Airshow equipment decisions

Jim Saunders

EOS R
Sep 9, 2012
1,125
14
hhaphoto.com
If your bodies will do it you can use AEB set to plus or minus a stop or so (plus high-speed drive) to give you a decent chance of getting a good shot with the airframe sharp and the prop soft, and the insurance of a faster shot to at least get the airframe.

The ephemeris app here is useful to judge where the sunlight will be.

If its your first airshow bring an umbrella, food/water/clothing for the weather, earplugs, sunscreen.

Taking a tripod and a gimbal is your choice but if the gimbal is on a level tripod it will keep all your photos in proper context if the horizon is out of the shot.

There are a few from my last event here if you want to see what I used.

Jim
 

RGF

How you relate to the issue, is the issue.
Jul 13, 2012
2,816
35
Just read this discussion and it is great. I seldom photo planes (I dare not say I shoot plane for fear of a visit by the FBI), but if I have a change I have learned a lot.
 

dcm

Good or bad - it's not the gear.
Apr 18, 2013
848
205
KeithBreazeal said:
Excellent explanations dcm.
I'll add the panning issues at slow shutter speeds.
When going for prop blur, the aircraft's speed and distance from the camera can produce very different results.
The approach angle is also to be considered.
Typical airshow shooting has a large distance(radius) compared to shooting 500mph planes at the Reno Air Race pylons. When shooting at short distances and panning, different parts of the plane will have a different speed relationship to the center of frame, resulting in motion blur. This gets really crazy when shooting for full prop blur. Picking a spot to shoot from that is about the center of the turn radius provides best results for nose to tail sharpness but lessens the prop arc circle to more of a side view.
My other consideration is DOF. If I want multiple aircraft in focus, I tend to go heavy on the aperture, resulting in a higher ISO to keep the shutter speed up.
My strategy is to start shooting at higher shutter speeds- 320 to 500, depending on prop rpm. Once I have a keeper, I start dropping the speed. When you go through all the time, effort, travel & money, it's a pisser to walk away with nothing.

...

dcm said:
Propeller/rotor RPMs drive shutter speed considerations. The maximum RPM depends on length of the blades. The helical (rotational +translational) velocity of the tips is limited by the speed of sound, generally the upper limit is 0.85 Mach. Exceeding this produces noise and loss of efficiency due to the shock wave. The engines typically spin much faster and drive the blades through a reduction gear.

Some examples: A Spitfire with 3.3 meter blades on a Merlin engine with a 2:1 reduction gear has engine RPMs in 2400-3000 range with propeller RPMs in 1200-1500 range. A C130 with a 13.5 foot blades with a 13.54:1 reduction gear has engine RPMs up to 13820 with propeller RPMs of 1021. A Piper Cub with 74 inch blades driven directly spin up to 2300 RPM.

Helicopter rotors are longer so RPMs are lower. A UH-60 BlackHawk gearbox reduces from 20,000 engine RPMs to 258 rotor RPMs for its 16.36m rotor diameter. A UH-1B Huey gearbox reduces from 6,600 engine RPM to 324 rotor RPM for its 13.4m rotor diameter. A Sikorsky S-64 SkyCrane gearbox reduces 9,000 engine RPMs to 185 rotor RPMs for is 22m rotor diameter.

Fast shutter speeds will freeze the blades, slow shutter speeds will blur them. Depends on the effect you want to achieve. What works well for one plane/helo might not work well for another. It might be worthwhile to bracket your shutter speeds.
Thanks Keith.

Figured I could add a shutter speed estimate for circle blur to finish the discussion and provide some ballpark estimates for planes and helos. 1/2 these speeds would give you a 50% blur in the disc, 1/4 these speeds a 25% blur in the disc, and so on.

shutter speed for a complete circle is 60 / (#blades * RPM)

= 60/(4*1431) or 1/100 sec for a 4 bladed prop at 1431 RPM (later model P51 Mustang)
= 60/(6*1021) or 1/100 sec for a 6 bladed prop at 1021 RPM (C130 Hercules)
= 60/(2*1800) or 1/60 sec for a 2 bladed prop at 1800 RPM (Stearman)
= 60/(4*258) or 1/17 sec for a 4 bladed rotor at 258 RPM (UH60 BlackHawk)
= 60/(6*179) or 1/18 sec for a 6 bladed rotor at 179 RPM (MH53E Pave Low)
= 60/(3*333) or 1/16 sec for 3 bladed prop at 333 RPM (V22 Osprey in forward flight)
= 60/(3*412) or 1/20 sec for 3 bladed prop at 412 RPM (V22 Osprey in hover)

Have fun at the air show.
 

tomcat

I'm New Here
Mar 21, 2015
11
0
Thank you for your comments!

