Wednesday, 14 August 2013

You don't always need a super-telephoto to shoot aircraft

Airbus Military A400M and the Red Arrows
Airbus Military A400M and the Red Arrows. UK Airshow Review Picture of the Week 2013, July, Week 30. 24mm on D700
I think I'm noticing a pattern, and it is telling me something.

I often put some of my aviation pictures up on the forums of UK Airshow Review (UKAR). The UKAR forums attract huge numbers of pictures every week – thousands during airshow season – and feature some of the best photographers in the business, both pros and those who photograph just for the love of it.

Each week UKAR editors choose a small selection of pictures to be their "Pictures of the Week" (POTW). Because there are so many pictures submitted to UKAR each week, having a picture chosen for a POTW is quite an honour. I have just had my sixth in the last 12 months (I've put a set of them on Flickr as well). And a pattern is emerging.

Something I have always enjoyed doing is to try to put some context on anything that I photograph. So in addition to the classical tightly cropped aircraft-filling-the-frame pictures, I always like to put the aircraft in context or maybe show the crowd at an event. Most often, this involves not the use of a super-telephoto to get close to the action, but rather a normal or wide angle lens. Of the six POTWs that I have had over the last 12 months, only one has been taken at 400 mm, and one at 200mm. The others have been taken at wide-angle (24 mm on full frame) or "normal-ish" focal length (50mm).

All aviation photographers use telephoto lenses one way or another to make images of flying aircraft – not least myself. But providing a bit of variation on the theme,  showing context and trying to tell a story, really does add to the interest and distinctiveness of the pictures.

BBMF Lancaster over Derwent Dam. 50mm on D300.
Supermarine Spitfire TA805 Mk9 (the Kent Spitfire). 50mm on D700.
Balbo Finale at Duxford Flying Legends, 2013. 24mm on D700.
Spitfire, Hurricane and Vulcan at Manston. 200mm on D300.
Bye-Bye! Jodel Dr1051 Ambassadeur at Stowe Maries, Essex, Sept 2013. 400mm on D300.
And, naturally, it does help to lighten the load when you can put down a lens the size of an anti-aircraft gun, and pick up something smaller and lighter.

1 comment:

  1. ...but it helps!
    Seriously though, I really like the wider view shots which convey the atmosphere, audience participation and the feeling of 'being there'.
    In order to tell the complete story it surely helps to have all angles and aspects covered.