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  #1  
Unread February 26th, 2013, 07:02 AM
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Default Metering Technique for Air Shows

Hello photography newbs and veterans alike - I've been admiring some of Dave C's work HERE (specifically the two photos that should come up in my post) and noticed what looks to be an impossible scenario.

Firstly, most modern jets are gray or some variation thereof. Secondly, they are often against a sky that's lighter than the subject. So, you're faced with a comprimise between a blown out sky and properly exposed subject, or a subject that's underexposed and a properly exposed sky. In my case, I usually get both totally wrong and end up with nothing useable.

So here's a couple of questions for those of you who make this look so good. Firstly, do you guys tend to use spot metering on your cameras? I've got a Canon so the terminology might only be appropriate for Canon. But basically we're limiting the automatic exposure reading to the middle of the frame. So I'm assuming the best approach is to restrict the auto exposure to your subject. Maybe? Hopefully?

And secondly, is what I'm seeing a post production technique? It almost looks like HDR. But given the time it takes to get multiple exposures, that's just not possible. So are we dealing with boosted exposure on the subject, and pulling it back on the sky, or is it something else?

And finally, the other option is a light source. But I don't know of a flash or a reflector big enough to illuminate an entire airplane, and I would imagine the pilots would find that slightly annoying.

At any rate, I've got the Avalon airshow this weekend and I'm hoping to get a few pics worth posting. I'm not a complete novice but occasionally, my shots make me think I'm closer to that than what guys like Dave can do.

Cheers all!
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Unread February 26th, 2013, 11:55 AM
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Have you considered shooting in manual mode? I've always shot in-flight planes in manual, starting back in the days of film and pre-dating auto-exposure cameras.

It seems the more automatic cameras have become, the less people know about photography. Not a personal dig, just a comment.
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Unread February 26th, 2013, 02:05 PM
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Oh, I've considered it, sure. I just don't trust myself to double check things in the heat of trying to get the shot. That, and on a typical day, the light levels may change faster than what I can safely keep track of.

Still in cases where you're after a specific shutter speed and depth of field, it would make sense.
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Last edited by MickyG; February 26th, 2013 at 02:07 PM.
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Unread February 26th, 2013, 02:33 PM
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Unless it's a partly cloudy day the light on the jet is pretty much constant during a flyby.

Plus, if you're shooting RAW you've got all kinds of latitude in post-processing to address over/under exposure by a couple of stops.
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Unread February 26th, 2013, 05:32 PM
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Definitely. I may have to try that. Take a couple of shots and see how they look, then find what works an lock it in.

I always shoot raw. You're right about post "fixes" in that regard.
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Unread February 27th, 2013, 08:06 PM
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HI MickyG

Shoot RAW only since you have a lot more to work with... and choose your shooting position and be aware of the sun condition so as not to shoot with the sun behind the plane...

My 2 shots was after seeing the plane doing touch and go and I could get the best angle and position to shoot the plane. and since it is also last light you get that hint of yellow in the setting sun.... the golden hour shots ..

DaveC
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Unread March 2nd, 2013, 12:06 AM
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If you're shooting into the sun, there's only so much you can do to fix the image, especially if you don't have some of the more pricy filters available on the market. I'd stop the camera down one or two stops and spot meter. That way you can bring the light up in post processing and boost the color saturation (if you're using Digital Photo Professional) so that your grey sky will come out a little more blue and your jet should stay the proper shade of grey. (if there's nothing in the background but sky, you can often boost the color saturation all the way and get decent results. If there's any ground or trees or anything in the background, be a little more careful, boosting the color too much will make it look fake)
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Unread March 2nd, 2013, 02:24 AM
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Well, I had my day at the show and don't know that any of my images are anything to get too excited by. My impressions where that the light was way too intense and that my spot metering was no good, because my subject was too small to fill the metering circle.

I'll post something at some point, after I've had a chance to cull the crap.

Oh, and I'm sunburnt, something fierce!
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Last edited by MickyG; March 2nd, 2013 at 06:54 AM.
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Unread March 2nd, 2013, 03:16 AM
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If you didn't get a little burned, you didn't have enough fun . Post something up, let's see what we can do with it!
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Unread March 2nd, 2013, 06:54 AM
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I've culled most of my completely unuseable stuff due to lack of focus. Now to find a few images that actually look interesting...

Might have to wait about 24 hours. I'm beat and can hardly keep my eyes open.

I will say the power of the Raptor was incredible today. Definitely a standout display. The Super Hornets were cool too but definitely not in the same league. There's a presence about the F-22 that has to be seen to be believed. And the crazy stuff it can do is just nuts! Never seen anything that big be so nimble.
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Unread March 3rd, 2013, 05:59 AM
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The first batch of pics have been edited (and I use that term loosely) and uploaded into the main Photography section (HERE).

Some of the difficulties I encountered were exposure related, but not nearly as much as I was afraid of. Some issues I had to deal with:
  • Dealing with the crowds and not having them in the way when I wanted "my" shot.
  • All the heat in the air - there was so much heat related distortion in my images! It was only 24 degrees (75 fahrenheit) but the heat off the runway and in the air was pretty obvious.
  • Focus inconsistency - due to lens, potentially from fighting my IS on the odd occasion or just not being fast enough to track the subject.
  • This relates to post production, but the colour of the sky is REALLY hard to get consistent.
So if there are any tips out there, I'd love to hear 'em. I'll get more stuff uploaded as time permits. There was a lot to see and photograph, but I only got a small amount. I still managed to shot nearly 1200 photos!
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Unread March 3rd, 2013, 08:44 PM
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IS will fail you if you can't keep the focus points on the plane, which can be Very Difficult. I manually preset my focus and shoot aperture priority at ~f/8 to f/11 to predefine my DOF. That's usually a sweet spot for sharpness and CA for most lenses anyway.
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Unread March 3rd, 2013, 09:43 PM
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Manually focusing - I hadn't considered that at all. Because I used several lenses and they're all different in terms of zoom ring position (and direction) and size/shape, I'd be worried I'd knock it out of focus accidentally. Probably worth trying at some point though.

The IS I was fighting with was partly due to Tamron's implementation - it's very aggressive I find, especially when panning at a non-horizontal sweep. The IS ends up fighting your movements and "sticking" for lack of a better term. It goes to its limit and then bounces back to the start, repeating the process.

Needless to say, I switched IS off for most of my 1/1000 or faster shots. It was especially challenging though, when taking shots of the prop planes, between 1/100 and 1/200 of a second. For those, I really needed the IS so I just had to be careful about when to press the shutter.

I've been checking over my work today and have been pleasantly surprised by the photos I got. I'd had all sorts of issues with my Tamron lens and only just managed to get it replaced a couple of months ago. This was my first real outing with it and I didn't have much as a backup (18-135 wasn't going to cut it). The results were more consistent and sharp than I'd expected. What I didn't expect was all the noise I got from any ISO settings higher than 200 on my camera. I set a hard limit of 400 and that, plus the consistent gray of airframes, meant very noticeable noise in far more photos than I was expecting.

I'm still attempting to get all the shots I got into a manageable number for displaying - the F-22 especially. More on my other thread soon.
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Unread March 3rd, 2013, 10:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MickyG View Post
Because I used several lenses and they're all different in terms of zoom ring position (and direction) and size/shape, I'd be worried I'd knock it out of focus accidentally.
Tape.

A small piece of masking tape should hold the focusing ring and barrel in a fixed position. A small piece can be overcome with minimal force if you need to intentionally refocus without removing the tape.

Maybe I'm old school but I often find I'm disabling many of these automatic functions (exposure, focusing etc) in order to get the results I want.
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