This post is a translation based on the original one I published on my Hungarian blog.
I don’t like to go into sophistry in photo techniques. Firstly because so many other photographers do it, I don’t want to join the queue. Secondly, there are so many different views and approaches one cannot expect everyone to follow the same rules all the time and think everyone is mistaken for doing things in a different way.
However, I stumble into so many things everywhere there is something I felt the need to share with you all in hope if giving you one or two ideas to think about.
This writing is mainly about two simple concepts. I already wrote about both of them in the past so don’t expect too much new here. I hope it still will deliver some insights even to those who have read the previous posts as well and of course I also hope there will be people who will find it interesting and maybe even enlightening too.
Get those rotors blurred!
Aircraft with a propeller (let them be either helicopters or airplanes) usually look much better on the photos if their propellers aren’t totally sharp and stiff, but a bit – or even a lot – blurred from motion. Aircraft with a still propeller seems to be stopped mid-air, which means falling from the sky. A slight blur of the propellers (or when executed properly even the
plane background) gives the images a sense of movement and action. Of course, it is harder to take good and sharp images this way, but when it is successful than the result is much better. (By the way the same is true for photos about bicycles, motorbikes, and cars too, where usually the wheels of the vehicle can reveal movement or standstill of the vehicle.)
The wanted blur can be achieved with a longer shutter speed, but I don’t want to go into details here as I already wrote about it before in my post about photographing helicopters when the Die Hard 5 movie was shot in Budapest with US actor Bruce Willis (unfortunately not all of these posts are available in English yet).
Watch out for the background!
Many people photograph planes using their largest available lens in the longest zoom position possible to enlarge the plane to maximum and they often concentrate only on having the plane on the sky. Who am I to judge others and call this to be a bad practice? Those who want such photos may take these ones!
However, I much more prefer images that have not only the plane alone but have a context with their surroundings. Maybe some clouds or glare of sunlight can add a special ambiance to the otherwise less interesting photos. Not to mention composing some of the backgrounds into the picture to show where the event takes place.
I wrote about the very same concept in my blog post about photographing full moon too. Whether you photograph the Moon or a plane alone surrounded by the homogenous sky, that results in a merely empty image lacking context. However, showing the surrounding can add a lot to the story of the images.
Watch out for your own surroundings as well!
It is also important to be aware of your own surroundings not only of your subject’s one. What will be in your frame is greatly affected by not only how the subject itself moves around in the world, but also where you are, how you position yourself and what else is in between the two of you.
It is worth to prepare in mind and think it through what, where and how will happen and how it would look photographed from various places, how switching positions can affect the appearance of the images and what field of view results in what kind of relation between subjects and their backgrounds.
Of course, it is worth to keep an eye out for your own surroundings as well because things or persons around you can add to the photos, can make them more interesting – or in worst case ruin your pictures completely when unfavorably block your view.
If you position yourself in a low ground it is almost sure to have everything to happen above you. If you manage to get on a higher level it can help you to photograph action from an eye-level or even from above what can be a special angle with airplanes usually flying higher than people.
At the air shows held in downtown Budapest mostly on May 1st and August 20th or the previous Red Bull Air Races (which has been banned from the capital city just recently – again after some years of disregard) there is a great view from the bridges and the banks of river Danube however planes usually fly above us only rarely come down to eye-level. If one finds a higher building on the banks or goes up on the Castle Hill, to nearby Gellert Hill or maybe even with a longer telephoto lens to the farther away Harmashatar Hill it can give an opportunity to photograph the planes from above.