Photo AIR-SHOW Radom
Photo guide regarding the Radom Air Show...Some tips for you
The text was translated by Jacek Siminski [thanks!!!].
Should you need a translation, related to aviation, do not hesiate to contact him - I can't recommend him highly enough! Quickly, reliably, at a reasonable price. His e-mail address: jsiminski[at]gmail.com
Writing about taking photos during the Radom Air Show may be compared to stirring up a hornet’s nest. We are living in a country where everybody has an opinion, and only his opinion is right. I am going to calm you all down. I am not the one who knows best. However, when it comes to the Radom event and taking photos - I have collected some considerable amount of experience which is getting more significant year by year, visit after visit, starting from my first air show at the Radom airfield, back in 2002. I will try to share my experience here, however - I may be wrong, and my knowledge may not be exhaustive. I am writing these sentences for couple of reasons. Firstly, many people ask me for my recommendations - what, where and when - regarding the Radom Air Show. Secondly, I want to try to calm down people who are complaining about taking photos against the sun - and these voices could have been heard from the very first Radom Air Show. Some people who have never been to Radom (not only the foreigners), hear the rumours about the poor lighting conditions as the first thing related to the air show, and only then they get to know all of the other great feats of this awesome event. I, personally, think that Radom event is one of the best air shows all around the world.
After each air show season I create a ranking of the events in which I took part, during the given year. The ranking is created by summing up specific rates, referring to the quantity of the aviation highlights, opportunities of taking great shots, weather conditions, atmosphere present during the given event and the WOW factor - referring to the general impression I had. In my private 2013 ranking, the Radom AIR-SHOW was at the very top, and I compared it to numerous famous events, including MAKS, Axalp, Royal International Air Tattoo or Luchtmachtdagen [Highlights 2013]. We should praise our local air show and send the positive word all around the world. It will be good for all of us. The present text is going to make an attempt at proving the fact that the photo-opportunities in Radom are good enough for anyone - thus, we have a thing about which we may be happy :)
AGAINST THE SUN OR IN THE RAIN - GENERAL BLAH BLAH :)
Taking photos against the sun.
We often hear that the Radom Air Show is not a very good event, due to the fact that the displays take part with the sun in your sight. However, there are many events all around the world in case of which the situation is quite similar - there the people complain less, or, I may risk a statement - they do not complain at all.
What is more, the weather varies - some air shows in direct sunlight are different than the others. The conditions may be beautiful, with a blue sky and clouds scattered all around, covering the sun from time to time, with a light breeze which wipes the hot air from the area above the runway, and the air is humid - especially if it was raining at night. On the other hand, the conditions may be poor, even though it is sunny, the sky is covered with an evenly distributed layer of high altitude clouds which makes the sky almost blindingly bright. In that case not only is the sky an improper background for the airplanes, it also causes the air above the airfield to “boil”, which prevents us from taking sharp shots, particularly with the use of lenses with longer focal lengths. This is a nightmare for any aviation photographer. However, let’s assume that we are considering the former variant which is much much better.
In my humble opinion no air show, where the sun is shining straight into your lenses all the time, exists. Such circumstances would be possible, should the sun be static throughout the day, and should the place where the sun is, be the place where all of the displays are being performed. We know it for sure - that’s not the case. The sun is travelling across the sky, and at every moment of the air show, not only is it at a different location, its light has a different color temperature, and the angle is different. Air Shows are incredibly dynamic, the displays are performed throughout the range of 180 degrees in the horizontal dimension and, often, more than 90 degrees in the vertical plane. Within just a few seconds, the jet may move from one to the other side of the display theater, and its position may be changed, where the jet is placed “against the sun” for only couple of seconds. Let’s assume, for the sake of our considerations, that indeed - we are taking the photos against the sun. What’s the benefit, what’s the disadvantage? Shooting into the sun, also known as taking shots against the sun, has been known since the early days of photography - it constitutes an interesting, ambitious, artistic move. By taking the shots against the sun in aviation photography, particularly in case when we have no chance of placing light on the shadows, we have to shift the emphasis from the details of the aircraft, to the phenomena happening all around the airframe! Thanks to the fact that the subject is illuminated from the back, we may be able to take shots of all of the vortices, shockwaves or hot gases coming out of the engine nozzles.