Much advice. I´ll take a lot of equipment with me, bag, chair, enough to drink and eat and an customizable umbrella (sunprotection). I got the advice not to take an tripod with me, as the space around you on the flightline will be to less to work with an lens on an tripod properly.
I got the information to use the Canon 500mm with 1.4 times extender on jets far away when they perform high G maneuvers and vapor is visible. Maybe an good advice.

Two PN advice to use the 80D on the Canon 500mm lens, the Canon 7D Mark II on the 10--400mm as working horse and use the Canon 6D Mark I on an wider angle zoom lens for rolling airplanes on the taxiway. If I can carry everything, this would be the overkill :)

I will modify the AF performance and go on auto Iso up to 1600.

I tried to go to Farnborough this weekend, but the head of my company refused, as we have a lot of open orders. The airshow in Hungary is cancelled. So, I will visit the airshows in Zeltweg, Slovak International Air Fest 2016, Czech International Air Fest 2016 and the Axalp shooting in Switzerland. I know, they are no really "big" events, but affordable. Maybe next year I can join an guided travel to GB or maybe overseas.
 

JMZawodny

1Dx2, 7D2 and lots of wonderful glass!
Sep 19, 2014
382
11
Virginia
Joe.Zawodny.com
tomcat said:
I will travel to two airshows in summer. I am not familiar with shooting planes. So, I ask for some advice please.
I own two crop Cameras, the Canon 80D and the Canon 7D Mark II. From my girlfried I could get an Canon 6D Mark I, if I need it. As favourite lens I will use the Canon 100-400mm Mark II and for planes more far away, I have the Canon 500mm 4 L Mark II and the Extender 1.4 Mark III. For static planes the 35mm 2 and 50mm 1.4

I will take two Cameras with me. I am not convinced to take my two crop Cameras with me. Should I combine my 500mm prime lens with the Canon 6D and the 100-400mm lens with the 7D Mark II? The image quality would be better if I move up in ISOs. What would you do?

Which minimal shutter sheep is best for jets? 1/1250s? Maximal ISO 800?

Thomas
Back to the original thread .... I would recommend putting the 100-400mm on the 7D2 and the 500mm on the 6D. I recently did an airshow with the 70-200mm on the 7D2 and a 500 on my 5D2 (1Dx2 did not arrive in time for the show). It was a very versatile combo for that particular airshow. Naturally, what will work best for you will depend upon where you will relative to the action. Since you have the 100-400, you may end up with that on the FF body and put the 500 on the 7D2. I certainly had enough space around most subjects to crop many of the FF images down to APS-C size.

The same goes for the static display, I could not suggest the 35 over the 50 because I don't know what you'll be shooting and how close you can get. If you have been to this air show before you should have a good idea of what will work. Have fun and post some pics after the show.
 

tomcat

I'm New Here
Mar 21, 2015
11
0
JMZawodny said:
tomcat said:
I will travel to two airshows in summer. I am not familiar with shooting planes. So, I ask for some advice please.
I own two crop Cameras, the Canon 80D and the Canon 7D Mark II. From my girlfried I could get an Canon 6D Mark I, if I need it. As favourite lens I will use the Canon 100-400mm Mark II and for planes more far away, I have the Canon 500mm 4 L Mark II and the Extender 1.4 Mark III. For static planes the 35mm 2 and 50mm 1.4

I will take two Cameras with me. I am not convinced to take my two crop Cameras with me. Should I combine my 500mm prime lens with the Canon 6D and the 100-400mm lens with the 7D Mark II? The image quality would be better if I move up in ISOs. What would you do?

Which minimal shutter sheep is best for jets? 1/1250s? Maximal ISO 800?

