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Participation and Shooting Stages of Aviation Photography at Air Shows

Issue 5 - 2020
Participation and Shooting Stages of Aviation Photography at Air Shows

Dear Readers,

In my previous article, I touched on the shooting techniques we use in Aviation Photography, and I would like to remind everyone once again that it is wise to make budget-friendly choices in the selection of equipment. For this reason, I think it is useful to select or upgrade equipment by self-appraising your enthusiasm and by recognizing your individual dedication and skills in this hobby. It should not be forgotten that the photo is taken by an individual. As your number of shots increase and as you compare the outcomes, you will be able to see your needs more clearly and make better choices.

In this article, as can be appreciated from our title, I will talk about the preparation stages of aviation photography, the information required during the practice, what to do after the event, the safety measures to be taken and the ethical rules to be followed.

Air Show Calendar Planning…

As an aviation photographer you should plan their schedule by researching and following aviation events, air shows, fairs, aerobatic events during the year, and by plan the events you will be participating in. According to the calendar created, you will need to start preparations well ahead of the first event.

The first stage of preparation is to set a budget for the event. The budget will ensure your comfort from the start of the event to the end. For the best start to a seamless event, prepare a budget by researching transportation fees to/from the location of the aviation event, accommodations and food expenses, transportation fees between the event venue and the accommodation facility, entrance fees if any, and departure fees for foreign events, passport and visa costs. 

After the required research and budgeting, it is necessary to take relevant actions by reviewing prior information on the local time and meteorological conditions of the day of the aviation event, and find out whether or not there is any cancellation or postponement regarding the event. If possible, including the rehearsal days (important for many parameters such as testing techniques and rehearsal of angles, locating discovery and control of light conditions), taking necessary logistics measures and researching and examining the shots at the place where the event was held prior will provide convenience and efficiency in your activity. 

It is important to determine if you will need accommodations for the aviation event, for example if it lasts more than one day, etc. Making necessary bookings in advance by contacting the accommodation facilities closest to the event venue saves your wallet from higher costs as many small towns and cities tend to overbook where the event is held. It is helpful to choose accommodations that are closest point to the event venue and to pay attention to the availability of internet service in making your selection.

Planning and making the necessary reservations should be made according to the means of transportation that you use for the arrival at the event venue (whether by your private car, or air transport, road transport or rail transport). The luggage plan for the equipment you will use will enable you to travel more comfortably and safely. For example, the standards of hand luggage in air transport can vary according to the airline company. In order to prevent your valuable and precision equipment from being carried as checked baggage, your carry-on baggage should be prepared in accordance with the passenger baggage rules of the airlines.  It is also important to consider that due to COVID-19 some restrictive measures may be in place.  It very important to proactively get the latest details directly from the airline to avoid unfortunate surprises on the day of travel.

In line with the expected weather conditions, you also need to adjust your equipment one day before starting your trip. After the physical check of your cameras, the sensor should be cleaned, and the lens and battery terminal caps should be cleaned and checked. Batteries should be charged. After the physical control of your lenses, the front lenses, rear lenses and connecting points of the lenses should be cleaned properly. The memory cards should be emptied, if appropriate, they should be formatted. Your auxiliary accessories such as monopod, tripod, battery grid, hanger apparatus and external flash should be cleaned and the condition/charge of your batteries should be checked.  Your equipment should be placed in relevant carrying bags and made ready for secure travel.

According to the weather conditions on the day of the event, you need to prepare your raincoat, hat (to cover the neck and ears, if possible), sunscreen, a small stool, umbrella, noise-canceling headphones, water and coffee thermoses, protective shoes and clothes suitable for the environment.

In addition to these preparations, it is absolutely necessary to pay attention to the notes and warnings of aviation photographers participating in the previous events, to examine the communication sources of the event, and to address additional needs and measures specific to the event.

After you arrive at the location where the event will take place and check in the facility where you will stay, you should visit the venue prior to the event in order to plan out areas such as the location, light direction, flight directions in line with the capabilities of your equipment. If necessary, you should take notes.

When the rehearsal/practice day of the aviation event begins, take the shots you have planned as per your previous study according to the capabilities your equipment and shooting techniques that I have discussed in my articles. If appropriate, record a video of the event simultaneously, or ask a colleague to record or obtain the related video from the communication channels of the organization, if available.

In a suitable environment at the facility where you will be staying, you can evaluate your rehearsal/practice shots with other aviation photographers if any, analyze them according to video recordings, analyze the location, angle, camera, lens, angle change, lens change, plan the time required for these changes and get ready for the air show day by taking notes, if possible.

During the shooting on the day of the air show, if there is more than one aviation photographer around and if you stand in alignment, make sure not to enter the frame of another photographer and not to allow your camera to make contact with the photographer next to you in left and right movements when you are using a telephoto lens (basically, in your excitement to catch the shot do not hit anyone with your lens!) Be sure to pay attention to the warnings of the officers. When using a noise-canceling headset, be careful not to lose your eye contact with them as much as possible, because you cannot hear the audible warnings. Be careful not to stand in the aircraft’s direction of thrust. While waiting a long time for an aircraft that will conduct a demonstration flight, protect yourself and your environment by using the equipment you have prepared before. Since you will spend a lot of effort and energy during the shows that often span an entire day, select foods that energize you according to your health and metabolism.  Generally sugary foods and drinks will energize you and will affect your performance positively (unless you’re diabetic and you will put yourself into a sugar-induced diabetic coma.)

After the completion of shooting, if the excitement you feel for your shots creates a nice smile on your face and if the images on your memory cards make you curious, these are true signs that you’ve achieved a pleasant and satisfying aviation photography activity. After you leave the event venue and return home safely, you should transfer the images on your memory cards to the digital environment where you will process, make the necessary adjustments, share the outcome and wait eagerly for feedback.

In this article, I aimed to touch upon the stages of shooting and participation in an air shows for aviation photography, but the stages I mentioned above express my personal experience and preferences. At this point, every aviation photographer can capture beautiful frames by blending their own creativity with their own photography knowhow and experience. After our images appear, we can analyze our photos, see the results of our parameters, make notes and critique our own performance and make the necessary changes. As our number of shots and experience increases, we also start to perform with more fluidity and capture optimum shots with increased confidence and control 


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