Airshow photography

Since I was a kid the official end of summer was always the airshow at the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) in Toronto, Canada. Luckily the weather cooperated this year and I was able to spend a couple of afternoons on the Labour Day holiday weekend taking images at the CNE Airshow. This was my first attempt to use my Nikon 1 gear for airshow photography.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 267mm, efov 720mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-250
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 267mm, efov 720mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-250

I went to Marilyn Bell Park which is just west of the CNE grounds. This provided excellent visibility and I will definitely go back in the future.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.63, 1/3200, ISO-360
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-360

I shot hand-held both days using one of my Nikon 1 V2’s along with my Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 lens. This was the first time that I ever tried using my Nikon 1 gear for this type of subject matter. Since I sold my D800 and all of my full frame lenses in July I was very interested to see how my Nikon 1 gear would perform.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-250
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-250

I experimented quite a bit during both of my visits shooting single frames as well as AF-C bursts at 15fps.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO-400
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO-400

I used single point focusing as well as subject tracking. I found that I preferred single point AF when shooting single frames.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO-280
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO-280

I used Manual settings with 160-6400 auto-ISO.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 254mm, efov 686mm, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO-360
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 254mm, efov 686mm, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO-360

One of the highlights of the show for me was seeing a P-51 Mustang being escorted by a fighter jet. Seeing these two aircraft flying next to each other really emphasized how much flight technology has changed over the years.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO-320
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO-320

While some people prefer the jet formation flying I always enjoy the acrobatics performed by the propeller-driven biplanes.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-220
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-220

This year the audience was treated to a biplane that was also fitted with a jet engine. The pilot would alternate between his engines which made for a very interesting routine.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-160
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-160

I always look for the artistic effects that the smoke trails can create and try to capture subject aircraft in ways that help to accentuate the smoke patterns.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-180
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-180

15 thoughts on “Airshow photography”

  1. Hi Thomas
    Brilliant site!
    I came across it while looking online for the Nikon 1 V3.
    I have owned this camera for just over a year now and love it. It was bought as mainly a “holiday” camera but I keep enjoying using it. My main type of photography is aviation where I use my D2x and 70-200 f2.8.
    I have started taking aviation photographs with my V3 and the 30-110 lens which has good results when it is bright but can vary when the light is poor. I have tried various settings and have found the best for me to have the ISO set to auto the metering at centre-weighted and the focus at single-point.
    I go between Program and Shutter priority depending what aircraft I am shooting. I have dabbled with Manual and have had fine results but found the camera can have just as good results as me!
    I love the photographs in this article but if I was going to be super picky I would say to maybe lower the shutter speed on aircraft/helicopters with props to give a sense of movement. I always set my camera to shutter priority and 1/160 when shooting props.
    I’m not sure how to add a photograph but I have added one below taken with my wee V1.

    Keep up the great articles

    David

    1. Hi David,
      I’m glad you’ve been enjoying the web site – and thanks for the positive comment! In terms of using slower shutter speeds to achieve prop blur I would likely have to use a variable neutral density filter to get a proper exposure. I’ll likely experiment with this a little at the next air show as I’ll need to set up two cameras so I don’t mess with my normal settings on one camera.
      Tom

  2. Fifi (the only flying B-29 in the world!) was reasonably close to my home so my wife indulged me and we went to see the little bitty air show. Fifi didn’t fly, but we did see the B-25, P-51, fake-Zero, and assorted other aircraft take off and land. I was using A-mode at f/8 with the kit-telephoto zoom and I’m pretty sure my shutter speed wasn’t high enough even if my ISO was low.

    Lesson learned! Your photos are lovely and I’m jealous of the apparent FL you can get with this combo! I want to rent it for the next airshow I attend. Which is in two weeks! Too bad I can’t trust the current weather report ):

    Anyway, thanks Tom! Different type of birds for these photos.

  3. Excellent results with the great V2/CX 70-300 combo! How do you get rid of the momentary lag if the camera goes in sleep mode. Mine takes too long to wake up, and I miss shots at times because of that. Do you have any suggestions as to settings to compensate? I wish there was a way to turn the review screen off until I want to use it by using the review button. Would appreciate any tips.

    1. Hi Vern,
      Thanks for the positive comment – much appreciated! To keep my V2’s from going into sleep mode I usually just lightly half-depress the shutter to activate the AF until I hear the ‘beep’ that indicates the camera has acquired focus. I do this about every minute or so. When doing this it also helps to be pointing the lens at something that is at about the same distance as the subjects I’m going to photograph so the camera is pre-focussed and ready for action. I use this approach when photographing birds in flight as well. The auto image review can be turned off on the V2 by going into the menu under the “>” tab.
      Tom

  4. Hi Tom,

    Beautiful pictures as usual. I was also there on Monday and had a chance to shoot some pictures. Here’s few of them. Need your input to make them better. These are taken with D750. 70-200 VRII, and 2X tele convertor and heavily croppedDSC_0563.JPG
    DSC_0519.JPG
    DSC_0532.JPG
    DSC_0511.JPG
    DSC_0550.JPG

  5. Nice images, as always. I am glad to see that I am not the only one who feels that the aspect ratio of the final picture does not need to be the same as the camera. Cut out the garbage, and let the ratio be damned!

    1. Hi William,

      I typically like to shoot and keep the full frame of the image I capture…but I agree with you that there are times that cropping a bit helps an image. Glad you enjoyed the article and thanks for the positive comment!

      Tom

  6. A man after my own heart – I love all things that fly and have been flying RC airplanes, reviewing them including in-flight photos and video, something that gets both of my hobbies a shot!

    I need to make it to the RedBull Airshow here in a couple of weeks at the Texas Motor Speedway!

    Thanks Tom – awesome shots!
    Mike

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