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Old May 27, 2007, 8:46 AM   #1
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Last weekend I worked the 10th anniversary Airshow in La Crosse Wisconsin. Naturally, I had to take my DL with to see what I could accomplish. While I came back with nearly 1500 pictures, I cannot truthfully say that I was 100% satisfied with the DL's performance in this type of shooting scenario. The Blue Angels performed and I was able to photograph their practice dress rehersal (no crowds and front row, show center access). I decided to use my Quantray 70-300mm 4-5.6 (No APO) lens to capture the activity in the sky. Being a long time volunteer has its perks !

While I have been very happy with the DL's performance for the "normal" shooting I do, here is what I discovered.

* The autofocus speed is inadequate for shooting high speed flight (speeds reaching 600mph) at low altitudes - (I tried continuous focusing with limited success). Many times the camera would get "confused and the focus would just keep going back and forth trying to lock on to a high speed subject. The camera almost lost it every time the planes were approaching me head on.

* I was shooting in shutter priotity at no less than 1/750th and had bright sunlight with the light on the moving planes. I was getting consistent underexposure.

* Continuous shooting in this scenario IMHO was a flop ( Need at least 5fps to capture this type of action). While it worked, the speed was not adequate to capture the split second action.

* I could not say I had an issue with the buffer filling up. I was shooting in JPG.

* The lens itself naturally exhibited some softness at the long end.

* I do know that SR for sure would have helped a lot.

* I used Rayovac hybrid rechargables and boy I shot over 800 shots and still had a full battery indicator - Yeah

All in all it was a great learning experience and would I do it again? Absolutely yes. BTW I wandered into the area where the media was shooting...and I was the only one with a Pentax. I did get some strange looks. I felt proud that I was putting this camera thru its paces.

I am still wading thru the pictures and will post the link to this message after I publish them. Got lots of cropping to do!

Just my 2 cents worth of a unique experience

Feroz
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Old May 27, 2007, 9:53 AM   #2
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I think you are trying to do too much with a DL. I have the DL and the K10D. The DL is a "Lite" version of the *ist D series. Basically dumbed down, less AF sensors, less controls and so forth.

I love my DL, it takes amazing images, but to try and use it to photograph jets in flight at an air show is like trying to use it to photographfootballers in full flight. Thats what high end pro cameras are designed for.

Don't be too had on the DL it was NEVER designed for that sort of photography.

Having said that though, I think if you upped the ISO to 800 (which the DL handles very well) drop your aperture to f/8 and use manual mode. Shoot a few test shots to get your shutter speed to provide correct exposure. You will find that the light won't change that much over an hour or so during the day.

Lastly, by using f/8 you will have a good DOF, flick over to Manual Focus and prefocus where the jets are going to be. Unless you are using a long tele you shoud have a HUGE DOF. This might help.

Crash
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Old May 27, 2007, 10:00 AM   #3
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Interesting post - some things to think about.

I noticed the same thing about the fps speed when shooting sports - I had better luck anticipating the action and depending on single shot and my own timing. Not sure that's as easy with an air show as it is with tennis or track.

Not sure there's a good way of dealing with the focus issue - some lenses do focus faster than others. Think I might have set a smaller aperture than I would have otherwise and manually focused, but that's not really a good answer (works OK for sports but air shows are much faster and the distances are different).

I'm not at all suprised about the under-exposure. Your bright light on bright planes sound much like what happens with snow - the light meter gets confused and think the shot is brighter than it really is (and the DL, like the DS, tends to underexpose anyway). One easy work-around is to set the EV to +.7 or .1 or something like that (experiment a bit). But since it is SO easy to blow out highlights in aircraft due to the reflections, I might have left the originals underexposed and then used levels to brighten them. Shooting jpg does make that harder, but not impossible.
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Old May 27, 2007, 1:13 PM   #4
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Thanks Crash and Harriet.

The thing with us amateurs is we always try to get a but more out of our equipment than is reasonably expected. Now I think I can get about 100 usable images out of the 1500 or so I shot of the air show. We shall see. I think Crash your idea has merit. There is another airshow coming up in the Milwaukee area that I am involved in. I will try your technique and see....dont know though how much DOF I will get with a zoom set at 300mm. Pre focusing is difficult because it is hard to anticipate how far the planes will be. Each manuver is at dfferent distances and altitudes. Using a lower tele only results in a speck on the frame and that is to me useless.

I was in a natural cave yesterday touring the natural mineral formations. I used an ISO 0f 3200 and used the available light to get some interesing exposures. I was forced to do this because tripods were not allowed inside...will post some of them as soon as I am done tweaking them. I was pleased with the results I got.

Feroz
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Old May 27, 2007, 2:26 PM   #5
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Hey Feroz,
An airshow is something I would love to try sometime. The closest experience I have is shooting race cars, which obviously have the advantage of being closer, slower,and more predictable, but from that limited experience I would second Crashman and Harriet's advice.

I notice that my Sigma 70-300 hunts throught the entire AF range on birds in flight, generally resulting in a complete miss. Switching to MF works better as you are generally working closer to the infinity focus mark anyhow. If you can pick up a good 300mm prime or zoom manual focus lens you could also focus trap by leaving the camera in AF mode and depressing the shutter. When you achieve focus the camera will allow the shutter to close. With the race cars I found it easiest to prefocus on the sections of track I intended to photograph them in, pan with them as they came towards me, and depress the shutter as they crossed that area.

I too am looking forward to seeing the shots you got.

Tim


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Old May 27, 2007, 3:23 PM   #6
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Try this next time - Av, manual focus to infinity, 300mm, f8,bump up the ISO if you lack the shutter speed. Worked well with the Sigma 70-300.

Nols
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Old May 27, 2007, 4:28 PM   #7
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Something else to contend is with is the quality of the air. i.e. if you have a crisp clear day with no haze,you will no doubt get sharp pictures. However, typically, as the day warms, there is a lot of haze that you have to cut though in reaching distances. Also "heat distortion"on warm days..i.e. distortion of light waves due to heat (similar to what is seen on a hot road surface will compound the problem.

Air Shows are tough..speed, lighting, distance of subjects, haze, etc... Looking forward to seeing some of your keepers!

Jay
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Old May 27, 2007, 4:55 PM   #8
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Almost there...folks...almost there...phew all this sorting of pictures...heck I need a beer :-)
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Old May 27, 2007, 6:33 PM   #9
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Gotta disagree with you all on this one. I shot an airshow last year and didn't have too much trouble with some good shots of plane at low altitude, using the kit 50-200 lens.

Mind you I had only had the camera a couple of months.



Darren

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Old May 27, 2007, 6:33 PM   #10
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again
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