It’s been a few years since my last airshow visit. This year I was lucky enough to go with my father, brother, and Isabelle. The biggest worry I had was the temperature, being in the middle of a big heat wave and all. Luckily we came prepared with two camping umbrellas, chairs, and several soft-sided coolers packed with ice-cold beverages. Still, it was uncomfortably hot in the sun on the brown grass and tolerable with the shade. Thanks to the preparation, nobody got sunburned but the dust mixed with sunscreen made for a sticky day.
Knowing that I would probably regret packing my heavy gear, I gave the big lenses a pass and chose the 70-300VR to go with the D3x to try to get as much reach as possible and mainly sat and enjoyed the show without being “on”! The 70-300VR still amazes me with its great bang for the buck. Sharp, quality images are definitely achievable.
Tips I’d like to pass on:
- Try to shoot with a shutter speed that permits propellers to be blurred otherwise the aircraft look funny with stationary propellers. This is probably around 1/640s or slower. This does then introduce the possiblity of getting an unsharp image due to aircraft motion or camera shake (remember I could be shooting at a 450mm equivalent or greater hand-held). So take a burst of several shots just to increase the chance of getting a sharp picture in the bunch. The VR probably helps a little here as well.
- Be careful of dust on the sensor. Because I ran with a comparatively slow shutter speed (see above), the apertures ran around f/11 or smaller even at ISO 100, so I ended up with lots of dust particles on my images. Nothing a little healing brush couldn’t take care of, but what a pain nonetheless. I hardly ever shoot stopped down that much on a regular basis unless I have to so dust isn’t a big worry of mine normally. Dust is pretty inevitable when changing lenses in that sort of environment even when taking precautions.
- Depending on the autofocus sensor layout, autofocus can be a pain because more often than not, the sensor gets placed on a plain blue patch of sky and you lose the focus. It could be worthwhile just focusing once at the lens hyperfocal distance and leaving it, and allowing the depth of field to cover it. I used the AF-On button to control the focus along with moving the AF point around with the thumb controller so it wasn’t too bad.
- Black lens barrels get very hot in the sun, especially metal ones!