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Airshow Photo Tips (page 4)
by Tyson Rininger

Partly Cloudy

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!


Aircraft Photography

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.

Jet Aircraft

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 light conditions.

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.

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About the Author:

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:

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