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Blue Angels at Oceana (And High ISO)

I have only been to the Oceana show once.  I headed down there with my friends Ben and Simon.  We weren’t terribly lucky with the weather.  There was flying during the show but things were overcast and deteriorated as the show went on.  The finale of the show was, naturally for a big Navy base, the Blue Angels.  I was shooting with a 1D Mk IIN in those days and that was a camera that was not happy at high ISO settings.

The problem was, the light was not good and the ISO needed to be cranked up a bit.  Amusingly, if you were shooting today, the ISO levels would not be anything that caused concern.  Current cameras can shoot at ISO levels without any noise levels that would have been unthinkable back then.  However, I did learn something very important with this shoot.  The shot above is one that I got as one of the solo jets got airborne.  I used it as a test for processing.

I processed two versions of the image, one with a lot of noise reduction dialed in and one with everything zeroed out.  I think combined them in one Photoshop image and used a layer mask to show one version in one half of the image and the other for the second half.  When I viewed the final image on the screen, the noise in one half was awfully apparent.  It was a clear problem.  However, I then printed the image.  When I did so, things were very different.  If you looked closely, you could see a little difference.  However, when you looked from normal viewing distances, there was no obvious difference between the two.

My takeaway from this is that viewing images on screens has really affected our approach to images.  We get very fixated on the finest detail while the image as a whole is something we forget.  We print less and less these days and the screen is a harsh tool for viewing.

More Oceana

The ISAP theme continues!  In a previous post (that you can read here if you missed it) I talked about some shooting I did with some friends outside NAS Oceana, the premier fighter base for the US Navy on the east coast.  Well, the field trip from the symposium included a visit to Oceana as well although this was to be on the flightline.  VF-31 was the Squadron that hosted us.  They provided us with an excellent visit.

The squadron was not undertaking operations that day so their part of the ramp was occupied by planes but nothing was moving.  This gave us a great space in which to move around.  We were basically free to go to the end of their line where it met the taxiway and to shoot from anywhere in there.  The only restrictions were the normal ones on a Navy base.  No shooting open panels and no shooting Super Hornets down the inlets.

There was a fair amount of activity on base and the weather was very nice (if a little breezy).  Since we were there in the morning, we had the sun pretty much behind us which worked out well.  The squadrons that were flying that day seemed to have a steady stream of jets on the move.  They would taxi passed us on the next taxiway from the one we could get to the edge of so we could see the jets coming by easily and when they were in the hold they were easy enough to shoot.

The warm weather meant that shooting anything too far away was going to be fruitless if using a long lens since the heat distortion was too much.  However, if you went a little wider, you could minimize the effect of that, at least for the size of shots that are going to be posted online.  They wouldn’t stand up to too much enlargement I suspect but they certainly show what was going on.

Interspersed with the regular jets were a few in special schemes.  There were a number of the squadron specials up and flying as well as one of the CONA marked aircraft.  We also saw a few jets that were in the aggressor colors but that had moved to a new squadron so we a combination of new and old markings.  I am sure they will be repainted in gray before long so that is something good to have seen while it was around.

The VF-31 special aircraft was at the end of the line up and the squadron kindly provided some steps to allow us to get a higher look at it.  These were originally for us to get a group photo in front of the jet but, once they were there, most people took the opportunity to get a few shots as well.  These things tend to work quite well with everyone taking a turn but occasionally, as with people who linger very close to a subject, you get a few people who forget that they aren’t the only person involved.  Thankfully, he majority are very considerate and “help” the less fortunate to play well with everyone else!

The next squadron along the ramp was VF-213.  They did have some operations underway.  One of the things they were doing was providing experience flights to midshipmen who were yet to decide their career path in the Navy.  Additionally, they appeared to be in the process of training up a number of the ground crew.  Consequently, when one of the jets came in for a running change of backseater, we got to see the midshipmen swap over and the ground crew being shepherded through the process of turning the jet.  It was fun for us but I wonder how much they enjoyed having their early work being watched by so many.  Many thanks to them, though, for tolerating our presence.

Our stay was slightly extended since our bus driver had been taken ill while we were on base and a replacement had to come in and help out.  I didn’t hear the final outcome but hopefully he was feeling better later on.  With a new driver in place, it was time for us to move on.  Considering the size of the group we had, the team at Oceana did a great job of hosting us.   Many thanks for everything.