Thomas
Back to the original thread .... I would recommend putting the 100-400mm on the 7D2 and the 500mm on the 6D. I recently did an airshow with the 70-200mm on the 7D2 and a 500 on my 5D2 (1Dx2 did not arrive in time for the show). It was a very versatile combo for that particular airshow. Naturally, what will work best for you will depend upon where you will relative to the action. Since you have the 100-400, you may end up with that on the FF body and put the 500 on the 7D2. I certainly had enough space around most subjects to crop many of the FF images down to APS-C size.

The same goes for the static display, I could not suggest the 35 over the 50 because I don't know what you'll be shooting and how close you can get. If you have been to this air show before you should have a good idea of what will work. Have fun and post some pics after the show.
I´ve been in all 4 airshows for one time before. At Slovak International and Czech International Air Fest there was al lot of distance to the jets. In Zeltweg, I received an Spotter ticket, so the distance will be about 30-40m to the taxying jets and about 150m to the runway. And the fast jets with a lot of vapor will be - guessed - about 1 -2 miles away. To Axalp, as you have to walk some hours to the shooting range, I will just fetch one of my crops and the 100-400 (maybe with the extender)
 
Jan 16, 2014
1,318
247
www.kbvp.com
tomcat said:
Another question: How to deal with an grey sky? underexposing for 1/2 stop?
It really depends on the color of the plane. Grey military type is usually around 2/3rds of a stop for me.
Dark blue or green can go as high as 2 stops. It all really depends on the scale of grey sky- light overcast or cloud burst any second. I find myself all over the dial in these situations. Watch the histogram- don't trust the LCD. Color saturation and contrast are going to suck no matter what. Processing for black & white is also an option.

These are all 2/3rds biased.

cca 2015 Super Hornet on final 1004 © Keith Breazeal_filtered by Keith Breazeal, on Flickr

F-22 Raptor by Keith Breazeal, on Flickr

Chino 2016 Texas Flying Legends clouds 8024 WEB © Keith Breazeal by Keith Breazeal, on Flickr
 

daniela

EOS RP
Aug 19, 2012
255
2
Tyrol, Austria
Wonderful shots. Technique and speed on its best.

Is the 6D performing good enough for planes? I have to accompany my son to an airshow in Styria in some weeks. Fast and slow planes are flying. Does it make sense to fetch my cam and carry all stuff, or is the 6D not capable enough for this? In my opinion I could go up to 1600 on ISO to get short exposure times.


Oh, and where do you focus on? My few plane shots are often unsharp, because the plane is big and if I aim at the tail when it flew away from me, the rest was unsharp. The same problem with the numbers on the planes. Some are in front, some are farer away. So it is hard to get all sharp.
Should I shoot in manual mode and take faster than 1/1000s and aperture of 8?

G
Daniela
 

ajfotofilmagem

EOS 5D Mark IV
Aug 23, 2013
2,379
81
Bahia Brazil
daniela said:
Wonderful shots. Technique and speed on its best.

Is the 6D performing good enough for planes? I have to accompany my son to an airshow in Styria in some weeks. Fast and slow planes are flying. Does it make sense to fetch my cam and carry all stuff, or is the 6D not capable enough for this? In my opinion I could go up to 1600 on ISO to get short exposure times.


Oh, and where do you focus on? My few plane shots are often unsharp, because the plane is big and if I aim at the tail when it flew away from me, the rest was unsharp. The same problem with the numbers on the planes. Some are in front, some are farer away. So it is hard to get all sharp.
Should I shoot in manual mode and take faster than 1/1000s and aperture of 8?

G
Daniela
With 6D you must have a low success rate in AI SERVO mode. So, is better just use the center focus point and disable AI SERVO AF.

For airplanes with propeller, speed 1/1000 is enough, and the Jets 1/2000.

For groups of planes, F8 gives a sufficient DOF in most cases.
 

bholliman

EOS R
Dec 6, 2012
1,473
0
USA
www.flickr.com
ajfotofilmagem said:
daniela said:
Wonderful shots. Technique and speed on its best.

Is the 6D performing good enough for planes? I have to accompany my son to an airshow in Styria in some weeks. Fast and slow planes are flying. Does it make sense to fetch my cam and carry all stuff, or is the 6D not capable enough for this? In my opinion I could go up to 1600 on ISO to get short exposure times.


Oh, and where do you focus on? My few plane shots are often unsharp, because the plane is big and if I aim at the tail when it flew away from me, the rest was unsharp. The same problem with the numbers on the planes. Some are in front, some are farer away. So it is hard to get all sharp.
Should I shoot in manual mode and take faster than 1/1000s and aperture of 8?

G
Daniela
With 6D you must have a low success rate in AI SERVO mode. So, is better just use the center focus point and disable AI SERVO AF.

For airplanes with propeller, speed 1/1000 is enough, and the Jets 1/2000.

For groups of planes, F8 gives a sufficient DOF in most cases.
Love my 6D, but I never use it in AI Servo mode. As ajfotofilmagem notes, just use single shot and the center focus point and it will perform pretty well. Just follow the plan with your camera (pan), I normally aim at the cockpit.
 

daniela

EOS RP
Aug 19, 2012
255
2
Tyrol, Austria
bholliman said:
ajfotofilmagem said:
daniela said:
Wonderful shots. Technique and speed on its best.

Is the 6D performing good enough for planes? I have to accompany my son to an airshow in Styria in some weeks. Fast and slow planes are flying. Does it make sense to fetch my cam and carry all stuff, or is the 6D not capable enough for this? In my opinion I could go up to 1600 on ISO to get short exposure times.


Oh, and where do you focus on? My few plane shots are often unsharp, because the plane is big and if I aim at the tail when it flew away from me, the rest was unsharp. The same problem with the numbers on the planes. Some are in front, some are farer away. So it is hard to get all sharp.
Should I shoot in manual mode and take faster than 1/1000s and aperture of 8?

G
Daniela
With 6D you must have a low success rate in AI SERVO mode. So, is better just use the center focus point and disable AI SERVO AF.

For airplanes with propeller, speed 1/1000 is enough, and the Jets 1/2000.

For groups of planes, F8 gives a sufficient DOF in most cases.
Love my 6D, but I never use it in AI Servo mode. As ajfotofilmagem notes, just use single shot and the center focus point and it will perform pretty well. Just follow the plan with your camera (pan), I normally aim at the cockpit.

Thank you both!
Central AF Point, ok.
Really, use it in single shot? But then I am not able to take a row of shots, if the planes pass by or approch to me. Always new focussing. How. difficult. That is frustrating. Is there no AF feature that allows semi-sufficent auto focussing?
 

daniela

EOS RP
Aug 19, 2012
255
2
Tyrol, Austria
I tried to shoot with my 6D in one shot and serial picture mode at the airport in Munich today.
1/1250s, 4fps, Iso auto (max 3200).
My problem: Most shots are out of focus, because the plane moved. What do I do wrong?


In AI servo a little bit more shots are in focus.

G
Daniela
 

chasinglight

EOS 90D
Nov 14, 2012
128
0
Michaeltowster.smugmug.com
daniela said:
I tried to shoot with my 6D in one shot and serial picture mode at the airport in Munich today.
1/1250s, 4fps, Iso auto (max 3200).
My problem: Most shots are out of focus, because the plane moved. What do I do wrong?


In AI servo a little bit more shots are in focus.

G
Daniela
Daniela,

To fully answer your question I would need more information about your situation such as which lens, what type of aircraft (propeller or jet), and perhaps a sample image. However, to answer your question simply. When shooting aircraft or anything else this move you always want to use AI Servo. One Shot mode achieves focus, then stops focusing, while AI Servo will detect change in focus and keep trying to attain focus. Depending on the lens focal length and subject distance determine whether you need to use a single AF point or all 11. On the 6D I have used all 11 when shooting formations, but when following a single aircraft I would stick with the center AF point.

When shooting planes I recommend using Tv (Shutter Speed Priority Mode). For jet planes set the shutter speed over 1/1000s as you seem to have done. When shooting propeller plans start around 1/160s and work your way slower if you can to achieve more prop blur. Use exposure compensation as needed to expose to the right on the histogram.