If we are lucky, we may also capture the phenomenon of iridescence. It sometimes happens that the airplane will be placed directly against the sun located in the background, or that it may be flying close to the sun. With a little bit of training, once you stop down the aperture and (important!) close your eyes, we may achieve incredible, fairy-tale-like results.
I do not try to hide it - I always hope that the aircraft in the air is going to pass in front of the sun. I even often change my own location many times, to make that happen. The shots taken against the sun may be much more spectacular.
The question is - is it like that for everybody? You should ask yourself the basic question - is it just the photo of a plane that you want to capture? The specific airplane which during the display, with all the details recorded on our image sensor, for documentation purposes, or..? Or are we going to create a spectacular aviation image, showing something more than the plane itself. Any answer here is right. For anyone who perceives the aviation photography as described in the first part of the above statement - shooting against the sun would be a nightmare. For those who want something more - conditions in which we have to shoot into the sun may turn out to be perfect :)
What is going happen when the sun is gone?
Everyone is worried about the presence of the sun in Radom, shining directly into their faces. What can we do, once the sun is gone? Once there are clouds, or even if it is rainy? The conditions may vary. Starting from boring, homogeneous clouds, covering the whole sky with a single, steel-grey sheet, through the same clouds with a “bonus” - the rain, finishing with my favorite conditions - storm clouds, with rays of the sun sneaking from behind these clouds! The view itself is scenic! The storm clouds which passed over the air-show area may constitute a perfect dark-blue background, a rarity during any air show and a great opportunity for the aviation photographers. If that scenery features contrasty aircraft placed over that background, and if it is complemented with high humidity effects on the airframes or the propellers - then these conditions may be considered to be perfect.
We should also bear in mind the fact that after the rain, the air is perfectly clear. However, if we are taking shots in such conditions, we must take great care of the exposure parameters, not to overdo it, when it comes to the shutter speed. Reduce the aperture value, raise the ISO, so that the shutter speed is not slower than our personal ‘safe’ minimum. Cloudy sky often constitutes one great softbox for the sunlight. More details are visible then, since the shadows do not have a detrimental effect on the photos. Do not resign from taking shots in the rain! By properly protecting yourself and your equipment, and remembering that you should not make your lens face the sky, you may get interesting results - mainly during the taxing procedures, take-offs, landings, or at the static display.
LET’S GET BACK TO RADOM :)
Indeed - when one should come to Radom?
This is important - I did not know about that as well, some time ago. Not only does the Radom Air Show take place on Saturday or Sunday, as the whole fun starts on Thursday (even Wednesday), when most of the jets taking part in the show arrive at the Radom airfield. Here I mean both the dynamic, as well as the static display. On Friday, almost all of the aerobatic teams conduct their display trainings. The above means that Friday may be treated as an additional, full day with displays. This cannot be missed. The above constitutes an option of using the additional lighting conditions (as the weather on Friday may differ from the conditions present on Saturday or Sunday). You may also test a variety of photo spots on these days. Sometimes it turned out that Friday was the only day, during which the displays were being performed. For example - back in 2009 we have been taking photos of the trainings on Friday, including the spectacular display by the Belorussian Su-27, on Saturday it was raining, hence there was little chance to watch any displays, and on Sunday, the above-mentioned Su-27 tragically crashed, which was the dramatic final moment of the event.
Hence, do not miss the Friday trainings! On Monday, you have a chance of capturing the departures. Arrivals and departures are not very spectacular, however only then there is a chance of taking photographs of the aircraft that are taking part in the air show’s static display. These aircraft are often very attractive and unique.
Location of the airfield in relation to the sun.
