How would you shoot...?

proudgeekproudgeek Posts: 1,422Member
edited July 2014 in General Discussions
The airport in my hometown has a wing of F-16 fighters stationed. Two of my friends are pilots, and are pretty acquainted with my love of photography. Anyway, the other day we were talking and one offered to get me on the tarmac to shoot planes. I've got a lot of leeway — stationary, taking off by day, by night, landing, etc. The only thing I can't do is get up in one of them, which is not allowed since 9/11, since they all carry armed missiles and are technically all on patrol, even when on training flights. ("Besides," my friend told me, "I'd just pull a high-G turn and make you puke all over your camera.")
So here's my question: Assuming this isn't an open-ended invitation I'd want to get this right the first time. So how would you go about shooting these? I've got focal lengths at my disposal from 17mm to 600mm. One intriguing possibility would be night shots and let the after burners provide ambient light. If so, what kinds of settings? Like I said, I won't have a lot of time or opportunity to experiment and these planes take off in groups of three. Anyone ever try something like this?

Comments

  • FritzFritz Posts: 140Member
    The first question is what kind of runway access will they give you so that you might get a perspective other than 90 degrees to their flight path? Better to shoot them quartering towards you as they lift off. Might be nice to shoot their taxi with the canopies open and a heat signature from their tail pipes. The problem is that runways are restricted areas and you can't stand at their edges so usually you get only the typical side on view of the aircraft as they roll out.
  • proudgeekproudgeek Posts: 1,422Member
    Like I said, my two friends are colonels and think they can get me access. I like the idea of shooting through the heat signature by day.
  • Golf007sdGolf007sd Posts: 2,840Moderator
    Ooooh how fun this is going to be for you. Time to shoot the plane, if I was doing this would be...early morning...just before the sun. Use the light to your advantage. Take a ladder with you...so you are not talking all your shots at eye-level. Get low as well and go wide. Take a good portion of your lenses...from fish-eye to your 300 2.8. Leave the Macro at home. I have so many ideas....better call me...would take to long to type if all out.
    D4 & D7000 | Nikon Holy Trinity Set + 105 2.8 Mico + 200 F2 VR II | 300 2.8G VR II, 10.5 Fish-eye, 24 & 50 1.4G, 35 & 85 1.8G, 18-200 3.5-5.6 VR I SB-400 & 700 | TC 1.4E III, 1.7 & 2.0E III, 1.7 | Sigma 35 & 50 1.4 DG HSM | RRS Ballhead & Tripods Gear | Gitzo Monopod | Lowepro Gear | HDR via Promote Control System |
  • FritzFritz Posts: 140Member
    How good are your panning skills? Don't forget that air craft have lots of reflective surfaces so a rotary polarizer might be a good addition to your gear bag. Kudos to Golf on the ladder idea. Try sitting directly in front of one of the aircraft and shooting the air scoop or off to one side and shooting the sweep of the nose back across the air scoop with the leading edge of the wing in focus. If their ordnance is loaded try shooting a quartering shot across the wing towards the fuselage with a sidewinder in focus. The rotary cannon muzzle is always impressive as are the stencil fuselage markings. Don't forget eye and hearing protection. There's a safety zone around any aircraft with ordnance loaded so you'll need a mid- telephoto; I use a 24-70 2.8 and 70-200 2.8 for aircraft on the ground. Aircraft have so many lines and textures and so many focal points that make them fascinating subjects. I think it will be a ton of fun for you and I'd love to see some pics when you're done.
  • proudgeekproudgeek Posts: 1,422Member
    Great ideas. Thank you.
  • IronheartIronheart Posts: 3,017Moderator
    If you can't get a ladder on the taramac, try using a monopod with a remote trigger. This way you can get those higher angles with your feet on the ground. Wide angle lens helps here. If you are really brave, gaffer tape your monopod to a painters pole and use the 10sec timer to get some really high angles.
  • scoobysmakscoobysmak Posts: 215Member
    edited July 2014
    Since stationary aircraft have been pretty much covered I will more discuss the in flight pictures you might have a chance to get.

