A Photographic Puzzle

One of the goals in photographing prop driven aircraft is to get the full circle effect of the prop. This eliminates the ‘plane on a string effect’ that happens if the image is taken with a very high shutter speed. It is more difficult that it looks and I am posting an example.

The two images in this post were shot at the same Shutter Speed (1/160) and approximately the same distance from the camera. The differences are:

  1. Time of day. The white plane was taken in the afternoon. The copper one was in the morning.
  2.  Number of Props. The white plane has 2 props. The copper plane has 3 props. Add the copper plane had stickers on the prop which picked up the light and gave the 2 concentric circle effect.

The white plane also made a pass back over the air strip and I lowered the shutter speed to 1/100– the prop disappeared.

3. Molly shot the copper plane as it taxied at 1/200 and got a full circle as well.

Question: Why did we get a full circle on the one plane and not on the other? Slowing the shutter speed as the white plane zoomed the field ( and then facing into the light) made the prop disappear.

Is this like steering into a spin when driving on ice?

Years ago , I photographed an air show and a good friend told me to photograph the prop planes at 1/320. I did with mixed results. The best ones gave an “iron cross” effect that was pretty good but not the “holy grail– full prop circle”.

Any ideas on developing a relatively ‘standard’ approach to getting full prop circles for this type of photography would be appreciated.

For larger image click the thumbnail.

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