Adventures, Photography, And more


Action Photography: Photographing Planes Crossing

One of my favourite subjects to shoot is airshows. One thing I have always found difficult is shooting two planes that come head on and cross in front of the spectators. Over the last few years I have worked on a technique to capture this maneuver.

1. Set the camera to a high shutter speed. I usually use 1/2000 – 1/4000 of a second. I would experiment with 1/8000 of a second if your camera supports it.
2. When the planes set up for a cross acquire one plane in your view finder and pan along with it. Focus so that the plane is in focus.
3. Here is where it gets tricky. Keep your other eye open (the one not looking through the view finder) to track the other plane while still keeping the aircraft in the view finder.
4. Press the trigger just before the two planes cross.

Hopefully the result is something like this photo of the USAF Thunderbirds.

USAF Thunderbird Solo Planes Performing A Cross

USAF Thunderbird Solo planes performing a cross

The technique takes a little time to master. If you have a camera which can shoot 5 or more frames per second I recommend using the highest frames per second setting and rather than try to time the crossing in step 4, just hold down the shutter. At least 1 frame should have both planes in it. My camera shoots 3 frames per second and that is not fast enough to just fire without having to worry about timing.

Finally, with high mega pixel cameras (10 megapixels and up) you can crop if you didn’t get the aircraft where you wanted in the frame. Below is a picture of the snowbirds that I cropped so they would appear in the centre of the shot.

RCAF Snowbird Solo Pilots Performing A Cross

RCAF Snowbird Solo Pilots Performing A Cross

Happy shooting!