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  • Writer's picturesarahhawley

Catching Some Air at The Air Show

Earlier this month. In fact, it was Father’s Day!... Sunday June 16th, I went with my family to see the Barrie Air Show. I have attended this annual event for the last three years, which takes place on the waterfront in Barrie, Ontario, Canada. In 2022, it was the first year I attended the air show and I went with my brother. That day, it was great weather and we had a great time. Last year in 2023, I went with my father and the weather was overcast with grey skies, and on and off rain causing some delays during the Air Show. As a result, a few of the performers had to cancel their portion of the show due to bad weather conditions which led to poor visibility and other safety issues. This year, I went back with both guys and we had great weather and a wonderful time, but as it was on Father’s Day Sunday, a large crowd of people turned out to see the event. I don’t think I will be attending this event every year, but each time I have gone, I brought along my camera and left the event with a few great shots. Over the last few years I have learned a lot about taking photographs at the air show.

First and foremost, be prepared. It is easy to get distracted by all that is happening. Getting caught up in taking photos and enjoying the show. You lose track of time and forget that you are standing outside for quite a few hours under the hot summer sun, especially if you are by the water, where it often feels cooler and there is a breeze. Make sure that you eat and are well hydrated – drinking lots of fluids like water. Wear a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen and apply the sunscreen several times throughout the day, if needed. It is important to take care of yourself in these situations as things can quickly take a turn for the worst and you don’t need to risk your well-being for a few photos.

This type of event is a great learning opportunity for photographer at any skill level. These events are great experiences to practice your abilities and find out how well you know how to use your camera. Real life experiences will help you to become familiar with your camera and be comfortable using it. Eventually you will be able to make adjustments to your camera settings quickly and confidently on the spot to get great shots, but this takes practice and time.

The key is to make sure the correct camera settings are dialed in to get the best possible imagery. The right settings on your camera will ensure that you get sharp, clear shots and the right gear will help too. At these events it’s common to be holding a camera for most of the time, a light weight camera body is ideal, especially if your lens has more weight to it. Personally, I like to use my 18-300mm zoom lens for this type of shooting situation, which allows me to zoom in to see the planes much closer than the naked eye. Some photographers will also bring a tripod or a monopod to steady the camera and take some of the weight. You should also expect to use lots of battery and memory cards, so bring extras of both.

The conditions of the weather and the environment that you are shooting in will greatly impact what camera settings you need to use, but generally speaking on a nice summer day with full sun, I have used the following settings and found great results. Using a faster shutter speed will freeze moving subjects or a slightly slower speed will capture blurs to show movement of propellers, speed, etc. For full sun in the middle of the day, an F-stop of at least F11 works fairly well for me with the right ISO setting. The planes are sharp and in focus along with detail in the background such as clouds and sky. Continuous shooting mode instead of single shots will take a burst of many photos at once. This helps to get a photo of stunts and tricks at the right moment. On the camera lens there is often an option to shoot in auto focus or manual focus. In auto focus, you can set the camera up to follow moving subjects to take photos or you can use the manual focus to do it yourself. Of course, the entire camera can be set to auto or manual mode. Whether on your lens or on the entire camera, the manual setting will enable you to have more creative control in the photos that you are making.

Here are a few other tips I have learned from attending air shows:

  •  Shooting subjects like planes, helicopters, and skydivers against a blue sky is best and with some cloud is ok too, but a grey overcast sky is not ideal.

  • Having attended the air show several years in a row I have learned a lot. The show is not the exact same every year, but similar enough that I have an idea of what to expect and I am now familiar with routines and maneuvers that the air men and women perform with the airplanes in the sky.

  • Expect to take lots of photos, but only end up with a few really great images worth sharing – digital cameras are a great option for this type of photography because digital images that are not worth keeping can easily be deleted and you are not wasting a lot of film.

  • It is a great opportunity for practicing and learning to capture images of fast moving subject, subjects that are in the distance fairly far away, and it’s great for learning patience. Waiting to get the perfect shot at the right moment and to learn timing by watching your subject and pressing the shutter button at the right moment.


  • It was a great day to spend with family, making memories, and taking photographs at the air show. Attending the event every year is good practice to use this particular set of skills for photography and to ensure that you don’t forget or lose what you know and have already learned from past experience.

Below is a small collection of photographs from the 2024 Barrie Airshow.

Click on the images to enlarge

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