The airfield’s basic infrastructure is placed to the north of the runway which means, that officially the spectators are also displaced within that area during the air show. This results in the sun going across the sky directly in front of you. When we are standing in the central part of the zone which is accessible to the audience, at the beginning of the Air Show, the sun would be placed to our left. Starting from 4.40 PM, the sun will cross the runway - we will not see it in front of us at all. The sun movement, along with the movement of the aircraft during the display, along with our freedom to move within the area accessible to the audience, provides us with a variety of possibilities. What is more, we should remember that - from a photographer’s point of view - the best lighting conditions are present directly after the sunrise or just before the sunset. The display usually starts ca. at 10.00 AM, the military part begins with a ‘parade’ at 12.00PM, thus we will not be able to catch the spectacular displays and record them on our sensor, during the hours of the early morning light. However, in the afternoon, the sun creates beautiful, warm light, and starting from 3.30 PM the photographic conditions are very good, no matter where we stand.
Taking shots from the AIR-SHOW area during the Radom Event
When we are staying within the airfield, we have only two options of taking shots. We may use the opportunities provided by the platform for the photographers or simply take photos from the place where the rest of the audience is staying, without any additional benefits.
The platform is located in the central area of the audience zone. It is a perfect place for the photographers who like to work in comfortable conditions and who highly value the interesting perspective. Comfort stems from the fact that the platform is not crowded, nobody is going to carry a child with helium balloons on his back and nobody is going to stand on a chair or on a ladder. The platform features a WiFi Internet access which is quite important for the foreigners, and you may leave the platform and get something to eat, without worrying about your spot. Toilets are also placed in the vicinity of the platform area. When it comes to the conditions for shooting, the platform provides the photographers with an interesting perspective. Firstly, it is located slightly above the airfield level, which makes it a perfect spot for panning the take-offs, passes or landings, secondly, the taxiway is located directly in front of the platform, which provides us with a photo opportunity to capture the aircraft taking part in the display, and thirdly, most of the approaches towards the audience are directed towards the platform, and this is great for example in case of the aerobatic teams. Of course, you may leave the platform anytime, and then you enter the area which is generally accessible, using all of its advantages. What are these advantages? Well, you’ll find out by reading the text below.
Taking photos from the area for the regular audience is less comfortable, but it also has its advantages. Of course, I am not mentioning the exclusive options which are not available for everyone - VIP or press areas. When staying within the zone for the audience, we should focus on getting as close to the fence as possible. This is not going to be hard, should we attend the air show bright and early. The best solution here is to come to the air show very early, in a smaller or larger group. Taking a portable chair with us is also a good solution. We arrive early in the morning, set our portable seats close to the fence which separates the audience from the display area, so that we do not lose these seats, once the rest of the audience comes to Radom. If we are a part of a larger group, we always have a chance of leaving our selected spot, without having to worry about losing it. Why leave? Well, you may go and see the static display which, particularly in the morning, right after the airfield gates are opened, is bathing in pretty, warm light, and secondly - it is not crowded. Thirdly, if you are lucky you may capture some shots of the morning dew on the canopies - and this is one of the features of shots that may be potentially interesting. It is also worth to visit the static display at the end of the air-show, when everyone is thinking about leaving the airfield, and then get stuck in a traffic jam. Then, we have very good lighting conditions too, however, the aircraft are illuminated from the other side which results in photos that are very different. Have I mentioned the fact that you need to stay close to the barriers? When we arrive early, we have full scope of selection, when it comes to getting a good spot. What should we choose? Well, we must consider two aspects. Firstly, the sun’s movement across the sky, during the day, and secondly, the air traffic and the displays. In my humble opinion, three options are worth being considered.
