Category Archives: Tamron

The Planes of Fame Airshow

It’s that time of year again – the Planes of Fame Airshow in Chino California.  This is a fantastic show, with many different types of WWII Warbirds including the P-51 Mustang, P-38 Lightning, and usually something modern to spice it up a bit like the F4 Phantom.  If you’re interested in Warbirds, or aircraft in general and want to mix in some great opportunities for photography this event should be on your go-to list!

The show this year is couple of weeks earlier than usual, which normally wouldn’t have been a problem except this year I had another commitment.  On Saturday I was going to be the photographer for a motorcycle event benefiting the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society.  Ok, no big deal.  I’d just readjust my plans and go on Sunday (unfortunately that didn’t work out either).  In the meantime, I had discovered that I could access the pre-show practice sessions simply by purchasing an admission ticket to the Planes of Fame Air Museum!  What a great opportunity for access to the planes without the big crowds.

Getting ready for my day at pre-show practice, I had some decisions to make, specifically regarding how much camera gear I should bring.  For something like this, I try to travel light.  There can be a lot of walking around with aircraft on display from one end of the runway to the other.  Here’s a list of what I ended up taking with me:

  • Canon 60D
  • Canon 40D
  • Tamron 200-500mm Lens (on long time loan from my friend Walt)
  • Canon 70-200 F4L Lens
  • Canon 18-55 EFS IS Lens
  • Extra batteries
  • Extra memory cards
  • Slinger bag

You may be asking why bring this stuff, and why 2 camera bodies!?  Good questions!  My thoughts were to have the big Tamron 200-500 lens mounted on my 60D, and the 70-200 on my 40D.  That way I could switch between each setup (depending on what was going on) without having to take time to disconnect one lens and switch to another.  While I did find this very convenient, I did end up with a stiff neck and sore back.

How did all of this “stuff” perform?  Another good question!  Overall I’m pleased.  Both my 60D and 40D worked quite well.  Here’s how I configured each camera:

  • Shutter Priority
  • 1/160 sec.
  • AI Servo
  • Drive – High Speed Continuous
  • ISO 100
  • White Balance – Daylight
  • Format – Jpeg, Large 60D, RAW 40D

Here are the results:

This is an aerobatic team know as the Horsemen.  What an incredible sight, a P-38 with 2 P-51’s!

Here’s a P-38 with an F4 Phantom.  In both cases, you have aircraft in the sky that are rare and unique. It was quite a privilege to see them fly!
I did mention that overall I was pleased with my gear, and generally pleased with my photos.  This is the 7th year in a row for me attending airshows in one way or another.  Every year I come away with literally thousands of images.  By and large there are many duds.  There’s a reason for this, the slow shutter speed!  The mark of a good Warbird image (especially vintage propeller aircraft) is for the props to be blurred.  To be successful you need to pan and track you target carefully, smoothly, and push the shutter as you continue to pan through the shot.  Easy to explain, not so easy to do!  There’s also the excitement factor (some call this Buck fever).  I get very excited when I see these Warbirds in the air, and make mistakes or get busy watching the action overhead and am late on the shutter.  And then there’s the equipment.  That big Tamron is slow!  This lens will sometimes miss focus and start hunting.  And this usually happens at the most in-opportune time, leading to out of focus shots.  In contrast my Canon 70-200 L Lens is fantastic!  It would focus very quickly, and I could really grab some quick shots at 6.5 fps with my 40D.
In closing, I’d like to mention again how great a venue the Chino Planes of Fame is, and what a fantastic airshow they put on every year.  Here the link to their website: Planes of Fame
What would I do different next year – bring a chair!  Until next time, happy shooting!

From Oops to Acceptable!

Are you “that guy”?  The one who comes to family functions with your camera?  In our family it’s usually me.  I just can’t help it, and I’ve been at it for quite a while.  If it’s you, you’ve probably heard the same moans and groans that I have.  But, you are also doing the family a great service!  Things change over time, especially kids and grandkids.  You may be capturing those fleeting moments that will never come again, and looking back at your photos most of your family will agree.

I found myself in a family function a couple of weeks ago.  For reasons I can’t explain I got out my trusty old Canon 40D and 50mm F2.5 and new Tamron 70-200 f2.8.  All of this gear fit nicely into my Tamrac medium sized slinger bag.  I could have brought my much newer 60D or Sony NEX3, but just wanted to use the 40D that day.

It was fun sitting back and snapping a few frames without having to intrude in the grandkids play or interrupt conversations.  The faster lens that I had with me also allowed some indoor shooting without flash.  This was a great event to welcome back an out of town family member, an addition to the family, and bring four generations together (offering many photos ops)!  As the day wore on, I did end up popping the flash on, and setting it to fill rather than provide all of the illumination.

For this post, I want to share just one of those moments.  To start off, here’s how my camera was set up:

  • F/5.6
  • 1/200 second
  • ISO 200
  • Auto white balance
  • Aperture priority
  • RAW
  • Fill flash (to soften any shadows caused by high midday sun).

Here’s the original as it came out of the camera:

While it’s not bad, it could also be a lot better.  To critique this, I’d have to say that I’m not pleased with the overall composition.  I like my subjects expression, it’s not one of those kids mugging for the camera forced smiles.  And her hair is a little wind blown, very natural for a kid at play.

Leaning against a tree seems to work, and there’s no look of discomfort here.  I think main problem area is how her hands are cut off.  Unfortunately it looks like she has two long stumps instead of arms.

There’s another distracting element, and that’s the exposure.  It was the middle of the day, no clouds in sight, and very bring out.  Not really the best time for photos, but sometimes you have no choice.  The background is on the verge of being completely blown out, and there are some hot spots on my subject.

Luckily, I had the camera set for RAW.  Shooting in RAW has it’s advantages, and being able to adjust your original exposure by up to 2 stops is definitely one of them.

When I open the file in Photoshop, the 1st thing that happens is Camera Raw starts:

As you can see, there are quite a few adjustments that can be made, including Exposure.  In the next screen shot I made a couple of small tweaks.
You can see by the pointer/arrows where I made my adjustments.  To try and tame some of the bright areas I decreased the exposure by 3/4 of a stop, and increased my blacks by 10.  This seemed to add just enough contrast to the scene without going overboard.
Before opening the image in Photoshop, I’m going to crop it here.  No real reason to do it in Camera Raw rather than Photoshop, it’s really your choice.  I did it because I wanted to see how this would look as just a head and shoulders shot, and I like it much better.  
Now that I’ve finally gotten the image in Photoshop, there’s really only one thing I want to do.  I have a filter by Nik Colorefex for portraits called DarkenLighten Center.  Here’s what it looks like:

The only adjustment I made using this filter is the placement of center.  For this photo, I put the center right on her nose.  Here’s the result:

Personally I like this version much better.  Most of the distracting brightness of the background has been eliminated, and by focusing on a larger head and shoulders shot theres more personality and playfulness jumping out of the image.
For the critics, yes I agree with you, I could have done any number of things differently to make this the perfect image.  But this is what I had to work with and made the best of it.  This shot isn’t going on the cover of a magazine or will probably not win any awards, but it makes me happy!  And I’m sure that the rest of the family and some friends will agree that this shot did capture this little girls personality perfectly in that moment in time!
My intent in sharing all of this is to encourage anyone reading to take your camera to family events.  Don’t worry about the comments or any complaining.  Without being too much of a pain, grab some shots.   Some will be better than others, but that’s ok.  Maybe some of the information above will help you tweak a couple of shots you didn’t think worked into something worthy of your scrapbook or online album!
* Thanks to Andy for giving me permission to use this image, I appreciate it!

More on my new toy!

I’m following up my previous post about my new toy, the Tamron 70-200 F2.8 Lens.  Since purchasing it almost 2 weeks ago, I’ve been able to take more than 300 shots with it.  Based on this experience I’m going to share some of my thoughts and impressions.

To get this started you need to see what I’m describing.  After I set up a quick backdrop and stand I took a couple of shots of the Tamron 70-200mm F2.8 and the Canon 70-200mm F4L.  Let’s start with the Canon.

The 70-200mm F4L and it’s telltale white finish look pretty good coupled to my Canon 40D.  This combination is great when there’s enough light.  In fact this lens has been used for everything from lions in Africa to the Blue Angles in El Centro California (see my previous post “Finally, Some Action).  The combination begins to reach it’s limitations though when faced with lower light situations such as those I encountered at Little League night games.  The lights on the field are just not bight enough to allow action stopping shutter speeds.

Next, my Canon 60D with Tamron 70-200mm F2.8

The 60D is slightly smaller in size than the 40D.  But the Tamron 70-200 F2.8 is larger than the Canon 70-200 F4L.  It’s not really that much longer, but it is larger in diameter.  It’s also heavier.  The Tamron definately adds some heft that is noticable right away.  For some, fatigue may set it when used for longer periods of time.  One way to counteract this would be to use a tripod or monopod.  Personally, I was able to use this lens for  a couple of hours of non-stop Little League action without too much trouble.

Finally, here are both cameras equipped with 70-200mm’s side by side.

Now lets talk about performance!  Under normal lighting conditions, I have to give the nod to the Canon.  It seems to lock on faster, especially when the camera is set to AI Servo (contineous autofocus) and I’m tracking/panning quick moving subjects.  Since this lens is a little bit smaller and lighter there isn’t quite the same fatigue factor as it’s larger counterpart.

When the light starts to fade is when the Tamron starts to shine.  Having that F2.8 apeture when you need it can be huge.  It could be the difference between getting the shot, and just sitting on the bench watching the action.  Now I won’t lie and say that having F2.8 available solved all of my problems.  I still had to kick the ISO up to 1600 to have any chance at a decent shutter speed.  And the other problem is this lens doesn’t focus as fast as the Canon.  There were a couple of times that I missed a shot waiting for the lens to catch up.  For my next outing, I’ll use another technique to combat this little issue, that being to pick my spot and set the lens to manual focus and have it prefocused and ready.  That way I’ll just have to worry about my timing with the shutter button, and not hope that the lens has focused.

To sum this post up, I’m still very pleased with my purchase.  If I had to pick just one of these 70-200’s to keep I’d have to give the nod to the Tamron.  Even though it can’t focus as fast as the Canon, it’s not bad and the picture quality is great (to my eyes).  While you can’t go wrong with either lens, you should make your decision based on what you are going to do with it.

Until next time, Happy Shooting!