Saturday, 28 October 2017

The Hardware

I am often asked what cameras and lenses I use for my aviation photos. Like quite a few people I know, I am not just someone who loves photography but also someone who is a complete gear head as well, to the detriment of my credit card and savings account...

I use exclusively Nikon cameras and lenses for my photography. Ever since I could afford an SLR when I started my first job ('proper job' as opposed to working in a supermarket at weekends and evenings) in the Royal Navy I've used Nikon, apart from 6 years with Canon. I switched to Canon in 2008, because they had a lens I wanted but Nikon didn't have an equivalent; however I missed Nikon and switched back in 2014.

I believe in having the best equipment you can afford; that does not necessarily mean the best there is - I can't afford a Nikon D5 and prime telephoto! - but the best your budget will allow because, that way, you will not be dissatisfied.

Currently I use the following:

Nikon D810 36 MP DSLR
This is my main camera body, and the quality is second to none. The 36MP sensor allows ridiculous amounts of cropping but still having a decent picture afterwards and the lack of an anti-aliasing (AA) filter means that the output is incredibly sharp. I rarely have to apply sharpening on the D810's files when editing; if I do, because of atmospheric conditions, it's absolutely minimal.

Nikon D750 24 MP DSLR
This is my back up body and the image quality is also fantastic. Its low light performance is second to none and the noise levels are very low at higher ISOs. However, the D750 isn't without a few issues, all of which have been well-publicised. I sold my previous one, with full disclosure, after it had been subject to two recalls and the shutter packed in during a day trip to Dublin last year (luckily I had a second body with me). I had it repaired by Nikon, then sold it.
My current one, however, is excellent and has given me no problems since I bought it in March 2016.
I wouldn't hesitate to buy a D750 again, despite the issues.

Nikon D500 21MP DX DSLR
Mostly used for birding because of the crop factor, but great for airshows and where you need to put a lot of pixels on your subject and the huge buffer and frame rate makes this fabulous for action.

Nikon 24-70G f/2.8 zoom lens (non-VR)
A superb lens, if a little heavy. I bought mine second-hand from the local camera shop - I'd walked past it on my way to the dentist in the next road, and couldn't resist! The fact it doesn't have VR isn't a problem for me, not with f/2.8 at its widest.

Nikon 70-200G f/4 VR zoom lens
Excellent quality mid-range zoom lens. A lot lighter than the equivalent Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 - and a lot cheaper too!

Nikon 80-400G VR zoom lens
Not to be confused with the previous 'D' version. This is my main travel lens and, although expensive, it is good quality at all focal lengths. I have heard people complain about this lens and say it's rubbish but that's not been my experience. It's a lens that, if you don't try and shoot at stupid distances and then crop the hell out of the photo, performs well and I have no complaints. Frankly, the people who are dissing it as 'shite' are either trying to use it beyond its capabilities (such as cropping at extreme distances) or their long lens technique needs some practice.
For the record, I am one of those pixel-peeping types for whom image quality is everything so I wouldn't be using it if I didn't think it was any good.

Nikon 200-500E VR zoom lens
I bought this in late 2015, as I am also a birder, and you can never have too much focal length for birding. It's also great for aviation as well, although I stick with my 80-400G for travels because of the weight of this, coming in at 2.3Kg, and also the need to also take the 70-200 along as well.
The image quality is absolutely superb and it (only) just edges out the 80-400G at 400mm, it's a bargain at just over £1100.

Think Tank Streetwalker v2.0
My new backpack, replacing my venerable Lowepro MiniTrekker AW,  easily accommodates my D810 with 80-400 zoom and my D750 with the 24-70 and has room for all the little bits and pieces such as memory cards, batteries, rain cover, passport and my 'Lensskirt', which is a little cloth device that you can stick to windows to eliminate reflections.

Think Tank Airport Takeoff v2.0
This is a hybrid backpack/roller bag which is airline carry-on compatible...I'll use it for real on my trip to Tokyo in May 2018, but initial tests show I can get my camera gear in it and have a couple of Kg to spare...

For editing photos - and despite what people might like you to believe, all RAW files do need some editing - I use an Apple Macbook Pro with Lightroom and Photoshop.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Website updates

Over the past couple of weekends I've added more folders and photos and tidied things up a bit. Instead of just uploading my photos under Airports I have now got galleries for each airline, although I'll soon need to divide these up further (i.e. Airlines A to C and so on) as the amount of material on here grows. I am keeping the Airports section though, as the photos were originally uploaded into that folder and removing it will cause havoc among the galleries.

Captions and keywords need some tweaking as well, so I'm doing these over the coming weeks, changing from a basic title such as registration, type and date/place, plus a few lines of text, to this format (example below):

P4-TAJ | Boeing 737-93YER | Somon Air

Frankfurt Main/Germany
February 2015 (2094px)
© Flightline Photography UK

Boeing; 737; NextGen; Airliner; Passenger; Exterior; Being towed; Taxiway; Tow; Tug; 4J; SMR; Somon Air; Tajikistan; FRA; EDDF; Frankfurt; Winter, February; 2015

It's a bit of a pain but if people want to have a look through the galleries for something, it would make sense to have a search function that works, and so keywords are necessary.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

2017 so far

2017 was a goodish year for photography although it wasn't as full as 2016 had been. My visits to Heathrow are fewer than they had been, because the airport have double skinned the perimeter fence making line up and touch down shots impossible, and even I find a load of side-on shots with nothing but sky in them boring.

In March-April I went to Japan, taking in Tokyo Narita and Haneda Airports, Osaka Itami and Osaka Kansai, plus Seoul on the way over and back; the photos taken at Seoul Incheon were through some pretty filthy windows and and can charitably be called 'record shots', such as the Korean Air 777 in special colours, below, top.
Over the coming weeks I'll find some time to put a few posts up about what it was like photographing at these places.

JA743A | Boeing 777-281ER | ANA - All Nippon Airways

June featured a trip to Manchester, which is always great to visit, especially as it is photographer and spotter friendly and I've got friends there as well.

G-FBJH | Embraer ERJ-175ER | Flybe

I had a week off in late September so I ended up booking a short, just a couple of days, trip to Amsterdam from the 24th to 26th, flying from Southampton. As usual it was a great trip and there were plenty of nice aircraft, including this lovely A320neo of Pegasus, seen at Taxiway Q.

TC-NBH | Airbus A320-251neo | Pegasus Airlines

On 30th September I visited LHR for the day, it's a quick drive up from Southampton, usually taking me about 1hr 15mins. Usual fairly boring sky shots were the result, although I did get a few good ones.

A6-APF | Airbus A380-861 | Etihad Airways

I don't have any more spotting trips planned for this year, although I am going to be flying to Kiev in December. However, this is a trip to the Contaminated Zone at Chernobyl for a visit to the abandoned city of Pripyat and the Lenin Nuclear Power Station (aka Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant or ChNPP) and there won't be time or opportunity to 'spot'.

I do have a couple of interesting trips lined up for 2018, watch this space...


Welcome to the blog where you can read about my photography and travels. I thought it'd make a nice addition to the site, as I do quite a bit of travelling but I never write about it! I'll add in brief posts about past travels as I go, as well as posts about forthcoming adventures.

The photo below was taken at Narita Airport in Japan, last April, in Sakura No Yama park.

The End of a (Short) Era

The sad but inevitable news was announced on 14th February 2019 that the A380 would no longer be built after 2021. This is due to Airbus not...