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Advice Needed On Technique  
User currently offlinesmitty1960 From United States of America, joined Jul 2010, 36 posts, RR: 0
Posted (3 years 4 months 3 weeks 6 days ago) and read 4934 times:

Below are 2 representative samples of the photos I took at the 2010 Offutt AFB Open House/Airshow. Well, they're actually 2 of the best samples. They're obviously not good enough quality for even my modest Photoshop skills to salvage. I typically take massive numbers of shots at any event, and manage to come away with a handful of decent shots, but I need to improve my technique to boost the "keeper" rate. These are the camera settings I used, and with exception of the ISO, and Shutter Priority, these are what I generally use at every airshow.

http://smitty1.smugmug.com/Airplanes...80_7HPgFZ#1266427311_gSbd8mW-X3-LB

Canon 50D
EOS 100-400
Shutter Priority (1)
Shutter Speed: 1/1000
F-Stop: f7.1
ISO: 500 (2)
Focal Length: 390mm (3)
Metering: Spot
Auto Focus: AI Servo
Focus Point: Center

1. I generally use Aperature Priority and set the Aperature between 7 and 9, with Shutter Priority usually only used for props and helos. Don't know why it was set at Shutter Priority for this shot, as there were no prop aircraft shot before this was taken.
2. I usually keep this set at 100 or 200. Can't explain why it was at 500 for this photo.
3. A rented 100-400L is the longest lens I have access to, so I typically have to use the longer end to try and fill the frame. I know that the long end of telephotos tend to be a little softer overall. But what are my options? If I don't zoom in as much, followed by a fair amount of cropping, typically results in the same poor image quality.

I've generally had better luck with my personal 70-200 2.8L IS over the rented 100-400L, and seen even better performance lately with my new replacement, a 70-200 2.8L IS Mk II--even with a 2.0x Mk III tele-extender. I know that heat-haze has a detrimental effect on my photos--usually with the taxiing shots. But the in-flight shots, that aren't too close to the ground, shouldn't be affected as much. And I've really been working on my panning skills. So I can't really blame my equipment. I think my problem centers around camera settings, and technique??

The photo below was taken from the same place, less than 3 hours later, with the same settings as above, except ISO 100, Shutter Speed 1/200, F-Stop at f9.0. This is the absolute best shot out of 450 taken of the F-22 demo! The disparity in camera settings between these photos is a result in my "fiddling" with the settings in an attempt to experiment to see what works best. But my results are all over the place. Every shot before and after this one, were very soft, out of focus, or blurred. Funny that the only "sharp" one cut off part of the plane!

http://smitty1.smugmug.com/Airplanes...80_7HPgFZ#1266456862_HCswG55-X3-LB

Because I refuse to deal with crowds, my chosen photography spot does force me to deal with less than desirable sun angles. A large proportion of my photos are backlit as a result. Is this my biggest problem?

13 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineJakTrax From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2005, 4936 posts, RR: 7
Reply 1, posted (3 years 4 months 3 weeks 5 days 22 hours ago) and read 4914 times:

Most of the settings seem fine to me. ISO500 isn't really necessary but looking at the image that wasn't the real issue anyway. I would actually go for a faster shutter than 1/1000th for a small but nimble plane like that - 390mm while trying to pan with a heavy 100-400 isn't the best combo for super-sharp photos. I don't have time at the minute to closely scrutinise but softness and blur seen to be the main detriments.

Apart from that, I see no immediately apparent problems. Perhaps the rented 100-400 isn't as good a copy as it could be?

Karl


User currently offlineNIKV69 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 2, posted (3 years 4 months 3 weeks 5 days 22 hours ago) and read 4914 times:

Quoting smitty1960 (Thread starter):
Because I refuse to deal with crowds, my chosen photography spot does force me to deal with less than desirable sun angles. A large proportion of my photos are backlit as a result. Is this my biggest problem?

Well seeing that photography is mostly based on light yea you should learn to like people and get some better light on your subjects. Besides that as you improve get off of shutter or aperture priority and shoot manual and practice practice practice.


User currently offlinesmitty1960 From United States of America, joined Jul 2010, 36 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (3 years 4 months 3 weeks 5 days 22 hours ago) and read 4906 times:

Predictably, I do end up with a much better "keeper" rate when the sun is in my favor. But I think my biggest concern, keeping in mind that these were the best 2 photos I could obtain out of nearly 2000 taken that day, is how grainy they are. With the Strike Eagle, particularly, I was shooting at ISO 500. I don't normally do this, and am convinced that is probably the primary factor in introducing so much grain. As far as the Raptor photo, I'm surprised that it turned out as well as it did, especially shooting at 1/200.

