Besides my camera gear, I also brought a small notebook to jot down my thoughts in an effort to bring you a behind the scenes look at the day's activities. Here they are...
Sean Tucker is in a new plane this year, the "Oracle Challenger 3". While he flips through the air, the announcer mentions he has a Facebook page. I think the announcement is funny, but also a telling sign of the times as social media is being used by everyone. If you're interested in his page, you can check it out here.
At 10:15ish, the Army's Golden Knights fly in the POW flag. The conditions are just right, and they hit the bullseye landing spot after jumping from around 12,000 feet! I recall seeing the Golden Knights on previous years when they flew in the American flag to the National Anthem. Quite a special experience.
10:25 - They announce a 20 minute break before the Canadian CF18 arrives. I've never seen this particular jet in flight, and am excited to photograph it. Jack Johnson is piped through the speakers, and I kick back to watch the waves.
10:45 - Due to heavy clouds rolling in, a "low show" was just announced. This means the CF-18 won't run through it's normal high altitude performance. Nevertheless, it comes into show center with a loud boom. The boardwalk shakes as the pilot throws on the afterburners. I can feel the vibrations in my chest.
11:00 - A lull in the show gives me time to dump the contents of a 4GB CF card to the Memory Kick Si. Before formatting the card, I copy the contents to two of the devices. I'm really pleased with how fast the data transfers. 4GB takes less than 2 minutes. The full color screen lets me visually confirm that all of the files were saved. From there I'm able to format the card with confidence as I know the images are safely stored. I have lunch and pull on a jacket as a cool wind starts to blow.
Around noon, the Geico Skytypers take to the air. The team is made of six 1940 aircrafts. I use the 70-200mm to capture the wide formation of their "fan pass."
I also use the 400mm to get in tight on some of the individual planes.
12:30ish - After having cancelled due to engine trouble, John Klatt gets his Staudacher S-300D started and pulls off some great manuevers to the delight of the spectators. I consider leaving my spot on the boardwalk and heading down to the sand but decide against it. I'm in a prime location, just right to show center.
Next up is the A-10 Thunderbolt 2. The A10 has an amazing ability to take off on a very short runway. It also has an incredible turning radius, making it quite formidable in battle conditions. Check out the paint scheme on the nose of the plane.
1pm - Ed Hamill performs some high energy acrobatic stunts in his Biplane. The control he has over his plane is simply remarkable. For more info on Ed, his website is here.
1:15 and the Russian fighter plane, the L39 Albatross enters with it's camouflage paint scheme. This high-performance jet trainer was developed in Czechoslovakia. He only does a few quick passes before heading back to the airport.
1:30 - The P51 Mustang flies over the beach with a sailboat off in the distance. The plane comes from the "Warbirds Over Long Island." For more details on how this plane was used in World War II, check here.
Julie Clark helps to remind us what Memorial Day is all about as she waves the American flag while flying her Chevron T-34 Mentor.
At 2pm, Fat Albert rumbles above to start the Blue Angels performance.
Around 2:15 the Blue Angels enter with this heart pounding entrance. I used the the Zoom H2 to record the sound. (requires Quicktime player)
My location off to center stage turned out the be the perfect place to track the incoming jets as the approached from the right. The camera was on the tripod with a cable release attached. I used the right hand to move the camera, trying to keep the center focusing sensor on the jets. Meanwhile I squeezed the shutter on the release in my left hand. At 6.5 frames per second, the rapid firing was an audible clickclickclickclickclickclick. That and the sound of the jets was music to my ears. I love photographing the precision, and daring maneuvers. To see perfection like this makes me appreciate the dedication these pilots have. They are under incredible physical strain from all of the gforces, and yet they make it look so easy.
All of the spectators hold their breath as these two jets approach each other at incredibly high speeds. Once they safely pass each other there is an audible gasp of relief. Photographically speaking, this is a difficult maneuver to capture as it happens faster then the blink of an eye. This is where a fast burst rate comes in handy. Even so, it's possible to miss it, as I've done many times. This year, I timed it just right while holding focus on one jet, and simply blasting away.
Inverted with landing gear out.
Another beautiful pass.
I was very pleased with this image of the Blue Angels stacked on top of one another. To me, it is a symbol of their power and precision.
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