I was able to go to another Planes of Fame Living History Event. This one was about the Thunderbolts of the Hell Hawks, and featured living legends from the actual Hell Hawks. If you weren’t aware, the Hell Hawks flew P-47’s in the 365th Fighter-Bomber Group in WWII. Click on this link and go to their website for more detailed info – Hell Hawks.
As usual, the Planes of Fame had several Warbirds out of their hangars on display, in addition to their P-47G. It’s always fun to walk around prior to the presentation and grab a few shots. I brought my Canon 60D, Tamron 70-200 f/2.8 and Tamron 200-500. I haven’t used this stuff in a while and thought it would be fun to get it out again. Normally I use the Canon gear for air shows, so it hasn’t seen a lot of use lately. One thing I noticed right away was the size and weight of the Canon gear. It reminded me why I purchased my Olympus E-M5! Size and weight aside, it was fun to use the bigger stuff again! I also brought along my Sony RX100 for quick grab shots (and even a short video clip).
As for the presentation, what can I say? It was outstanding! The speakers were actual Hell Hawks during WWII, and they shared their stories and adventures, including being shot down and taken to German POW camps. All I can say is Wow! I am in awe of what these gentlemen did and sacrificed to the benefit of us all. They are truly Living Legends! Although my butt wasn’t happy with the folding chair, the 2 hours went by quickly.
The final part of the event usually includes a flight demo of a Warbird related to the monthly theme, and this time it was the POF’s P-47G. There’s also a museum members raffle for a ride in the Warbird, and unfortunately I didn’t win. Oh well, maybe next time!
And now, it’s photo time. With an event like this, it can be hard to get a clean shot of a Warbird. This is a popular event and can get crowded very quickly, so if you’re not careful you’re going to get people or sometimes parts of people in your shots. You really need to pay attention because people are moving everywhere at once and not always stopping so you can grab a shot. If you notice after you’ve taken a shot, you can just wait and try again. If you don’t and wait until you get home to look at your photos, it’s too late. Unless you’re very good at post processing, your perfect shot may be ruined. There is one more thing you can do. Get in close to your subject. Look for unusual angles or details. You don’t necessarily need to physically get close, you can use a zoom or telephoto lens to fill the frame. If you do have a wide angle lens, then by all means get close and fill the frame. Get low and shoot up. Try walking all around the plane so you don’t miss anything. By doing this, you lessen the chances that you’ll get unwanted people in your shot (unless of course that’s what you wanted).
If you still haven’t been to the Planes of Fame Air Museum or one of the Living History Events, you need to change that. Especially if you are interested in WWII history and Warbirds in general. And don’t forget the Planes of Fame Air Show in May, it’s not one to be missed!
That’s it for this post, until next time – Happy Shooting!
In a past post, I wrote about my experiences using my Olympus E-M5 and Canon 60D at air shows. This time I want to talk about the E-M5 by itself.
It’s been a busy year for me so far regarding air shows. I’ve been to 3 air shows in the first 5 months of the year. The Cable Air Show, LA County Air Show, and most recently the Chino Planes of Fame Air Show. I’ve taken the E-M5 to all three and it performed both well, and not so well.
I mentioned some of my issues in a previous post, but to recap, I’d say the top 2 were the poor autofocus/tracking performance and the image blanking out in the EVF (electronic viewfinder).
Luckily there’s a lot of info available online. After doing a little research, I made some changes to my settings. I kept the autofocus the same at Single AF, but changed the focus points. Originally I had it set for a single, very small AF point, but changed it to a slightly larger grid (still centered and smaller than the entire grid). The other changes were increasing the refresh rate of the EFV, and slowing down the sequential shooting mode from 9 frames per second to about 6 frames per second. This combination really made a difference in the EVF not going blank on me. Although the changes improved the overall performance of the E-M5, I still brought my Canon 60D along, but that will be the subject of another post.
The Chino Planes of Fame Air Show is always a big deal for me. I just love the WWII warbirds, and the Planes of Fame Museum puts plenty of them in the air. As a bonus, they always get something a little more modern, and this year it was the F-22 Raptor!
Part of my routine, in addition to getting my sunrise photo pass for the show on Saturday, is to attend the preview event on Friday. I thought this would be a good chance to get warmed up with my E-M5, as well as have some ice cold beer and some laughs with a friend (thanks Jeremy)!
I did make one mistake on Friday. I brought my slinger bag packed not only with my E-M5 and a couple of lenses, but also my 60D and Tamron 200-500mm and 70-200mm lenses. I was nervous about just having my E-M5, so I thought it would be a good idea to bring the big stuff. The funny thing was that as the day wore on, I never got the 60D out of the bag. I used my E-M5 the entire day. Wow, did that bag get heavy!
On the day of the show (Saturday for me), I arrived very early. The sunrise photo pass gets 75 photographers out on the tarmac at 5:00am, and in position for the sunrise. We all scrambled around, getting in various positions to get the shots we were after. I put myself near the F-22 Raptor so I could capture it with the sun rising in the background. I used my E-M5 exclusively. After that, it was just a matter of waiting for the show to start at 11:00am.
