Since flight lines vary between airfields, as does the path of
the sun, homework is your best bet to figuring out where to be.
Here are some questions to ask your self when choosing a location
to set up:
While at some air shows, the aircraft
will follow the length of the runway the entire time they are
in front of the crowd, others will use show center as an apex
and approach from behind. For the shows that use the straight
pass approach, choose either end of the crowd line, preferably
the opposite end of the approach pattern. This will give you
a much longer period in which to capture head on photos of the
aircraft. For the shows that use an arch pattern and approach
from behind position yourself closest to the approach and you
will have access to closer, tighter formation shots than from
If they've positioned the crowd line close to the beginning
or end of a runway, choose what is most important to you. Do
you want photos of an aircraft at idle preparing for takeoff
or images of the plane as it is just lifting the front wheels?
Perhaps you are looking for the aircraft to be in wheels up
clean configuration low to the runway, if so you should be as
close to the end of the runway as possible.
Do you like to photograph the performers signing autographs
or waving to the crowd as they climb out of the aircraft? Try
show center, but get there early.
Be extra cautious of speaker and
audio systems that may be in your way. Since most of the time
the action is in the air high above, we just don't think about
it. However, if you would like photos of jet cars, or low flying
aerobatics such as the ribbon cutting maneuvers, you may want
to position yourself a little more carefully.
If this were a perfect world, the
sun would be to everyone's back and there would always be a
soft breeze cleansing the hazy sky. Unfortunately airports aren't
built for the once a year air show convenience, so improvisation
becomes vital to great and unique images. Sometimes, weather
can even become your greatest ally!
If aircraft are flying during
cloudy days, chances are it will be a low show, (if a show at
all!). Low shows enable you to get even closer to the action
than normally possible. Some performers, or teams such as the
Blue Angels, alter their performances according to the ceiling
provided thus allowing for different formation shots. When shooting
under a completely overcast sky, overexpose the image by 1 to
1.5 stops. The bright sky tends to trick the camera into thinking
it is too light for the current shutter speed and you will wind
up with a silhouette on every shot. Other great advantages of
cloudy skies would be the statics. Clouds act as a big diffuser
softening the light and eliminating harsh shadows. Adding an
81A-warming filter will help reduce the bluish tones in the
Tyson Rininger is a professional photographer
based in Central California. Mr. Rininger began photographing
when he was just 12 years of age. Since he received his first
camera, Mr. Rininger has been chasing action all of his life.
Everything from spectacular lightning photographs, to auto racing
and of course, air shows are included in his superb portfolio.
Mr. Rininger's online photographic galleries can be seen at: