It’s Osh Week – Bring Your Best Game!

The gathering right now at Osh is one of the great airshows paying tribute to our heroes who fought for our freedoms! I want to give you some thoughts, tricks, and tips so you can make the most of your Osh shooting. Now of course, buying a copy of Takeoff would be a great start! Realizing most learn best from watching rather than reading, you can head to my Kelby Class on Airshow Photography for more in-depth explanations. I want to talk about putting movement into your stills right now so just because you see planes here, these techniques apply to ALL moving subjects! Start with the understanding that shooting unrestricted is essential! The less you carry, the more mobile you are, the more mobile and limber you are, the sharper the photos and better composed they will be. My main gear for an airshow is the Z  9 / Z400f4.5 w/Z1.4x for ground to air and Z 8 / Z24-70f2.8 for statics. With that in mind, here are some tips that you can apply to any action photography and airshows.

A-10 Warthog
captured by D4s / 200-400VR2

Put yourself in relationship to the action in a position where it performs around you. At airshows, aircraft often make a “photo” pass which is often done in what’s called a “banana pass.” If you can picture a banana with your being inside the curve of the banana, that’s basically a banana pass. When you’re on the INSIDE of that curve, the aircraft or athlete or motorcycle will be MOVING into your frame which gives a feeling of not only speed but also intimacy. Keep in mind that being on the inside of the curve, the subject will be going faster in relation to your position so your panning has to be spot on.

AH-1 Super Cobra
captured by D5 / 200-400VR2

Taking your shutter speed down below your comfort zone is key! Shooting in Shutter Priority permits you to use a slow shutter speed consistently blurring moving parts communicating speed. In some cases, the shutter speed is arbitrary based on how you feel. In some cases, it could be a very specific shutter speed to blur props of aircraft or blades on a helicopter, in this case, 1/20 to blur the blades of this Cobra. Keep in mind that your panning blurs the background and the degree of that blur is a function of how fast you’re panning vs. your shutter speed. Now if your background is all blue, bald sky, there is not a slow enough shutter speed to show motion. You need something in the background to scream movement.

B-17G “Sentimental Journey”
captured by D5 / 200-400VR2

When you’ve got the light, forget everything else! Ya, there are lots of rules, ideas, suggestions and sexy action that can grab your attention but when you’ve got light, ditch them all for that light. I love this example of just that because many tend to not photograph the bellies of aircraft. This top shot is of a B-17G taken at Sioux Falls Airshow is a banana pass in gorgeous light. The angle of the light makes all the rivets pop and creates a shadow that just makes it seem like it’s going faster. You can’t go wrong with great light!

FG-1D Corsair
captured by D5 / 200-400VR2

Go for the ass! Any subject that is going away from you in the frame sets the mind to thinking movement. While this seems obvious, ass shots in themselves can be tricky. There is the matter of proper social protocol (not my specialty) along with attractiveness. There are a couple of aspects of subject positioning that goes along with this. Lower and centered in the frame is the place to start and then based on other elements in the frame can be moved about accordingly. When shooting the ass of an aircraft, the blurred prop is required to speak to movement. The slower the shutter speed, the more blurred the prop and the more blurred the prop, you change the position of the aircraft in the frame.

captured by D5 / 200-400VR2

This one is real simple. When you have a great background, think of smaller subject size in a slightly awkward placement in the frame. Yeap, that’s all it takes for the mind to see the placement and move the subject through the frame against that background. I like simple!

Beech Model 18
captured by D5 / 200-400VR2

Let the path set the movement. A track, street, sidewalk or trail of smoke communicates movement when you place the subject on that path. This again is another real simple one to employ but to take it to the next level, put the subject on the path again in a slightly awkward place.

P-51D “Precious Metal”
captured by D4s / 24-70

Low angle with a wide angle is a great way of communicating motion! Here is a classic example considering the only thing moving in the frame are the props. The rule of thumb is to leave enough room in the frame in front of the subject for the mind to give the subject motion. You can enhance this mental path by getting down low with a wide angle. This technique is great when in reality, you’re crammed up in a crowd and can’t get physically where you want to. In the case of aviation, think of slow shutter speed and not keeping the horizon plum. Here, it’s slanted up hill and the sun is included (lens closed down all the way for a sunburst) to finish the feel.