My favorite airshow spot at Offutt, remains on the "wrong" side of the runway. Despite the lousy sun angle for most of the show, it offers a dramatically closer vantage point and completely unobstructed view, as I'm not restricted to the 1,500 foot FAA safety barrier that the crowd is kept at. I have experimented with a different spot, on the "right" side of the runway, that has a far better sun position, but at the expense of being no where near show center, and numerous obstructions.


User currently offlineJakTrax From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2005, 4936 posts, RR: 7
Reply 4, posted (3 years 4 months 3 weeks 5 days 21 hours ago) and read 4898 times:

Quoting NIKV69 (Reply 2):
Besides that as you improve get off of shutter or aperture priority and shoot manual and practice practice practice

Well as usual Nik I'm going to disagree.....  

I've come full-circle and realised that my keeper rate is very much the same using Av as it was using manual - except that manual required more work and concentration. Maybe I've become lazy but if the keeper rate is good why bother using manual? It's a great learning curve but if you already know the ins and outs why bother?

I'm not suggesting the OP doesn't try it but it may not solve the issue as he seems fairly competent already. It may well be a slight technique fault but it could also be the lens or even atmospheric conditions. I'd bet the sun not being in the right place is a pretty hefty factor for a start.

Karl


User currently offlineNIKV69 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 5, posted (3 years 4 months 3 weeks 5 days 18 hours ago) and read 4861 times:

Quoting JakTrax (Reply 4):
Well as usual Nik I'm going to disagree.....

I've come full-circle and realised that my keeper rate is very much the same using Av as it was using manual - except that manual required more work and concentration. Maybe I've become lazy but if the keeper rate is good why bother using manual? It's a great learning curve but if you already know the ins and outs why bother?

If that works for you fine but it was opposite for me. My acceptance ratio skyrocketed when I went manual and I will never go back. If you like the camera picking the shutter that's fine but I would rather be responsible for that.

Quoting smitty1960 (Reply 3):
Predictably, I do end up with a much better "keeper" rate when the sun is in my favor. But I think my biggest concern, keeping in mind that these were the best 2 photos I could obtain out of nearly 2000 taken that day, is how grainy they are. With the Strike Eagle, particularly, I was shooting at ISO 500. I don't normally do this, and am convinced that is probably the primary factor in introducing so much grain. As far as the Raptor photo, I'm surprised that it turned out as well as it did, especially shooting at 1/200

Yep As your ISO rises so does the risk of grain. With good light you can shoot at 200 and be fine.


User currently offlinedlowwa From Canada, joined Apr 2005, 7328 posts, RR: 30
Reply 6, posted (3 years 4 months 3 weeks 5 days 13 hours ago) and read 4829 times:

Quoting smitty1960 (Reply 3):
But I think my biggest concern, keeping in mind that these were the best 2 photos I could obtain out of nearly 2000 taken that day, is how grainy they are.

That's not grainy at all for ISO500. Your main problem is the blurriness.

Quoting smitty1960 (Thread starter):
Because I refuse to deal with crowds, my chosen photography spot does force me to deal with less than desirable sun angles. A large proportion of my photos are backlit as a result. Is this my biggest problem?

While the raptor is, the strike eagle certainly isn't backlit, so not sure that is a big issue. Are you shooting with a monopod or any form of stabilization? Anytime I go over 300mm I always try to have a monopod or tripod for support. I'm a strong guy, but trying to hold 5lbs of camera/lens steady will tire anyone's arms out after a while, and tired arms make for shaky photos at longer focal lengths (the longer the focal length, the more camera shake is amplified). Amplified camera shake and a fast moving subject often add up to blurry images.

To compare, here's a shot of mine of a mudhen in similar conditions. Shot at 300mm, f/5.6, ISO200 1/800. I've cropped a bit (from 4200pix to 3000pix) and sized it down to 1200x800, but you can see I was able to achieve decent results with very similar settings to yours. Instead of the 100-400, perhaps you would be able to rent a 300mm prime next time? It would be faster, and the overall quality should be better as well.

http://img219.imageshack.us/img219/6464/k7m424451200b.jpg

Quoting smitty1960 (Thread starter):
But my results are all over the place. Every shot before and after this one, were very soft, out of focus, or blurred. Funny that the only "sharp" one cut off part of the plane!

Sorry, but that's not really sharp. If that were mine, I would have deleted it for being too blurry. It looks like you're right, you're really going to need to work on your technique...

