During the Labour Day weekend I spent an enjoyable afternoon viewing the 2017 Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) Air Show in Toronto, and thought I’d share a few images captured during the event. As is my standard practice I went down to one of the Lake Ontario shoreline parks and found a good vantage point just west of the Exhibition grounds and east of Jameson Avenue.
I was able to capture a good angle of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s CF-18 Hornet that features a paint scheme that honours Canada’s 150th anniversary.
One of the vintage aircraft at the event was a Beech 3NM Expeditor which did a number of passes along the lakefront while laying down a pair of smoke trails.
A US Air Force P-51 Mustang along with a US F-22 Raptor flew in close proximity to each other during a couple of slow fly-bys. It was amazing to see how much aircraft have changed over time with the F-22 dwarfing the Mustang.
One of the stunt planes at the show was the only YAK 50 registered in Canada. The pilot, Gord Price, had taken a long sabbatical from aerobatic flying and treated the crowd with his return.
A crowd favourite at the CNE airshow is the Lucas Oil Pitts Special Super Stinker, piloted by Mike Wiskus who put on an amazing demonstration of dives, rolls and loops.
You may have noticed that the props on the aircraft in most of my images do not have any blur as I typically shoot at fast shutter speeds when at the air show. This year I did experiment a bit with my Nikon 1 V3 and 1 Nikon CX 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 zoom lens to see if I could get some prop blur. In order to get a reasonably slow shutter speed I shot in Aperture priority, and set my V3 to ISO-160 (the lowest ISO available on the V3), then stopped my CX 70-300mm lens down to f/13. Shooting with a shutter speed of 1/320 was slow enough to get some decent prop blur in the image above.
Given the small 1″ sensor in the Nikon 1 V3, stopping a lens down to f/13 isn’t the greatest camera setting to use as some softening from diffraction is unavoidable when shooting at this aperture.
Since the blades on helicopters move quite slowly when compared to airplane propellers, I needed to stop my CX 70-300mmm lens all the way down to f/16 to capture the image above. Shooting at 1/320th only created a small amount of blur with the rotors on the helicopter.
The Canadian Harvard Aerobatic Team (CHAT) is one of my favourite demonstration flying groups to photograph. The four pilots put on a great show with very precise formations, laying down nice patterns of smoke trails.
Patience is always required in order to get some good light on subject aircraft. I used a combination of single frame captures as well as AF-C runs, depending on the aircraft and the flying maneuvers they were doing.
Capturing images of aircraft doing cross overs is always one of the highlights at an airshow. These types of images are actually pretty simple to create when using a Nikon 1 V3 and shooting at 20 fps in AF-C with subject tracking. All a photographer needs to do is track one of the aircraft as it approaches its partner aircraft in the cross over maneuver. When the aircraft being tracked rolls to its perpendicular position, press and hold the shutter down until the approaching partner aircraft enters, then leaves, the image frame. Using this technique I was able to capture 5 frames that had at least parts of both aircraft in them. The image above was the fourth frame in the series. Jet aircraft are obviously much faster, often yielding two potentially useable images using this same technique. rather than 4 or 5 potentially useable images with slower moving aircraft.
It is a tradition at the Canadian National Exhibition Air Show that the Canadian Forces (CF) Snowbirds close out the event. The 431 Air Demonstration Squadron is a Canadian icon and always puts on a spectacular show for the crowd.
The Canadian Forces (CT) Snowbirds fly Canadair CT-114 Tutor jets. The units used by the 431 Air Demonstration Squadron have been modified for their air show duty. This includes the use of more highly-tuned engines to enhance performance during low-level aerobatic flying.
The Canadair CT-114 Tutor jets used by the Canadian Forces (CT) Snowbirds were procured in 1962. The jets have a wingspan of 11.12 metres (~36.2 feet) and are 9.75 metres in length (~31.7 feet). Their maximum speed is 741 km/h with a service ceiling of 11,850 metres (~38,513 feet).
The CT-114 Tutors weigh 2,575 kg empty (~5,677 lbs.) and have a range of 648 km (~402.6 miles). Each has a crew of 2.
