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Air Show 2023

It has been a while since I featured a special project, so this month I am sharing a photography project on the blog. Earlier this summer, I went to the Barrie Air Show in Barrie, Ontario. The air show was held on a weekend in June over both days (Saturday and Sunday). Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the event on the first day, when the weather was much nicer. Attending on Sunday meant that the weather was overcast with a bit of rain on and off for most of the day, which threatened to delay or cancel the entire event. These conditions were less than ideal for photography for a few reasons. I had to prevent my gear from getting wet, and also, shooting images of the aircrafts was a challenge because the overcast whitish, grey sky made it difficult to see the plumes of smoke trailing behind the airplanes, unlike a clear blue sky.

On the plus side, the weather was a bit cooler, making this particular summer day much more bearable and without the threat of sunburn. There was also a much smaller crowd that gathered to watch the show and I found a great spot on a park bench by the bay, to take photos of the airplanes as they flew over the waterfront. Knowing that this was the hand I was dealt, I made the best of the situation, both of the day and the images I took.

Due to some light rain, the event started a little bit later than scheduled and in the middle of the air show, there was about a 30 minute delay, when it began to rain heavier. I was glad the event wasn’t cancelled altogether and that everyone involved in the air show was doing their best to go ahead with the event.

It had been a few years since I went to the last air show in Barrie, and it has been a long time since I shot photos outside the studio. I found it a challenge to shoot outdoors in uncontrollable conditions, especially with poorer weather. This was great practice for other outdoor photography projects that I have planned for later this year.

The event itself featured a number of demonstrations. First up was the SkyHawks who are a Canadian Forces Parachute Demonstration Team based in Trenton. They performed a number of dives in small groups, executing complex maneuvers while high the sky. The parachute team was followed by The Northern Stars Aeroteam, which consists of 3 pilots, each flying a Pitts Special airplane. Together they fly in close proximity to each other while performing loops, rolls and much more. The loudest part of the event was when two CF-18 Fighter Jets performed their tactical demonstration, they were just as fast as they were loud. The show ended with a long performance by a team of nine pilots flying the iconic red and white Snowbirds. They performed a wide range of highly-skilled maneuvers that was a definite crowd pleaser based on the cheers and applause that could be heard.

To photograph the event I brought my Canon Rebel T7i and on it I had an 18-300mm Sigma lens. This enabled me to take a variety of shots both wider and up close. In doing this, I was able to keep my options open because I wasn’t sure what to expect during this event. I also brought a plastic bag with a hole in it. This extremely low-tech piece of equipment had the very important job of keeping my gear dry when the weather was being uncooperative. I wanted to travel light, so this was the only gear I brought except for a spare battery for the camera and a few extra blank memory cards, as I knew I would be taking lots of photos for this event.

Taking into consideration the speed that these aircrafts would be travelling, I shot my images using a higher shutter speed to freeze motion. I also shot with the high speed continuous mode on my camera, taking lots of photos in a short amount of time, to reduce the chance that I might miss something worth photographing. I shot the images slightly underexposed due to the bright overcast sky, as I would rather have slightly darker images that I could brighten up than super bright overexposed images that have lost details I would be unable to recover. I kept the editing of the images pretty simple. I chose to go for clean images that were very minimal.

Most of the editing was focused on removing water spots in the images from rain drops that had landed on the lens. I also brightened up all the underexposed images. Because the images are very simple and minimal, I adjusted the contrasting light and shadow areas to bring out the smoke from the overcast sky and slightly increased the texture to also help with this. Considering that the conditions I was shooting in were far from ideal, I am pleased with the photographs that resulted from that day. I will say that when shooting lots of photos at an event such as this, I recommend that you keep in mind that it is a long process to go through all these images afterwards to see what you have and to sort out what images you want to edit and use. Sometimes that is just the nature of the photoshoot, other times you can look back and think, well I really didn’t need to take that many photos, and you would save yourself quite a bit of work.

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