Category Archives: Air Shows

Photoship Over the Air Show

The Abbotsford Air Show was also apparently an event that the Aviation Photocrew from Europe had made the trek for.  They had arranged for a variety of photo flights associated with the show and involving some of the performers.  I didn’t know that this had been set up but, when we saw the Skyvan flying overhead with planes formating on it, we knew what was happening and my friend Mark told me that the same folks were running things.  I hope that they got some good shots.

Gripen Two Ship Departure

Flashback to RIAT and 2019.  I was working through the catalog looking for something for another project and came across these shots of Swedish Gripens departing from RAF Fairford after the show had concluded.  A section departure is always more interesting than a singleton even if it does give you something to think about when deciding on which plane to focus on.  The Gripen is a great looking jet and one that has been pretty successful given that it was built specifically for Swedish needs.  Always happy to get to shoot one.

The Return of the F-35As on Veterans’ Day

Quite some time ago, I posted a piece about the take off of some F-35As that were doing a flyover for Veteran’s Day.  What I didn’t cover in that post was that they had to come back!  They actually spent a fair bit of time out around the area as well as doing the flyover so there was some time between departure and arrival.  Originally, I had intended to get some pretty standard side on shots of their return.  However, earlier in the year, I had done the same thing for some other F-35s, and, at the last minute, I had a change of heart.

I rapidly grabbed my stuff and drove around to the approach end of the airfield near Ruby Chow Park.  I decided a head on shot followed by an underside shot would be a better bet.  Conveniently, they decided to do a run in and break rather than a straight in approach, so I was able to get some shot of them in formation as they passed overhead.  Then the approach shots worked out pretty much as I had hoped.  I was glad that I had done something different to my usual.  If there had been more opportunities, I hope I would have tried other ideas too.

A400M Atlas Demo from RIAT 2019

I was working through some shots from my last trip to RIAT in 2019.  Amazingly enough, I hadn’t finished editing some of the shots from that visit and I wanted to get rid of a lot of surplus shots to help the old hard drive space issues!  As I was working through them, I got to some shots of the A400M displays I saw over the course of the weekend.  I think the A400M is a cracking looking jet.  Whether it is doing what everyone wanted of it, I have no idea.  I just know it looks great and is capable of some really impressive demos.

For some reason, I had been feeling very brave during RIAT when it came to shooting some of the props.  I had gone with quite low shutter speeds with long lenses and the results were not necessarily all I would have wanted.  There were always going to be blurry shots to get culled, but the number of sharp ones was a little lower than I would have liked.  However, all was not a total loss, and I did get a bunch of shots that I was happy with.

Here is a selection of shots from across the show including the official displays by the Airbus test crew and some of the operator aircraft too.  The weather for RIAT 2019 was not that great.  We did get some nice light occasionally but one of the days was very wet (and I was feeling crappy too) and the others were overcast a lot of the time.  Not the most exciting light for a grey painted plane but they had the potential for prop vortices.  Will I have big prints of these on the wall?  No, I don’t think so.  However, it was okay and there will be other times, I hope.

RCAF Hornet Tests High ISO Performance

The later stages of the Abbotsford Air Show included a performance by the RCAF CF-188A Hornet.  By the time it was performing, the light was pretty much gone.  The late performance has some benefits in that the burners are more striking against a darker sky, but the RCAF display often ends with a landing with the hook lowered.  I had seen this before at Chino and the same problem as happened there occurred here.  The touchdown point was a long way away from the spectator line, so it was too far away to get a decent shot.

However, there was the rest of the display to go for.  My current cameras seem very able to handle low light conditions.  The focus might be a touch slower or less accurate as the light diminishes but I wasn’t noticing a significant problem.  Also, the high ISO capabilities of current generation cameras are really impressive so shooting in such conditions is not necessarily a problem.  The camera will be able to perform although that won’t compensate for a jet just not looking that good with so little light.  You still have to pick your shots.

The Hornet is a good display jet with the ability to point the nose in different directions rapidly and to pull a decent amount of vapor from the air.  It can turn and it can blast through, so it makes for a good show.  Original generation Hornets are starting to become a rarity.  It won’t be long before the Canadian jets have been replaced by F-35s.  Other operators have already transitioned and more will follow.  Catch the legacy Hornets while you can and, preferably, in interesting lighting conditions.

A Little RIAT Reds Editing

Why, when my last visit to RIAT was in 2019, am I still working my way through some shots from that show?  There are many potential reasons but none of them reflect too well on me so we shall move past that topic and on to what I shot at that show.  Specifically, let’s look at the Red Arrows.  When we used to live in the UK, we would see the Reds on a regular basis and would sometimes get a bit blasé about them.  When you live elsewhere, they become a bit more fun to see.

Consequently, I did make the effort to get a few good shots of their displays.  It would have been nice to have some slightly better light to shoot them in, but that show was not the best for weather.  Take off is always nice since you are close to the formations, and they are potentially tightly grouped in the frame.  There are always the crossing shots to go for and then the bigger formation breaks will be a target.  All of these were part of my efforts that year.  When I was young, the rollbacks were a favorite of mine.  They do a variation on this now, but I am not quite so keen.  It is a tough one to shoot anyway since you really want to be on the display axis to get the best effect.  Even so, I was still pretty happy with what I got overall.

F-35A Snorting it Up at Abbotsford

I saw the USAF F-35A demo at SeaFair in 2022 and it was impressive but, unfortunately, a bit distant over the lake.  Abbotsford in 2023 was my first chance to see the performance closer in and that combined with the evening show to give good lighting conditions.  I was not disappointed.  The demo was a great routine, and it really tore up the skies as the pilot wrung the jet out for our entertainment.  The honking great engine means it is never quiet and, while it might not be as agile as an F-16, there is plenty of control authority for some rapid changes of direction.  The evening light made the airframe look even better.  These are some of my favorite shots from the display.

The Hawk 115 and I Are Aging Together

Not a great shot, in this case, but one that means something to me.  When I went to the Abbotsford Air Show, there was a Hawk 115 in the static display.  It was in an interesting color scheme but the lighting was a bit tough and it was surrounded be people.  The reason I liked it was that I was involved in the Hawk 115 program when it was first underway.  I left the company before the first jets were completed so I never actually saw one.  This might actually have been my first encounter with one.  Since they have been in service for nearly 25 years, they are probably nearing the end of their time so I did leave it a little late.  It looks in better shape than me!

USAF Moose Low Over Canada

The air show at Abbotsford has the conspicuous backdrop of Mt Baker.  For the evening show, the light was really nice on the mountain and I think I have already posted about that.  Some of the display aircraft would make turns in front of the mountain.  Most are too small to be obvious in a shot but something the size of a C-17 Globemaster is going to show up.  The USAF Moose was one of the display and here it is as it reverses course back towards the airfield.

Calibrating the Drones Perhaps?

During the Abbotsford Air Show, we could see a bunch of people out on the airfield.  It wasn’t obvious what they were doing but I took some shots with the longest lens I had to see if I might later work out what was going in.  My friend Mark thought it might be related to the drone display that was due to take place after dark.  I think he might have been right.  Looking at the shots, they seem to be waving the drones around above themselves.  Maybe this is part of a calibration routine or something to do with activating them and having them communicate.  I don’t know.  If anyone is familiar with all of this, please do let me know in the comments.