Seafair provided me with my first opportunity to shoot the Blue Angels during a display since they transitioned to the Super Hornet. I was interested to see whether the display seemed any different with the new jets. Seafair is a nice location over Lake Washington but the alignment of the display box relative to the shore of the lake is not ideal and this does result in the planes being further away than for most venues. The increased size of the Super Hornet is probably a benefit in this situation.
I was interested whether the larger jets would make things seem a bit slower somehow but I didn’t notice anything in practice to support that idea. The normal tight flying that the Blues are famous for was there and, if anything, the bigger jets look closer as a result of the changed perspective. It is not that big a deal, though, so I suspect some of this was in my imagination. I would like to see them at a different location where the display axis is closer in order to get another view of the display, though.
Aside from watching the display at Lake Washington, I did also Watch them depart and return from Boeing Field. They always departed to the north and returned from the north even if everything else had been landing from the south. I spent one arrival down at the south end and watched then run the length of the runway and break for landing. It was a good spot to watch this from. Overall, I was happy with the new look for the team. I hope the jets hold up well. The Blues have a reputation of having to live with some of the oldest jets in the fleet and reliability will be something to watch.
I was at Boeing Field for the arrival of the Blue Angels for Seafair. It was a work day so I was sitting in the car and actually presenting to some colleagues via a Teams call. My presentation was underway as they were getting close but it was almost done. I was hoping that it would all wrap up before they got there. Sadly, I was wrong. I was on the final section of the presentation when they flew overhead in Delta formation. I was shut in the car but still had to explain why it had suddenly got so loud at my end.
Fortunately, that was the end of the meeting and I was able to get out of the car in time for the arrival of the individual jets for landing. I did get to see the Delta arrival again later in the weekend but I am not sure whether it is my imagination or not but it seemed lower and closer on that first occasion when I was sitting in the car with no camera.
Seafair means a lot of aircraft coming to Boeing Field. The Blue Angels are always the feature part of the show and this was going to be my first chance to see their new aircraft. Yes, they have replaced the Hornets with Super Hornets and I shall cover that separately but they have also replaced Fat Albert since last I saw them. The C-130T has been replaced with a C-130J that was sold to them by the Royal Air Force. It has a new paint scheme to complement this change of era.
I was at Boeing Field for the arrival of the Blues and the jets were preceded by the arrival of Albert. The good thing is that it is tractable on ADSB so I knew it was going to arrive and when. Of course, a Herc coming down the approach is not as dramatic as a bunch of Super Bugs blasting over in formation but it is still good. I did manage to catch it again in the coming days as part of the display so had more than one chance to get some shots.
Recently, the Blue Angels made their last formation flight with the F/A-18 Hornet. The team is transitioning to the Super Hornet ahead of 2021 and they have started working up with the new jets. It has been a while since I last saw the Blue Angels demonstration so I thought a few shots with their aging legacy Hornets was in order. They always got the oldest jets in the fleet so I hope they are happy to have some slightly newer airframes to work with.
We relocated to the other end of Boeing Field for the return of the Blue Angels. They ran in across the field trailing white smoke. Unfortunately, with little wind, this meant a pall of smoke was now hanging over the airport. As they broke into the downwind and then turned onto final, it was sometimes hard to see them at all. A healthy boosting of the contrast makes some of the shots a bit more visible but, in truth, the viz was really awful. I only hope they had a slightly better view of the ground than we had of them since their being able to see was slightly more important.
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.
The Fleet Week air show in San Francisco is wrapped up by the Blue Angels. The sneak passes made by the pair are an opportunity to try and get something interesting. Since they display over the bay and the city is known for having high relative humidity, I am always hoping to get some good vapor shots. This time out, that wasn’t to be. The air seemed to be pretty dry and there was not a lot of vapor on show. However, the fast pass from left to right takes the jet in front of the hills and Alcatraz which provides some detail to show up the distortion caused by the shock-waves. The large number of boats and associated masts meant a clean shot was tricky but I got a couple I was pleased with.
I have seen a large number of displays by the Blue Angels over the years. Their display is a good one generally (although the ground portion is a little time consuming in my opinion). The sequence does not vary much from year to year but it works well enough so that is probably no big surprise. One of the fun parts is the sneak passes. The four ship head off in one direction to distract you and a solo jet streaks in from the left at low level and high speed. This catches a lot of people by surprise.
Just as everyone is getting over this, the other solo jet does something similar from crowd rear to make you all jump again. The displays that are held over water provide an added option for the first sneak pass. With no obstacles, the aircraft can end up very close to the water. This makes things look even more impressive. Also, the high speeds can result in some impressive vapor formations in the shock waves.
The Fleet Week display on the Friday had great weather conditions but, surprisingly for the Bay Area, the humidity levels were not terribly high. Consequently, while the sneak pass had its usual surprise impact, it did not result in any vapor on the jet. The upside of this was that the optical distortion caused by the shock waves was visible in some shots when a reasonable amount of background was included. Not what I was aiming for but not a bad alternative.
Lots of my retro posts come about because I was doing something else that led me to a shot I had forgotten about. Having a system like Lightroom is a great way of throwing up some interesting shots that appear when you run a keyword search. In this case, I was looking at an old air show which had featured the Blue Angels. As is usual for their shows, the first part of the demonstration was the USMC C-130 display, Fat Albert.
At the end of the display, they land the C-130 and throw the props into reverse aiming to stop as quickly as possible. (A little bit of bouncing is also apparent in the top shot!) On this occasion, I guess the ground alongside the runway was not too stable. The wash thrown forward by the props ripped the turf up ahead of the plane and threw it into the air. It made for a pretty dramatic view. Even through the viewfinder, I could see what was going on. The shots afterwards just confirmed how much material they threw around that day!
Fleet Week in San Francisco was something I had been looking forward to since moving here. The air display over the bay had looked great in shots I had seen from previous years and that combined with the parade of naval ships sounded good. Sadly, things didn’t quite go to plan. The parade of ships happened but there weren’t very many of them so it was not a huge parade. Then the flying started but, with cloud cover coming in from the Golden Gate, the flying tended to be pushed farther into the bay and away from us.
We did get a couple of V-22s doing a tour of the bay before the real flying display kicked off and the weather improved for Fat Albert’s part of the Blue Angels’ performance. However, the cloud came right back and the Blues did a few orbits above the clouds over us and then gave up. Apparently the weather was better on the following days but I could not be there for that so I missed out. However, I got to spend the day with a couple of friends so it was still better than being at work!