1st of May is a national holiday in Hungary, which is also known as International Workers Day or National Labour Day. Last year (in 2018) was the 6th time that the Great Race event was held in the downtown of the capital, Budapest. I decided to fly back home for this occasion because I have never seen it before. Thankfully the weather was very nice, so in the afternoon we climbed up to the Buda Hills to see the air show. Buda Castle is one of the most famous landmarks of the city with a spectacular panoramic view over Pest and the river Danube. The aerial show was held over the river with the following flying programme:

  • Air display from the Flying Bulls (Flying Bulls B0-105, Alpha Jet, Czech Flying Bulls)
  • Peter Bessenyei’s (the flying legend of Red Bull Air Race, a well-known Hungarian aerobatics pilot and world champion, who first flew upside down under the Chain Bridge) aerobatic show
  • Imreh Lajos’s MI2 helicopter show
  • Wizzair Airbus A321 low pass over the Danube
  • Goldtimer show with Gerle, Kanya, Li-2 and Po-2

Basically, this was my first “kind of” air show. It was a great afternoon and a rewarding experience, but I have to admit that I messed up most of the shots I took. But why? What happened? For the answer check out my review below!

When I am at LHR, for instance at Myrtle Avenue and waiting for a plane to catch, it takes only a few seconds as the plane passes by me. But shooting at an air show is slightly different because planes are passing the camera’s viewfinder continuously.

BUFFER

The first thing what I realized after a few minutes, that my camera is not able to shoot many pictures before it stops capturing. Because of this, I missed so many movements, which made me sad and disappointed. Those photographers who stood by me, were able to shoot more pictures in a row then me, but why? I think the answer is because they have better gear than mine. Perhaps it’s correct, but it’s not that simple.

When we press the shutter button to take an image, the photo isn’t immediately written to the memory card. It has to go through a multi-step process before the picture is kept on the memory card. There is a temporary storage in the camera for the captured data, called buffer. It holds all of the information before it is relocated/written on the memory card. The size of the buffer determines the number of images can be taken before the camera runs out of space, and has to break image capture while waiting to be written to the memory card. On most occasions this process is invisible, but when we are shooting action or sports the buffer fills up quickly and can be a problem. (That’s why I missed some precious moments.) Cameras with a large buffer and fast data writing speed are expensive, but there are few things what we can do if we have a cheaper camera.

  • First, we should use continuous/ burst mode when shooting action, sports, wildlife and things like that. Mainly because it improves the chance to get good results if we take more shots. In normal shooting mode, there’s a lot of time between shots and we might not be fast enough to click the shutter button at exactly the right time.
  • The other thing what we can do, to buy some fast writing memory cards. Different memory cards have different data writing speeds. To get the best memory card for our camera, we need to know which one is right for our gear and subject. Obviously, we want the best option what we can afford. For fast-moving objects, we definitely need a faster memory card than for landscapes, still photography. And need plenty of them for an air show!

FOCAL LENGTH

My other concern was the focal length. At that time I had the 55-300mm Nikon lens only, which wasn’t long enough to capture everything I wanted. If the subject is far away from us or very small, it’s difficult to fill the frame and also results lack impact. Who wants a tiny little dust spot at the middle of the frame? I think to use a long lens between 200-500/600mm focal length is highly recommended on air shows. This kind of telephoto zoom lens let us capture a variety of action. Also most of the telephoto zoom lenses have an image stabilisation which decreases the possibility of taking blurry images, when being used handheld, especially at low shutter speeds.

BATTERY DRAIN

Finally, I would like to say a few words about the battery issue I had to face. As it’s known, the biggest mistake is to check the pictures on the LCD screen of the camera, because it drains the life of the battery. But despite being aware of it, I was still checking them to see if they look all right or not, and it obviously killed my battery. As a help I would like to list a few things below, that can also result battery drain.

  • To switch on and off the camera, again and again, is not only a bad habit but kills the battery.
  • Each time the camera focuses, it uses up energy. When we are using continuous mode and pressing the shutter button halfway down, the camera continues to focus on the object. For saving energy, best to reduce that time to the minimum if possible.
  • Deleting bad pictures
  • And finally, turn off the camera when not in use

The best advice what I can give, to bring an extra battery, and make sure it’s fully charged.

Finally, I try to summarize the main conclusions from this review. I think that the most important thing is to enjoy the air show. As we are photographers, unfortunately, in most cases we don’t have time to enjoy the moment, because we are concentrating on shooting instead of watching the spectacle. To see the performances through the viewfinder or with our eyes, it’s not the same experiment. I think it’s also worth to pay attention to the things mentioned above if we are planning to take photos at an air show. Therefore everybody can learn from other people’s mistakes and nobody is perfect.

A few better shots from the event: