The life of an aviation photographer involves camera equipment, settings, post processing techniques, getting access to shoot what you need and a good eye for a photo, right?
Absolutely but there are other aspects as well, some a little less obvious and I’m thinking about one in particular when I say that; being a weatherman!
The weather has a massive impact on photography but it’s not just about praying for sun as you might expect, although that isn’t unusual! Having sun is great for lighting up a subject, giving you a sharp, crisp image and the ability to shoot at a high shutter speed or a small aperture to get the best out of your lens but there are also times when not having sun can actually work in your favour. I know of a number of locations that I rarely shoot at because they face into the sun. Shooting here on a sunny day will either give you backlit photos at best or silhouettes at worse. With cloud cover these locations become usable and give a bit of variation; something that becomes very important when shooting places like airfields where you have a limited number of choices of where to shoot from. Even rain can be used to good effect where spray from fast jets can make an image with visual impact, a speciality of the Harrier with its powerful jet wash.
But in many ways the wind makes the most impact to my photography. Above the usual issues of the wind causing me problems of panning, being blown off a ladder and the planes being able to fly is the active runway. Planes take off into the wind to give their wings lift so the wind direction decides the runway that is in use. Most airfields have one runway that is better than the other for photography. This could be because of the sun, accessibility, the rotation point, the landing point or even aspects like the height of the fence. The wind direction is one of the first things I’ll check before deciding where to go for a day of shooting and that will formulate a short list of places I could go to where the wind is in a favourable direction.
As I’m sure you are already aware the weather forecasts these days aren’t particularly accurate, some would go as far as saying they are almost always wrong, and rarely agree with each other. To that end, most photographers end up pouring over forecasts from three to four different sources days or even weeks ahead trying to decide what day to venture to a particular location. A certain amount of it is the hope to find a forecast that tells you what you want to give some glimmer of hope I will admit!
This is where I find myself at the moment, looking at forecasts trying to decide which day to venture out and where to go.