RIAT 2017

Royal International Air Tattoo 2017, RAF Fairford, Sunday 16th July 2017

The forecast wasn’t great for this so photographically I wasn’t expecting to get much out of this event, certainly compared to last year when we had some fantastic light as the sun arrived after a rain spell in the morning. However, the flying programme was pretty incredible and early morning reports were buzzing around that a B-2A Spirit was in the air and heading over the Atlantic for a flying visit.

I was armed with the X-T2 (with Booster Grip) and the Fujinon 100-400mm and would be shooting handheld all day, mostly sat down. My camera setup was very basic, I essentially remained in Shutter Priority at 1/2000 as much as possible, leaving ISO and Aperture up to the X-T2. The only significant change to that was during helicopter or prop displays, where I would drop to around 1/200 to get a bit of prop blur. OIS was left on, I left the camera in AF-C all day and once again opted to stick with Single Point AF.

And that’s pretty much it, point, track and shoot (sounds easy!) My experience of tracking cars seems to come in handy at airshows as although I’ve only attended a few I’ve never found tracking 500mph jets particularly troublesome. That was the main reason I opted to stick with Single Point AF, as I very rarely found myself having any difficulty locking on and hanging on manually.

My little AF box would turn green seemingly immediately when getting a subject in frame, it was interesting to see it go black instantly on occasions when the aircraft would drift out of the box, and then immediately go green as soon as I got it back in. That little green box didn’t lie either, despite being in Release Priority 99% of the 1600 photos I took were correctly focussed.  

As expected the weather was pretty average for photos so these are hardly the most inspiring, flat grey skies most of the time with the occasional break in the clouds for a bit of a sunshine (but still got sunburnt!) Hopefully they give you an idea of what’s possible in more favourable conditions though.

As for the airshow itself, wow. I’ve attended RIAT on and off since I was a kid and this was easily the best year I can remember since those rose tinted days of the past. The US sent over the kitchen sink for their 70th Anniversary (including rarities such as B-1, B-2, B-52 and U2), meaning an incredible diversity and volume of static displays, and an 8 hour flying display that just never let up.