I had never seen an F-22 Raptor perform live until I attended AirFest in San Antonio a few weeks ago. While I’ve always been impressed by other fighter jets that I’ve watched, and despite the fact that a high-speed pass is still my favorite thing to watch, the F-22 adds a new dimension to the performance of a fighter jet. I was completely amazed by the maneuverability of the Raptor at slow speeds. At some points it almost appeared to have the same capabilities as a Harrier. I know basically nothing regarding the technical side of aircraft maneuverability and stability, I was nonetheless left wondering how the control surfaces of the Raptor could possibly maneuver the jet while it was hardly moving. Even the slow-speed pass was rather impressive — nose was pointed way up and the ground speed was very slow. I couldn’t figure out how it was getting enough lift to stay aloft. I suppose that it’s a combination of lift from the wing (probably minimal at that angle of attack) and the sheer thrust of the engines.
The photo at the top of the page shows the F-22 as the pilot exposes the open bomb bay for the crowd. I panned this shot using aperture-priority mode and auto focus. It’s reasonable given the speed of the jet and the zoom I was using. I’d probably go into full manual mode, set the focus ahead of time, then turn auto focus off if I were setting up for this shot again.
The shot below is quite blurry but illustrates an interesting phenomena call “shock diamonds” or “mach disks”. The standing wave in the exhaust of a jet engine comes from the difference in pressures of the engine exhaust and the atmosphere. For you techies there’s a pretty good explanation here: http://www.aerospaceweb.org/question/propulsion/q0224.shtml and also some information on wikipedia.
Finally, a very simple shot which IMO shows how sleek the F-22 looks while it flies. The rounded belly and cockpit make the “old” F-18s look clunky.
I recently spent a day with friends and family at AirFest 2010 at Lackland AFB in San Antonio. It was my kind of air show — lots of high-performance jets. There were F-15s, F-16s, an F-18, and an F-22. In addition, the Thunderbirds gave a great show.
It’s always interesting photographing aerial performances. The brightness of the sky can fool you camera’s meter into underexposing. If there are lots of puffy, white clouds it’s even worse and you’re often left with blown-out clouds if you want to get the exposure correct on the planes.
For the shot above I can’t even decide what exposure I like the best. Deep blue sky with slightly underexposed jets? Brighten everything up to lighten the jets? Use an adjustment brush to lighten the jets while keeping the sky deep blue (tried it — doesn’t look natural). You can see what I settled on above. In-camera I over-exposed 1/2 stop and increased the exposure a bit further in Lightroom. This is a shot which seems to vary quite a bit depending on the monitor you’re viewing on so your mileage may vary.
I spent the day shooting with my all-purpose Sigma 18-250mm because I didn’t want to lug my Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS around. It did OK but there is noticeable vignetting in many of the shots and just doesn’t match up with the Canon in sharpness (of course I didn’t expect it to). I’ll bring the Canon next time for sure.