A friend and I bought photo passes to the Wings Over Houston Air Show last weekend. The folks in Houston really do it right too. The photo pit was right on the flight line, roomy, and had a great riser platform to get well above the fence. They provided coffee in the morning, soft drinks and lunch — even sunscreen. Well done.
It’s easy to go crazy at an air show and fill up a half-dozen memory cards. From the sounds of the shutters around us I think some guys did that in fact. Eight to ten frames per second, firing away every time a plane was in sight. My friend and I were much more conservative in our shots. I came home with barely more than a card full of shots. It’s nice to not have so many photos to go through when I got home.
The shot above is Major Henry “Schadow” Schantz, pilot for the F-22 Demonstration and Heritage Flight team (more on the Heritage Flight some other time). It was pretty cool being right next to the plane as it went by and getting a nod (and a finger-point) from the pilot.
My wife and I (and several in her family) attended a luau while in Hawaii last week. I have no idea what an old traditional luau was like or how authentic the festivities were but in any case it was immensely enjoyable. Knowing that the main show would be after dark, I fitted my camera with my 50mm f/1.4 lens. Night photography has never been something I’ve been good at (maybe that can be said about all my photography 🙂 ). I’m always going back and forth with myself on the best combination for getting good exposures — shutter/aperture/ISO. Noise is always a consideration (not so much now that one of my bodies is a 5D Mkii).
For much of this show I wanted to mostly freeze the motion (like in the second shot above) so I shot in manual mode with an aperture between 1.4 and 2.8, shutter speed in the 1/500s – 1/640s range, and ISO 1600-3200 (the stage lighting varied from act to act and I tweaked settings accordingly). Depth of field wasn’t much of an issue because my focus point was quite far. However, I also spent time trying to capture some of the motion in the dances. I was shooting handheld so I did have to consider that when deciding how long to open the shutter. I played around with various shutter speeds and came out with some fun shots. For the fire shots I had hoped to be able to reduce the exposure enough to avoid blowing out the highlights of the flames completely but in doing so I ended up underexposing everything else much more than I liked. In the shot above I like the balance between capturing motion in the flame yet keeping some clarity in the dancer. Some shots blurred things more (see image below) and that’s interesting in its own right but I prefer the balance in the shot at the top of the post.
Processing was quite simple for all these shots. I shot with daylight white balance so that I effectively captured the colors consistently. The color turned out rather well. I used a bit of clarity and sometimes bumped the exposure up a hair in Lightroom. Finally, I exported from Lightroom with a preset that ran the images through a noise reduction action (using Noiseware) in Photoshop.
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.