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What defines great airshow photography?

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  • What defines great airshow photography?

    As I'm off next week for my six days of full airshow photo access, I have been browing the "Screeners Choice" pics to see what exceptional work others have done. Trying to understand what differentiates a good picture from a great one.

    What I figured out by now:

    1) An aircraft shot in the air, but looking "static" is not good.

    2) A shot of a single plane needs to convey motion, speed and/or power. To do this, you can have a blurred background (panning), smoke, vapor, afterburner glow, blurred probs etc. Shots without these extra elements don't provide any information to the viewer about the speed or power of the display.

    3) Shots of multiple plane displays (Red Arrows etc.) require a bit less "motion effects" but need to be sharp and well-framed.

    4) Warbirds benefit most from correct angle of light. Look at the B-25 by Craig Mills or the Mustang from Nathan Long. Their silver-reflective surface means getting the right lighting is crucial. For example the B-25 seems to actually have been shot slightly against the sun, which gives a nice shade to the side banked towards the viewer.

    What I'm still trying to figure out:

    1) Best focal lenght for ground/taxing/static shots. Seems to me most of these are zoomed in, therefore shortening the distance between foreground and background which gives a more dynamic apperance. Refer the Mustang mentioned above. The same shot with a wideangle would look entirely different.

    2) Prefered Sunlight positions. Shooting against the sun (backlit planes) is certainly a no-no. But shooting silver planes with bright sun on them isn't too hot either, as the reflections will just burn out.

    3) For Team Displays, has anyone ever shot a good frame/composition away from Display Center?

  • #2
    There's not really any right or wrong answer. It's just what catches the screener's eye. Different screeners have different tastes.



    • #3

      I know what you mean with getting vapour etc.

      I took this at the Avalon Airshow. Altough it is not a perfect show, but it does convey speed.

      My Stuff on The Web


      • #4
        G-DALE, sorry, but I must disagree. I'm not even talking about screeners here especially, but general viewing public.

        I'm certain that there are concrete elements that make an aircraft "action" shot interesting, and when missing, kill it.

        For example I've seen shots of flying planes without any indication of movement, and these never get very far.

        Yet the shot Ryan posted is a definite example of catching dynamics in a still frame.

        If everyone just had a different taste, then every image as long as it is sharp, reasonable framed and exposed, could one day become screeners choice. This is obviously not the case, so there's always the artistic elements that put an image above the competition.

        And those are what I'm trying to figure out here.


        • #5
          What defines great airshow photography?

          Your opinion. you dont have shoot a certain way cause some random guy you dont know likes it.
          Just go out and shoot what you like, that way you'll get good results. Not to say tips arnt helpfull!


          • #6
            Where are you going? Zeltweg Airpower?

            I'm really looking forward to that show.


            • #7
              Yep, six days spotter access. From what I heard so far we have positions that are under 30 feet from the runway!


              • #8
                Having been at the treshold RW26 I must say you get VERY close even without special spotter tickets. I will be there Thursday-Sunday.
                It sure would be great to get even closer but as a student the trip from Tyrol alone is expensive enough for me so I decided not to spend money on spotters access.

                Lets hope for good weather, the show will be great without a doubt!

                To answer your question, I can only say beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. For me good airshow photos are full of action that includes afterburners, smoke, a great fighters and some vapor condensation streaming over the wing helps as well. With formations / display teams you can be more creative. Capturing a spectacular crossing maneuvre is always great, although not easy. I also like zoomed out shots showing the whole formation and maybe some a bit of an 'artistic' touch to the image.
                Unfortunately I have hardly ever been satisfied with my Airshow photography but theres another chance next week.

                May I ask what camera equipment you use?
                Last edited by philip; 2005-06-17, 12:12.


                • #9
                  LOL, I'll be bringing a lot of stuff.

                  D70 mainly, with the Sigma 100-300mm. 50mm and 18-70mm lenses too. F80 analoge Body to shoot some B/W Ilford with. SB-800 flash and Manfrotto Tripod for the low light stuff.