aperture

2019 Manassas Airshow by Todd Henson

The Bealeton Flying Circus Wingwalkers

It’s been a few years since I attended an airshow, so this year my father and I made our way to the Manassas Regional Airport for the 2019 Manassas Airshow held on Saturday, May 4. This is only my second time at this show, and I certainly hope it’s not my last. I really enjoy these shows.

This year had some of the same performers as the last show we attended, but it also had new ones to add a little variety. And some of the same pilots were flying different aircraft. The weather looked somewhat questionable at first, with the possibility of rain, and some low lying clouds. Thankfully it cleared enough by noon that the aerial performers were given the go-ahead.

Click on any of the photographs for a larger view.

RJ Gritter and his Bellanca Decathalon

RJ Gritter was flying his Bellanca Decathalon, performing some amazing aerobatics, trailing white smoke through most of the show. His plane is painted in red, white and blue.

RJ Gritter pulling up in his Bellanca Decathalon

RJ Gritter flying by in his Bellanca Decathalon

The Flying Circus Wingwalkers

The wingwalkers from the Bealeton Flying Circus always put on an amazing performance. Chuck Tippett flies their Stearman biplane while Joe Bender climbs out on the wings to perform a number of different incredible moves. He flies like superman, stands atop the plane, and this year they also flew the US flag. Beautiful sight.

Look closely to see Joe Bender flying like Superman between the wings of the Stearman biplane, flown by Chuck Tippett, of the Bealeton Flying Circus.

Chuck Tippett and Joe Bender of the Bealeton Flying Circus flying a US flag atop their Stearman biplane.

Art Nalls and his L-29 Albatross

Art Nalls performed this year in his L-29 Albatross, a very maneuverable jet flown by a very capable pilot.

Art Nalls performing a flyby in his L-29 Albatross.

Art Nalls and his L-29 Albatross may look like they are floating above the runway because of the fast shutter speed I used, but he was, in fact, flying by quite fast.

The Bealeton Flying Circus

This year the Bealeton Flying Circus flew four of their biplanes in formation, circling the airport a number of times. They looked amazing as they turned against clouds, the sun highlighting each plane. I’d love to visit Bealeton and see them perform on their home turf.

Four biplanes from the Bealeton Flying Circus flying in formation against the cloudy sky.

The Bealeton Flying Circus Stearman biplans flying in formation.

Lee Leet and his Super Tucano

I love the look of Lee Leet’s Super Tucano, a turboprop aircraft that was a lot of fun to watch.

Lee Leet flying his Super Tucano.

Lee Leet landing his Super Tucano.

Chef Pitts and his Pitts S1S

Chef Pitts performed some absolutely incredible aerobatics in his small red Pitts S1S. This guy was absolutely amazing. There’s no way I could list all the incredible moves he performed. This was one of my favorite parts of the airshow.

Chef Pitts and his amazingly aerobatic Pitts S1S biplane.

Chef Pitts taking his Pitts S1S down for a 1-wheeled landing.

Warrior Flight Team

The Warrior Flight Team was back, flying a pair of Czechoslovakian L-39 jets, piloted by Charlie “V+12” VandenBossche and LCDR Mark “Crunchy” Burgess. Awesome performance.

Charlie “V+12” VandenBossche and LCDR Mark “Crunchy” Burgess of Warrior Flight Team performing a synchronized flyby in their L-39’s.

One of the Warrior Flight Team L-39’s coming in from a distance, trailing smoke.

US Air Force A-10 Demonstration Team

One of the highlights of this years show was the performance by the US Air Force A-10 Demonstration Team. I have always loved the A-10, both the look of it, and the way it moves. It’s such an incredible and capable aircraft, and they did a great job showing off some of its capabilities.

USAF A-10 Thunderbolt performing a flyby.

USAF A-10 Thunderbolt quickly changing orientation. Notice the air being forced over the tops of the wings near the fuselage and trailing from their tips.

P-51 Mustang in the Parade of Planes

At the end of the show was the Parade of Planes, where a large number of aircraft all took to the sky, one at a time, most of which had not performed in the airshow. One of the highlights for me was an absolutely gorgeous shiny silver P-51 Mustang. I just love the look of this aircraft.