Once the show started, I switched to my 60D and Tamron 200-500mm lens. While I will write about this in a separate post, suffice it to say that it performed perfectly. The only real problem was it got heavy after awhile, and did I mention that it’s heavy?
What counts in the end are the results. Here they are:
I’m very pleased with my E-M5. The changes I made seemed to have helped. While it’s not quite up to par with my 60D for capturing fast moving air planes, it’s much better than it was. I think I’ll keep it!
That’s it for this post. Next time, I’ll go into more detail about using my 60D at the Planes of Fame Air Show.
This post is about some of the things I’ve learned about photography at air shows. I’ve been fortunate enough to have attended quite a few over the past 10 years, and I’ve done 2 so far this year with one more to go next month.
I can’t stress this point enough. Air Shows can get very crowded, but I hold to this old adage, “the early bird gets the worm”. This simple phrase contains powerful wisdom, not just for air shows, but for many things in life! Regarding air shows, be there when the gates open. You’ll have less people to deal with if you want clean photos of the planes on the ground. And you can stake out your spot early. I usually find a place somewhere along the front of the fence line, either where the planes take off or land. It seems that the majority of the crowd arrives very close to when the show starts, and will pile up behind you. While most of the action is in the air, over head, I still prefer to have an unobstructed view of the runway.
To get the best access available as a non-working professional photographer, check to see if the air show you want to attend offers a photographer’s access/pass. This year, 2 of the 3 shows I have attended offer this option, the LA County Air Show (Photo Tour Pass) and the Chino Planes of Fame Air Show (Sunrise Photo Pass). They do cost more, but in addition to allowing a limited number of air show enthusiasts sunrise access to all of the planes, they also include things like preferred parking and lunch. The other benefit is that you will be in the company of other like-minded air show photographers! I noticed how courteous the group at the LA County Air Show was and appreciated it. They understood and respected each other’s space as we all worked our way around the planes trying to nail that keeper shot!
Be Prepared – Weather
I’ve attended air shows when it was cold and wanting to rain, and also when it was close to 120 degrees on the tarmac. Watch the weather reports and prepare accordingly! Feeling miserable while trying to catch the action at an air show is a recipe for lousy pictures. If you know it’s going to be hot, don’t forget your sunscreen. A wide brimmed hat offers better protection from the sun than a baseball cap. And one final thing, wear comfortable shoes! This should go without saying but I’ve seen everything from high heels to thin designer sandals. There can be a lot of walking and standing at an air show, and having happy feet can be the difference between getting those perfect shots to wanting to just go home and soak your feet.
Be Prepared – Gear
While this really boils down to personal preference, I think a little planning ahead can help lighten your load. Unless you’re going to go straight to your spot and sit there for the entire air show, you may want to narrow your gear down to the essentials. What exactly are the essentials? Good question! It depends on what you are interested in. Is your main focus the static displays on the ground? If so, you may want a wide angle lens. Do you want to get shots of the planes in the air when they fly by? A good telephoto lens would be in order. The gear I bring will fit into 1 bag (Lowepro Slingshot 202 AW). I’m able to put my Canon 60D, Tamron 70-700 and 200-500mm lens inside. There’s also room for my Olympus E-M5, 7.5mm fisheye, 17mm, and 45-200mm lenses. Finally, I bring a small tripod for my E-M5 (for the early morning, low light photos). In addition, I have 2 batteries for the 60D, and 3 for the E-M5. Each camera has a 32gb SD card, and I bring along several 16gb cards as back up. One last thing regarding gear – don’t forget a light weight folding chair!
Unless a special area has been set aside for you, the general public will be everywhere. It seems that some people have no sense of personal space, and will try everything to squeeze in and around you, including trying to go under you. Some are polite, others are oblivious and don’t understand why you may be getting angry with them. And unfortunately I’ve seen some photographers get pretty rude too. Believe it or not, I personally try not to get upset. If it’s a kid that just wants a better view of a pilot walking by or a plane taking off, I’ll usually let them in for a few minutes. This also goes for an elderly person that is having trouble seeing the action from the back of the crowd, but only if there’s enough room! My 200-500mm lens with it’s large lens hood has bonked more than one person standing too close when I’m following the planes in the air. I’ve also found it best to work together with a couple other photographers to stake out our spots, and watch each others gear when someone needs to step away. It sure beats lugging all of your gear with you to the porta-potty!
What should you take pictures of? Depends on what you are interested in. I’m not trying to be vague, but there is a lot going on at an air show and the photography options are varied. Obviously there are the planes, both on the ground and in the air. There are also the pilots and ground crews working on the planes. There’s action on the ramp with planes getting ready to take off and on the other end where they land. And don’t forget the crowds! Sometimes you can get some interesting shots by including the crowd. Look for angles and scenes not typically photographed, like the MC of the event and all of his equipment. I got lucky once and got some great shots of a model dressed in a WWII outfit standing near one of the planes! There are literally thousands of photos of air shows with planes in the air. Try to make yours stand out by being a little different.
In the end, you want results, pictures you are proud of and want to share! With some preparation your odds will increase and hopefully you’ll come home with memory cards full of keepers! Here are some examples from my last event, the LA County Air Show.
That’s it for this post! If you liked it or want to see more photos, you can follow me on Facebook. Just click the link on my page!