Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tight quarters

When I was at AirVenture in July, I attended a seminar by Paul Bowen, a fantastic aerial photographer.  His work shows years of dedication and a tremendous artistic skill.

When I was offered the chance to fly along with some friends during a formation practice flight, taking photographs, I jumped at the chance. While they were doing their preflight, I gathered a minimal set of gear.

I considered using a polarizing filter, but I was going to be in the right seat of an Vans RV-7, and the polarizing filter would cause some problems with the curved canopy.  The photo above is an RV-7 we would be flying with.

I ended up just taking the Canon 7d and the Tamron 18-250mm zoom.  I was concerned about the lighting and depth of field, so I set the camera on manual mode with auto-ISO.  I have used this same technique at airshows with success in the past. I told the pilots that I was only along for the ride, and would be making no requests regarding where the flights were, or what I would want them to do.  Instead I just depended on knowing what the pilots would be doing and working with the knowledge to get some hopefully interesting photos.

The sky was mostly overcast with some open sky, but completely flyable. The lighting was a little bland, but I figured the experience would certainly be worth it.

Turns out that the major problem I had was moving around in the cockpit enough to take the photos. The plane I was in was lead most of the time, so of the time I was shooting behind me at about 4-o'clock. The cramped quarters and the4-point harness, along with the close proximity of a scratch-able canopy meant I had to work to frame the photos.  I also gave up shooting normally, and used my pinkie finger to actually take the photo.

The other problem I ran into was I set the aperture too high.  The photos were taken at f.22, which could have been dropped.  I was originally concerned about depth of field with a long lens, but as it turns out I was shooting wide-angle mostly.  By using a larger aperture, I could have used a lower ISO setting, which would have kept the noise from being so high.  Not bad, but noticeable if you look.  Even with the noise, since I was doing very little cropping, each of these photos could be blown up to poster size with very few problems.

This was an interesting opportunity, and one I hope to repeat.  All of the photos can be seen at my image web site