Torrey Pines Gliderport
The Sunday forecast called for cool clear skies near the coast and the conditions were going to be great for paragliding. So my wife and I went out on an impromptu afternoon trip to enjoy the weather and hopefully get some nice shots at the Gliderport. This was my second time taking photos here and images from my first trip can be found here.
How to get this type of shot
Since the conditions were great for flight with strong onshore winds, the paragliders did not need to make use of the runway area to lift off. This resulted in the pilots spending most of their time lifting off from the far end of the runway near the cliffs. This meant I was not able to get great photos from the area I shot from last time just outside the pilots only restricted zone.
This turned out to be serendipitous since I had to re-position myself and found a location near the sheer cliffs overlooking the beach and ocean. I immediately knew I would be able to get some great shots of the paragliders against sky with the ocean, cliffs and beach providing context to the place. Luckily, the sun was also in a favorable location relative to the direction I was shooting and provided a nice 45 degree angle of light on the subjects. Just to give you a sense of how high these cliffs are, see those dots on the beach? Those are beach goers enjoying the sun and surf.
I shot all of the images with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM with a circular polorizer attached to darken and saturate the sky. I shot wide open at f/2.8 which gave me a shutter speed between 1/500 and 1/640s (it was this low due to the ~2-stops of light I lost due to the polarizer) which was fast enough to freeze the paragliders. I shot in Servo autofocus mode and in continuous high speed to increase my chances of getting the action, composition and focus accuracy I was after.