Dana


User currently offlineDehowie From Australia, joined Feb 2004, 1058 posts, RR: 33
Reply 7, posted (3 years 4 months 3 weeks 5 days 12 hours ago) and read 4822 times:

Re the heat haze the F15 show is pretty affected.
Heat haze shows in two ways.
One is the distinct version you see in taxiing shots etc with clear visible distortion rippling in lines etc.
The other which long lens users(500mm +) are VERY familiar with is the general softening of images in warm conditions.
This portrays itself in exactly your image with general softening(other than the blurr in your shot) that affects shots in or out of the ground layer.
The only way round this is minimizing distance to target or not shooting from in the ground layer..IE helo or hilltop ala Cairns.
In your shot of the Eagle it clearly displays softness from distance combined with i distortion and also some blurriness.
On days like your image if there was little wind to disperse thermals etc which cause optic distortion your only option is to shoot at the closest point of passing to reduce the effect of the atmospherics on your shots.
I can show you hundreds of examples of heat affected images from shows taken with the best glass you can buy.
390mm on a 50D has an effective focal length of over 600mm meaning you will see every bit of distortion in the sky and apart from reducing the target distance there is little you can do to fight it..



2EOS1DX,EF14.2.8LII,17TS,85/1.2,16-35L,24-70LII,24L,70-200F2.8LII,100-400,300/400/500/800L
User currently offlinesmitty1960 From United States of America, joined Jul 2010, 36 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (3 years 4 months 3 weeks 4 days 23 hours ago) and read 4772 times:

Because of my shooting technique--and I include camera settings in that--I do get a lot of blurry shots. My camera and lens do tend to get heavy after a while, but I try to keep my elbows tucked into my body to help keep the camera steady, and help reduce some of the weight. I use the same breathing technique I learned in the military for shooting rifles, and that seems to keep things steady. I keep my 70-200 set at IS position 2, for panning. I rarely shoot IS position 1 since I seldom shoot static shots, although sometimes the aircraft may be taxiing by relatively slowly. I also keep the camera's auto focus set to AI Servo, instead of AI Focus, as I tend to shoot a burst as soon as the aircraft gets close enough, and passes in front of me. I normally shoot 3-4 frame bursts, sometimes longer burst if the aircraft is maneuvering. This seems to give me a good shot, bad shot, good shot, kind of result. Better than bad shot, bad shot, bad shot, I guess. I tried using a monopod (at the local zoo) and found it awkward and clunky. Can't imaging trying to use it to follow fast moving jets. I would think a tripod would be even clumsier.

If my local camera store had 300, 400, or 500 primes available for rent, of course I'd use them. But 100-400 is the longest focal length they offer. I've only gotten fair results with the rented 100-400, even when I was the first renter after it returned from Canon for repair/cleaning/calibration. Also, when I upgraded from the Mark I to the Mark II 70-200, it was crazy sharp, and made the 100-400 shots look even worse, by comparison. So I've dropped the 100-400 from my wish list, and am now leaning toward purchasing the Sigma 150-500, to get the "reach" that I'm not getting with my current set-up. I have the Mark III 2.0x tele-extender, but have only used it for (static) wildlife shots.

The general consensus I'm getting from everybody's responses is that a large percentage of factors affecting my low "keeper" rate are environmental, and that most of my camera settings are OK, except perhaps shooting at too low a speed. As I said in an earlier post, I'm fully aware that changing my shooting position to where the sun is at my back would vastly improve my "keeper" rate. But, because I'm stubborn, I'll likely continue shooting from the same spot. So maybe what I'm really asking for, is what the ideal camera settings should be to overcome the environmental conditions that I'm stuck with. I've learned that using Spot Metering has improved the underside detail and reduced the number of airplane silhouettes I used to get. Keeping the ISO set as low as possible will reduce the amount of grainyness. Even with a 70-200 lens and positioned at air show center, the fighter-sized aircraft rarely fill my frame, so I must crop heavily, and we all know what those results produce. Most air shows that I've attended seem to begin their flying displays late morning or noon, and run into late afternoon. So I'm dealing with backlit subjects nearly the entire show.

Unfortunately, the best sun angles for photographing my subjects are when they're far away, which introduces too much heat haze and too much cropping. When they're close enough to me where they nearly fill the frame (OK, maybe half the frame), then I deal with back-lighting. It seems to be a lose-lose situation I've forced upon myself.


User currently offlineNIKV69 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 9, posted (3 years 4 months 3 weeks 4 days 18 hours ago) and read 4750 times:

Quoting smitty1960 (Reply 8):
Because of my shooting technique--and I include camera settings in that--I do get a lot of blurry shots. My camera and lens do tend to get heavy after a while, but I try to keep my elbows tucked into my body to help keep the camera steady, and help reduce some of the weight.

Ever watch an NFL or MLB game? Lots of monopods on the sideline for a reason.


