The advice passed on from Shufflemoomin and Captain Kramer is spot on , all the way! Very good advice indeed.
The biggest mistake I see so many beginners make, is trying to take great photographs before they actually understand photography. You really do have to do a bunch of studying and learn about how photography works before you are likely to take consistantly good pictures. The only thing different I might suggest, is to start out on "page one"rather than say, page 10; What I mean is......first, you must become very familiar with the camera you have, and learn exactly what each button, switch and so on does; it's kinda like a baby trying to learn to walk; first, you must learn to crawl; then to stand up, and after a few days, you'll be walking; never try to learn the stuff on page 10 while you're still on page 1,2 & 3 !
Different "modes"; Auto mode is just great.....for people who have no interest in photography, but just want pictures !
Sure, a knowledgeable photographer can make good pictures with auto, because he understands what it is telling the camera to do; different types of subjects require completely different techniques. You must learn which technique is called for, for different kinds of subjects. If I was a photography teacher, (and I'm not BTW), I would put aviation photography on ,say, page 10; I would teach starting with the simplest subjects first; you really need to have the camera steady, on a tripod is the easiest way of course, but just holding it on something solid will do for some things; I think of learning photography as being like learning to play a piano; first you must learn the keyboard; then the notes, and only then can you start putting a few notes together and making a tune; the same is true with a camera; practice, practice, practice ! It should be much easier, or at least much quicker to learn now with digital, as you don't have to worry about buying film, wasting film, waiting 2 weeks to see what you did (if anything) Ha ! In those days, by the time you got the film back, you had already forgotten what you had done ! That just makes the learning process that much slower. Experiment........set the camera on say a chair, next to a pickett fence, looking down the fence; let the lens focus, then with the camera set on manual, take a photo with the lens set on wide open ( F 2.8, F 4, etc : notice how many pickets are in focus; then set the lens to f -16, or f-22, and notice how many more picketts are sharp; you're now learning about "depth of field". You really must learn all the basics before going on to the more advanced stuff.
Always remember this; all photography is about light; sounds simple, but there is a lot more to light that you may think; how much light is there, from which direction is the light coming, what color is the light; see, being a human, you have the most perfect "camera of all, the good old eyeball ! It is so good in fact, that it tends to "compensate"; the camera lens is no way near this sophisticated ! When the light is very bright, the eye automatically "stops down" ; cameras do this too now a days, but not nearly as smooth as the eye. In the very beginning, don't worry about making mistakes; matter of fact, make them on purpose; then do what's needed to achieve the desired results; now you're learning; what TO
do, and what NOT to do; don't be afraid to make notes; it's only by making simple mistakes then correcting them that you learn. Tell you what..........if you study your camera for a day or two, practice a lot, look carefully at what you have done, fixed what didn't work, within a month you will be taking better pictures than I am, and I've been playing with cameras for 60 years now! But I'm lazy; I frequently don't practice; and I frequently take lousy pictures because of it !
Work on the beginning stuff for a few days, weeks, whatever; don't do your basic learning after you've driven 40 mile to get to the airport ! Make all your beginner mistakes at home, on the neighbors pickett fence; take pictures of cars driving by; notice which shutter speed is needed to make a sharp picture of a slow moving car, person running, anything moving; you're not trying to collect a "portfolio" now, you're learning how to make the camera do what you want it to do.
And keep us posted on your progress !
Stupidity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result; Albert Einstein