Dealing with smoke at airshows

In Aviation by Patrick

One thing that is a constant with airshow performers is smoke.  The aircraft acts use this to enhance their performance and often make it easier for the viewer to follow the plane.  That is fine but it really is a difficult challenge for the photographer trying to capture and image.  It is something that you have to deal with no matter what show  you attend, there will be smoke but there are some tools that we have to deal with it.


One solution is to track the subject and fire when they clear the smoke. In the above picture you can see that there is darker smoke a bit lower in the frame. I simply waited until the solo pilot began his vertical climb and cleared the smoke then let the shutter rip. The bonus was I was able to get some vapors off the fuselage as he began to go vertical.

As you can see in this picture, which a few frames earlier prior to his climb, the smoke and haze really did not allow for a sharp shot so being mindful of the background here was key.

Another tool we have at our disposal is the Dehaze in Camera Raw or Adobe Lightroom. I am sure other editors have something similar. We cannot control what the pilots flight path during the demonstration and they will inevitably perform maneuvers in the smoke, so having Dehaze at our disposal can help to eliminate much of that.

One thing that also helps is to attend both days of an airshow. Having the added benefit of already having watched the routine helps with planning of the shots for day two on where and when to shoot without smoke or haze. Hopefully that helps a bit and gets you to thinking about bringing back so memorable aviation images.

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