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Author Topic: Tech tips & advice to shoot Airshow  (Read 2056 times)


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Tech tips & advice to shoot Airshow
« on: June 02, 2012, 06:36:00 AM »
I have been lucky to get full access to Show center of an Air Show (best position in regards to sun and the show itself), and want to get the most out of this unique opportunity photo wise, so I'm looking for tips and advice here.

My gear is:
air shots:
Canon 5DM3
Canon 70-200mm II f/2.8
Canon 100-400mm f/4.5
Polarization filter

ground shots:
Canon 24-70mm f/2.8
Canon 50mm f/1.2

I'm aware of the risk of underexposing planes on a bright sky which is my main concern, but not sure what would be "best practice" or procedure to avoid this. I'm aware of the need for fast shutter speeds (fx. min. 1/400 on a 400mm lens) of around 1/800-1/1000 for jets close by, and slower shutter speeds for propeller planes etc. I'm a happy amateur but pretty comfortable with my gear and settings, as well as post-production in Photoshop.

But my main concerns are:
1) What is "best practice" to avoid underexposed planes on a bright sky? If you compensate exposure, I'm afraid to forget to check this if the light changes during the day? What is your experience? Is there a "rule of thumb"? Pol-filter or not?
2) Av or Tv mode? The Image Quality on the 5DM3 with higher ISO's is amazing, so light shouldn't be a problem. But what is preferable?
3) AI-servo or not? Seems obvious, but then if I choose fx. a center focus point I'm afraid I won't have enough sky in front of the planes for best composition? If I use a focus point on either side, I would have to change this all the time as the planes are all over the place? What is your advice on this?
4) On the 5DM3 there's 6 AF-modes for different action situations. Any advice if one is much better than another?
5)Tripod/Monopod - should I bring them (just in case) or will they just be in the way slowing me down all day?
Anything else?

Do you know of any pro Air Show photographers with a web site with inputs on this. I found articles, but usually the just sum up the pro/cons and don't end up with more specific answers.
I appreciate all your inputs and advice and hope to be able to post links to some great pics here later.


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Tech tips & advice to shoot Airshow
« on: June 02, 2012, 06:36:00 AM »


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Re: Tech tips & advice to shoot Airshow
« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2012, 07:03:48 AM »
It's a long time since I shot any airshows, so I will speak more generically, based on bird photography. I tend to shoot in full manual and that has taught be greater awareness of changing light, but until you get used to it, you will probably make mistakes. However, you can still use manual exposure to help the initial setup, before switching to Av or Tv. On a clear bright blue sky day, the darkest blue of the sky approximates 18% grey. Likewise, well watered grass in direct light is often close to 18% grey,m but is more difficult to judge due to greater variation in shades. You can use this to set the meter, then you can point at an area of the sky where the planes are likely to be flying and see how much overexposure you have. You could then use this as a guide to how much exposure compensation you need, probably in the region of 1-2 stops overexposure.
An alternative technique, would be to use spot metering, the provided you can keep the plane in the centre (at least for exposure setting), then the metering should be being taken from the plane itself, not the sky. However, this may not be desirable for composition. Actually, you could meter off the static planes too as a guide, if they are in similar lighting conditions to the ones flying, then adjust on the fly (if you'll excuse the pun :P).
Canon 5D MkIII, 7D, 300mm L IS f/2.8 and a few other L's


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Re: Tech tips & advice to shoot Airshow
« Reply #2 on: June 16, 2012, 03:31:39 AM »
You have to be a routined photographer if you shoot in M-Mode. The planes are sometimes 400-600 knots fast.
My tip is: Try it out. F wide open, shutter speed faster than 1/1000s (otherwise the plane is unsharp, especially @ faster speed. Iso@  Auto.
Your 100-400 is ok for that, but the "pulling-zoom" is a little bit tricky. On the other side, you can use the 70-200 with an Converter. I use both of these lenses (70-200 2.8, but he 1. version).
If the planes stay far away, AF in oo  (endless). If they are in front of you, AF on.

I tried to use spot mode, but that resulted in over&underexposed pictures, especially when there are clouds and a variety of dark and bright situations on the sky. overexposuring +1 was optimal for my Cam in more-field-metering, but you have to try it out with your Cam.
I use the 7D for that, taking RAW pics. With your 5DMkIII it should be no problem changing the brightness etc. in photoshop without loosing much quality.

If there is an airshow, got there some days before the event. Professional teams are often  training before the airshow. Then try it out, using M-Mode, etc. and learn to know your Cam.

Sorry for poor English.

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Re: Tech tips & advice to shoot Airshow
« Reply #2 on: June 16, 2012, 03:31:39 AM »