Aviation photographer Nigel Wood shoots stunning images of aircraft in flight

Nigel hired the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM C to provide the extra reach needed to photograph this Mk IX Spitfire. (Image credit: Nigel Wood)
  • Mission: Capture evocative images of aviation at air events and museums
  • Photographer: Nigel Wood
  • Location: Worcestershire, United Kingdom
  • Kit used: Nikon D7200, Tamron 100-400mm f/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD, Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary

"I got into aviation when I joined the Air Training Corps at 13 and soon visited my first air show. My dad was into photography, so I borrowed his camera and my journey into film stills started. I still have his Nikon F60 and AF 35-80mm f/4-5.6D (that still works well on my Nikon D7200). 

I took a long pause between 1995 and 2016, but redundancy gave me the opportunity to invest in my first DSLR, a Nikon D3200 with the AF-P DX 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR and AF-S DX VR 55-200mm f/4-5.6G IF-ED. I took it to the Royal International Air Tattoo at Fairford and my passion was reignited.

I soon found I wanted more from my kit. The D7200 felt like a natural step up and has proven to be a trusty workhorse. The Tamron 100-400mm f/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD coupled with the D7200’s crop factor gives adequate reach at air shows. Its relatively light weight is another advantage when you’re carrying it around all day.

One of the hardest techniques to master in aviation photography is prop blur (second only to panning). A blurred propeller helps to convey a sense of motion (above), whereas a frozen propeller causes the aircraft to appear as if it’s suspended, stationary in the sky. Dropping your shutter speed is key, but this will make it harder to capture the rest of the aircraft sharp. I would suggest going to a local airfield and practising this technique as often as you can, it will really help improve your airborne shots.


A wider shot of Shuttleworth’s Old Warden Airfield allowed Nigel to capture an image with a narrative. (Image credit: Nigel Wood)

Every location is different and no two events are the same. Capturing the atmosphere at an air show is all part of the excitement and helps you record the narrative. In this image (above) the two Edwardian aircraft in the sky, the period cottage in the background and the Spitfire in the foreground tell a story. This was the first time I used my Tamron 100-400mm on the D7200. It’s a much lighter lens than my old Sigma 150-500mm, which makes it easier to carry around during a long day out.

This hot air balloon was photographed at golden hour. Nigel had to wait (and hope) it would pass in front of the sun. (Image credit: Nigel Wood)

The hot air balloon was humanity’s first successful attempt at flight. That serene feeling on a still day as the balloon drifts along the air currents can make for some beautiful images (above). Shooting into the sun isn’t always easy but with a little patience and luck, the right trajectory and light can reward you with a beautiful photo. A variable ND filter can help take the glare off the sun and leave you with some beautifully defined clouds and gorgeous tones".

See more of Nigel's incredible work by visiting his Instagram.

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