WildBill's Blogdom

Mongo only pawn, in game of life.

Airshow Photography: My Thoughts

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Yesterday I took Conner to the California International Air Show. We had a blast, both looking and the static exhibits and enjoying the wild aerobatics and manuevers demonstrated by both military and civilian pilots.

I wound up taking a heck of a lot of photos using my Rebel XSi, and a few videos and photos on my iPhone 4. The main reason I was taking shots with the iPhone was it let me tweet the pictures immediately, so friends could see what was going on. However, this is my first airshow with a digital SLR, and I was looking forward to seeing what kind of pictures a decent lens and nice camera could produce.

I’d been thinking about technique for in-air shots for some time, and I after some deliberation I decided to do the following:

  • I figured I’d use my 55-250 image stabilized lens for the in-air shots. This would let me get the best possible magnification that I have access to.
  • I locked the camera on Shutter Priority mode, and set the shutter to 1/1000 second. This would let me “freeze” the action, since these jets are doing a considerable fraction of the speed of sound.
  • I also set the lens to Image Stabilization mode. With me trying to track a very fast moving jet, I figured the IS would help keep things from wobbling a bunch.
  • I set the lens focus to manual, then picked a point about where the jets would be flying (in this case, the control tower of the airport), set the focus, then didn’t touch it. The autofocus can ‘hunt’ sometimes, and the added lag of the camera trying to focus on a far away, rapidly moving object would probably have caused me to miss more shots than I got.
  • Last, I set the camera to continuous drive mode. This let me stab the button and grab a bunch of shots as I tracked the planes.

Overall, I’m pleased with the results I got, particularly for a kit lens. I got some really neat shots, and a few of them are probably going to become my wallpaper. Here’s a few, all of them untouched and straight out of the camera. All I did was upload them with my Eye-Fi card, and organize them in Flickr.










Let me know what you think in the comments. I plan on doing some touching up of some of these photos - in particular the F-15 and P-38 ones should be pretty darn nice when I’m all done, if I ever get around to them. :)