Tag Archives: show

Contrasting Cars

AU0E8744.jpgOne of the fun things about going to Cars and Coffee at the Blackhawk Automotive Museum in Danville is the variety of vehicles on show. You get things from one extreme to another. One of the first vehicles I saw after parking was a Lamborghini Aventador. This is a serious piece of supercar technology. There was also a McLaren to take a look at. Compare this with an old Datsun or a selection of old VWs and you are poles apart. However, they are all loved by their respective owners.

AU0E8758.jpgMy enthusiasm for the Honda/Acura NSX was satisfied by three of them lined up together over in one corner. A very nice thing to find on one side of a big event. This proved to be a popular edition of Cars and Coffee. Over 800 cars were noted by the organizers. I got there a little early and it was already getting very full. Supposedly some people were there from 5:30am. That is enthusiasm for you.

Muscle Cars

My friend Joel recently suggested a trip out to a car show near O’Hare at the Rosemont convention center. It was a display of muscle cars. While this is a generation of vehicles that I know nothing about since American cars of the 60s and 70s were not something that meant anything to me in the UK, the chance to see some great restoration work and to see something different to my normal interests meant I was keen to go along.

The show was very well attended and there were plenty of cars on display. The quality of restoration work was generally very good. Some great looking cars and some proud owners willing to talk about what they had done to get their cars to the condition that they were in. I was seeing a whole bunch of cars that I had never seen before so that was interesting. For those who grew up with these cars, it would have been a far more interesting time since seeing these old cars would trigger lots of memories. However, I still had a good time and will certainly go again if the chance arises.  If you want to see more, I do have a gallery of images here.

Waukegan Show

The Saturday of the Waukegan show turned out to be a great one with excellent weather, some great flying and a lot of good people to hang out with.  What more could you ask for?  While Waukegan is not a big airport, the quality of the show has steadily grown and the ability to attract the Canadian display team, The Snowbirds, is a sign of how well they have done.

This year had a great line up for the show as well as plenty of great aircraft on static display.  With some great light but the temperatures not being at all uncomfortable, it was a photographer’s dream.  Just as well since there were a bunch of photographers there!  The show was a mix of displays with sky divers, piston aerobatics, fast jets, vintage piston displays, wing walking, a jet bus, Heritage and Legacy flights from the Air Force and Navy and the Snowbirds to wrap it up.

I mentioned previously that the weather had been less impressive for practice day.  In past years, I have had good weather for the practice but not for the show.  This year it did it right for the visitors – and there were lots of them!  The quality of the flying was excellent and, while some of the acts were familiar, some were new or at least not seen for a while.  Seeing the Hornets instead of the Super Bug was a nice change and the display is quite different given the differing natures of the two aircraft.

The Snowbirds proved to be a great conclusion to the show.  They flew a tight and polished display (with one minor exception) and did a good job of using the number of aircraft to keep something going on in front of the crowd.  They mixed it up with some pairs and four ship crossing to keep everyone on their toes.  I think they made a lot of fans.  I hadn’t seen them for a while so it was good to see them again.  (They were also a lot of fun at the party later!)

Congratulations to Jim and the team at Waukegan.  A great show and I hope to see one again some time.

Waukegan Arrivals and Practice

One of my favorite airshows is held at Waukegan.  This show has a lot to offer.  It has a good selection of performers, it is not so large that you feel exhausted even getting there, the display is not vast but it does flow well and a lot of people I know are involved.  Also, it is close to home so covering several days is not a problem.

I actually had three days up at the show.  I shall deal with the show itself in an upcoming post.  Before that I headed up for the arrivals and for the practice.  These were on the Thursday and Friday and the weather could not have been more different.  Thursday was a lovely day.  I got there just after the A-10s arrived which was a disappointment but I was there for the F/A-18s showing up as well as the Snowbirds, some of whom flew around for a considerable time before landing.

The practice show on Friday had a solid cloud layer all day.  It wasn’t so bad that the practice could not go ahead but it certainly did not make for great photographic conditions.  The practice was just for the main acts with the Snowbirds performing, both Hornets doing the demonstration and the USAF Heritage Flight involving an A-10.  The rest of the performers were not involved.  Since these displays required closing a local street, the aim was to keep the practice relatively short.

