Air Shows

Discussion in 'Sports' started by randrew1, May 23, 2015.

  1. I consider photographing air shows to be sports photography. It's more like a staged performance by highly trained acrobats than a competition, but it shares many attributes of sports photography:
    • A telephoto lens comes in handy.
    • A high shutter speed is necessary to stop action.
    • Finding a good vantage point is crucial.
    • Anticipating the next move will help.
    The Rochester Air Show is this weekend and the Blue Angels are in town. Rather than spending all day at the airport, I found a spot that is in line with the main runway. The roads closest to the airport were closed so I was more than a mile from show center. Obviously I missed all the passes near show center, but on the other hand, on several passes, they flow directly overhead about 200 ft up. I wish I could have been about 300 yards west so I wouldn't be shooting so close to the sun. I could have moved down the road, but tall trees would have severely restricted my view. The spot I chose had about 100 yards of open space between the trees. Here are a couple shots from today:
    I have the option of going back tomorrow. I could:
    • go back to the same spot.
    • pay admission, get their early and stake out a spot next to the fence near show center. I would also need lunch, beverages, and a catheter so that I can hold the spot until mid afternoon when the key acts fly.
    • pay an extra fee for reserved seating and try to shoot between the heads.
    What experiences have you had? What works? What didn't. (Even if you reply is after Sunday 24 May 15, I'm still interested for future reference.)
  2. I can't see your shots.
  3. Pay admission and go inside. Location is everything at an event like this and outside the airport is usually not the best one. I don't care for grandstands either as a rule. Find the best spot, set up a char and a cooler and have at it. I spent yesterday at the Tuskegee, AL airport for a fly in and outside the gate was not the place to be.

    Rick H.
  4. Let's try uploading instead of linking.
  5. Another shot
  6. To cover all aspects of an airshow, I agree with Rick. I could barely see the prop plane aerobatic demonstrations and could see nothing of the ground displays. For my purposes on this particular day, my spot outside the airport worked for me. To shoot football from the stands, the best spot is a front row seat in the end zone, even though this is a terrible seat to watch the overall game. To shoot the Indy 500 from the stands, the best spot is in the bleachers on the inside of the track, while the best places to watch the race are in the upper deck outside turn 1. The best spot to photograph a basketball game is sitting behind the baseline, but don't ask me how well the game was played. Photographing the Blue Angels from outside the airport, I couldn't see them as much as the people at the airport, but on occasion, I got a closer view than any of them. I also got in and out easily and avoided the parking hassles and shuttle bus lines.
    The one other time that I got a pretty good shot at an airshow was during a practice run where I was a fair distance from show center. On one run, they turned and flew right above me. The next day at the actual airshow I was close to show center. I took many pictures, but I didn't get any worth sharing on that day.
  7. I haven't shot airshows, not the kind where they do military flyovers and stunts and such. But as a teenager I used to shoot at an antique aircraft fly-in where one of my high school teachers rounded up some students to act as volunteers. By getting involved with the show, I had far better access that the spectators. I later photographed the same show after I had started working for local newspapers and also had good access. The ultimate was that I got to know a number of pilots and was able to go up and shoot air to air.

    Depending on your situation, becoming involved with a local show as a volunteer, or getting assigned to shoot one for a client (newspaper, local tourism agency, a plane owner if you know pilots, etc.) can be a big help in getting good access. Also, many shows are open to pilots who fly in even if they are not participating as such. If you have a pilot friend and fly to the show, then you have access to plane tie down areas that spectators might not have.

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