Why Shoot Raw?

Tree Swallow Singing

Tree Swallow Singing

The answer is easy for me - shooting in the camera's native ("raw") format rather than JPEG allows for a high degree of recovery when you "miss".  There are other reasons (ability to adjust white balance, use camera profiles after the fact, etc) but exposure recovery is number one for me.  The image below is the original raw file from the camera.

As shot - underexposed

As shot - underexposed

Big difference!  The first step in processing this image was to increase exposure 1.5 stops.  That's a lot!  There were some standard edits made as well (contrast, color, noise reduction and sharpening) but 90% of the change was the ability to pull the exposure out of the shadows.

Shoot in the raw, you won't regret it!

Stay in focus,


Aircraft Panning Basics


Panning Shots - The Practice is Worth it!

It takes practice and patience to develop a good panning technique, but the shots captured will make you proud.  Chances are you already have some of the basics down and just don't realize it.  Panning relies on good form and a steady motion - similar to a golf swing, skeet shooting and other activities.  Here are some quick tips to get you started:


  • Don't move your feet or your shoulders - pivot at your waist
  • Consider the arc of your pan, and face closer to your ending position - twist back to get to your starting point
  • This places what should be your best balanced position towards the end of your pan, allowing for better control
  • Holding technique

    • There are many ways to do this and not necessarily "one" right way - this is how I do it:
    • Press the camera against your face to increase stability.  A larger, cushioned eye-cup can make this more comfortable and effective
    • Tuck your elbows into your side, increasing stability
    • Lean slightly into your shot - this will create a more stable "triangle" between your face, front hand and tucked in elbows


  • Checkout the article on Air Show Shutter Speed to learn more about proper settings and the different scenarios you will encounter
  • Shutter speed will be limited by your panning technique, with propeller driven aircraft requiring the most skill.  Begin your practicing with no lower than 1/750th of a second shutter speed and move down as you become comfortable
  • Spread your feet about should width apart - provides a stable platform and good balance

    P 51 Mustang<br /><br />
1 160th Shutter    and 200 MPH

    Select your target

  • While you can use multiple focus points, I've found it best to use the single point selection option - and lock it on target
  • Pick a spot on the aircraft, place your focus point of choice on it and keep it there (yes, easier said than done)
  • This doesn't have to be the center point.  As illustrated below, your target won't necessarily have a viable center spot
  • Aperture 1

    Aim and move

    • Depending on your target and the arc it's traveling, the speed will not be constant - you'll have to adjust with your target
    • The bike shot below (shutter speed of 1/ 180th) was extra difficult as the bike and plane were not traveling at the same rate of speed for most of the run.  20 images yielded only one that was sharp enough.
    • The bike shot below (shutter speed of 1/ 180th) was extra difficult as the bike and plane were not traveling at the same rate of speed for most of the run.  20 images yielded only one that was sharp enough.
    • Once you've locked your focus point in place, practice your panning
    • Aperture 2

      Follow through

      • You want to shoot on continuous - as fast as your camera can go.  With practice you'll surely get better and have more "keepers" but even the best rarely achieve better than a 50/50 average keeper rate on difficult targets
      • Start early . . . end late
      • Begin your shooting sequence a second or two early - it will give you time to get the "rhythm" and allow your image stabilization to spin up
      • Use image stabilization?  Well, it depends.  Read up on your camera / lens.  Some systems have a special setting for image stabilization during panning
      • At the end of your series of shots, keep the motion going past the point of action.  You will naturally tend to slow down at the very end and you want to ensure you're still in rhythm when your last shutter click occurs


      • There really is no substitute for it, and it's amazing how much better your equipment seems to work when you practice!
      • Don't get discouraged.  Action shooting has a lot going on, focus on one issue at a time (panning, lower shutter speed captures, exposure, composition) and build up gradually.  Want to learn some other Air-show basics, check out this article from the beginning of the 2013 season.

      Have fun and stay in focus!


      Exit Your Comfort Zone

      For the love of a dog

      If it flies, I shoot it!

      Portraits are not something I'm comfortable with, not that I don't enjoy it - I just haven't really done a lot of it.

      • I've got to give direction?  But birds don't take direction?
      • Reflectors and light modification?  I only use fill flash?? 
      • Post processing?  There are no feathers, what the heck do I do!? 


      Get out and do it

      For me, the best way was to get with a few guys and gals who know what they're doing.  We spent a couple days in South Dakota with a few "hired hands" as models.  It was a relaxed, low pressure environment, working on posing, atmosphere, composition and edits.  Now, I'm certainly no portrait wiz - but I have a feel for it now and the basic techniques to apply.  This gives me enough confidence to continue learning on my own.

      There are other ways

      I chose a mentored approach for this learning experience but books, videos, online training as well as trial and error can work just as well - what's comfortable for you?  With a little of all of the above, I taught myself macro photography in a low stress environment over time, it worked well!

      So get out there and try something new, you'll be surprised at how quickly you'll learn to extend your techniques. 

      Stay in focus, 



      Dynamic Images

      Good photography communicates and conveys the essence of its subject.  If you're subject is alive and dynamic - your photography needs to telegraph it at the first glance. Fast things need to look "fast".

      • The core of the moving subject should be in sharp focus.  Everything else around it will communicate the motion
      • Practice your panning technique - this post will help to get you started 
      • Over time, gradually begin to slow your shutter speed as your panning technique improves

      Stay in focus, 


      Patience Can Be 90% Of The Battle

      3 hours of waiting for an eagle.  Finally one pass.  But it was a good one!

      • Scout your locations (including sun angle and prevailing winds) to be sure that you're "patient" in the right location.
      • Make sure your settings are correct, check them periodically with test shots if the light changes. 
      • "Pre focus" on the spot you think the action will happen. 
      • Pay attention - don't get too distracted, the 10 seconds of action can happen when you least expect it

      Stay in focus,