    I guess I will toss out some things, I would agree with Golf and try to take pictures in the morning especially if its during the summer. The runway will have visible heat waves coming off of it probably after 10am if not before (this depends more on the location, sunrise, suns height in the sky and weather). I think the exhaust of the plane should be enough but maybe its something you want in your pictures. I like the idea of the ladder but in this case it might be considered FOD (foreign object debris). Many airports have ILS systems, RVR, and other equipment that might have an elevated tower to begin with, might make a better shot. If these are pilots then they could stay a bit closer to your location and you might have a better shot. I would scout out the runway and ask questions where you would be allowed to go, could make all the difference in the world. I would look at where the sun will be, background that will be present in locations your allowed to be at, bugs that could be active during the time your shooting and how much gear will they let you bring. I would agree with the hearing protection, I got blasted by an F-18 doing an unrestricted vertical climb after take off while I working on some equipment. Needless to say I dropped what I was doing to cover my ears.

    Other possible information but may not apply at all.
    Since this is a military runway it seems, the normal FAA rules may not apply like discussed before but this would be a truly rare event. I know the "safety areas" for a normal airport are significant even if you have access to drive across runways, there can be no plane in sight basically. The control tower is the one that will give you access to that area, if your too close they will stop all air traffic until your cleared and you have to have a radio to talk to the tower if your anywhere on the airfield (again this is for civilian airports, but figure military rules are not too much different but can be "modified" by direction). For civilian aircraft this is a big deal, if you stop traffic in Atlanta for a minute you could possibly cause hundreds of flight delays and cost everyone involved a significant amount of money. They have over 900,000 flights daily, for the math wizards this is over 625 flights a minute. Once you delay one plane all those that follow get the same if not worse effect, kinda like a traffic jam on the freeway. The first few cars drop from 55 mph to 45 mph but 2 miles back the cars are at a stand still until traffic calms down for the day. This isn't Atlanta but some of the rules were created for places like this and are standard across the board so if you see something that doesn't make since don't be surprised.

    Last but not least, I am jealous and have fun, hope to see some pics in the PAD after your done.

    Post edited by scoobysmak on
  • proudgeekproudgeek Posts: 1,422Member
    Great advice. To clarify, this is a civilian airport that has an Air National Guard unit stationed at it, although well away from the civilian facilities. We'll see how much access I get. Promises made over a couple of beers at the beach often differ from reality.
  • FritzFritz Posts: 140Member
    Security after 9-11 is really tight. I've asked permission a couple of times to stand inside the fence line at the New Hampshire National Guard aviation facility to photograph the gate guardian which is a med-evac huey on a pylon. No luck! If those f-16's are on alert then it might be real hard to get close to them. On the other hand, there's always an air show some where!
  • Rx4PhotoRx4Photo Posts: 1,200Member
    I'm not military, but knowing the right people got me into the cockpit of a C-5 Galaxy at Dover AFB quite some time ago. Was also able to drive along the tarmac lined with them. This was before 9/11. One lens that I wished I'd had then was a fisheye. I've always loved fisheye cockpit photos and that one would have been awesome to say the least. Food for thought.
    D800 | D7000 | Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 | 24-70mm f/2.8 | 70-200mm f/2.8 | 35mm f/1.8G | 85mm f/1.4G | Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art | Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art | Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM | Zeiss 100mm Makro-Planar ZF.2 | Flash controllers: Phottix Odin TTL

  • Golf007sdGolf007sd Posts: 2,840Moderator
    edited July 2014
    @proudgeek: 1) If possible try to see if they will let take picture of the plane while it is in the hanger. The odd are that within the hanger they will have equipment that will let you get above the plane and thus you can shoot down on it. 2) Take a spray bottle with you and spray the cockpit windows and then find an angle that will allow for a nice long or wide-angle shot with the water betting on the cockpit glass from different positions. Hence, get creative. 3) Depending on which way the sun is, try some silhouette shots with the sun stars, hence shooting at small apertures (f16-22). 4) Make sure you get the pilots to get in the cockpit and have then be part of the images...cockpit windows open and close. Get them to get on the plane latterly not just sit in it. 5) If they allow you to shoot at night....get out a few flash's and shoot the plane while out in the open. 6) If have let you have access to multiple planes at the same time, have them place the planes in position that allow for creative shots...ie nose-to-nose; staggered positions....etc..etc.

