I had the opportunity to shoot with fellow EOS World photographers at the recent Singapore Airshow 2016. For your consideration, here are some tips I used that contributed to a pleasant experience.

EOS 5D Mark III | F/7.1 | ISO 200 | 1/4000s

1.  Prepare early.

Ready your photography accessories a few days before the event. Use a checklist to ensure that nothing is forgotten.

EOS 5D Mark III | F/5.6 | ISO 200 | 1/4000s

2.  Check your gear.

Are your extra batteries charged and lenses grease-free? In checking that my gear was prepared, it allowed me to enjoy a more fun, shooting experience.

EOS 5D Mark III | F/7.1 | ISO 200 | 1/4000s

3. Choose your lens.

Do you want wide-angle, fisheye, or shallow depth of field shots that a telephoto lens can bring? You will need to make your personal assessment and decide which lenses to bring accordingly.

EOS 5D Mark III | F/7.1 | ISO 200 | 1/4000s

4. Anticipate the crowd.

As aerial display performances will always attract a crowd, you must manage your expectations and adapt your shooting habits accordingly. If you wish for a prime spot to set up your tripod, go early.

EOS 5D Mark III | F/7.1 | ISO 200 | 1/4000s

5. Be patient.

With the presence of many bodies, it will be challenging to be creative in framing your shots as many will obstruct your view. However, be patient and when the fleeting moment comes where the crowd momentarily thins… shoot away!

EOS 5D Mark III | F/7.1 | ISO 200 | 1/4000s

6. Prepare for a wet weather.

If you do not have a water-proof rain cover for your gear, I recommend that you make the investment into one. Nothing spoils an airshow experience more than rain.

7. Include the static displays.

Don’t forget the static display. As this area would be cordoned off by metal fences, you will find a telephoto lens very useful.

EOS 5D Mark III | F/2.0 | ISO 1250 | 1/4000s

8. Make friends.

An airshow will bring many like-minded people with similar interests (in photography and aviation) together to the same place. There is no better opportunity then, for you to strike up a conversation, share tips, and make friends!

EOS 5D Mark III | F/2.0 | ISO 200 | 1/4000s

9. Prepare your gear for the aerial display performance.

Before the aerial performances began, I dialled these settings:

  • TV (Shutter Priority) Mode with shutter speed set at 1/4000s.
  • AF Point Expansion Mode (with 8 additional AF point “assists”) on my EOS 5D Mark III.
  • AI Servo as my Drive Mode, to aid in subject tracking during flight.
  • Centre-Weighted Average metering.
  • Turning off Image Stabilisation on my EF200mm f/2L IS USM (for faster auto focus lock and tracking), and Mode 2 for panning.

EOS 5D Mark III | F/2.0 | ISO 200 | 1/4000s

10. Focus.

Anticipation is key when shooting aerial displays. In spite of the fast-paced action, I always try my best to think quickly and anticipate the type of photo composition I want.

I encourage photographers to remember that context is important in a photograph, as it helps to set the scene and convey emotion to the viewer.

So while there is space for tightly-cropped images of after-burning jet exhausts, there is also beauty in a well-framed photograph of the aerial ballet that is happening above you.  

Have fun shooting!