Appleseed MegaDork
7/31/21 5:12 a.m.

I'm going up to Oshkosh today, which means aircraft. Shoots flying things is never easy.  All my good shots were more luck than anything.  I'm a hack.

Jets? No problem. Het the light right and crank up the F-stop. But props, that's a bigger. Trying to get a clear shot of the aircraft and keep the propellers blurred.

Can you give me a quick and dirty  on a basic set up?

02Pilot UltraDork
7/31/21 5:25 a.m.

I'm assuming a fairly long lens on a DSLR. Do you have image stabilization? How much blur do you want on the props? It's going to be trial and error to get the shutter speed right, but everything has to key off that. Try 1/125 for starters - props move pretty quickly; you'll definitely get some blur at 1/60, but that starts to make things more difficult overall. Shoot in shutter priority to make things easier, and make sure your AF is set to continuous. Technique matters - you want to balance the rig and brace your arm against your body (again, I'm assuming a heavy setup with a long lens), then pivot at the waist.

wawazat Dork
7/31/21 6:40 a.m.

Is the plane stationary with prop spinning or in motion?  If in motion, pan with the camera before tak8ng the shot.  I agree with shutter at 1/125 which should stop the plane but blur the prop.  If DSLR with long and heavy lens have you tried a monopod to reduce camera shake?

aircooled MegaDork
7/31/21 9:02 a.m.

For prob blur, I try for 250 or less.  125 might be needed for slower props (e.g. old radials).  I have shot under 125, but it requires a bit of luck depending on the speed of the plane (I have done a fair amount at Reno, so some have been very fast!).  Using shutter priority (e,g,  to sport mode), is likely the best option.  For full prop blur (full disk) you will need to go very low).

Steady tracking is necessary. Hold the camera with your right arm as closed to you chest (e.g. not sticking out) and your left had as far forward as possible (braced to your chest also if possible).  Follow the plane (track) and get a steady rate of rotation before you shoot.  Twist at you waist ONLY, this will produce as smooth a rotation as possible.

The best setup I found for steady tracking was using a monopod, with a remote trigger taped to it if possible.  Don't put the monopod on the ground, bend it and tuck it under you right armpit and use it like a rifle stock.  They used to (still do?) make rifle stock type attachments for this.

For fast planes and tricky blur shots, shooting a bust (if you can) of three or more shots can be useful, at least one will likely be blurred properly.  I does add to the editing of course. In these cases it is nice to edit out the bad ones as soon as practical.

Be wary of autofocus and auto exposure for mid-long shots, they can sometimes be tricky.  Using a pinpoint exposure setting and non continuous is useful. Setting it on the plane before you shoot or maybe a ground object if the sky is too bright is useful.  Autofocus can be tricky at mid long also, if you are having issues, consider disabling it and going manual if needed (you get a good range of focus if you lense is not to giant).

Keeps aperture as small as possible for maximum depth of field.  Playing with this of course can create some interesting effects.

Another nice tip (that I tend to forget) is take a banner shot at the start of each day or significant division in what you are shooting.  E.g. shoot a pic of the entrance as you walk in each day, and maybe some random poster / banner when you want to note a time.  It will make it a bit easier to sift through the photos.  A bit more useful when you are changing locations (e.g. road trip).

Most all of my Reno stuff is film, so I don't have examples.  I also used to have a very long lense (600) so I was getting much closer shots.  Here are some examples that might help:

Should be some GREAT opportunities there (I was there years ago, actually flew in and slept under the wing of a 172).  Don't forget to be ready for the "golden hours" near sunset, and especially near sunrise (if you are there of course).

This one is 125 (lower engine speed):

this one is 320:

This is 500.  As you can see, a bit fast, and I still didn't get a good focus (this was Chino BTW, another very good show)

Appleseed MegaDork
7/31/21 1:12 p.m.

Aircraft will be airborne. No mono-pod. Forgot it at home. It's way overcast, so I'm definitely going to have to play with the aperture.

These are the grounds currently:


aircooled MegaDork
7/31/21 3:41 p.m.

Oh, that is another thing, as you noted, in some circumstances, like overcast, shifting the exposure (if your camera will do that) can be useful / necessary.

Also, if you have the capability, and some way to process them (I am sure there are free tools ou there) SHOOT IN RAW!  The amount of adjustments you can make with little or no loss in quality are WILDLY better then shooting to jpeg.  I set mine to give me both jpeg and raw.  Raw adjustments are totally not destructive (reversible) also. Unlike jpeg.

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/31/21 3:57 p.m.

At full song, those props tips will be approaching 600 mph.  I think you have a pretty generous range of the slower end of shutter speeds.  On the ground, that's another story.

I would set for center-weighted metering or evaluated metering.  Since you are shooting against nothing but a gray sky, it will likely meter just fine either way, and editing exposure in post doesn't add a ton of noise.

I might also suggest that you not stress too much about aperture.  Since you will likely have very little foreground, and the background will be hazy clouds, depth of focus might not be of large importance. 

What I would personally do is set it to shutter priority, then you can quickly scroll left/right on shutter speed to get the fuselage good and crisp while letting the props blur.  If you have one that is throttled down, scroll to a slower shutter speed, like maybe 1/80th or 1/100th.  One that is WOT doing a fly-by, buzz up to 1/250th.  Let the aperture do its thing, let the metering do its thing, and see how the first dozen turn out.  If you find (as some meters like to shut down or open up more than you want) that they're all too hot or too dark, just do an over or under exposure setting.  What I'm really saying is, you're shooting into a diffused, lighted background, and the plane is in the same exact lighting.  Once you get the exposure right, you can just scroll up/down with shutter speed until you nail it.

I think the big challenge is getting the shutter fast enough for hand-held + long focal, but slow enough that you get prop blur.

I will also say that you are not a hack.  Many of those are excellent shots.

I just got back from a hike today and shot about 200 frames.  In that case, I used aperture priority.  I set my Nikon for 1/2 stop under, then I just scrolled the wheel to set depth of focus.  Shot a butterfly for a while at f3.5, then took some photos up the river at f13, then took a group shot of the hikers at f22.

Appleseed MegaDork
7/31/21 7:13 p.m.

The low light was a real challenge.  We'll see what came out. If they aren't trash, I'll post em.

pinchvalve (Forum Supporter)
pinchvalve (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
8/2/21 12:02 p.m.
aircooled said:


Hey you got me! That's my P38, I remember that show. I am lying of course, but man is that sucker cool.

Our Preferred Partners