Category Archives: Mustang

More on my FZ1000

It’s been a while since my last post.  And in that time I’ve been able to use my Panasonic FZ1000 on more than one occasion.  I’m going to share some of my thoughts about the FZ1000, but try not to bore you with a lot of techno stuff.  If you want that kind of info, there are other websites available.

The FZ1000 is by no means small.  It’s close in size to my Canon 60D DSLR, although somewhat lighter.  The advantage the FZ1000 has over a camera like the 60D is versatility.  The built-in lens is of high quality (Leica) and has a very usable range, 25-400mm (image stabilized).  This means that with a single camera I can quickly change focal length to suit the situation, rather than carry a bag full of lenses and fumble around changing them.  I’m able to keep the FZ1000 in a small messenger bag that isn’t a pain to carry around.

During a recent outing to the Planes of Fame Air Museum I was able to make good use of the FZ1000.  In fact, it was the only camera I brought to the event.  Packed nicely in the messenger bag, along with a couple of accessories, it was quick and easy to access and grab a shot or two when needed.  The nice thing about the air museum is the variety of subjects and lighting.  Sometimes the light is just right, but mostly it’s challenging.  Dark interior hangars and harsh afternoon light pouring in from open hangar doors, can be fun and frustrating at the same time!

Speaking of a variety of subjects, I was able to work with both static and moving examples.  The event was titled “Little Friends” and was about the role of the P-51 Mustang as a bomber escort during WWII.  There are a couple of P-51s at the museum, and the P-51D Wee Willy II, provided a flight demonstration.  I found the FZ1000 more than capable for the static displays, but not quite up to snuff with the flight demo this time.  There’s a difference between an air show where the planes fly much closer to the crowd and other events such as this one.  The P-51D did make several passes, but was at a much higher elevation.  The FZ1000 can stretch out to 400mm, but that wasn’t quite enough for this event.  There is a feature in the FZ1000 to increase the range of the lens by using the digital zoom, but at the cost of resolution.  This is something I’ll investigate later and share if it proves useful.  To be fair, I’ve used my Canon 60D with Tamron 200-500mm lens at similar events and found it wanting as well.

There are 2 modes that I used during my time at the air museum.  For the static displays, I selected aperture priority.  Aperture priority is generally my preferred mode for most things such as landscapes, portraits, and most things that don’t move too fast.  When the subject is moving, I tend to shift to shutter priority.  When the shutter speed is set, the camera adjusts the aperture to match.  Because I was shooting WWII propeller planes, I used a slower shutter speed to blur the prop (usually 1/200th second).  Although the camera has the ability to be set for Auto ISO (sensitivity to light), I prefer to make the necessary changes myself.  When the light was bright and in abundance, I used ISO 125, for darker interiors I set it at ISO 1600.  There was some noise at 1600, but nothing that couldn’t be cleaned up in post.  I also shoot everything in RAW rather than jpeg.  I find RAW much more flexible for post processing.

So, with all of the stuff mentioned above, what about image quality?  As far as I’m concerned it’s more than adequate.  I’ve mentioned in previous posts (and elsewhere) that I won’t get caught up in endless debates about pixel depth, sensor size and other technical details.  Personally, I’m more interested in how a camera performs the task I’ve given it, how it feels in my hands, and the RAW image that I can spend time with in post.  I’m sure there are those who will not find the FZ1000 good enough, but I’m not among them.  There’s more to the art and craft of photography than pixels!

Here are some recent examples from my FZ1000:






There’s one more thing the FZ1000 does, and that is video. Not just video, but 4K. In case you didn’t know, 4K has twice the resolution of HD. Video isn’t something that I do much of, but with the 4K ability of the FZ1000, I couldn’t resist. My video skills aren’t that good, but the one thing that I am able to do with a video clip is what’s called a frame grab. Using Adobe Lightroom, I’m able to not only view a video, but break it down frame by frame, and grab one (copy and extract it from the actual video). The resulting image is a jpeg, and has 5 megapixel resolution. Here’s a frame that I grabbed. Other than a little cropping and resizing, I applied no other processing.