P-51 Mustang taking off. The rear tire has already left the runway.

US Marine Super Stallion CH-53 and the Crowds

In addition to the performances, the Manassas Airshow included a nice collection of static displays. The photo here shows some of the crowd walking around the show, along with a US Marine Super Stallion CH-53 helicopter in the background. The tail of the helicopter was open, with folks lining up to walk through it.

Crowds walking around the 2019 Manassas Airshow, with a US Marine Super Stallion CH-53 helicopter in the background.

Final Thoughts

I had a great time at the 2019 Manassas Airshow. These shows always seem to be over far too quickly. I do wonder sometimes if I should try attending one without bringing a camera, so I can just relax and watch the show. But I really enjoy photographing them, so that would be tough to do.

This year I decided to use my 200-400 mm f/4 lens, a large and slightly heavy lens, but one that works really well for these shows. Though it’s a bit heavy, it’s still light enough to hand hold for short bursts as the planes fly by. A lighter lens would be nice, though. In the past I’ve also used and been happy with a 70-200 mm.

I found myself switching back and further between aperture priority mode and shutter priority mode. I used shutter priority for the slower flying propellor-based aircraft so I could capture motion in the propellers. And I used aperture priority for the faster flying jets to get a faster shutter speed. In the future I think I will just stick to shutter priority and adjust the shutter speed as I see fit. I don’t really know why I kept flipping to aperture priority, other than that’s the setting I most often use.

For the fast moving jets I tended to use a much faster shutter speed, for example 1/1000 to 1/3000 of a second. That helped assure I captured sharp images of the jets, though in one case it captured the L-29 Albatross seemingly hovering over the runway, when in fact it was moving very fast. I should have used a slower shutter speed in that case to blur the background as I panned with the jet.

When the propeller aircraft were flying I lowered my shutter speed to between 1/25 to 1/125 of a second. This increased the chances of blurry photographs, but it assured I’d capture movement in the propeller. If you use a fast shutter speed you may freeze the propeller, which looks very strange when the aircraft is in the air. This also helped blur the background as I panned with the planes when they flew low enough to see trees behind the planes.

This year was a great year for the Manassas Airshow. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I very much look forward to attending again in the future. If you’ve never been to an airshow I’d highly recommend you give one a try.


Choice of Aperture for a Clematis in the Garden by Todd Henson

One day while visiting my folks I was taken by the sight of this beautiful purple clematis flowering in their garden, hanging from a black metal trellis. Thankfully I had my camera with me that day, though only a single lens, the 16-35mm f/4. I don’t often use this lens for photographing flowers, but it seemed like a good time to start.

The photos in this post show 3 different angles I tried when photographing these lovely flowers. They weren’t all that high off the ground so I used the 35mm end of the zoom to focus in on the flower without too much distracting background. Then I experimented with framing and with aperture.

I most often use the 16-35mm when I’d like a lot of depth of field. Wide angle lenses are usually good at providing this. But when photographing these clematis I was more interested in a shallow depth of field. The widest aperture of this lens is f/4 and that ended up being the aperture I used for my favorite shots of this series. I did, however, create 2 images at f/8 to show you the difference this makes.

I held the lens physically close to the subject, probably very close to the minimum focusing distance of the lens. Even with an aperture of f/8 the background is nicely blurred, but it does still have some detail. Notice the difference when I opened the aperture one more stop to f/4, its widest setting. It throws the background even more out of focus, but it also throws some of the main flower out of focus.

There’s no right or wrong in these situations. It all depends on what look you are going for. For myself, I tend to prefer the images with a shallower depth of field. Which do you prefer?


Fundamentals of Photography with John Greengo by Todd Henson

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Fundamentals of Photography  with John Greengo . Image credit: CreativeLive

Fundamentals of Photography with John Greengo. Image credit: CreativeLive

Are you new to photography? Interested in learning how to master your new camera and use it to begin creating beautiful images? Or perhaps you already know a bit about photography and would like a refresher to reinforce various topics? If so, check out CreativeLive’s class, Fundamentals of Photography, taught by John Greengo.

