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A guide to "Capturing Motion" in low light situations

5 Min Portrait - Photographing Fighter Jets at an Air show "Thunderbirds"

How many of you have ever gone to an Air Show? I personally had never been to an Air Show before Stephen set up a few photo passes to shoot “Thunder” over the boardwalk this summer in Atlantic City.

Any time I go into a situation where I am shooting something I have never shot before I like to do as much research as possible. In this case I have a longtime friend Matt Ciao who grew up shooting fighter jets and air shows.

CLICK HERE to download two RAW Files from this shoot.

Click Here to view the FULL RES Exported Files.


I asked him to give me his Top Tips for shooting photos at an air show. One of the main tips is don’t freeze the props. What he said is when you are shooting air planes one of the biggest mistakes is freezing the propellers. I would have thought I set my shutter speed high and just let it rip and freeze the action. It’s a good thing I spoke to Matt before hand to get a better understand about what I should be looking to capture.

What I can tell you is it’s not easy to shoot some of these planes. One of the main reasons is you need some seriously long glass. A lot of the action happens out over the water and depending on where you are shooting from you may be pretty far away.


I broke out the 300 2.8 and put it on my D4s for the best combination of focus and shooting speed. The hard part about using a fixed 300 is not being able to zoom. You have to track the subject and wait for that perfect moment when they are in your frame.

The largest challenge as mentioned above was not freezing the props. I played with my settings to slow the shutter speed down substantially which in turn made it harder to freeze the subject while still getting prop blur. The answer to this is a combination of panning and the proper shutter speed.


I have included all of the FULL FRAME exports for you to check out RIGHT HERE as well as two RAW FILES for you to play with. Keep in mind I own the rights to the RAW files I am simply giving you the access to use them for personal use only. Please do not attempt to sell them or pass them off as your own.

Since this was my first time shooting an Air Show I asked Matt if he would critique my photos which he did in the video below. I am calling this “Pros Critiquing Pros”