If you are in the Toronto area during a future Labour Day weekend, you may want to check out the Canadian National Exhibition Air Show. It usually runs from noon to about three o-clock on Saturday, Sunday and Monday of the holiday weekend, subject to weather conditions.
All images were captured hand-held using a Nikon 1 V3 and 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 zoom lens. All photographs in this article were created from RAW files using my standard process of DxO OpticsPro 11, CS6, and the Nik Collection. To calculate the equivalent field-of-view for a full frame camera, multiple the focal lengths noted in the EXIF data by 2.7.
Article and all images are Copyright 2017 Thomas Stirr, all rights reserved. No use, adaptation or duplication of any kind are allowed without written consent. Photography Life is the only approved user of this article. If you see it reproduced anywhere else it is an unauthorized and illegal use. Readers who call out websites that steal intellectual property by posting comments on offending websites are always appreciated!
I did some extensive shooting at the Airventure 2017 airshow in Wisconsin this July and I have to agree with many of the commenters that shooting flying propeller aircraft absolutely requires slower shutter speeds with good panning technique. I used a Nikon D700 with 200-500mm f/5.6 lens for the bulk of my moving photos. I was shooting anywhere from 1/60 to 1/200 to capture images of propeller aircraft with decent “prop blur”. I was shooting mostly in Shutter Priority mode which resulted in apertures of f/13 and narrower at ISO200. When I was shooting jet aircraft, especially the Blue Angels, I was using much faster shutter speeds, between 1/800 and 1/2000 with apertures of f/5.6 or f/6.3 at ISO200-ISO400.
Thanks for adding your experiences to the discussion! I’ve been investigating this issue a bit more and from what I’ve been reading a shutter speed of about 1/250 tends to be the minimum to get reasonable prop blur. During my short experiment I was only able to get to 1/320 so I think I’ll need to use a neutral density filter to slow things down more.
I’ll put in my two cents.
I did like your shots Tom, especially that first one; just stellar.
I fall into the show some prop blur camp generally, but this means I get a lot more shots that have to be tossed in the virtual dustbin. It does take some (! – especially in my case) practice. It also varies quite a bit depending on which aircraft you’re shooting, and some planes have faster spinning props than others. One other issue is that for formations with several aircraft, slower shutter speeds for prop motion can also result in blur in one or more of the other aircraft (jet or prop driven) even if you nail the prop plane you’re focusing on. Can be a very frustrating exercise, but I occasionally get some winners that I am happy with.
I feel you also (literally) on the issue of hauling heavier gear around. For this year at Oshkosh I brought along a little wheeled cart that took a lot of the strain off of my shoulders. Can be a bit of a pain moving through inside display areas at the airshow, however.
Lastly, a big +1 on the Snowbirds. They do put on one heck of a good show. I caught them at Oshkosh last year and enjoyed it immensely, so your fine images brought back some sweet memories.
A link to my 2016 Oshkosh album for reference – www.flickr.com/photo…1986024166
Thanks for adding to the discussion and for sharing some of your fine images – much appreciated! I certainly respect different photographic points of view…there is always much to learn and to consider! Since I only photograph aircraft for a few hours every year or two I certainly consider myself to be a novice with this subject matter. If I was to do more experimentation with blurred propellers in future years I think I would use some neutral density filters so I wouldn’t have to stop my lens down to f/13 or f/16. Shooting with a 1″ sensor system does sensitize one to the perils of diffraction…
Recently I ran a short article on my photography blog featuring images of the Snowbirds: tomstirrphotography.com/snowbirds
Excellent stuff of the Snowbirds. The grace and skill they exhibit in their maneuvers is quite a sight to see.
Thanks Ian – glad you enjoyed the images!
To blur, or not to blur? That is the question. Whether tis better to see the plane as it appears to the naked eye, or as it actually was as that instant of time. Either way, you will suffer the slings and arrows of the alternate viewpoint. Or as I like to say: “There is no accounting for taste, or lack thereof.” Each viewpoint has its own validity, and such pictures should be enjoyed for what they are, great captures of airplanes in action. Way to go Tom!
Thanks for adding your thoughts to the discussion William!
Nice pictures Thomas. I especially like the Snowbirds shot with the smoke trails behind and left for depth.