So, you may be wondering if the FZ1000 is for you. Maybe, maybe not. It depends on what you want to do with it. For some, it may be too big. It most definitely will not fit in your pocket. If that’s what you want, then you may want to look at a camera like the Sony RX100. The RX100 has a sensor of similar size and quality as the FZ1000, but in a much smaller package. The RX100 will fit in your pocket, or purse! Want to know my solution? I have them both!

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

When It Works!

P-51D

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!

Time to Shift Gears (or Propellers)!

This post will deal with another aspect of photography, fast moving objects.  I love photography, and I also have a great interest in World War II aircraft, also known as Warbirds.  Other than landscapes, this is my next favorite thing to do with my camera!
Every year the Planes of Fame Air Museum in Chino California has a fantastic air show featuring many different types of Warbirds.  And with few exceptions, they put them in the air.  There’s nothing quite like it, seeing these fantastic relics in pristine condition and right in front you.
It’s not easy getting good clear shots of these planes as they fly by.  I’ve been working on this for many years now, and even though I’ve shot literally thousands of photos, I usually only get a handful of keepers.  In fact, I did something I don’t usually do, and that is to buy equipment trying to up my odds.  The first time I shot an air show, I was using the original digital Rebel, the Canon 300D.  I really liked this camera, but it was slow.  Slow meaning frames per second (fps), which can be important when tracking and panning the fast moving planes.  I would get the front of a plane, sometimes another piece of it, and every once in awhile, I’d get lucky and get the whole thing.  When the Rebel XT came out (Canon 350D), I bought one.  At 3.5 fps it was much better than my trusty old 300D.  Next came my Canon 40D, and at 6.5 fps, it was a great improvement.
There are some other considerations.  One of the biggest is shutter speed.  This would be a lot easier if I kept a fast shutter speed and just froze the action.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t give you “professional” results.  When you freeze a prop, it looks like a dead stick.  With a slower shutter speed, you get a blurring effect on the prop which gives the plane a sense of motion.  The only time the prop should be still is when the plane is parked on the ground.  It takes some practice to pan the plane as it passes by, and squeeze the shutter while still tracking the plane, keeping your image sharp with the prop blurred.
Some of the other things to set in the camera are auto focus to AI Servo, High Speed Shutter, and the lowest ISO you can get away with.  AI Servo allows the camera to keep a moving subject in focus and the High Speed Shutter setting allows the camera to continuously fire until the cache is full and it just can’t stuff any more images into memory.  It also helps to have a fast memory card.  I typically shoot with a shutter speed of 1/200th or less.
After I take a few shots, I review the images and see if I’m getting the results I’m looking for.  With all of the action, I also bring plenty of memory (16 Gig for the last air show).  I’ve been trying to slow down and be more picky but still ended up bringing home over 2000 images.  It’s hard not to get caught up in the action and blast away.
The shots below were made using my Canon 40D, with a 200-500 Tamron Lens while at the Chino Planes of Fame air show.
P-51 Mustang
P-38 Lightning
B-25 Mitchell
Just a couple more comments on the subject.  When you are shooting jets (like the Blue Angels), forget the slow shutter speed.  It’s ok to kick up the shutter speed and ISO.  Freezing the action with jets is ok!  You’ll still need to pan, squeeze the shutter and continue to swing through.  The Blue Angels fly F-18’s and they are colorful, and fast (not to mention loud).  For the shots below, I used my Canon 40D, with a 70-200 F4 L lens.  I was in El Centro (California) that day and working almost across the street from the El Centro Naval Air Station, the winter home of the Blue Angels.  And as luck would have it, the Blue Angels were practicing their routine almost directly overhead, and twice that day.  It was like having my own private air show!

One way to practice is to go out and take pictures of birds in flight.  They may be smaller than a plane, but they are flying, and can be fast.  It can help you practice your panning technique.
That’s it for this post.  Thanks for reading and leave a question or comment if you’d like!