Photographing airplanes, how difficult can it be?
Well judging by the photos here in the galleries, it is difficult for most of us. Unless your an aircraft spotter/ airplane photographer. Someone like me. Photographing airplanes is a complete different ballgame.
Lets take for instance the ISO settings.
Most of us would say a plane is a fast moving object, so the rule in photographing is that you should use fast film. This means that the ISO setting should be at least ISO 200 or higher to freeze the plane's motion. This is wrong according to the spotting photographers. You would use ISO 100 or slower to get sharper images and less grain.
To "freeze" the plane's motion, you will use your settings.
First, let's look at the Aperture settings.
Most of us will use a telezoom lens with a range of 40-150 mm, 50-200mm or 70-300mm. Most in use will be, I guess, the 40-150mm 1:4-5.6 and the 70-300mm 1:4-5.6. So the most used Aperture setting, at least under most weather conditions as a shoot to go setting, would be F6.3. Depending on the weather conditions your shutter speeds will range somewhere between 1/250 to 1/2000 sec. Also you will use as metering device the spot metering option or center metering option to make sure that you measure the light the reflects from the plane.
Then you will set your White Balance to auto. You might want to set your photomodus to vivid.
Second, if you want to use Manual setting.
If you use Manual setting, you have to remind yourself that you have to adjust constantly your shutter speeds and aperture settings to the changing light. So if you have set your camera, for instance, at F7.1 with a shutter speed of 1/350 sec. It is possible that 30 minutes you want to need 1/350 sec at F6.3 or F7.1 at 1/125 sec. So, if you would want to use Shutter speed as main setting only, you need only have to set the S(hutter) mode and set it to the desired speed. Just like you would do with your A(perture) mode.
Another important thing in airplane photographing is panning.
At least in ground to air photographing it is very important to track the plane with your camera (pan). This way you freeze the plane's motion and in most cases the background will be blurred which suggested motion. Especially with slow(wer) shutter speeds or in low light. Also important is to keep your Image Stabilization (IS) off IS will try to compensate the panning and this results also in a blurry photo
One of the most common practices in the aviation spotting community is the way of framing. (see example below)
Reason for this way of framing is that often you will be standing near an airport. In most cases it is forbidden to make photos of the infrastructure of the airport. So you want to try to leave out as much as possible of the infrastructure as possible. A second reason is that you want only the airplane in your photo. Exception of this rule is of course when you are at an airshow and you are making photos of demonstration teams and when planes use smoke.
Best thing is, just go out to your local airfield and practice, practice, practice.
André de Wit