Photographing the Chicago Air & Water Show August 17-19th 10am - 3pm

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Over the last 20 years I have seen almost every Chicago Air & Water Show, and it is worth it every time. I have photographed the show from Oak Street Beach, North Avenue Beach, Lake Michigan and Fullerton Avenue Beach. This document will provide some insight and tips on how to shoot the airshow.

This year the Air Show is on August 17th - 19th from 10:00am - 3:00pm. First Tip: Friday, August 17th (Practice Day) is a great day to photograph the show and avoid some of the crowds.

I will lead a photography meet-up on Saturday, August 18th from 9:30 am - 3:30 pm at one of my favorite spots. RSVP by clicking on the below button to receive location and additional information regarding the day.

Below, you will find lots of information and examples for photographing this awesome event. Regardless of whether you decided to join us on Saturday, I hope you find this information helpful.

98mm f/9.0 1/500 ISO 200

Where is the Show Located:

170mm f/13 1/250 ISO 200

What To Bring:

• SUNSCREEN! Trust me, sitting there all day, even partly cloudy can be brutal if you don’t have sunscreen.

• Hat

• Water – while there will be lots of vendors selling water. If you want to pay $3 for a bottle, it’s up to you.

• A stadium seat pad is always nice; sitting on hard concrete all day takes a toll on the rear!

500mm f/6.3 1/400 ISO 200
500mm f/6.3 1/500 ISO 200

Camera Gear

• 1 to 2 DSLR or Mirrorless camera bodies. I shoot the show with two camera bodies.

• A wide angle Lens (16 – 35 mm focal range)

• Telephoto Lens (100 – 600 mm focal range)

• Extra Batteries and Extra Memory Cards

Rent Lenses and other equipment from www.borrowlenses.com or www.lensprotogo.com

500mm f/7.1 1/320 ISO 200
280mm f/16 1/320 ISO 200
500mm f/6.3 1/320 ISO 200
500mm f/11 1/160 ISO 200
280mm f/8 1/1250 ISO 100
35mm f/10 1/160 ISO 100

How I Set Up My Cameras

• One of my camera body’s has a 12-40 f/2.8 wide-angle lens on it. The other camera body has the zoom telephoto lens (200 - 500mm f/4). This year, I am using Olympus Mirrorless Camera Bodies (E-M1 and E-M1 Mark II) The advantage to using two cameras is that you do not have to switch lenses in the middle of the show. Some of the acts are fast paced and switching a lens takes too long.

• If you are using one camera body, start with the longest focal length lens you have. Most of your photos will be at the longest focal length.

• I will be shooting in both Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority (Time Value) Modes. Before the show, in Shutter Priority, I set the shutter speed to 1/150 – 1/250. Then in Aperture Priority, I set the Aperture to F/5.6 – f/8.

o When photographing the prop aircraft or rotor aircraft, I want a slower shutter speed to get prop and rotor blur. Shutter Priority Mode set at 1/150 - 1/250 will do the trick.

o When a jet comes, I can quickly switch to Aperture Priority and shoot it at f/5.6 and f/8.

o When a prop plane comes back, all I have to do is switch back to Shutter Priority and I’ll be back at my shutter speed that I want.

• My Metering Mode is normally set to Center-Weighted on the Telephoto Body and Matrix (Evaluative) on the Wide Angle Body.

• My Drive Mode is on high-speed continuous

• My Quality – RAW + jpeg if you have the space, if not, RAW only so that you have a chance to recover some of the highlights and shadow areas

260mm f/18 1/400 ISO 200
500mm f/8 1/250 ISO 200
280mm f/14 1/200 ISO 200
500mm f/11 1/320 ISO 200
29mm f/8 1/320 ISO 100
500mm f/8 1/320 ISO 200
116mm f/16 1/250 Iso 200
280mm f/11 1/320 ISO 200
70mm f/10 1/160 ISO 200

What Aircraft to Expect This Year (Highlights) And Mode to Shoot

• This year the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds are the Headliner and will perform at around 2:30 to 3:00 pm. (Aperture Priority)

• US Air Force F-35: Get ready for fast fly-bys and unbelievable maneuverability. The aircraft is surprisingly quite! (Aperture Priority)

• F/A-18 Hornet: All-Weather Navy and Marine fighter that will be FAST and LOUD!! (Aperture Priority)

• C-130 Hercules: Four Turbo Prop engines power this impressive transport beast (Shutter Priority)

• Team Oracle – great aerobatic team. (Shutter Priority)

• P-51 Mustang (My Favorite!) – Classic WWII fighter aircraft. Just the sound of the engine makes me smile! (Shutter Priority)

Plus Many, Many More!

16mm f/6.3 1/125 ISO 100

Get shots that include surface subjects for perspective.

16mm f/6.3 1/640 ISO 100
95mm f/4 1/1000 ISO 200
Thank you and I hope this helps!

All Photographs by Nick Sinnott

Created By
Nick Sinnott

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