From on high

Keith Ab­nett’s pho­tog­ra­phy is look­ing up – he com­bines his loves of planes and cam­eras in spec­tac­u­lar style

NPhoto - - Over To You… -

Since I was a lad I’ve al­ways loved pho­tog­ra­phy, which goes very nat­u­rally with a pas­sion­ate (some might say anorak-ish!) in­ter­est in air­craft. In the early 1960s, I con­verted my love for avi­a­tion into re­al­ity with the Royal Navy and an air­craft ar­ti­fi­cer en­gi­neer­ing ap­pren­tice­ship in the Fleet Air Arm. I even­tu­ally served for 24 years on five air­craft car­ri­ers, work­ing with Sea Vix­ens, Phan­toms and Sea Har­ri­ers.

Nowa­days, I’m more likely to be pho­tograph­ing aero­planes than work­ing on them. Dur­ing the air­show sea­son I look out for air­craft I haven’t pho­tographed

Avi­a­tion pho­tog­ra­phy is a de­mand­ing dis­ci­pline be­cause of the range of set­tings re­quired to ob­tain good pic­tures

be­fore, and be­fore head­ing to a show I use Google maps to re­search the run­way lay­outs, view­points and po­si­tion of the sun to plan ex­actly what I want to shoot.

Eyes on the skies

Avi­a­tion pho­tog­ra­phy re­quires a long lens cou­pled with a good sturdy tri­pod and ar­tic­u­lated head. My first lens to give me de­cent im­ages was the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8, and I now use the im­pres­sive Nikon 400mm

f/2.8. It’s a de­mand­ing dis­ci­pline be­cause of the range of set­tings re­quired to ob­tain good pic­tures. You have to deal with ev­ery­thing from slow-mov­ing pro­pel­ler-driven air­craft, to su­per-fast jets, plus con­stantly chang­ing weather con­di­tions. It can be rain­ing at one end of the run­way and bright sun­shine at the other dur­ing a dis­play!

I’d def­i­nitely rec­om­mend buy­ing the best and fastest piece of glass you can af­ford, and prac­tis­ing cam­era pan­ning skills is also es­sen­tial.

When I’m shoot­ing pro­pel­ler air­craft, my aim is to get a de­cent blur on the pro­pel­ler while keep­ing the air­craft’s body in fo­cus. I nor­mally se­lect shut­ter-pri­or­ity mode and work my way up by in­cre­ments from 1/60 sec, check­ing im­ages and mak­ing ad­just­ments when needed. For sunny days I set the ISO to 100 and to switch to 400 for dull ones.

I love com­ing home with great ac­tion shots – one of my favourites is this im­age of a Bel­gian F-16 [3] fir­ing its flares be­cause it’s a rare thing to cap­ture as flares are not nor­mally al­lowed at UK air shows.

On a more cre­ative side, I’ve been ex­per­i­ment­ing with com­pos­ite im­ages, such as this Sea Vixen im­age [2]. I took the shot of the plane at the Bournemouth Air­show Fes­ti­val, and then added a colourful evening sky shot I’d taken from my gar­den to make things look a lit­tle more dra­matic!

01 black ea­gles Nikon D700, Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 lens, 1/3200 sec, f/4, ISO125


02 Red Sky Vixen Nikon D4, Nikon 24-120 f/4 lens,

1/13 sec, f/4, ISO100

03 F-16 Flares Nikon D4, Nikon 400mm f/2.8 lens, 1/1250 sec, f/10, ISO100

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