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Aviation Photography

Snapping pictures of aircraft may seem like an eminently simple task but in truth along with wildlife photography and sports photography aviation photography is one of the hardest tasks a photographer can undertake. Obviously the best place for aviation photography is at the many air shows that are organised across the world usually over the summer season for the enjoyment of the public, however there are other opportunities to allow you expand your photography skill base somewhat if you know where to look. Obviously in aviation photography the subject will do whatever it is going to do regardless of lighting conditions and where you can position yourself so often a large part of the challenge is getting into a good situation so the light is kind to you and you can capture some perfectly framed photographs.

Like wildlife photography you must be familiar with both your subjects and your camera equipment. Since aviation photography covers such a wide range of aircraft and they sometimes require different camera settings it is worthwhile getting to grips with altering your camera settings on the fly as often you may only have a few seconds to adjust your camera, pan with the aircraft and take the photographs. Although you may get some use from the automatic setting on your camera the best photographs will be attained with manual settings, often automatic modes cannot keep up with the fast panning speed you must use and will not have time to focus correctly.

As previously mentioned the first port of call for the aviation photographer is an air show. Not only will you be able to photograph the aircraft in the air but you will be able to photograph everything aviation related in the static parks as well. It is important to plan to arrive early and leave late as during the height of the day the static parks will be filled with wandering people preventing you from getting high quality photographs. In fact some of the best days for aviation photography are not on the show days itself but on the press days either side of the show, quite often photographers can purchase a cheap ticket to allow entry on these days and you will get to witness the arrivals and departures without the crowd standing in your way. If you are photographing from outside the airfield be careful not to block up any emergency exits or stand in silly places, fortunately in the UK the police are supportive of aviation photographers and will not move them along however other countries take a dim view of pointing a camera at any aircraft or airfields, particularly if they are military installations so you are advised to do your homework if you are travelling elsewhere in the world. A DSLR with a very long lens is pretty much your only choice as an aviation photographer for photographing the aircraft in the sky. If you are just starting out with this hobby then a good quality zoom lens will do you well until you can invest in separate lenses. Don't be completely person phobic when photographing at an airshow, people are as much a part of the scenery and the day as anything else and photographs taken on the show days will look false and lacking in energy.

Your panning technique will be the key to good photographs as an aviation photographer, and you must also get used to adjusting your focus as you pan if possible. It takes a while to become familiar with exactly how you should pan to get the best quality images in aviation photography, but with a relatively small amount of practice you will see your photographs come on in leaps and bounds and soon you will producing professional quality pieces. Don't be afraid to keep your shutter depressed and take multiple images, it is better to be able to go through ten images and choose the best than miss time the instant you press the shutter release and end up with a mediocre image. You should also attempt some more artistic shots if possible and not be afraid to fill up many memory cards with images. One good thing about aviation photography is that often tripods aren't required due to the fast speeds at which you will be panning so you simply need to bring your camera and selection of lenses for the day.