Each year John Greengo teaches his Fundamentals of Photography class, often adding or updating content, especially if anything new has happened in the world of photography. I’ve purchased two versions of this class in the past (in 2010 and 2012), and still go back to the lessons from time to time. John is a great teacher and he creates amazing visuals that help explain and reinforce the topics he teaches. (The visuals and examples in this post are my own.)

Selection of SLR lenses

In the class, John covers a wide range of topics. He talks about the different types of cameras out there today and how each work. He explains each part of a camera system, including the digital sensor and the differences between sensors, and camera lenses in their different forms. He explains how light works and how the camera captures it.

John teaches about exposure, and how it is affected by choices of shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. He explains each of these topics with visuals that really help you grasp the concepts. Examples of this are how to use aperture to get a shallow depth of field or a large depth of field. He talks about how shutter speed will affect the look of your image, allowing you to freeze the action or create motion blur to show the action. He explains ISO and how it controls how sensitive the sensor is to light.


Example: Aperture and Depth of Field

The images of the lens below show the actual, physical, opening of the aperture at 4 different f-stops: f/1.4, f/4, f/8, and f/16. For this particular lens, a 50mm f/1.4 Nikkor lens, the largest opening possible is f/1.4 and the smallest opening possible is f/16. Click on the arrows on either side of the image to display to the next image.

The images of the frogs below show the depth of field for each of the apertures above. The depth of field is the area most in focus. In each image I focused on the eyes of the middle frog.

Notice at f/1.4 there is very little depth of field, meaning there is a lot of the image that is out of focus. Notice how at f/4, then f/8, and finally f/16, that more and more of the image is in focus.

Look at the images of the lens above again. Notice that f/1.4 is the largest opening and created the least depth of field (had the least in focus). Notice that f/16 is the smallest opening and created the largest depth of field (had the most in focus).


Example: Focal Length and Perspective

The images below were created at 2 different focal lengths. I attempted to keep the compositions as close as possible.

The first image was created using a wide angle lens at a focal length of 16mm. The front of the lens is very close to the foreground frog. Notice how large the foreground frog is in relation to the background frog. Notice how far away the background frog looks. Short focal length lenses (wide angle lenses) can stretch out the landscape, making objects in the foreground appear larger and making objects in the background appear smaller.

The second image was created using a telephoto lens at a focal length of 200mm. Notice how much larger the background frog is in relation to the foreground frog. Notice how much closer the background frog seems than in the wide angle image. This is called compression. Longer focal length lenses (telephoto lenses) compress the foreground and background, bringing the background objects closer to the foreground.

These images are an example of why it can still be very useful to move back and forth in a scene and not just rely on zooming your lens to fit the scene to the lens. Instead, visualize how you'd like the image to look.

Do you want to emphasize the foreground and minimize the background? Then use a wide angle lens and get close to the foreground object.

Do you want to emphasize the background, making it seem very large? Then use a telephoto lens. You can then move closer or further from the foreground object depending on how large you what that to be in the frame.


In addition to the more technical topics, John also talks about composition and design, about how to create pleasing images, how to add drama and evoke emotion in the viewer. He has had a long and successful career in photography, and has worked with other well known photographers, such as Art Wolfe. John is very good at taking what he’s learned and passing that on to his students through the videos and visuals.

Fundamentals of Photography is a long class full of content. It is broadcast live over several days, usually close to 5 or 6 hours a day. One of the nice things about purchasing the class is being able to watch it later at your own pace. You can take one topic at a time, watch the videos, experiment with your camera, really understand the topic. Then move on to the next topic.

If you’re new to CreativeLive, check them out. They are an online education company that broadcasts classes on a whole range of topics. The classes are free to watch during the live broadcast and from time to time when they rebroadcast the class. They are always broadcasting something. If you like the class you can purchase it, letting you stream the class anytime, and also letting you download the videos and other content to your computer to watch offline anytime you want. Some classes have extra content only available when you purchase. I have purchased dozens of classes over the years, and likely will continue to. CreativeLive offers a fantastic platform for learning. Their topics cover not just photography & video, but also art & design, music & audio, craft & maker, and money & life.