My reduced enthusiasm for air shows has cropped up in posts recently. I mentioned it here not so long ago. I also talked about it last year with regard to my “home” air show, the Chicago Air and Water Show. I have been a bit reluctant to go to the show because it is very busy/crowded and the content of the show has been a bit reduced due to the lack of available performers.
This year the show snuck up on me and suddenly it was here. I had kept my calendar clear on the Friday before the show because I like to go to the practice day. Not only do you get a full show (usually) but there are a lot less people there. You can even get bonuses with the headlining team (either the Blue Angels or the Thunderbirds) tagging on a few extra practice moves at the end as they tighten up their performance. For some reason the Friday also seems to be more lucky with the weather. This year I figured I would follow the pattern and go then and avoid the busy weekend performances.
The plan turned out to be a really good one. The air temperature was about 70F but the skies were clear blue. There was even a hint of moisture in the air earlier in the day which would prove beneficial! They have moved the show an hour earlier compared to years gone by. I’m sure this has a number of benefits for the organizers and getting people in and out. However, the light is a little harsh earlier in the day until it comes around behind the crowds so starting earlier reduces the time for good light. However, you can still make that work if you plan your shooting.
I met up with a bunch of familiar faces down on North Avenue Beach and we settled in for the show. We had most of the main performers and a bonus with two Super Hornet displays. Two crews cover the show, one flying each day. However, they both get to practice on the Friday. It is safe to say the first crew got high marks from us for the style of the display and for having it close enough to see. The second crew seemed to be flying a very different display and were a lot further out. The first crew also benefited from the humidity levels by dragging some clouds around with them throughout the show. That helped their rating from us but they were clearly better on the day.
A lot of familiar acts were displaying but I got to see some I haven’t seen much of. Kirby Chambliss put on an excellent display I thought. All of the pilots are good but sometimes you see someone and just instantly recognize that they are a cut above the norm. Kirby fitted that description.
The Blues were the headlining act this year and they performed pretty well. Most of the display looked slick with the one glaring issue being the poor timing of the sneak passes. The four ship had been long gone by the time the solos arrived so people had plenty of time to see them coming. It was practice day so hopefully they fixed that on the real days. I didn’t see Saturday but was at home on Sunday to watch them come through the downtown as they repositioned. I did see that four was instead three on Sunday so I guess a jet or a pilot was sick – don’t know which.
With the combination of the great weather, the good friends and some excellent flying, I had one of my best air show experiences in a long time. This might be my last Air and Water Show so, if that proves to be the case, at least I will have gone out on a high.
As I mentioned in a previous post, sometimes it is useful to have someone come to the city to encourage me to get out and about. A few friends had been to Chicago in a previous week to do some shooting but I had been tied up when they arrived. They were planning some evening shooting and I had been out all day and had plans for the evening so missed it. I was a bit disappointed but there you go.
Consequently, I was pleased to see that a few of them were planning to come back a few days later for another session. This time I was free so agreed to meet up. Some of the group that were coming I knew and others I hadn’t met before. I headed out to the Adler Planetarium – our meeting spot – and started taking some shots. A few guys were already there taking their own shots so I wandered over to find out if they were some of the people I hadn’t met before.
While it was true I hadn’t met them before, they were not part of our group. However, in common with many photographers, they were a friendly bunch a we chatted for a while. They had come to town from Texas and were looking to get as many things in to their trip so I suggested a few spots that they might like to try.
After a while the rest of the guys did show up – well, all but one who had wandered off on his own – and we started taking some pictures. The skyline was lovely as usual and we took some shots around the Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum. Then we headed across to Millennium Park. I’m becoming a regular.
Shooting around the Bean at night is good since the long exposures you need tend to make any of the other visitors disappear. You get a cleaner shot if you plan it right. We got a bunch of shots and then we started playing around with a flashlight. More of that to come!
The forecast the other morning was for some big storms. I decided that this would be a good time to head down to the lakefront. When a storm hits us, I see a lot of lightning around us but there is little that I can do to get a good shot since the buildings are too close to get any perspective. Before Trump was built, there was a lot more to see but that is no longer the case.
Instead, i thought the Adler planetarium would provide a good view of the city as the storm rolled in so I hopped in the car and headed over there. There was a local TV crew setting up when I got there so I thought they must agree with my planning. The sky was certainly looking darker.
As it turned out, we were both wrong. The sky got very moody and some crazy looking clouds bubbled across but no storm showed up. Instead, it just started raining and my enthusiasm reduced significantly! Eventually I headed home and the storm ended up skirting south of us. Oh well.
Chicago has traditionally held a pretty impressive fireworks display to celebrate the 4th of July. Since I have lived here, the fireworks have been let off a day early on the 3rd. While I have never bothered to find out why, I have always assumed it was because they wanted a ton of people to come and see them and this they could do and still see their own local town displays on the 4th. I guess it worked because up to 2 million people would show up to watch.
Last year, with the city feeling a bit hard up for cash, they did away with the big display and had three smaller displays spread out along the lakefront. This year, no display at all. I guess it isn’t the cost of the display that is the issue. The cost of dealing with 2 million people is a little bit more of an issue!
All is not lost, though. Navy Pier holds firework displays every Wednesday and Saturday throughout the summer so one more is not a big deal for them. Consequently, we took a stroll out to the lake to watch the display. It was a nice show. Not a stunning display like some I have seen but I’m not complaining. It still had a lot of people showing up to watch but nothing like the normal event. It was on the 4th as well.
I like taking pictures of fireworks but I have found I like the shots a lot more if there is some context to them. I am not a big fan of shots that just have the explosion filling the frame. With a display out over the lake, my options were relatively limited. The big Chicago displays are over the harbor and, if you watch from the planetarium, you have the skyline as part of the shot. That certainly is worthwhile.
I don’t put a lot of effort in to the shots. I set up the camera as I want the frame to be making some guesses about how big the larger blooms will be. Then I hold the cable release and have fun watching the display. I can trigger the shots (bulb mode) as I think looks good without distracting myself from having fun enjoying the show. Sometimes they are better than others but anything is just a nice side benefit from a good display.
As an aside, if you notice something in the skies, an airship was up watching the display too. That is what you may see blurred out in some of the shots.