March 03, 2013

Australian International Airshow 2013

F18 Super Hornet Pilots sharing experience. Photo © Anjul Sahu
I have been living near MHOW (Military HQ of War) where I used to see some fighters getting transported on the back of truck. That was my closest encounter with this heart throbbing machines. Then I saw them flying around Tambaram airbase, Chennai during office hours. The power, speed, super sonic sound and ability to do massive destruction is what makes them interesting. Whenever I see them in Hollywood movies, I live a second life in my dream as an air-force pilot. Wearing an Aviator with dashing blue (or green sometimes) dresses leaves an inspiring and brave image. What a life!

Recently, I got an opportunity to attend Australian international air show organized at Avalon Airport near Melbourne to understand and see more about aviation closely.  I was waiting for it since few weeks. On the photography front, I ordered a telephoto canon 70-200 F4 IS for this event but it couldn't be delivered on time by FedEx.   I would curse FedEx for that - lazy service.
Aerobatic Solo Display. Flying few feets above the ground makes it a very brave act. Photo © Anjul Sahu

Many teams participated in the event like US Air Force (USAF), Singapore (RSAF), Australia, Japan, NZ and French Air Force showcasing F18 Super Hornet, F22 Raptor, Spitfires, F16s, C17 Globemaster, PC/9/A (Roulettes), Predator, Super Puma, Pilatus, Hawk 127 and many more. Full list here.
A military transportation plane taking off the runway and a security personnel looking at the crowd. Photo © Anjul Sahu

Air field attack demo by a small aircraft. Photo © Anjul Sahu
Four F18 Super Hornet display formation. Photo © Anjul Sahu
Team of Roulettes showing the combat split formation. Photo © Anjul Sahu

Since this was the first time I was attending such event, I didn't knew much about it though I read few articles as preparation but still there is some learning that I would like to share. 

Do's and Don'ts

  • Pack up light and carry only important things. Do not carry which you thing that you will not probably not going to use. 
  • Take sun screen (SPF 30+), dark sun glasses (with UV & Polarizer), Cap to protect yourself against the bright sun. Normally you won't find shades around the place where such event is happening
  • Take a folding chair so that you can relax on a long day. I really missed this thing during the second half of the day. 
  • Take lots of food, water, juice etc to nourish yourself. You will always find food joints on such place but most of the time they are heavily crowded and there will be long line on each of them. 
  • Take everyone in your family just like a picnic. You will enjoy more. 
  • Now coming to photography, take out your biggest lens from the box to really get close to the flying planes. I would say best is 100-400mm range in telephoto and also take a moderate wide angle (24 - 35 mm) for taking the pictures of formation display.  For a heavy lens, take a monopod for support.
  • Keep extra batteries and memory cards as you will be taking lot of pics in burst mode which will fill up very fast.
  • For normal planes, minimum shutter speed should be 1/500 sec and for super sonic fighters like F18 Super Hornet or F22 Raptor, pick 1/1000 sec or faster. You can break this rule to create awesome looking panning shots of flights moving on the runway.
  • I used single center focus all the time because it makes the autofocus pretty fast and I can track the subject very quickly. 
  • Reach early to secure a good place near the runway and avoid the clutter in front of you.
  • If you can't bear the awesome super sonic sound, then don't forget to take the ear buds with you. This is essential for kids.
Overall it was a great experience which makes me think that I should attend such event again. I would like to see Indian aerobatic team Suryakiran performing in future.