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Author Topic: Unwritten Rules  (Read 199 times)
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Joe Copalman
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« on: May 14, 2017, 12:51:45 AM »

My friend Nick and I were just talking about little unwritten rules we have for ourselves as aviation photographers.  Scott Youmans and I have talked about this before as well, and one of his was that he didn't like shooting front-quarter shots where the nose gear eclipses one of the main gear.  I didn't really think I had that many rules like this, but talking with Nick, I was kind of surprised by how hard I ride myself on certain things.

What are some of your 'unwritten rules?'  I'm not talking the 'cultural' things that most aviation photographers adhere to (no 'propsicles' is one that comes to mind), but more the personal things. 

Here are a few of mine off the top of my head:

-As a general rule, no glare.  Sometimes it's impossible to get a shot under the conditions you're given without glare, but I typically do everything within my power (usually moving) to limit or (hopefully) eliminate it.

-No rotor shadow on the cockpit/canopy of a helicopter, UNLESS that shadow is masking a glare spot.

-No flash or lights behind landing gear for night shots unless the top of the aircraft is already sufficiently lit.  One of my biggest pet peeves actually, as it makes the ground underneath the subject the brightest part of the image, drawing the eye there and making the actual subject compete for your attention.  If the aircraft itself is well-lit with equal or greater intensity, game on, it can look fantastic and add tons of drama to an image.  But very few shooters achieve that.  Best to take those extra lights and light your actual subject with them.

-No taxiway signs or other airfield 'spam' unless they are an obvious primary or secondary subject in an image. 

-Another helicopter one, I hardly ever include the full span of the rotor blades because they throw the balance off in the image, at least to my eyes.

-If shooting air-to-air, no 'fourth-wall' breaks - no shadows of the photoship on the subject aircraft, no photoship wingtips or anything like that in the image, unless it tells a story.

-For prop aircraft shot from the ground, aim for a shutter speed that gives acceptable prop blur while maximizing opportunities for nose-to-tail sharpness at oblique angles.  Full discs are great, but when they come at the expense of the rear half of the fuselage being a smeared smudge, those shots go straight to the  recycle bin. 

-This one isn't all that specific, but I'm really particular about wingtips covering the tail in shots from the ground - the only hard-and-fast rule in this regard is that a wing covering the tip of the tail is a no-go for me.  Crossing the tail below the tip or being totally clear of the tail are both fine, but that in between zone with the top of the tail is blocked by the wing is a total no-go for me.

Those are all the ones I can think of now.  Most of these aren't so much creative rules as they are quality-control, but it's still interesting to see how many limits I place on myself without ever really thinking about it.



"I'm sorry sir, you can't take photos of that aircraft."

"If you've seen my work, you'd know I really can't take photos of any aircraft." 

Joe Copalman
AzAP Co-Founder
Mesa, AZ
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