Even better! Partly cloudy skies add depth to your images.
Instead of having a plain blue background, now you can add
dimension and distance, and with proper timing, frame the
aircraft amongst the clouds. Framing could involve using a
wider-angle lens to give the aircraft "placement".
Cumulous clouds work great for depth during the midday. When
evening starts to approach, look for "God rays"
or beams of light shining down through patches in the sky.
A wide angle works best for these shots.
It seems as though airports are specifically constructed so
the sun is in your face
the whole day! Definitely a situation
that requires a lens hood. Lens hoods keep stray light off the
front optic of your lens. When light hits the front optic, it
bounces off of the various other optics inside the lens causing
haziness. By avoiding this, contrast and clarity is gained.
If the sun is directly in front of you, try timing your photos
so that the aircraft flies directly in front of the sun. Most
of the time, this will cause your camera to increase the shutter
speed instantly resulting in a silhouette of the aircraft. Obviously,
be careful when dealing with the sun. As if it isn't bad enough
just looking at it, now you're magnifying it as well!
So you have your equipment, you've decided what film to use
and now you're on the prowl looking for anything that flies.
Then what? Even though your meter will tell you to shoot at
a specific shutter speed / aperture combination, that's something
you're definitely going to want to experiment with.
If you feel your camera may be tricked by odd lighting conditions,
take your telephoto lens and point it towards the tarmac. The
gray tarmac will give you a good average 18% gray reading that
you should be able to apply elsewhere in the same direction.
Just remember light changes, so recheck your meter reading every
half-hour and only use this technique during midday light. Most
cameras have very sophisticated metering systems that should
do just fine without using this technique, however. Photographing
aircraft is difficult. There, I've said it! It takes lots of
practice and skill.
Select the fastest shutter speed possible. Since jet aircraft
typically move at a fast rate of speed, stopping the action
is much easier said than done. To achieve this, set the camera
to its "Aperture Priority" mode and select the widest
aperture your lens will allow. This will cause the camera to
select the fastest shutter speed possible based on your surrounding
The only exception to selecting the fastest shutter speed for
jet aircraft would be if there were a background such as a hangar
or mountainside. In order to create a sense of action and speed;
set your camera's shutter speed to 1/250 -1/500 of a second.
Those shutter speeds also work if there are scattered Cumulous
or Cirrus clouds in the background as well.
Another tip that works well with just about
any aircraft, especially jets with no reference points other
than blue sky, is to tip the camera. An aircraft caught on
film making a standard pass can become monotonous. By tilting
the camera ever so slightly, you can make the aircraft appear
to be in a subtle climb or descent. Be careful not to angle
the camera too much though as the sun and shadows on the aircraft
tend to tell stories of their own.