Aviation action on the water | Aircraft photography – Alaskafoto
Aviation Action photography of John Pletcher’s Grumman Goose landing at Lake Hood/PALH. Photo by Rob Stapleton/Alaskafoto


Aviation Photography: Stopping Action

Every photographer has his or her style to make an image that elicits action. The Alaska aviation photography of mine is from the ground of aircraft arrivals or takeoffs. This calls for long lenses, high shutter speeds, and quick focusing.

This image of the Grumman Goose made with a 600 mm lens on a Canon 5 D Mark II @ 1/1000 of a second. Seemingly a fast shutter speed, but it is not. Today’s digital camera is different from the SLR 35 mm days with film. Digital camera shutter speeds are not the same for stopping action. In this case, it was best to stop the action of the aircraft, but not stop the arc effect of the propellers.

Here is a rule of thumb,  use at least twice the shutter speed of the focal length (number) of your lens so the image has no motion blur. For example; a 400 mm lens requires a minimum of 1/800 of a second.

For aircraft portraits, it is not as important to use fast shutter speeds.  When you are moving against your aircraft’s direction use fast shutter speeds. ( shutter priority or “S” or “T” settings) The focus in this image is more to the mid-fuselage to take advantage of splashing water under the hull of the fuselage.

Selective focus with long lens photography is easy and makes for a foreshortening effect on longer objects. Thus long lens, coupled with the proper F/Stop makes an unusual view of large aircraft. Long lens photography also pinpoints your subject allowing for a soft or out of focus background and foreground. Use of a tripod, or monopod is necessary due to the weight of the lens and to alleviate camera movement.

Go to your local airport take a position where the aircraft is seen clearly with good light and practice.