A digital photo shooting session of airplanes in an air show
A few weeks ago I went with my friends to see an air show. The schedule was packed with acrobatics and many types of planes. The highlight of the show was the blue angles with their jets doing dangerous routines. I took my camera hoping to capture some good digital memories of that show.
I took my digital SLR camera to the air show. I put it in my special camera bag alongside an extra battery and lenses. I used an eight mega pixels DSLR with a 100-300mm zoon lenses.
I decided to shoot as many photos as I could knowing from my experience that in such cases the rule of big numbers works very well – shoot as many photos as you can and you might be able to find a few photos which are really unique. So when the airplanes started to fly around I pointed my camera at them and from that point on I watched most of the air show through my camera’s viewfinder.
I set my camera to automatic continuous focus. I had my finger holding the shutter button half way down most of the time while I am moving the camera to track those fast flying airplanes. I could hear the camera’s motors working hard moving the optical components in the lens back and forth to keep the focus right. I also set the camera to burst mode so whenever I decided the composition was worth shooting a photo it actually shot a fast sequence of four photos. The idea behind that was first to get more photos to choose from – with fast flying planes these four photos were really different from each other – and second to maybe be able to capture some motion in a sequence of photos.
As time passed my hands got tired from holding the camera and my stable grip was not as stable anymore. Unfortunately I did not bring a tripod – and probably I would have not used it even if I had it since it is hard to track airplanes flying above using one especially when you are with thousands of people walking around you. When I looked at the photos that evening I saw the results of my tired grip – the later digital photos were not as sharp and steady as the earlier ones.
When I saw the results of my work my reaction was to go and get those fancy lenses with an image stabilizer built-in them. There are two types of image stabilizer one that moves the sensor and one that actually uses gyroscopes in the lens to move a floating optical element that compensates for shakings. The latter is more expensive and provides better results. I saw some people walking around with the Canon image stabilizing zoom lens I am not sure how effective it was for them but it sure did look impressive.
There are also drawbacks to using image stabilizers and actually some of these drawbacks are very relevant to my air show photo shooting. Moving the camera erratically to track an acrobatic airplane can confuse the image stabilizer that can detect that movement as being unwanted shakings and try to compensate for it. If I had an image stabilizer I would have had to use different practices when shooting my photos like trying to pan the camera on one axis and at a more or less constant speed.
Overall I was able to choose some great photos of airplanes flying around doing acrobatics very close to each other, airplanes with some birds flying in what seems to be in the photo as very close proximity and other digital photos of airplanes in different situations. These will serve as good memories of that air show and as a lesson for getting better equipped in my next air show digital photo shooting.
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