I’m pretty sure that most everyone who follows my posts, knows that I have an affinity for all things aviation. And, that I love the National Championship Air Races! I mean, I just can’t say enough about the world’s fastest motorsport. Photographing the air races is a dream come true.
The show was fantastic as fast racing planes and vintage warbirds filled the skies over Reno for a whopping nine days! Now toss in my passion for photography and I was in heaven!
Since the races last year. I’ve had several other projects to shoot. So time has become a very large factor. I have around 6,000 pictures that I’ve needed to sort through from just the air races alone. The dilemma, as always, is deciding which pics are keepers and which are garbage. This can be a very slow and tedious job. But, I am going to do my best to start posting about the races.
When I’m photographing the air races. I shoot solely with my dependable Canon 70D which I absolutely love. As for lenses, I’ve always used the Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS for shooting in the crowds and on the flight line.
While the Canon EF-S 55-250mm F4-5.6 IS STM has been my go to zoom for around 6 years now. I use it on the race coarse to catch the planes as they pass by the pylons. The only problem with the lens is that it just doesn’t have enough reach. Which meant that I would have to crop my photos more often than not.
Now, over the last few years. I have come to believe that cropping should only be used as a last resort. My full page pictures that have been published by the air races were smaller than the ones published by other photoraphers for this very reason.
The year before last brought a big improvement for me. Well, not so much an improvement as it was an honest to God game changer!
The big gun!
The Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary has changed the very way I shoot. This lens may not be the fastest lens out there, but it produces some very sharp pictures. I was shooting planes that were flying anywhere from 200 up to 495 miles per hour. Most of the time my lens was some where between 250mm and 500mm’s. And yes, I was more than happy with the results. As a matter of fact, all the pictures in this post were taken with Sigma’s 150-600mm.
It took me a couple of days to learn how to shoot with the new lens. I mean it’s heavy at over 4 pounds of glass. Moreover I use Manual Mode 100% of the time. But with this new lens I had to switch to Shutter Priority. Manual Mode is hard to use since the diffrent classes of racers all fly at different speeds as well as some have propellers and others are jets. Shutter Priority simply makes it alot easier to quickly change settings.
Jets vs Props.
Since jets do not have a propeller that you have to blur. You can easily get sharp shots at higher shutter speeds like 1/1250 to 1/2000. Pretty hard to screw up at those shutter speeds.
A propeller plane is a whole diffrent animal altogether. They require a slower shutter speed of 1/80 up to 1/320 depending on its propeller size and speed. (Some photogs can shoot as low as 1/50) Anything above 1/320 stops the propeller to a point at which it then looks like the prop isn’t turning at all. You also have to be very careful when you pan. You can just as easily blur more than just the propeller at those slow speeds. It takes a lot of practice but it’s well worth it.
If you’ve never been to the National Championship Air Races before. Do yourself a favor and check them out next year. You will not be sorry that you did.
Also, if your looking for a new telephoto lense. I highly recommend Sigma’s 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary!