Category Archives: apeture

When It Works!


The image above is a North American P-51D (aka – Mustang), from the 2010 Planes of Fame Airshow in Chino California.  The reason I choose this photo is because it illustrates the title of this post “When It Works”.

What exactly works in this photo?  A couple of things in this case.  The 1st is the moving aircraft is relatively sharp, you can even see the pilot in the cockpit.  And the 2nd thing is the prop, it’s very nicely blurred!

Whether you’re taking pictures of moving cars, planes, kids, or dogs, there is one technique that will help you capture a sharp image of your subject, and that is Panning.  Panning, along with adjusting some of your camera settings, will put you in a position to increase your odds at getting some great images!  Please note that I said “increase your odds”, not guarantee!

Let’s talk about camera settings first.  I use Canon gear so a couple of the terms may be a little different if you use Nikon or Sony or another brand.  You’ll need to look in your camera’s manuel for your specific camera.

One of the 1st settings that I change on my camera is the Auto-Focus mode.  For moving objects, I like to use AI-Servo.  For Canon, this means continuous auto focus.  When I push the shutter down half-way, and the camera focuses on my subject, it will continue to adjust focus as the subject moves.

The next thing I do is adjust my camera to either Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority.  For events such as a baseball game, I’ll use Aperture Priority because I want to control the depth of field (how much of the scene is in focus from before the foreground to the subject, and the background).  Airshows are when I use Shutter Priority.  The reason for this is because I want to use a slow shutter speed on older propeller driven aircraft to get the props to blur.  In order to achieve this, I usually shoot with a shutter speed of 1/160 of a second.

And now let’s talk about the tricky part – Panning!  When you use a slow shutter speed with a moving object, you usually end up with fuzzy photos.  Typically you’ll want to use a fast shutter speed (the rule of thumb is to go no slower than the focal length of your lens, i.e. 300mm lens, set shutter speed no less than 1/300 of a second).  Here’s an example of what happens with you use a fast shutter speed with moving prop-driven aircraft:

P-40 Warhawk

Notice in the photo above how the propeller is almost frozen.  While there’s a hint of motion blur, I’d still call this shot a failure (especially if you compare it to the photo of the P-51 at the top of the page).  The body of the plane (a P-40 Warhawk) is mostly sharp, but the shot overall does not meet my criteria of a successful, “keeper” because of the prop.

The difference in camera settings are subtle, but enough to kill this image.  For some reason I changed the shutter speed to 1/800th of a second.  Why would I do this?  Beats me, it was too long ago to remember!  More than likely I just wasn’t paying attention and forgot to set my camera correctly and just started shooting when the action started.  It happens to everyone!

Here’s another example of what happens when the camera settings are off:

Heritage Flight

The shot above is of a Heritage Flight.  This is when older WWII Warbirds fly with something more modern, an F-16 in this example.  Again you see that the bodies of the planes are mostly sharp, and so are the props.  I was disappointed when I saw this and checked the settings to see that I had left the shutter speed at 1/200th of a second.  Just enough to stop the propellers and loose the blur.

There is one success to take away from my examples, and that is the Panning technique I spoke of.  In all 3 photos, the bodies of the planes are mostly sharp.  That’s because in spite of my shutter speed, I employed this technique to keep my subject sharp and in focus.  By tracking my target as it passed in front of me, having the camera set to continuous auto focus, pressing the shutter and following through as it passed by, I was able to achieve the desired result – a sharp photo of the body of the plane even with a slow shutter speed.

Fortunately I’ve had a lot of practice over the years.  I really like things that go fast and have been able to try many camera settings while taking pictures.  The one common thing about photographing things that move is the Panning technique.  I use Panning for fast moving objects when using slow shutter speeds to keep them in focus.  I also use Panning for fast moving objects when using a fast shutter speed to freeze the action at that critical moment.

The trick is to practice, practice, practice.  You could try it out in your backyard with your kids, or with your dog.  Try setting your shutter speed slow, and see if you can get your dog to chase a ball.  As your dog is running, start Panning, press the shutter and follow through the shot.  If you were successful, the dog will be in sharp focus and the background will be streaked and blurred.  If not, everything will be streaked and blurred.  But that’s ok, just try again!

Here is an example of using a fast shutter speed and Panning for a kids Baseball game.

Baseball, sliding to 2nd

I used my Canon 60D with Tamron 200-500mm lens with these settings:

  • F/5.0
  • 1/2500 sec. shutter speed
  • Aperture Priority
  • ISO 400
  • AI Servo
  • Focus point set to center
  • Partial/Spot Metering
  • High speed shutter – 5.5 frames per second

As the kid sliding to 2nd base began his run, I started to Pan.  I pressed the shutter as he centered in my viewfinder and continued to Pan as he ran down the baseline.  The result is the photo above.  There were others; some had the player cut off, out of frame, blurry, or not in the peak moment.  It was this photo that I felt was the most successful in capturing that peak moment of action with the ball just entering the 2nd baseman’s mitt, and the opposing player sliding into 2nd with a spray of dirt frozen in the air.

If my explanation didn’t make sense, here’s a link that might help – Panning (camera).

I hope this helped a little.  If not, or you have questions, go ahead and post them and I’ll do my best to answer.

Until next time – Happy Shooting!

My Favorite Planes

The Chino Planes of Fame Air Show is just around the corner!  Mark May 4th and May 5th in your calendar.  This year should be great, there’s supposed to be 5 P-38’s in the air.

P-38 Lightning

P-38, 23 Skidoo in the hangar at the Chino Planes of Fame Air Museum.

I just love P-38’s!  It was just a few years ago that I was able to see 3 of them in the air at once.  Glacier Girl was one of them, and probably the most famous.  Glacier Girl was the P-38 that was resurrected and dug up from under 260 feet of ice.  You can read about her here – Glacier Girl.

