jan 7, 2006, 2:50 PM   #1
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Hi, 1st post here plus I have very limited knowledge of photography but I'm learning! My wife went out and bought me a Canon 20D with the EFS 17-85 and EF 70-300 lens with Image Stabilizer.

I have a great interest in aircraft and especially airshows. I will be attending quite a few Blue Angels shows this year and I want to be able to capture their show and all the other planes during show both in the air and static display.

Any tips, advice and possibly how to practice for this would greatly be appreciated! Any other lens I might need or should I take back the lens my wife got me for other models or are thesegood to start with and build upon? Also any composition techniques and shooting techniques I need to study?

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Old Jan 7, 2006, 4:13 PM   #2
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I'm in the same group (limited knowledge and a basic P&S camera) but havebeen to numerous AirFest's at MacDill (none this year ) and taken some decent pix (to me) with a simple CoolPix..

The basic thing I learned was to follow the planesin air and not wait till they came into viewfinder...so practice taking pix of planes landing/take-off atTIA...or taking pix of a particular car as it's whizzing by you on Interstate/streets from area near that

Also, I used the sports mode of continous shots when they passed over me...avoids the delay between shots...I'm guessing most have that type mode...
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Old Jan 7, 2006, 4:29 PM   #3
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Yeah, it's too bad MacDill cancelled this years show....anyway I have a Canon SD400 ELPH point and shoot and I took some really nice pics last year. My wife thought if I had better equipment I could do even better. I like to frame my best shots for my office wall.

see ya, Mike
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Old Jan 8, 2006, 1:10 AM   #4
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I love taking airshow pictures. Have a look at this quick-and-dirty site I put together.



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Old Jan 10, 2006, 8:58 AM   #5
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Hi, I've just registered

I shoot exclusively aircraft in particular military + civil aircraft so I spend quite a bit of time at airshows. I use a Nikon D70 coupled to a Sigma 100-300mm F4; and for static shots I have a Nikkor 18-70mm.
Some of my work can be viewed here:
I can give you a few tips.

- Location, location, location!
Where you are located on the crowd line will dictate what sort of shots you are going to get... the main action such as cross-overs.etc will always take place at the CENTRE of the display line. Take-off shots are usually quite good 1/3 of the way down the display line and if you are at the end; then the main thing you will get is landing shots.

- Keep it locked on!
Throughout the display keep your camera to your head and look through the viewfinder at the same time using the other eye to help watch the display. Keep your continuous focus going throughout the display. That way, if something unexpected happens... its a reflex twitch to fully depress the shutter that takes that snap...look carefully at the first shot at the link above... notice anything? Thats right the rear wheel is missing... as it was reversing the back wheel snapped off! I was one of the few people to shoot the incident as it happened. A similar photo can be seen of a Thunderbird F-16 crash+ejection... that was a reflex shot by the photographer too.

- Watch out, shutters about!
There are 4 instances where using shutter priority mode can be advantages.
1. Prop aircraft/Helo's... keeping the shutter at 1/250 and below will blur the props and give a good effect.
2. Low passes... blurred background = FAST ACTION
3. Landing... as above.
4. Take-off... as above.

- When to watch my F number?
Simple, when its formation displays/flypasts... you need a big F number to make sure your depth of field is good enough to keep them all in focus... I find that F11 or better keeps them in focus.

- And at all other times?
Personally I keep mine in "P" mode which usually means I get a sharp subject but a soft background making quite a good effect; but at the same time I can get good shots.

- What about metering?
Oooh good one; I recommend using Centre Weighted for most subjects due to the aircraft being darker than the background... it can trick sensors and leave you with a silhouette even in correct light!
When it comes to formation flight and very dark aircraft such as the Lancaster (picture 2 in that link above)... use multi matrix metering to ensure a good shot. The lancaster especially... that thing is a pain in the neck to shoot!

- Statically speaking...
Static displays are difficult; it depends on the fencing type around the aircraft. Some people like to take step ladders to shows and take "above shots" but personally I just find those people rude and a pain in the neck. I prefer getting low for an unusual eyepoint. If the fences allow it and you have someone with you to watch out for you (so you dont get trampled)... lie down and take the shot! Its the secret of the static shots in mags

Hope you found that helpful
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Old Jan 12, 2006, 3:58 AM   #6
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With your 20D you will want to switch to continuous shooting - the 5fps is very useful for air displays.

I would still use single-shot AF mode.

Use JPG not RAW because you will be taking lots of photos - be prepared to throw most of them away.

Use at least a 2Gb CF card - that will get you around 500 pictures on a card which will probably be enough for a day's shooting. Can't do any harm to have an extra card or two as backup.

I'm not an airshow person, but with the 20D and a bit of luck and/or hard work you will be getting shots like this in no time... :-)

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Old Jan 12, 2006, 4:55 AM   #7
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For the Nikon people

Try to use AF-C in dynamic mode... with the D70's firmware update and a decent lens (AF-S/HSM) you will have no problem tracking 600mph plus aircraft (I know I don't).

Also use burst mode.. but pick between JPG or RAW... I personally shoot in RAW as it's easier to post process.

Stick to everyones posting rules and you'll get shots like these that I took yesterday:

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