Unable to get a sharp image when shooting aircraft

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phkc070408

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Well, thank you all for your tips. I went out again this afternoon and used some of the advice you gave me. I used the tripod, but more for support while panned both vertically and horozontally. I also stayed at or below about 500mm of my lens that's rated for 600mm. Finally I increased the shutter speed and sacrificed the F down to as low as as the lens will go at that zoom.

I did much better. Here are two originals and their post-processed versions.

Also, I searched Google Maps and found a few locations much closer to the airport (one about 4,000 feet from the end of the runway) but I didn't feel like going that far tonight.
 

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ac12

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Well, thank you all for your tips. I went out again this afternoon and used some of the advice you gave me. I used the tripod, but more for support while panned both vertically and horozontally. I also stayed at or below about 500mm of my lens that's rated for 600mm. Finally I increased the shutter speed and sacrificed the F down to as low as as the lens will go at that zoom.

I did much better. Here are two originals and their post-processed versions.

Also, I searched Google Maps and found a few locations much closer to the airport (one about 4,000 feet from the end of the runway) but I didn't feel like going that far tonight.

Your first image is exposing for the sky, not the plane.
You need to increase your exposure, to the a better exposure of the plane.
When you dig images out of the shadow, the noise is more visible.
 
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phkc070408

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Fair enough, but if I did that, how would I avoid overexposing the sky and making a white mess?
 

weepete

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looks like you are making progress.

If you don't want to blow out the background there's a couple of options. Canon's partial metering mode is designed to help with backlit objects, so you could try that. Another way would be to fick the camera into live view framing the brightest area of the sky that the planes will be passing (assuming they have a reasonably predictable approach), and enable the histogram, then adjust exposure settings so the graph doesn't touch the right side. That should preserve your highlights. Another way would be to spot meter the lights and darks, and adjust exposure from there.

As zombiesniper points out, you might need to raise the shadows in post and do a bit of noise reduction.

Of course, the best way would be to get a time of day when the sun is illuminating the plane a bit more than the sky. Often we can see well in light levels that are a bit too low for good photography, so a bit earlier in the day might be worth a shot.

I don't normally bother with tripods or gimbals, the 150-600s are quite light so I normally just handhold.
 

ac12

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Fair enough, but if I did that, how would I avoid overexposing the sky and making a white mess?

Shooting a back lit subject is always difficult.
The camera has only so much dynamic range, so you have to make a choice, plane or sky.
You can try to split the difference, increase the exposure of the plane and slightly overexpose the sky.

As others have said, shoot with the sun coming over your shoulder, so the plane is illuminated by the sun, and not backlit by the sky.
 

smoke665

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Fair enough, but if I did that, how would I avoid overexposing the sky and making a white mess?

I looked at the first one, briefly, you're still way underexposed. When you shoot at a higher ISO, the worst thing you can do is underexpose, because it makes it more difficult to handle the noise in the shadows. I raised the exposure by full stop and still didn't blow the sky. As AC others mentioned, you have to expose for the plane, your meter won't read accurately against a gray sky, that's where experience and chimping comes in to find the correct exposure.
 

DPKnowlton

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I attended Sun 'N Fun in Lakland FL a while back and had a great time. I thought I would use my tripod with a Wimberly GH200 but that was not fast enough to keep up with the planes. In the end, I just shot handheld with a D850 and a Sigma 150-600 Sport. Heavy, but it was worth it. The only planes I could not track were the F-18's that were at 200 ft about 600 ft in front of me - going 740 knots! (851 MPH!), so I think I have an excuse. In the end, I too way too many shots - but they were fun! Pic below is full frame, just resized to post.

DSC_3163 small.jpg
 

ac12

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I attended Sun 'N Fun in Lakland FL a while back and had a great time. I thought I would use my tripod with a Wimberly GH200 but that was not fast enough to keep up with the planes. In the end, I just shot handheld with a D850 and a Sigma 150-600 Sport. Heavy, but it was worth it. The only planes I could not track were the F-18's that were at 200 ft about 600 ft in front of me - going 740 knots! (851 MPH!), so I think I have an excuse. In the end, I too way too many shots - but they were fun! Pic below is full frame, just resized to post.

Yup
It is about knowing when to use what gear.

When I shoot field sports, I rarely use a monopod. I free-hand shoot so that I have a WIDE are of movement for left/right movement of the players.
When I am outside the outfield fence shooting to home plate, a monopod works just fine, as I am rarely moving the lens left/right.
 

ronlane

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You have good advice from others here. I'll add this for thought. You can shoot a baseball pitcher or batter at 1/2000th of a second shutter speed and still not avoid the motion blur in the arm or the bat at times. How much faster is a plane going than that? 1/400th of a second is no where near fast enough to help freeze a plane that is flying roughly 500 mph.
 

RAZKY

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You have good advice from others here. I'll add this for thought. You can shoot a baseball pitcher or batter at 1/2000th of a second shutter speed and still not avoid the motion blur in the arm or the bat at times. How much faster is a plane going than that? 1/400th of a second is no where near fast enough to help freeze a plane that is flying roughly 500 mph.
Unless you're panning.
 

wfooshee

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All you folks posting air show pictures, that's NOT relevant to the OP. He's shooting airliners from a mile or two away... There's nothing about air show pictures that's going to help him. Discussing panning and freezing a barely subsonic jet is just as irrelevant.

Useful information for someone asking about airshow phtography, for sure, but not related to the OP's distant plane-spotting at all.
 

zulu42

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Airspeed limitation below 10,000 feet is 250 knots. OP photos show heavy jets in takeoff configuration so these aren't flying 500 mph. More like 150.
 
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zulu42

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Biggest help for great sharpness here (along with shutter speed and focus) is to get closer. These distances will have atmospheric distortion. Haze. A little or a lot.

Airshow photography enthusiasts often are trying to keep their SS lower to introduce prop or panning blur for more dynamic shots.
 

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