By going left, to the east, we have the sun on our left - we get a good scenery in front of us and on the right - this option is great for displays happening before midday. When we are staying at the edges of the area available to the spectators, we are able to take shots of the jets turning back which - often - provides us with interesting photographic results. However, due to the fact that during the early hours not much is happening, I would reject this option, but hold your horses. The benefit of staying in this spot stems from the fact that if we are staying close to the barriers, we will be able to take shots of the taxing aircraft. Both in case of the single, solo-display jets, as well as in case of the aerobatic teams - this spot gives us a chance of taking very good shots. Even against the sun :) So, anyplace you choose - there are always some chances to get some splendid shots.
At the other end of the airfield - in the West - we have another option. There, we may get a chance of capturing the shots of the aircraft turning back towards the display area, however, the sun travelling across the sky will make the sky very bright within that area. However, the positive result of the choice above is that, along with the passage of time, the sun will be going right, uncovering larger and larger portions of the sky - around 3 PM this spot is almost perfect. Firstly, we will get a chance of getting beautiful blue sky on our left in our shots, and secondly, we will get the setting sun on our right - all of the above will make our photos even more beautiful.
The photos taken in the western area of the airfield, in the afternoon and in the evening, may be seen here:
The third option is to stand as close to the photo platform as possible. The platform is located in the central part of the generally accessible area, and most of the approaches made by the aerobatic teams are directed towards this area, which has a particular value for our photographs. If I were to stay within the area which is accessible to the visitors, I would start the air show in the central part, with an option of moving west or moving between these two spots, depending on the situation :) I would be trying hard to get as close to the barriers as possible, in order to capture the taxing jets, and I would not miss out on the rich Radom static display. When it comes to the taxing jets - one tip for those who run from one spot to another, looking for unique shots. Most of the people standing close to the barriers would be offended once we enter their field of view, but even if we manage to take a shot in this way, it won’t be interesting. In my opinion ‘frog-like’ perspective is the most interesting option. I suspect that, should something interesting appear in the taxiway, nobody would mind you laying down close to their legs, protruding your camera beyond the barriers. You will not be intruding - in the worst case scenario you will be an object of laugh, however, you will also get the best shots there :) I did that many, many times, when everybody stood on the ladders. For example, such scenario was the case during the NATO Tiger Meet two years ago. Shooting the taxing jets from a frog-like perspective - this is it! :)
Taking Photos Outside The Air Show Area.
Similarly as in case of any other air show all around the world, most of the displays, particularly of the fast jets or the aerobatic teams, takes place over the terrain beyond the airfield area. What is more, in order to provide safety for the people gathered within the air show area, the displays are usually taking place on the opposite part of the runway, and the runway line cannot be crossed. The above gives us a perfect opportunity to find ourselves directly under the aircraft which are performing the displays. All we need to do is leave the airfield area and stand on the other side. Should you have several days at your disposal, it is worth to plan your stay in a way which would make it possible for you to take shots from several spots, which would greatly contribute to variety and the value of the photographs you take. Once we’ve had enough shots taken within the air show area, we may leave the airfield, for at least one day. What do we gain, and what do we lose? For sure, we are losing the opportunity to use the airfield infrastructure, we will not be able to buy any t-shirts or other souvenirs, we will lose the unique atmosphere of the air show, we won’t be able to take shots of the static display and of all of the action taking place within the airfield area and directly above that terrain. What do we gain? Well, it depends on the spot we choose. Above all, we will be able to take shots of the aircraft which are much more closer. This is a good piece of information for people who do not have long focal lengths at their disposal. Moreover, we will also be able to watch the aircraft from a different position in relation to the sun. What’s better? Well, we’ll scrutinize our options in a second.