    I think it is just best that you can buy me a ticket and I will come join you and together we will rock the joint :P
    Post edited by Golf007sd on
    D4 & D7000 | Nikon Holy Trinity Set + 105 2.8 Mico + 200 F2 VR II | 300 2.8G VR II, 10.5 Fish-eye, 24 & 50 1.4G, 35 & 85 1.8G, 18-200 3.5-5.6 VR I SB-400 & 700 | TC 1.4E III, 1.7 & 2.0E III, 1.7 | Sigma 35 & 50 1.4 DG HSM | RRS Ballhead & Tripods Gear | Gitzo Monopod | Lowepro Gear | HDR via Promote Control System |
  • proudgeekproudgeek Posts: 1,422Member


    I think it is just best that you can buy me a ticket and I will come join you and together we will rock the joint :P
    awesome!

  • PhotobugPhotobug Posts: 5,147Member
    I spent over two hours at a Heavy Bomber show last Saturday and three hours last year. I used my 17-55mm and a 70-200mm for all photographs. Besides shooting in color, don't forgot to use B&W for some throw back pictures. One of my problems was getting a background without modern crane being used to expand the airport, so watch your background.

    DRM_8581

    Shoot some of the details on the planes; guns, wheels, engine intake etc.
    .
    DRM_8688

    Most important is shoot every plane and every angle.
    D750 & D7100 | 24-70 F2.8 G AF-S ED, 70-200 F2.8 AF VR, TC-14E III, TC-1.7EII, 35 F2 AF D, 50mm F1.8G, 105mm G AF-S VR | Backup & Wife's Gear: D5500 & Sony HX50V | 18-140 AF-S ED VR DX, 55-300 AF-S G VR DX |
    |SB-800, Amaran Halo LED Ring light | MB-D16 grip| Gitzo GT3541 + RRS BH-55LR, Gitzo GM2942 + Sirui L-10 | RRS gear | Lowepro, ThinkTank, & Hoodman gear | BosStrap | Vello Freewave Plus wireless Remote, Leica Lens Cleaning Cloth |
  • PhotobugPhotobug Posts: 5,147Member
    More teasers and suggestions:
    DRM_8527
    DRM_8201
    DRM_8561

    Don't forget to use a wide angle lens and stand at the end of a wing and shoot toward the cockpit and body of the plane. You can get some great pictures. Be creative.
    D750 & D7100 | 24-70 F2.8 G AF-S ED, 70-200 F2.8 AF VR, TC-14E III, TC-1.7EII, 35 F2 AF D, 50mm F1.8G, 105mm G AF-S VR | Backup & Wife's Gear: D5500 & Sony HX50V | 18-140 AF-S ED VR DX, 55-300 AF-S G VR DX |
    |SB-800, Amaran Halo LED Ring light | MB-D16 grip| Gitzo GT3541 + RRS BH-55LR, Gitzo GM2942 + Sirui L-10 | RRS gear | Lowepro, ThinkTank, & Hoodman gear | BosStrap | Vello Freewave Plus wireless Remote, Leica Lens Cleaning Cloth |
  • FritzFritz Posts: 140Member
    Nose art is great stuff!
  • kenadamskenadams Posts: 222Member
    One suggestion:

    Watch Top Gun.

