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F-22 Raptor Climbing

An F-22 Raptor executes a sharp climb as vapor condenses over the wings.

An F-22 Raptor executes a sharp climb as vapor condenses over the wings.
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Behind The Lens

I took this photo at the Wings Over North Georgia airshow in October 2018. It is a two-day airshow held annually in Rome, Georgia, USA. The airshow brings in some of the big teams, including the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds, but this particular show featured the F-22 Raptor demo.
This was an amazing weekend where the weather cooperated perfectly on both days of the airshow. There were so many good shots from the weekend, but this one ended up being one of my favorites. The F-22 appeared overhead around 4PM and this photo was taken as he was making his last few passes, around 4:20PM on October 13th, 2018.
On the first day of the airshow, I struggled a little bit with the lighting. My aperture and shutter speed were not in tune like they should have been, so many of the shots were throwaways. The lucky thing for me was that the weather and conditions were even better on the second day, so I got really aggressive with the settings. Where I was standing was almost directly on the flight line, so timing and lighting were factors all day. It was difficult to get some shots because of the harsh glare of the sun, but most of the time it was near perfect lighting.
I shot using a Nikon D7500 with a Tamron 150-600mm zoom lens. There were some photographers using gimbals, but I find them difficult to work with. For my shots on this weekend, I did everything handheld. For this reason, I compensated with a faster shutter speed and as low as I could go on my f-stop.
Ever since I was a kid, I have always loved aircraft. My Dad used to take me to the airshows in Detroit and I loved every minute of it. After high school, I served in the Navy and flew in P-3s. I've always been drawn to see airshows whenever and wherever I can. With the F-22, I really wanted to capture the graceful lines of the plane and the condensation that formed over the wings every time the pilot made an aggressive move. In this particular shot, I am especially pleased with how I was able to capture not only the condensation but the almost "science fiction-like" look of the engine exhaust. It looks like the plane is about to make the jump to light speed!
I did some minor tweaks to balance out the color. Because of the high shutter speed, the original shot was a bit dark. Once I lightened it a bit, I adjusted the contrast. Other than that, I tried to leave it as close to actual appearance as possible. I used Photoshop for my post-processing.
In my camera bag
I'm a Nikon guy, so I have a D7000, D7500 and Z6 in my kit, though I only carry two bodies at any given time. My lenses cover the entire range. I carry a mix of my Nikon 10-24mm wide angle, Nikon 18-105mm, Nikon 55-300mm, Tamron 18-400mm and a Tamron 150-600mm zoom. Although I prefer the Nikon branded lenses, the two Tamron lenses have served me well. I use Hoya filters, mainly UV, and polarizers. Occasionally, I play with some ND and Infrared filters too.
Capturing aircraft photos is all about patience, timing and technique. I used to shoot Nascar races from the pits, so I have a great deal of experience with panning shots. It takes practice. You have to learn to adjust your zoom as you move from side-to-side while keeping your subject as close to center of of frame as possible. I generally don't concern myself with rules of composition (i.e. rule of thirds, etc.) when shooting these kinds of subjects. A nice clear, dramatic shot with the plane centered will still draw the viewer in just fine.

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