Glacier Girl

The image above of Glacier Girl was taken with my Canon 350, in May of 2007.

Over the years I’ve attended many air shows, and taken thousands of shots.  And every year I come away with a few keepers.  I’m sure this year will be no different.  The only thing new will be the amount of practice I’ve had in shooting fast moving objects.

Another P-38

Another P-38 from the 2007 Chino Planes of Fame Air Show, taken with my Canon 350D.

I’ve shared some of my techniques in previous posts.  The summarize you need to practice your panning, that is following a subject and pressing the shutter and following through.  I usually set the camera to Shutter Priority, and use a slower shutter speed to blur the props. The focus is set to AE Servo (on Canon cameras), so that the subject will stay in focus while it’s moving.

Pair of P-38's

A pair of P-38’s from the 2007 Chino Planes of Fame Air Show, taken with my Canon 350D

Another one of the great things that happens at the Chino Planes of Fame Air Shows are what they call Heritage Flights.  This is when the put some modern aircraft in the air with the vintage warbirds.  Its an awesome sight.  I’ve seen F-18’s in the air with F6F Hellcats, and F-15 Strike Eagles in the air with P-38’s.

Heritage Flight

Heritage Flight with Glacier Girl the P-38, a P-51D Mustang, and an F-15 Strike Eagle.

I don’t know about you, but I’m very excited and can’t wait for this years show.  I’ve seen 3 P-38’s in the air at once and that was an amazing sight.  I’m pretty sure that 5 P-38’s in the air at once is something you won’t see again anytime soon!

Here’s the link to the Planes of Fame Air Show website.  Check out the days and options.  This year I’m considering the Sunrise Photo Access.  It costs a little bit more but looks like it could be worth it.

That’s it for now.  Let me know if you have any specific questions about photographing an air show.  Until next time – Happy Shooting!

Traveling Light on the USS Iowa (Part-2)

This is the 2nd part of my visit to the USS Iowa.  The more I look back on the time I spent on this fantastic ship, I came to realize what an important role she played in history!

Doing a little research I found this on Wikipedia (click on the link to go there):

USS Iowa (BB-61) was the lead ship of her class of battleship and the fourth in the United States Navy to be named in honor of the 29th state. Owing to the cancellation of the Montana-class battleships, Iowa is the last lead ship of any class of United States battleships and was the only ship of her class to have served in the Atlantic Ocean during World War II.
During World War II, she carried President Franklin D. Roosevelt across the Atlantic to Casablanca en route to a crucial 1943 meeting in Tehran with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet leader Josef Stalin. She has a bathtub — an amenity installed for Roosevelt, along with an elevator to shuttle him between decks.[1] When transferred to the Pacific Fleet in 1944,Iowa shelled beachheads at Kwajalein and Eniwetok in advance of Allied amphibious landings and screened aircraft carriers operating in the Marshall Islands. She also served as the Third Fleet flagship, flying Adm. William F. Halsey’s flag at the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay. During the Korean War,Iowa was involved in raids on the North Korean coast, after which she was decommissioned into the United States Navy reserve fleets, better known as the “mothball fleet.” She was reactivated in 1984 as part of the 600-ship Navy plan and operated in both the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets to counter the recently expanded Soviet Navy. In April 1989, an explosion of undetermined origin wrecked her #2 gun turret, killing 47 sailors.
Iowa was decommissioned for the last time in 1990, and was initially stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in 1995. She was reinstated from 1999 to 2006 to comply with federal laws that required retention and maintenance of twoIowa-class battleships. In 2011 Iowa was donated to the Los Angeles-based non-profit Pacific Battleship Center and was permanently moved to Berth 87 at the Port of Los Angeles in the summer of 2012, where she was opened to the public to serve as a museum and memorial to battleships.
USS Iowa

There are a lot of other great sources of information on this ship online, just go to Google or your favorite search engine, type in USS Iowa and check it out!

Some of the highlights of my visit would include seeing the USS Iowa for the 1st time, as I started to cross over the Vincent Thomas Bridge.  And then there’s my first real full view of the ship as I pulled into the parking lot.  I’ve been on USS Midway in San Diego, and many years ago had the privilege to tour the USS Missouri.  I was no less impressed when I boarded the USS Iowa!  And standing next to those massive 16 inch gun turrets really made me feel small.

Speaking of small, I have to say the my camera choice (Olympus E-P3) for this little adventure worked out perfectly!  I took about 500 shots that day with a fair amount of keepers.  Granted I was shooting with HDR in mind, and had the camera set up for bracketing 3 exposures each time I pressed the shutter.  For those interested, I kept the camera in Aperture Priority mode, and have the bracketing set for the metered exposure and +1/-1.  The ISO was set for 200 when outdoors and in the bright sunshine, and for 400 when inside.  The only other thing I did was to change to the Art Filters and set it to black & white.  Another thing to note would be that all shots were taken with the camera hand-held.

That’s enough of that!  Here are some more photos from the USS Iowa!

USS Iowa, Harpoon Launchers

USS Iowa, Bow Lines

USS Iowa, 16 inch guns

USS Iowa, Bridge

USS Iowa, Galley

USS Iowa, Crews Mess

USS Iowa, Life Preserver

I hope you’ve enjoyed the photos of the USS Iowa.  It would be best if you planned a visit for yourself!  Here’s the link to the Pacific Battleship’s website where you can get all of the information you’ll need to plan your visit!

My final thoughts on this subject would be to take your time when you get on-board.  There are a lot of things to see; some obvious, some not so obvious.  You’ll need to look around and take it all in!  And don’t forget to bring your camera!

That’s it for now, until next time – Happy Shooting!