    The F-16 is not half as sexy as the F-14, but it might give you ideas of in-flight shots. You can safely skip over the Tom Cruise parts.
  • PhotobugPhotobug Posts: 5,147Member
    edited July 2014
    @Fritz, totally agree with your statement on nose art. My Dad gave me pictures from WWII of some of the nose art. You may enjoy these from last weekend:
    DRM_8396
    DRM_8266
    DRM_8198

    Post edited by Photobug on
    D750 & D7100 | 24-70 F2.8 G AF-S ED, 70-200 F2.8 AF VR, TC-14E III, TC-1.7EII, 35 F2 AF D, 50mm F1.8G, 105mm G AF-S VR | Backup & Wife's Gear: D5500 & Sony HX50V | 18-140 AF-S ED VR DX, 55-300 AF-S G VR DX |
    |SB-800, Amaran Halo LED Ring light | MB-D16 grip| Gitzo GT3541 + RRS BH-55LR, Gitzo GM2942 + Sirui L-10 | RRS gear | Lowepro, ThinkTank, & Hoodman gear | BosStrap | Vello Freewave Plus wireless Remote, Leica Lens Cleaning Cloth |
  • HipShotHipShot Posts: 507Member
    Serious warning: Be careful around moving props with any fisheye lens.
  • PhotobugPhotobug Posts: 5,147Member
    Good point @HipShot. You lose your sense of perspective with those wide angle lens. Perhaps we need a tag line in the view finder..."Objects are closer than they appear!" in the viewfinder. :-))
    D750 & D7100 | 24-70 F2.8 G AF-S ED, 70-200 F2.8 AF VR, TC-14E III, TC-1.7EII, 35 F2 AF D, 50mm F1.8G, 105mm G AF-S VR | Backup & Wife's Gear: D5500 & Sony HX50V | 18-140 AF-S ED VR DX, 55-300 AF-S G VR DX |
    |SB-800, Amaran Halo LED Ring light | MB-D16 grip| Gitzo GT3541 + RRS BH-55LR, Gitzo GM2942 + Sirui L-10 | RRS gear | Lowepro, ThinkTank, & Hoodman gear | BosStrap | Vello Freewave Plus wireless Remote, Leica Lens Cleaning Cloth |
  • MikeGunterMikeGunter Posts: 543Member
    Hi all,

    Shooting aircraft is challenging, and depending upon how much cooperation you'll have and time you'll have for setup and how the weather will cooperate with you will all matter.

    Since it sounds like a 'fun' project opposed to a gig-for-hire, you might be in a position which is better than a hire project - no one really expects too much and can vest themselves in the outcome for personal reasons.

    Each Air Base has a weather station that can predict with pretty good accuracy your weather, and I would count on them for your conditions to previsualize your photos and setups. You can also talk to the flight to get their schedule (in broad strokes) to see where you can plug in photo opportunities.

    Putting your camera on the fuselage in front of the canopy pointed somewhat up, strapped down on the edge of the field, assuming a clear area, and assuming no reflections, can mimic craft in air, and the camera can be remotely fired from ground when setup.

    Good luck and have fun.

    My best,

    Mike
  • RmologicRmologic Posts: 76Member
    Hi All A couple of shots in my head. using Ultra wide and fish-eye,
    Into and out of tail pipe. Need a short tripod and flash. Detail of the Turkey feathers. Very cool looking streaks.
    Into and out of the Intake.
    From under nose looking up flat on your back looking forward slightly. and from the front wheels POV of the flight line.
    Cockpit
    From foot peddles looking up.
    From ejection handles looking down and out.
    From seat pan looking at controls.
    From control stick and throttle
    Close up of stick and throttle looking at wear patterns possible in B&W.
    Other knobs or control panel areas where wear and pov would show the human to machine interface.
    Thoughts that woke me up this morning. VERY jealous. Have fun and post pics on PAD. R
    D7100,D3200, Sony RX100mk3, Nikkor Primes: DX 35 1.8, 50 1.8D, 105 2.8 VR, Zooms: Tokina 11-16 DXII, Kit 18-55 and 55-200 VR, 18-70 VR, 70-300 VR. SB-800, Induro CT 214, RRS TA-2-LB, BH-30 Pro2, MC-L, BP-CS
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