Fuji X-T1 at an air show

I’ve been lucky enough to shoot the Blue Angels practicing outside our office in the past (post1, post2)…

20150821 155614 DSCF5024 XT1 pp+.7 ht+2 st+0 sharp+2_Crop_DCE

But I had not actually gone to an air show until a few weekends ago. As usual, the Fuji X-T1 worked very well for candid shots…

But was reasonably challenging to use for the aerial photography. I had, previously, only shot jets so did not have propellers to deal with.

With fast moving jets, the challenges are:

  • to reduce camera shake due to you moving your camera around to track the fast moving jets (sorry, IS isn’t going to help you much in this situation)
  • and to reduce motion blur due to fast moving jets.

Both of these can be addressed with a shutter speed of 1/1000 or faster. On a bright day, this is not usually a problem (and still use low ISO and most apertures). This also works for when the propeller planes are far away, too.

But with propellers, too fast of a shutter speed and you freeze the propellers so the planes look like they are parked in the sky.

But catching the propeller in motion isn’t so easy as it sounds. You would think that 1/1000 would be slow enough…

But you really had to go down below 1/500 – 1/250!

Think about it! You’re still tracking the tiny plane in the sky, possibly with strong telephoto lens and shooting slower than 1/250!!!

And you really want to capture that propeller in motion. Again, too fast a shutter speed and the plane looks parked, but with motion, it has life!

Back to shooting planes in the air. I used continuous focus since I was tracking the planes even before they were where I was planning to shoot them, but the X-T1 got confused many times on the tiny planes and went out of focus. The more advanced focusing system on the X-T2 would have been appreciated.

Lighting also changed frequently as the planes went in and out of shadow (look at the color of the smoke trails).

Some might choose full manual, but I did not like the results (it was partly cloudy this day). During a single run, the planes may change exposure multiple times and who wants to fiddle with knobs and miss shots!

And finally, especially for Fuji shooters, exposure systems on more advanced cameras often shoot darker than needed to retain highlights. They assume users will adjust this in post, but if you point at the sky, Fuji’s really have a tendency to underexpose by 1/3 – 1 stop. Nearly every shot in this post was adjust by +1/3 to 1 stop.

Good luck!



All aerial shots were taken from this vantage point in the shade.

20170611 154649 DSCF2552 X-T1A adjusted_DCE



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