PT-17 Stearman
captured by D5 / 200-400VR2

Follow your subject in the viewfinder for its entire path! You just never know what surprises you might find in the viewfinder that if your eye is not up against it, you’ll miss. In this case, these Stearman finished a loop right overhead so a normal view of an aircraft from the ground, looking at the top of the aircraft, was all you see in the viewfinder. A unique perspective to any common subject begins the journey of having a unique photograph!

captured by D5 / 200-400VR2

Cramming action into a vertical creates lots of mental movement in a still! The tension of the subject looks like it’s going to run into the side of the frame can work with the rest of the elements are in sync. Other elements? Ya, light, blur, color, placement in the frame vertically, all those elements that together bring movement to the subject. Keep in mind that as soon as you turn the camera to vertical, your panning gets more difficult and composition more challenging. At the same time, the rewards for success goes up as well.

AH-1 Huey
captured by D5 / 200-400VR2

Never ignore the common! This Huey is no warbird or screaming jet yet I would be really bummed if it weren’t in my files. When you can make the uncommon out of the common, your photograph always wins! In this case, since it’s an airplane and it’s up in the sky, the mind knows it’s flying and that in itself says motion. Use proper handholding and panning, look for the light and think motion with a big dash of fun and you will be successful! have a great weekend shooting!

Slowin It Down

Wigeon captured by Z 8 / Z70-200f2.8

Capturing motion, action in stills is a challenge and great fun! There are some aspects though that just can’t be brought to life in a still. One is sound, in this case of those round engines powering up pulling the wigeon up the ramp. Another is the wake made by the Wigeon as it boils up and around. It’s in these moments I dive into 120p video in the Z 9 / Z 8 and slow the duration down to 25% in post. It’s such a simple yet very effective way to engage the audiance in a world they more then likely have never experienced. Like all good things in life, they tend to be a tad richer slowin it down!

Wet for Clouds!

Cessna 185B captured by Z 8 / Z70-200f2.8

There I was under the wing of the Goose, legs stretched out taking it all in as the light, it was hard. Very hard! I was at the splash-in on Priest Lake. I was watching the 185 giving rides come and go and thinking, “what great color, what nasty light.” So there I sat in the shade just watching the clouds build in front of me. Then I bent forward and happened to look east and I saw, CLOUDS! Look at those bad boys, they are gorgeous! Dang, I needed to get off my butt and do something with them. The ride 185, where is it? I see it in the pattern, it’s going to be coming in for the next rider. If I can get low enough, I can put them spectacular clouds behind it. It’s red accents would pop in front of that white and black. I could walk down the ramp and get out in the water, don’t mind getting wet or what might think is risking the gear, but that was not a good idea. Pilots wouldn’t be able to see me, know I was there, that would be dangerous. There was a dock! I could use a longer lens, lay on the dock and shoot across the water! Off I dashed and soon I was a spectacle as I did just as I thought. I didn’t end up getting wet but I got them clouds!

It’s a Splashin Weekend – Must Be Summer!

G-21 Goose (s) captured by D6 / 70-200f4

Absolutely, heading out with friends for a great weekend in the sun and on the water! It happens all over North America, you can find a splashin in your neighborhood (even in the desert) and there is the first in mine this weekend. There will be some friends like the two Goose you see here but there will be a whole bunch of new friends to be made there as well. Gotta be willing to get a little wet. Gotta be ready to put the camera down to help. Gotta be willing to possibly risk your camera though we have never had any issues. The swim trunks are packed, gear is in waterproof ThinkTank. It’s going to be great. Go looking as it’s a splashin weekend, it must be summer!

The Promise of the Horizon

Staggerwind F17D captured by Z 8 / Z24-70f2.8

The light outside the hangar changed, the hint of possible magic was on the far off horizon. There was time to grab the Z 8 / Z24-70f2.8, have one more cookie and wander out. Lessons from the past has taught me it’s easier to see if there is a possible photograph rather then learn later I had missed out. The top photo was taken just seven minutes after the image below. We just gotta get out and see what’s what because there is always the promise of the horizon!

Note: The WB was set to 10k in the Z 8, exp comp at -1 which is what is punching up the color and drama.

Staggerwind F17D captured by Z 8 / Z24-70f2.8

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