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, 

Mark

Continuous Learning – Podcasts



Continuing with our theme of ongoing education, let’s touch on Podcasts.  A Podcast is basically an audio show (although more video based ones are becoming available) that can be downloaded and listened to on your cell phone, music player or computer.  My preferred method is in my car through my music player as I have plenty of “windshield” time.

These podcasts are not purely instructional, but rather more of a variety type show with discussions on technique, equipment, interviews and industry news.  If you haven’t tried photo podcasts before, here a few to get you started.

The Digital Photo Experience

Hosted by Canon Explorer of Light Rick Samon and talented wild life photographer Juan Pons, this is one of my favorites.  These guys are just plain down to earth, nice guys – not to mention great photographic artists.

This Week In Photography

Hosted by former U.S. Air Force photographer Frederick Van Johnson, TWIP is a very professionally executed podcast with diverse topics and excellent co-hosts

The Digital Story

Hosted by well-known photographer Derrick Story, this is an informative weekly podcast that spends a little more time on micro 4/3rds and other compact camera systems.  Derrick usually has a segment called the “nimble photographer” focusing on easy to carry/use gear and equipment.

Checkout the links and give them a try!  They can be setup to automatically download new episodes on your phone or music player so you’re already stocked with content when you want it.

Stay in focus,

Mark

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,

Mark

Perspective Matters


A low perspective almost always adds interest. 

Whenever possible, shoot at eye level (or the equivalent in your subjects) to gain interest, perspective and drama.  It's comfortable to make pictures from your standing position but that rarely gives you the best angle.  Squat, get on your knees, sit or lay down.  Like my friend Rick Sammon says "use you camera like a spaceship!"

For the shot in this post, I scoped out a spot on the return ramp and laid down, waiting for the turn,

Stay in focus, 

Mark

Air Show Tips - Shutter Speed


P-51D

P-51D

An ultimate shot for me!

P-51 Mustang captured at 1/160th of a second on a low and fast pass.

Generally speaking, you can shoot jets at a very high shutter speed - unless you're looking for a certain type of effect (more on that later) but with prop driven planes it's important to shoot slow enough to show as much motion in the propeller as possible.  Yes, this is easier said than done - as the Mustang in the shot below illustrates.

shutter speed too fast.

shutter speed too fast.

Quick Tips

  • Determine you current "stable" panning shutter speed
    • Start at 1/750th and begin working down from there
    • Practice good panning techniques
      • Plant your feet shoulder width apart
      • Keep your elbows tucked in
      • Pick a spot on your target and keep one specific focus point on that spot
      • Pivot at the waist
      • Gradually start to slow your shutter
        • Different airplanes will have different "sweet spots" - as high as 1/350th of a second all the way down to 1/60th of a second

Take a look at the shot below taken at a later air-show and compare it to the "frozen" Mustang above.  Sharp focus is maintained but with a nice pleasing blur in the Mustang's prop.  You don't get the feeling that the aircraft are just hanging in the sky but rather a good sense of motion.

acceptable shutter speed.

acceptable shutter speed.

Jets

Generally speaking, you can use a high shutter speed on jets - makes for easier shooting and with a jet's speed you may need it.  There are times, however, when you'll want to reduce your shutter speed based on background and simliar situations.  The shot below is a good example, higher shutter speed for the jet worked just fine - but a slower speed would have significantly blurred the background creating an even greater sense of speed.

F-86 Sabre

F-86 Sabre

One last consideration for slower shutter speeds, be sure you're not dealing with three axis movement.  You can manage a shutter when:

  • the plane is moving closer or farther away from you (autofocus does this)
  • the plane is moving forward (a good panning technique handles this one)

However, if the plane is rotating, rolling or pitching up dramatically at the same time it's moving forward - you'll start to pick up some blur as you can't pan in multiple directions.

Multi axis movement

Multi axis movement

Have fun and don't get discouraged, it takes time!

Stay in focus,

Mark