Thursday, 19 July 2012

The busy aviation photography week: Part 2 Headcorn

Janie taking off. By no means a technically perfect shot: see discussion below. Nikon D300 with 200-400 AFS VRII lens, 1/80 sec, 200mm, panning on the Wimberley.

RIAT is such a big event that I like to use the best possible lens for it: to catch a fast jet on a low pass, for instance, is very demanding on the lens/camera combination. For my taste, the best airshow lens of all is the Nikon 200-400 mm F/4 AF-S VRII. It is very fast focusing, its F/4 aperture has plenty of light grasp and it is just plain sharp throughout the range. So, I've taken to renting it for the period. I picked it up in advance of RIAT from my rental agency and took it along to Headcorn for a bit of practice. Martin had very kindly lent me his Wimberley head for the tripod: I wanted to try panning the lens with slow shutter speeds, for take-offs and landings.

I was just setting up the lens and Wimberley when I was approached by the local airfield photographer, Richard. He said to me "Are you here for the Mustang?" Of course, I'd not heard about any Mustang and I was delighted when he said that Rob Davies has P51D Janie at the moment; Janie would be coming through on the fast pass followed by landing to drop off a passenger.

Janie duly appeared in the sky and dived on to the field making the distinctive Mustang whistle as she came. Rob did his classic very fast and very low pass straight through the field: fabulous!

The delighted passenger

Janie taxiing for departure

Mustang pilot
Anyhow, as they came into land I caught some shots, again as the delighted passenger left the plane, and I caught a portrait of Rob as he came past me that I think it looks great.

I took a load of pictures of other aircraft that afternoon which I won't put up here. The net result though is that I think the Wimberly is just fantastic for panning with aircraft as they take off and land. I found that I could get sharp pictures at 1/60 at 400 mm. 

The big problem, though, is that the grass track at Headcorn makes the aircraft bump up and down while they move. What is obvious in the opening picture at the top of this post is that while the parts that are sharp are very sharp, there is movement both front and back in the vertical direction that gives some blurring to the image. The picture is therefore not technically perfect; nevertheless, I quite like the effect as I think it further conveys, along with the blurred background, an impression of speed and movement in the image.

Mustang departure

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