Almost a full disc! Things I’ve learned over the last couple of years shooting aviation

One of the biggest challenges to aviation photographers is to manage to capture the ever-elusive “Full Disk” of propeller driven aircraft. When shooting jets, it’s not a big deal to get crisp images. Just use the sharpness rule of thumb and crank up the shutter speed to twice your focal length and you’re usually good to go.

Popsicle Sticks

This is a decent example of “Popsicle Sticks” as a result of having too fast of a shutter speed (1/1250 sec @300mm in this case). Click to view full size.

But prop driven aircraft are a whole different world from a technical sense. If you tried that sharpness rule of thumb, you’d end up with what we call “Popsicle Sticks”.

Essentially your shutter speed is so fast, that it will stop the propeller motion, which makes the plane look as if its engine is stopped. By the way, setting the shutter speed too fast is a very common thing for most people and reasonably understandable. General logic would seem to dictate that air shows tend to have fast aircraft. Perhaps a fast shutter speed would be best? After all, you typically would use fast shutter speed when capturing the action of sports, right?

In the aviation photography world however, this is a bad thing. We want prop blur to convey to the viewer a sense of motion, which then gives the picture the proper context of the aircraft is flying and not just sitting up in the sky. Continue reading

History flies in Poughkeepsie, NY


The Collings Foundation’s aircraft. L/R: B-14J “Witchcraft”, B-25 Mitchell “Tondelayo”, B-17G “Nine-0-Nine”. Photo by Dan Villeneuve.

These days we are so deeply immersed in technology. Smart phones are practically attached to our hands, computer monitors replace daylight and we mindlessly let GPS guide us to new destinations when we do manage to get out of the house or office. But there’s one group that tours the country through most of the year with the Wings of Freedom Tour; The Collings Foundation. Continue reading

Something new… Something fun: Why being open minded can be such a good thing

As many of you know, my photographic strengths are landscapes, nature shots and catching life unscripted. It’s what makes the world go round for me. There is great comfort in knowing what to expect and I can think out what my vision is. Recently, my comfort boundaries got blown to bits… in a very good way.  Continue reading