2012 Rockford Airfest – Experimenting With My Aviation Photography
The 2012 Rockford Airfest was held last weekend at the Chicago Rockford International Airport in Rockford, Illinois. I couldn’t have asked for any better weather for the event. The temperature was in the mid-70s, and the sky was blue with puffy white clouds blowing through. As usual, all of the pilots and skydivers did a fantastic job at amazing the crowd with their aerial stunts. The headliners this year were the Air Force Thunderbirds and the civilian Black Diamond Jet Team. I was a little bummed that there were no Navy demonstration teams this year, but what can you do?
I deviated from my normal airshow shooting techniques this year. I joined Kelby Training earlier in the year, and one of the online courses that I recently completed is Moose Peterson’s Aviation Photography. I’ve always been a fan of Moose’ nature and wildlife photography, and over the past few years he’s devoted a lot of time to aviation photography as well. Moose had three recommendations that I have never tried before, so I gave them a go at this years airshow.
First, I set my cameras at -1 f/stop exposure compensation to underexpose my images and bring the colors out, especially the sky. This really isn’t too much of a deviation for me. I always keep the exposure compensation on my cameras set to -0.5. Actually, in Moose Peterson’s training course, he recommended setting the compensation at -1 to -1.5. For simplicity’s sake, I kept it at -1.
Second, I shot the entire day with both of my camera’s Picture Control set to Vivid. In the past, I’ve always shot in Standard. I do like my colors to pop though, so I tried it. I like what I see so far. In the airshow environment, the paint schemes of the planes are as big a part of the show as the flying. Shooting in Vivid really brings out the bright colors.
Third, I changed how I was shooting the jets. I typically shoot airshows entirely in Shutter Priority using a shutter speed of 1/125th for helicopters and 1/250th for prop aircraft in order to get some blur in the blades and props. For jets, I use a shutter of 1/1000th since there are no props to worry about. Moose recommends shooting in Shutter Priority for helicopters and prop aircraft using the shutter speeds of 1/45th for helicopters and 1/250th for props. For jets, he recommends switching to Aperture Priority with the camera set to f/5.6 which gives you some incredibly jet stopping shutter speeds. I must say that I did do a lot better this year with keeping the jets in focus as compared with the prop aircraft.
I made nearly 1500 images at this year’s airshow, so I have a lot of photos to weed out and process yet. Over the next few weeks, I’ll get several of them posted here on this blog. The entire set will be available on my Flickr page soon, and I will let you know when they are ready.
So, what are your thoughts about Moose Peterson’s recommendations? Does underexposing by a stop and shooting in Vivid make the photos stand out? Do you feel it would be better without exposure compensation and shot in Standard mode? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.