Air shows are a terrific locale to get multitudes of different kinds of photos. Everything from macros to sweeping landscapes are available for the making. But, the bread and butter of air show photography is the high speed action photography of swooping planes and jets screaming in tight formations. On the third weekend in June, Quonset, Rhode Island host the Rhode Island National Guard Open House and Air Show. As with most air shows their are numerous static displays of aircraft and other heavy equipment. Throughout the day there are performers executing death defying stunts. Getting a clear view is difficult near the flight line but the ironic thing about airs hows is that the view is just as good from the parking lot as it is beside the yellow rope.
This photo shows a acrobatic stunt plane racing against a dragster. The car is outfitted with a rocket engine and started from the end of the runway as the stunt plane passed over it. And with that the race was on. The two speeding vehicles raced down they runway where they were greeted by a sudden explosion on the opposite side of the runway from the spectators. The heat from the explosion was intense, though being from Florida it only reminded me of August.
This photo was taken with a 70-200mm/f2.8 at 1/500sec, f/13, iso 320. The most critical aspect of this image was knowing where the explosion was going to be and timing the moment when the vehicles were at the right place. Normally, I would have gone with a f/8 or f/11 but I increased the aperture due the brightness of the scene. If shooting jets, I choose a very high shutter speed (1/2000 or higher) to keep the image crisp. For aircraft with propellers, I lower the shutter speed (1/160 or 1/500) to allow a little blur to the blades but enough to freeze the body. If I use the lower shutter speeds, I make sure to pan in the direction of the plane.