User currently offlinewalter2222 From Belgium, joined Sep 2005, 1299 posts, RR: 28
Reply 10, posted (3 years 4 months 3 weeks 4 days 18 hours ago) and read 4744 times:

Hi Cary,

I am also a 100-400mm user (on a 40D, and sometimes even still on my old 300D), and I also shoot mostly military aircraft (so, small size compared to airliners).
I keep ISO at 100 or 200 (depending weather conditions) and shoot handheld all the time. I use the IS mode I for static subjects up to the full 400mm (than it is really necessary because I don't use a monopod/tripod).
Apart from the high ISO-setting, I am also wondering why you use spot-metering for flying aircraft (spot-metering covers only a few percentages from the whole shot). I mostly use partial (9% of the center area) or center-weighted average. When I use the 100-400mm on my 300D, I also only used the center auto-focus point, but since I have the 40D (which has a faster autofocus system compared to the 300D), I use multiple auto-focus points (using only one with just a very small aircraft in the viewfinder is also a source for wrong focusing...).
I used to have IS mode II on for fast flying jets as well, but since I leave it off (at least with shutter speeds above 1/500s - 1/800s, my keeper rate has increased significantly! So, from then on, I only use IS mode II for panning at very low shutter speeds (i.e. for heli's), but even then, I am not good at panning at very slow speeds.

Best regards,

Walter



canon 340d ;-) - EFS10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM - EFS18-55mm - EF28-105mm f3.5/4.5 - EF100-400mm f4.5-5.6l is usm - ...
User currently offlinesmitty1960 From United States of America, joined Jul 2010, 36 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (3 years 4 months 3 weeks 4 days 16 hours ago) and read 4726 times:

Quoting NIKV69 (Reply 9):

Aren't photographers usually by the end-zone at NFL games, where they probably wouldn't have to pan as much, not the sidelines? Plus their subjects typically don't zoom overhead. I can see possibly using a monopod for static shots, but for fast moving jets that rarely stay at the same level?

Quoting walter2222 (Reply 10):

Apart from the high ISO-setting, I am also wondering why you use spot-metering for flying aircraft (spot-metering covers only a few percentages from the whole shot). I mostly use partial (9% of the center area) or center-weighted average. When I use the 100-400mm on my 300D, I also only used the center auto-focus point, but since I have the 40D (which has a faster autofocus system compared to the 300D), I use multiple auto-focus points (using only one with just a very small aircraft in the viewfinder is also a source for wrong focusing...).
I used to have IS mode II on for fast flying jets as well, but since I leave it off (at least with shutter speeds above 1/500s - 1/800s, my keeper rate has increased significantly! So, from then on, I only use IS mode II for panning at very low shutter speeds (i.e. for heli's), but even then, I am not good at panning at very slow speeds.

I use spot metering instead of center-weighted because so little of the airplane covers my view. Sometimes the center focus square nearly covers the subject. I don't use multiple focus points because I'm afraid it may focus on a wingtip or engine when I want to focus on the fuselage. I'll experiment with using IS mode I, because my hands shake, instead of IS mode II for panning. I see your reasoning for not needing it if I'm shooting at higher shutter speeds.


User currently offlineJakTrax From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2005, 4936 posts, RR: 7
Reply 12, posted (3 years 4 months 3 weeks 2 days 23 hours ago) and read 4664 times:

Quoting smitty1960 (Reply 8):
So I've dropped the 100-400 from my wish list, and am now leaning toward purchasing the Sigma 150-500, to get the "reach" that I'm not getting with my current set-up



The Sigma will not solve your issues (in fact the increased focal length will make things worse), and the 150-500 isn't in the same league as the 100-400. Too many people buy 100-400s without actually realising that they are only useful for a handful of situations. The issue here isn't the lens but your technique and overly high expectations.

I've learned when to use the 100-400 and when to leave it at home - and throughout much of the summer I'm willing to bet it'll spend an awful lot of time at home! Shooting at 300mm+ is all very well but if the conditions don't favour even the very best lenses will falter.

Karl


User currently offlineNIKV69 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 13, posted (3 years 4 months 3 weeks 2 days 22 hours ago) and read 4652 times:

Quoting smitty1960 (Reply 11):
Aren't photographers usually by the end-zone at NFL games, where they probably wouldn't have to pan as much, not the sidelines? Plus their subjects typically don't zoom overhead. I can see possibly using a monopod for static shots, but for fast moving jets that rarely stay at the same level?

I use my monopod for departures all the time. It's a pain at first but you can manage. If the light is bright enough you can get a shutter fast enough to shoot hand held but I like lower light.


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