I also find 35mm focal length between 500-1000mm are typically needed for air-shows. In my case that’s a D500, 300mm/4 and 1.7tc.
Are you capturing these via the J3’s back-screen, or the optional viewfinder? If the latter, is the EVF able to keep up with the fast moving objects, especially changing directions? I’m looking for a back-up body, but I find many EVFs are often blurry when moving around. Thanks!
I used the EVF on the V3 for all of the images in the article. I have experimented using a loupe with a Nikon 1 J5 and I found it difficult to use to track moving subjects. I know some other Nikon 1 users find it acceptable but I don’t like it….but that’s just me.
Tom, A great set of very strong images all tack sharp . Looks like you had a great location for the shoot
Thanks Andy! I shot from a spot closer in towards the CNE this year and as a result I got a much better angle to capture the action.
Great photos Tom. This is the best coverage and explanation of the CNE Airshow that I have seen in many years. As a Torontonian I am feeling guilty that I haven’t been to the show in a few years. Thanks for reminding me how good it can be.
Thanks for the positive comment Ray – much appreciated! I didn’t go to the CNE Air Show last year so I thought I’d make the trek out this time around. There was quite a lag between the various performers…it could have ended by 2PM rather than 3PM. Overall, still a great afternoon.
I dig the Raptor and Mustang shot. Never really thought how much bigger today’s fighters are until I saw your shot. Love the vintage Expeditor shot as well — harkens back to the olden days, I guess. Off-topic, do you foresee upgrading to the Nikon mirrrorless should it materialize soon?
Whether a new mirrorless camera from Nikon will appeal to me or not will really depend on its design and format. If it uses anything other than a 1″ CX sensor I will not have any interest in it whatsoever. I’ve shot with full frame and APS-C in the past and I have no desire to go back to those formats again. I also experimented with M4/3 and did not like it. So for me a new Nikon mirrorless would need to use a 1″ CX sensor.
Right now I have a sufficient amount of Nikon 1 gear to meet my needs for probably another 5 years or so. For me to have interest in a different Nikon 1 body it would need to have a 16MP or 18MP BSI sensor in it that delivers better dynamic range, colour depth and low light performance than the J5. If it delivered at least 13 EV of dynamic range, over 23 bits of colour depth and at least one full stop of additional low light performance it would be tempting.
That’s good to hear. You’re such a stalwart for the Nikon 1, I can help but admire it. I’ve recently shifted from full frame to a Coolpix B700 as I’ve given up paid assignments for recreational birding and I understand the message you keep getting across — to each his own gear for his own needs. I guess from hereon vacations need not be an exercise in weightlifting for me LOL
I’ll likely keep doing my client video work for at least 3 to 5 more years. After that point I may need to rethink my camera gear as well. Unless you plan to get into competitive body building as a retirement pastime I suppose there’s no need to haul your heavy gear around.
Your reply made me laugh — I’m into bodybuilding myself but lugging a full frame camera and heavy lenses all day can be a strain :D especially when I hike up mountains.
Great photographs Thomas, good work… Thanks for sharing them with us.
I’m glad you enjoyed them Philip!
Love that red jet. I would far prefer to see the body of the aircraft in sharpest focus than bother with prop blur which can be faked in Photoshop. I guess old habits die hard – I worked at a sports mag where the publisher absolutely would not publish anything that was blurred for any reason. Many inexperienced DSLR shooters would be amazed to discover how much their photos improved if they shot at the fastest possible shutter speed, like you’ve done here.
Thanks for adding to the discussion! I don’t photograph aircraft very often, but when I do I attempt to strike a balance between getting my images sharp while preserving as much dynamic range and colour depth by keeping my ISOs fairly low. Overall, I had an enjoyable afternoon and had a lot of fun experimenting with my gear.
I’m a fan of airplanes and air shows, and you did a great job with this one. Most of the aircraft you show are not models I have seen before. Am impressed with the RCAF flight team (red planes) and also the interesting planes (trainers?) that closed out the show.
Canada is a great country, and this is one more evidence of that.
I’m glad you enjoyed the images – thanks for your comment! Although I only go out to photograph aircraft for a few hours every year or two I do enjoy the experience.