There’s nothing so exciting in aviation photography as getting close to the planes. And no matter how much fun it is to stand between jets, it is more fun to have one on your wing.

I had the luck to do air to air photo shoots for the last 10 years and even though it’s still a whole lot of fun, it’s also a lot of the same. Photographically speaking a F-16 on the side looks exactly the same every time you shoot it. Lighting conditions or the manoeuvres may vary, but in the end it’s mostly the same.

Staying creative in air to air photography isn’t easy and this year I experienced it more than before. Doing so many projects made me realize how I always take the same shots. And in September, shooting Zeltweg, Sanicole and Tanagra, I felt eager to take good photos, not just ‘photos’.

Zeltweg turned out to be the easiest of the three shows to be creative. Shooting above the stunning mountains of Austria made for a unique backdrop but it still wasn’t enough. I decided to mainly play with the light and go for back lit photos where you can still see the mountain tops in the frame. Back light in between the mountains is very moody but usually doesn’t look good in colour. So in Lightroom I turned the photos to black and white and went for a hard contrast, adding a lot of shadows and highlights. I edit several photos like this and ended up with a small series.

Sanicole proved to be a whole lot more difficult because of the background and weather conditions. I just had to snap away and hope I could make something out of it afterwards in Lightroom. I mainly used my ‘Hverir’ preset from my Landscape Preset Pack. It gives a very blueish look to the pictures but with some tweaking I ended up with results like the two photos below. Somehow I like the mood it sets and the way it sets the attention to the plane, fading the background a bit.

Another thing I found myself doing a lot in the past few shoots is zooming out and going for the wider shot. I used to do that before, but I now focus more on the inside of our plane. Taking pictures where you can see the pilot or the cockpit.

In Tanagra I combined the styles I mentioned above. The mountainous landscape of Greece offered the same possibilities as the Austrian Alps, giving beautiful back lit views. I just applied the same edit as I used for the Zeltweg pictures and most of them came out good right away. For the other shots I again made sure I had bits and pieces of our plane in the frame, giving the photos a behind the scenes feel. For the editing I mainly used the same preset as the Sanicole pictures. I found it working pretty well on most of the photos.

I sometimes wonder how I will keep doing new things in the next season. I have experimented with polaroids this year and would like to test other types of cameras, but I still need to deliver high quality files to the crews involved which makes experimenting more difficult. I hope that I will find new ways of editing just like I did the previous ten years.

Should you be interested in doing air to air shoots yourself, make sure to send an email to and receive the annual newsletter for the 2020 season of the Aviation PhotoCrew.

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