Tag Archives: Planes of Fame

Cable Airshow and my OM-D E-M5

The Cable Airshow was something I was looking forward to for a couple of reasons.  The 1st was because it’s an airshow!  And the 2nd is because it was a great place to finally give my Olympus OM-D
E-M5 a real workout!

Cable Airshow, Olympus OM-D E-M5

I’ve been wondering, since I got my E-M5, whether or not it would be a replacement for my Canon 60D, especially with regards to the fast action of an airshow.  And I finally have my answer. Unfortunately it’s no!

In order to really put the E-M5 to the test, I left my Canon 60D at home. This forced me to use the E-M5 in every situation, from high speed fly-by’s to static displays. I brought lenses for the show, but stayed mostly with the Panasonic 45-200mm. I found the 45-200mm adequate, and for this airshow seldom needed the extra reach of a longer lens. The key, no matter which camera system you may own is to be patient. While it can be tempting to start shooting while the planes are far off, the best method for getting that great shot is to wait for them to get closer and then press that shutter. It sounds easier than it is to actually do! As you hear the low rumble of the engines in the distance, the excitement begins to build and you just may not be able to wait. I know I still have that trouble.

As the show progressed, I started to get comfortable with the performance of the E-M5. I set the camera to shutter priority, 1/200th of a second, and let the camera choose the appropriate aperture (f-stop). Some of the other settings were ISO 200, high speed shutter at 9 fps, and RAW file format.

With the shutter speed fixed at 1/200th, the camera could not achieve its maximum 9 fps. How can I tell?  By the sound. Not very scientific and more seat of the pants, but it’s definitely not 9 fps. When I switched over to aperture priority and set the f-stop to f/4, there was a distinct difference in the sound of the shutter firing away in very rapid succession!

Getting back to the airshow, I picked out a good spot about midway down the field and staked out my claim (put my chair down). The planes would take off right in front of me! And, when they would do their fly-by’s, I was perfectly situated to track and pan each plane as it flew by. The E-M5 has an EVF (electronic viewfinder), as opposed to the standard optical viewfinder found on DSLR’s like my Canon 60D. While the EVF on the E-M5 is very good, I noticed a problem using it while trying to track and pan the planes as they quickly flew by. The shutter was firing and I was panning, but the EVF couldn’t seem to keep up. The image in the EVF seemed to stutter, and I’d lose track of the plane. Since I couldn’t consistently keep track of the plane, I’d sometimes end up with pieces of it in the frame and not the whole thing. Frustrating to say the least.

There is a lot of chatter online about the inability of the E-M5 to perform continuous auto focus for fast action. This seems especially true for those involved in capturing birds in flight. One of the techniques used as a work around is the set the camera for single focus, using just one central focus point, pick a spot where the action will happen and press the shutter when your subject enters the frame. Actually I used a modified version of this, tracking and panning the action as best as I could and once the focus locked on I’d press the shutter. I’d capture a few frames and even with the stuttering EVF, I’d try to keep up with the plane, pick another spot, lock the focus on and capture a few more frames.

Compared to my Canon 60D, this is a very clunky way to work. It seems strange that my DSLR 60D, with all of its moving parts does a better job with this type of photography than my high tech E-M5. I don’t think the 60D was much better at locking focus, but it’s defiantly much better at keeping the image in view (optical viewfinder) and continuous auto focus.

There is one thing that I think the E-M5 is equal too or even a little better than the 60D, and that is image quality. Of the shots that I did capture  that were acceptable, I was very pleased with how clean they were. The color and contrast were very nice out of the camera, and even better when adjusted in Photoshop.

And now, here are the results:

Cable Airshow, Olympus OM-D E-M5

Cable Airshow, Olympus OM-D E-M5

Cable Airshow, Olympus OM-D E-M5

Overall, I’m pleased with my results, difficult as they were to achieve. And there’s some good news, I don’t have to wait until May for the Chino Planes of Fame Airshow, there’s a new airshow happening in March and the Blue Angels will be there! Its called the LA County Airshow, here’s the link – I’ll be attending and brining both my Canon 60D and E-M5.

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

POF Airshow, 2013

The Chino Planes of Fame Airshow for 2013 has come and gone.  It seemed like it was going to take forever for it get here, and now it’s history!

If you’ve followed my posts here or on Facebook or Google Plus, then you know how much I had been looking forward to this show.  Not only for the great photo opportunities, but also because I just love the WWII Warbirds!  And this year was going to be something special, with 6 P-38 Lightning’s on site, and 5 of those in the air flying!  It    was special because there are only 7 P-38’s left in the world that can still fly.

I’ve shared in previous posts my thoughts about how to set up your camera and take pictures at an airshow, so I’m not going to discuss that again (this time anyway).  I am going to say that it’s not easy to come away with that perfect shot.  For the 2 days I was there, I must have taken close to 3,000 pictures.  How many of those are keepers is still to be determined.  Every day I’ve been going through them, and I get pickier as I go, deleting those that aren’t up to snuff (mostly out of focus).

One more thing I want to share, and that is for an airshow, or any other activity or event with fast moving objects, the camera does matter.  That goes against my general feeling that it’s the person behind the camera that makes the photo/image, and I’ll stand by that statement 9 times out of 10.  But in this case you really need a DSLR and a relatively long lens, 200mm to 300mm, minimum.  I’d say that the camera should be capable of at least 5 frames per second, and have enough of a buffer that you don’t get stuck waiting for it to process and store your images and miss shots.  A fast memory card helps too.  I tried to use my Olympus E-P3 (a Micro Four Thirds, Interchangeable Lens Compact) to take some photos of slower moving aircraft and it failed miserably.  While it worked wonderfully for the static displays, it went back in the bag when the show started.

That’s enough of that.  Here are some of the photos that I’ve been sharing on Facebook and Google Plus.  Hope you like them, and until next time – Happy Shooting!

B-25, Planes of Fame Airshow

Above – 1 of 3 B-25’s at the show.  All 3 were in the air!  Olympus E-P3

Sunrise, Planes of Fame Airshow

Above – the Dassault Alpha Jet at Sunrise.  Olympus E-P3

P-38, Glacier Girl

Above, The P-38 Lightning, Glacier Girl.  Canon 60, Tamron 200-500mm Lens.

Pair of P-38's

Above, A Pair of P-38’s.  Canon 60D, Tamron 200-500mm Lens.

Silver Wings

Above, Silver Wings, Wing Walking Team.  Canon 60D, Tamron 200-500mm Lens.

Sleeping Warbirds

Above – Early morning, Warbirds all lined up in a row.  Olympus E-P3, 3 shot HDR image.

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!