Speedlights with aviation photography

In Aviation by Patrick

As photographers, we all understand the importance of light. It is the basis for photography and without it, no picture! When to apply it and with what subjects can often be confusing. In my wildlife photography, I apply additional light when the situation calls for it fill in the shadows and enhance the color of birds feathers. Can you apply it with aviation? Absolutely! Having said that, I will be the first to admit that just because you have the tools does not mean you have to apply them. This is totally based on you as the photographer and how you want to tell the story. By means of an example, below is the C-47D Skytrain “Hairless Joe” N-Number 44-76716. This vintage transport wears an under-represented paint scheme from the China-Burma-India Theatre belonging to the 1st Air Commando Group.

In the above picture, I did not use the flash. Not a bad picture by any means, but you can see under the fuselage, the engine cowling and even the lettering on the side of the aircraft, how dark it is and not much detail is showing up. One can make the argument you can bring up the shadows in post, but my mantra is to try and get it right in camera at the time of capture. Using the SB 5000 speedlight along with the WR-R10 Wireless tranceiver and WR-A10 Wireless remote adapter on the Nikon D5, I was able to add light to those areas to bring out some of the detail.

The under carriage of the fuselage and especially the starboard engine now has detail. The difference is subtle and that is how I wanted it to be. I had my SB-5000 on the ground angle up at 45 degrees with -3.0EV dialed in. Aircraft are reflective surfaces so you want to be careful when applying the flash. Be mindful of the intensity and angle of the flash. You want the finished picture to be subtle but enhance your subject.

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