Skaryszewska Street area is the most important, and the best known spot for taking photos during the Radom AIR-SHOW, outside the airfield. The street is going along the southern fence of the airfield, and during the air show it becomes a mecca for the aviation enthusiasts. The most interesting and the most crowded area is located close to the heating fuels storage (Skaryszewska 126) and the famous “loop”, located close to the junction of Skaryszewska and Skrzydlata streets. At these spots we have a chance of having an insight into the operations taking place on the airfield, since observation is not being obstructed by a dense forest, east of that location. Moreover, it is a place which is located almost directly along the display line which results in the fact, that most of the passes are done directly above it. The airfield fence is quite high, thus in order to watch the area beyond the fence we need to come there early, along with a quite big ladder. Do not be afraid to shoot your photos through the fence. Once you decrease the aperture value, you may remove the fence net from your frame. Closeness of aviation above your head? Guaranteed! You may take shots of everything that is happening within the airfield, and the sun will be shining into your back. Any aircraft that flies beyond the fence is again placed in the area where the shots are taken against the sun - here the problems are identical to those encountered, when we take the shots from the airfield.
Not only is the “loop” attractive, within the area close to the Skaryszewska street. Other, beautiful spots may be found north-east of the loop. If you go there, you will be closer to nature, and the area would be certainly less crowded. Staying on the side of the display line results in a new perspective. Here we would be able to capture the aircraft in dynamic maneuvers which is even more interesting. This location is most interesting in the evening, when the sun is setting. You may capture beautiful shots, with sun and the clouds acting as the background for the aviation craziness.
Some shots taken from the spot which is located a bit further from the street:
Another two spots are not that attractive during the display days. However, they may be useful during the arrivals and departures. All depends on the direction of landings and take-offs. The first spot is located at the western end of the runway, right beyond the fence. The location is placed near the Ogrodnicza and Stanisława Reymonta streets, it is the hot spot during the Monday departures. Until the afternoon, this location forces us to shoot into the sun. There is no doubt - it is a tough place for taking shots of the activities happening on the airfield and directly above it, due to the long distance and poor lighting conditions. A similar situation may be expected at the Eastern end of the runway, which most often occupied during the Thursday and Friday arrivals. The perfect location may be reached from Lubelska and Szkolna streets. It is not hard to find the proper spot - look for a crowd with long lenses. It is a perfect location to take the photos in the morning. Later on, the sun will be in your frame, throughout the whole day.
Once we leave the airfield, and head towards the above-described areas, we should remember about a few important aspects. First and foremost, due to the air traffic above your head, these areas are quite dangerous. If we are going there - we are going at our own risk. Taking my experience into account, to be honest, I would not take my daughter there, to see the show. The area described above is a place where incidents and crashes already did happen, and they did happen quite recently :( In some states (take Switzerland as the example) the Police would not let you stand in these areas, due to the danger that occurs during the show.. Another important piece of information: during the display days, Skaryszewska street is closed down for traffic, from the early morning, until the afternoon. Thus, if you are planning to take photos from the Skaryszewska street, it is better to leave your car on some car park outside this area, or come bright and early in the morning, without any option of leaving the neighbourhood throughout the whole day. Of course, the limited access to the Skaryszewska street is not valid in case of the locals. When it comes to the locals, please do not trespass their private premises. We should also try to behave well, and take all of the litter we produce with us - it is inevitable that some rubbish is going to be there, as we would be hunting for the best shots throughout the whole day. Oh, one more thing. No aviation attractions. within the airfield and beyond the airfield area, would be available, had it not been for the organizers who have been working almost two years, in order to make it possible for u to enjoy the sound of the afterburner and the smell of the AVTUR over Radom - let’s bear that in mind. I cannot imagine a situation in which we do not support the organizers at least once, by entering the ‘official’ air show area. In fact, the truth is that while writing this guide, I am browsing hundreds of photos from the Radom AIR-SHOW, and they were taken both from the generally accessible area and from Skaryszewska. I may risk a statement that most of the shots I consider to be interesting were taken from the ‘official’ area of the air show. Here, I am referring mostly to the aerobatic teams and to the action happening above the airfield or on the airfield, take-offs, landings, passes, beautiful afternoon sky, static display and the unique atmosphere of the air-show, within the airfield area. When it comes to the area beyond the airfield premises, there most of the captures are the tight shots of the maneuvering aircraft. The above applies particularly in case of the solo displays. Aerobatic teams will be visible there solely in case of the passes conducted from a long distance - you won’t be able to capture the whole team above your head. We will not be able to take shots of the near misses, outside the airfield area. Conclusion? You have to visit all of the spots to create full, comprehensive photographic material. However, should I be forced to select a single option - I would surely get access to the photo-platform, within the airfield area.
