The Leap Frogs are a parachute display team from the Seals. I have seen them a few times at shows in the Midwest – sometimes working with the Golden Knights of the US Army. During Fleet Week the Leap Frogs jumped to open the main part of the air show. On the day I went, they jumped from Fat Albert, the C-130 of the Blue Angels. Apparently, they also used an Air National Guard C-130 over the weekend.
Their jump routine is pretty cool. They do a lot of coordinated work once under canopies. They make a cool four canopy stack which takes a while to form up but, when formed, looks neat. I just wish they would hold it until they were a bit lower. They also do a nice pairs arrangement where two jumpers hook legs and end up plummeting downwards breaking just in time to land. Always a good way to get the crowd on edge!
My shots of parachute teams have tended to get a bit samey over time but I still like getting some shots of them as you never know whether you will get a slightly different angle on something or that the lighting will show something special.
Part of the entertainment at the Sonoma Skypark Family Fun Day was some skydiving. Some lines were marked out on the grass and Joey jumped from the Cessna flown by Trevor and targeted the landing zone. People could guess which line he would hit with a prize for the closest guess each time. Skydiving looks so cool to me so getting some shots of Joey seemed like a good plan.
He was great fun to hang out with as were the rest of the guys. His first jump came in a bit hot and he landed a little long compared to the marked area. That was not a competition jump, though, so no-one lost out. After that, he was on target for the remaining jumps. I started out staying well back but, as I built confidence in him and he knew I wasn’t going to do anything stupid, I was able to get in a better position to show him coming in. It is a quick transition from a long lens for the aerial shots to a wide one for the touchdown. He is coming in pretty fast. With a few jumps, you can try a different approach each time.
Once on the ground, Joey certainly knew how to keep the crowd happy. He stopped off to chat with people on his way back to repacking the chute and the kids seemed to love talking to him. I need to get more shots of these guys. They were fun and they look cool too. A couple of the group are also in to paragliding so now I have something else I want to check out. I also created a few animations of Joey’s departure from the Cessna so they are included below.
Another trip back in time today. I seem to be coming across older shots when looking for something else and they trigger the idea that they would have been blog posts had I been writing a blog at that time. Today, it is a bit of skydiving. The Clow Cavalcade of Planes is a great event held by a local airfield southwest of Chicago. I wrote a piece about this year’s Cavalcade previously and you can find that here if you want to check back.
A couple of years ago, I was at the event and spent a bunch of time with the team that carry out skydiving demonstrations during the show. Clow is under the airspace leading into Midway and O’Hare so there is a limit of about 3,500’ on how high they can jump from but that is enough to get quickly under the canopy. When the weather cooperates (which it didn’t this year), they jump multiple times during the day. I got shots of them prepping their parachutes, under canopy and coming in to land. I also got to go up on a couple of the jumps. The first was a bit of an unusual one. They were jumping from Midwest Helicopters’ S-58T. I was in their normal jump ship, the Cessna 182. The helicopter had a far higher rate of climb than us so, while we were airborne ahead of them, it climbed up passed us and we had to catch up. Then we orbited them as they jumped. Quite an unusual thing to see.
I also rode up in the 182 when they were jumping from it. There was only one seat in the plan and that was occupied by the pilot. I sat on the floor with my back to the instrument panel with the straps across my legs and they sat in the back. Plenty of time for group shots as we climbed and then time to open the door. It was hinged at the top and the airflow held it open. When you are sitting on the floor and that door opens right next to you for the first time, it is an interesting experience seeing nothing between you and the ground. Funny how quickly you adapt though.
Then they took it in turns to jump. There was a step on the gear leg they could rest on and the wing strut was also something to hang from. A lot of good poses before letting go. Then we side-slipped to let the door close, latched it shut and descended as fast as we could. It was a fun shoot and something I would like to do again sometime. We shall see if the opportunity presents itself again.