There is more to shooting great aircraft in flight photos than just settings. Proper technique is very important. Follow the plane in the viewfinder while either back button focusing or half pressing the shutter. The idea is to pan very smoothly, becoming one with the motion of the plane and keeping the plane in the exact same spot in the viewfinder. Then when the composition is right, just as when shooting a gun, smoothly press the shutter button while continuing to follow the plane.

Hope that helps and happy shooting!
 

daniela

EOS RP
Aug 19, 2012
255
2
Tyrol, Austria
chasinglight said:
daniela said:
I tried to shoot with my 6D in one shot and serial picture mode at the airport in Munich today.
1/1250s, 4fps, Iso auto (max 3200).
My problem: Most shots are out of focus, because the plane moved. What do I do wrong?


In AI servo a little bit more shots are in focus.

G
Daniela
Daniela,

To fully answer your question I would need more information about your situation such as which lens, what type of aircraft (propeller or jet), and perhaps a sample image. However, to answer your question simply. When shooting aircraft or anything else this move you always want to use AI Servo. One Shot mode achieves focus, then stops focusing, while AI Servo will detect change in focus and keep trying to attain focus. Depending on the lens focal length and subject distance determine whether you need to use a single AF point or all 11. On the 6D I have used all 11 when shooting formations, but when following a single aircraft I would stick with the center AF point.

When shooting planes I recommend using Tv (Shutter Speed Priority Mode). For jet planes set the shutter speed over 1/1000s as you seem to have done. When shooting propeller plans start around 1/160s and work your way slower if you can to achieve more prop blur. Use exposure compensation as needed to expose to the right on the histogram.

There is more to shooting great aircraft in flight photos than just settings. Proper technique is very important. Follow the plane in the viewfinder while either back button focusing or half pressing the shutter. The idea is to pan very smoothly, becoming one with the motion of the plane and keeping the plane in the exact same spot in the viewfinder. Then when the composition is right, just as when shooting a gun, smoothly press the shutter button while continuing to follow the plane.

Hope that helps and happy shooting!
Hi!
I will photograph with my Eos 6D and the 100mm-400mm II. My son, as he is the reason why I stay in Styria for some days, uses my 500mm 4.0 II and my 70-200 2.8 on the 7DII (my husband owns a lot of Nikon high end gear, but he is in overseas for 12 weeks and has his gear with him).
We got some VIP tickets, so we stay some meters nearer to the runway. I asked him which planes we see, and he told me some jets (older and newer one from surrounding military), some propeller planes from WW2 and later. And a few aerobatic squadrons from Italy, Spain and Turkey.

I am just a little bit irritated, why shooting not in AI servo mode (see posting from other members). The AI servo is composed for moving subjects. Or is this mode as bad as it can´t be used? I tried to do so today, using the 6D&100-400mm, but all pictures are really unsharp. What is my mistake?


G
Daniela
 

bholliman

EOS R
Dec 6, 2012
1,473
0
USA
www.flickr.com
daniela said:
bholliman said:
Love my 6D, but I never use it in AI Servo mode. As ajfotofilmagem notes, just use single shot and the center focus point and it will perform pretty well. Just follow the plan with your camera (pan), I normally aim at the cockpit.
Thank you both!
Central AF Point, ok.
Really, use it in single shot? But then I am not able to take a row of shots, if the planes pass by or approach to me. Always new focusing. How. difficult. That is frustrating. Is there no AF feature that allows semi-sufficient auto focusing?
I have limited air show experience, so my comments are more of a general "fast moving subject" variety. Keith and others who are real air show experts can provide better guidance. After 3.5 years with my 6D, I just finally got to the point where I have better success with single shot on almost everything, including moving objects. I've gradually improved my technique to where I get a passable keeper rate, but its never going to perform as well as bodies with better AF systems, like a 7D2, 5D3, 5Ds(R) or 1-series. Probably not as well as a 80D either.
 

awair

EOS M6 Mark II
Jan 3, 2013
96
10
photo.awair.net
I would also appreciate feedback as to why not use AI Servo.

I used the 6D for swimming (Butterfly, head on) and the accuracy was as good as my 7D (and better than my 7D2 which turned out to be faulty). I was always using the max frame rate, and the AI seemed to keep up fine.

I use single point/spot focus nearly all the time.

If I should consider something else for air-shows/aircraft, I would love to hear your thoughts...

Thank you.