Like a shooting star

Another shot from this year’s Rocky Mountain Air Show:

Like a shooting star

This bird’s a T-33 trainer, essentially a 2-seat model of the F-80 “Shooting Star,” and sports the Thunderbird paint scheme.

I haven’t shot at an air show in years (since digital), so kind of had to start fresh for this. So I did what I usually do in situations like this — dug around on Flickr to see what focal length people used for the shots I liked the most. So I wound up taking only my Sigma 50-500 “Bigma” to the airshow (along with a monopod to keep my arms from wearing out).

The scheme worked pretty well — the above shot is actually a composite of two made with the lens racked out to 500mm (on my Olympus E-5, so that’s 1000mm full frame equivalent for folks with really big cameras). One original frame had the plane in front of fairly boring (flat) clouds:

T-33 on dull clouds

The other frame had these interesting clouds with a much smaller / more distant image of the jet.

T-33 good clouds, bad jet

For those wanting to try something similar, here’s my advise to you:

  • Don’t bother with a monopod, the jets at an airshow move too fast for one to be anything but a bother (even with a heavy lens).

  • Yes, the “Bigma” really is slow to focus at 500mm — expect to take more shots than you’d desire, given that some of them will have missed focus. Otherwise, it’s a pretty good air show lens — at least on a cropped-frame camera, 50mm will cover most ground shots, and 500mm will get you some nice distance shots (out where the jets are easier to track).

  • Bracket exposures if you have clouds anywhere in the sky, otherwise you’ll wind up with a bunch of underexposed airplanes on bright backgrounds.

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