Planning for Variety

October 05, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Here are three images from a 2016 air-to-air photo shoot to illustrate something you should be doing, or expecting of your photographer, during such a mission: plan and shoot for variety.

We launched about 30 minutes before sunset and returned to base a bit after. The reason for the time of day and duration of the flight? Late in the day the sun's rays pass through more atmosphere so they are more diffuse and, by coming from a low(ering) angle, more variably directional depending on how the target and camera aircraft are oriented to the sun.


As sunset arrives, the vault of the sky contributes both colorful backgrounds and, as a light source, rich, soft, illumination. The mission begins when the sun is still strong and direct, then ends when only the remnants of the sun's glow fill the sky.

I further varied things with composition and camera settings. As you can see, I positioned the target aircraft both abreast of and below my ship, near and far, and had the target maneuver to show it in different attitudes. I framed shots in both portrait and landscape orientations. Sometimes I nearly filled the frame with the the subject, other times left a lot of environment. The environments also varied, from busy suburb to rugged back-country and more. Shutter speeds ranged, in these three samples, from 1/25 of a second to 1/200, focal lengths from 100 to 200 mm.


Exactly 40 minutes elapsed from first frame to last, and we chose nearly 80 good images from that short time in the air. I'd call that pretty good shooting!

So, there you have it — plan carefully, shoot for variety, and you can realize great value.

_MBP9152 Thanks go out to John Cauthen and Officer Michael Traficano from the Mesa, Arizona, police department, and to Rick Cobbold of FlightTrails, also of Mesa, for providing the aircraft and the support.


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