OK. That’s all folks. If this mini-guide turned out to be helpful for you - then I am really happy. Should anyone think the information above is incorrect or wrong, he or she may write his own guide. The more information is available, the better - particularly for the beginner photographers. As I mentioned it in the introduction - I do not consider my knowledge to be ultimate or complete. The above guide only contains the best of my knowledge on the issue :)
However, I have one, important request, addressed at everyone who is going to come to Radom with a camera. No matter what camera you use, no matter how advanced you are, no matter where you are going to go to take your shots, no matter what your age is, no matter where you come from, no matter which discussion forum, association, organization, medium, company you are associated with, no matter what the color of your shirt is or what the layout of your t-shirt is - let’s have fun together, during that largest, aviation feast of ours. Let’s have fun, taking photos together. Let’s help one another. Let’s be nice and helpful for each other. Let’s show us, and everyone around, that this beautiful passion of taking aviation photos - which ultimately brings us together - is far more important than anything that divides us. See you in Radom!
And here is one final thing - my personal cheat sheet regarding my camera settings. Do you have to follow this cheat sheet? No! You may do it :) I mean - I will use these settings for sure - if you are going to gain some benefit - then - good for you :)
First - the general settings - the check-list I go through when I get my camera out of the bag. In many cases my settings were messed up, after the parties at night. It is good to get everything back to normal. It is also a good strategy to monitor the status of your equipment on a regular basis - it sometimes turned out that I changed some settings throughout the air show, without knowing about that (e.g. I turned off the VR). The GENERAL settings are applicable at any time when you take shots during the air show. Later we are going to deal only with the shutter speeds and aperture values, depending on the circumstances and on the subject.
GENERAL SETTINGS (check list)
Files recording format - RAW
ISO - as low as possible
Vibration Reduction - on (normal)
Exposure metering - center weighted
Focusing - continuous, single point
White Balance - automatic
Shutter mode - bursts
Goal? Blur the background behind a moving object, in order to demonstrate the motion on the photo, leaving the aircraft sharp and in focus.
When? Within the airfield area - take-offs, passes, landings with the forest in the background.
Set the camera in the Shutter priority mode (Nikon – S; Canon – Tv)
“SAFE” SHUTTER SPEEDS
(these would be quite OK, however, you may make them slower, depending on your skills)
Take-offs 1/100th and slower
Passes 1/160th and slower
Landings 1/80th and slower
Goal? Get the propellers blurred, in order to capture their movement in our shots, at the same time keeping the aircraft in focus.
Set the camera in the Shutter priority mode (Nikon – S; Canon – Tv)
“SAFE” SHUTTER SPEEDS
(these would be quite OK, however, you may make them slower, depending on your skills)
aerobatic planes 1/320th and slower
cargo aircraft 1/200th and slower
helicopters 1/160th and slower
Goal? Take sharp shots of the best quality possible
Set your camera in the aperture priority mode (Nikon – A; Canon – Av)
The f-number is dependent on the lens and on the conditions
(as to the rule - the best quality of the photo is achieved when the f-stop is equal to 2x the value of the minimum f-stop number for the given lens - however - we should also take the weather conditions, so that the final shutter speeds are no slower than 1/500th of a second. Should the weather be worse, raise the ISO number just a bit. In order to make everything easier, we may use the AUTO ISO option)
POSSIBLE APERTURE VALUES
good weather 6.3-8
bad weather 4.5-5.6
Auto ISO Max ISO 400, slowest shutter speed - 1/800th (or /1000th)
THANKS VERY MUCH! :)
BTW I invite You to buy my newest album, where you will also find photos from Radom AIR-SHOW :) [click on the picture below to go on album website]