Piper Super Cub G-SVAS

Submitting Photos

Paul Ferguson

I’m the assistant editor of Prop-Swing and have taken it upon myself to write a few words on behalf of the editorial team in the hope of encouraging more of you to send in photos for publication. In every issue of Prop-Swing some pages are reserved for pictures submitted to me by Photo Section members and I thought you might like to read about what I take into account when selecting the images for publication.

The first cut is made by you, the members, because I ask you to limit yourselves to 5 images each. In the past when we did not have that limit my mailbox was sometimes swamped. I generally receive 60-70 images for each issue and, as we usually publish at least 6, the odds on getting picked are not too bad. As they come in I look at each one with the objective of ending up with an interesting and balanced selection. There is a limit to how often we want to see the same aeroplane so if it has appeared within the last year it stands less chance of success. We aim for about half the photos to depict Collection aircraft and the balance made up of visitors or other activities. There is scope for more ground vehicles to appear but it is not often that suitable pictures are submitted. Surprisingly, sometimes the Collection has a new acquisition or there has been a display by an unusual visitor but no one sends me a photo. The Mew Gull was a case in point and I wonder if members do not submit such subjects in the mistaken belief that I will be inundated with them.

I’ve occasionally mentioned that we are not averse to seeing what went on in days past at Old Warden but we rarely see pictures from more than a few years ago. Probably they are not digital which makes it harder for members to prepare them – or possibly to find them!

On a technical front we naturally look for sharp images and correct exposure. There is a conflict regarding the appropriate shutter speed to use. A high speed will help to capture a sharp image of the aeroplane but may freeze the propeller in an unnatural way. Avoiding this requires a longer exposure, say 1/200 second, but it is not easy to retain sharpness elsewhere. Even slower shutter speeds, e.g. 1/60 second, can sometimes be used to enhance the impression of speed. For this to work, the shutter is released while following the subject as it passes in front of a suitable background. Old Warden trees are ideal. Done correctly, the aircraft will appear sharp against a blurred background. All this requires practice and the great thing about digital is that it costs nothing to take another shot!

The other sort of technology relates to sending your images to me. I prefer to deal with JPEG images in the 2-4 mb size range. That gives quality good enough to please our publisher. It may be a bit smaller than they are produced by your camera but not too large to email.

Composition is one of those things where there are no right answers. However it is worth mentioning that the shape of the crowd line at Old Warden means pilots often offer us a top view of their aircraft which can look most impressive. It is good to be able to see the pilot or at least show the cockpit.

These are just suggestions and should not deter anyone from sending me images where none of these hints applies because it’s always good to see something a bit different!

It’s worth mentioning that your pictures are not limited to the Photo Section pages. On some occasions we have been able to use members’ images on the cover of the magazine or to illustrate a particular article and it is always satisfying to see your name under your picture.

Anyway, don’t be discouraged. The Photo Section email address for messages and submitting photos  is [email protected] and I look forward to seeing your work.