The results were not my best photos ever.  With the forecast for better things on the Saturday during the show itself, there was a good chance that most of these would be consigned to the trash if Saturday worked out. However, there were some that weren’t too bad.  As for Saturday, you will have to wait and see…

Chicago Air and Water Show

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.

Gary South Shore Show

Only a short distance south of Chicago across the state line to Indiana is Gary.  They hold an air show there every year that is over the lake along one of the beaches.  For one reason or another, I have never been to this show.  This year was expected to be no different originally.  I had decided against going since the attendees list – while good – was a little shorter than in previous years.  It was also supposed to be unbelievably hot!

My buddy, Joel, was going and he offered me a ride down if I wanted to go to the twilight show they hold on the Friday evening.  I figured I would go since the opportunity was there so we headed down.  Although not part of the twilight show, the USAF Thunderbirds were performing on the Saturday and Sunday and were scheduled to practice on the Friday afternoon, not long before the twilight show started.  Therefore, we got a full show plus whatever else they planned to check out as part of their practice efforts.

Then we got the displays for real.  The heat was pretty intense but the performers did not allow this to affect their displays.  Unfortunately from a photography point of view, there was quite a lot of haze which hurt the visibility and the wind had died down which meant that smoke from the displays did not disperse quickly and could obscure the following passes in places.  This meant that the photo opportunities had to be grabbed when they could.

The hope was that, as the sun dropped down, the golden light would arrive and it would be possible to get some more unusual shots than would be the case at a normal day show.  Unfortunately, while this worked a bit, it wasn’t as successful as I had hoped.  The sun sets a long way north at this time of year so, as it got lower, it got further behind the performers.  Not back lighting but certainly not illuminating the front of the aircraft.  Also, the haze I mentioned before meant that the dropping sun became more obscured so the strong evening light never really came along and we got something more diffused and weak.

This was a shame but not the end of the world.  The show was still enjoyable and the people I was there with made it all the more fun.  Thanks to the team at South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority for hosting us.  I hear that the two main show days at the weekend were very popular and went well.


Only a week after Janesville’s show (discussed here) came Rockford’s show.  Given that Rockford is about 20-30 miles south of Janesville, this must be a bit of feast or famine for the local aviation enthusiasts.  Rockford is a larger show and has a substantial static display but it does have some of the same performers as Janesville. It also adds some other bits and pieces too.  The only difficulty is that you are facing south so the lighting for photography is a little tricky.

The Thunderbirds were the headline act but the Black Diamond team was also on the bill.  Fortunately, they turned up with the full complement of aircraft this time.  This made for a far more interesting display and I did enjoy what they did.  It was just as well I saw them is this turned out to be one of the last times the full team appeared anywhere.  Apparently they have picked up a lot of work supporting military training and can no longer bring so many aircraft to a given show.  They will have a reduced number of L-39s at future events. Given my experience at Janesville with their reduced show, this will be a disappointment to many who were looking forward to their appearances.

Art was also present with the SHAR and the L-39.  Yet again my weather curse struck. Bright sunlight was present right up until he launched.  It was still there as he headed out for his opening pass.  Then the cloud came in just in time for his benefit pass so flat light again for me! Arghh!  One day I will get the shots I want of that lovely aircraft.

The flying display was a good mix but one of the high points for me was an unexpected extra.  A Boeing Dreamlifter was apparently in the area and performed a low approach a go around.  The crew brought the jet down to a very low height with gear and flaps down and then maintained that height along a substantial portion of the runway before powering off again.  Not something that will be seen at too many shows I am sure and I am glad to have caught it.  I have seen the jet on the ground a couple of times but this was the first time I saw it in flight.

The team at Rockford really work hard at getting a diverse selection of aircraft into the static display and this year was no exception.  The ramp was full of jets from many operators and locations.  Since I was in before the gates opened to the public, I got a good chance to see what was on display and catch up with the some of the crews.  It also helped to be able to get some shots before the sun got too high and made the light so harsh.  This is an issue during the show since heat haze becomes a problem quite quickly so getting shots of anything to far away becomes impractical.  However, there is nothing anyone can do about that so you have to do what you can.  It was an enjoyable show and a credit to the organizing team.  I know some people had issues with parking and getting away but I didn’t have any unusual in that regard so maybe I was just lucky.


The Janesville show, or to give it it’s proper title, The Southern Wisconsin Airfest, is on each year but, for one reason or another, I have never previously attended it. This time, my friend Art Nalls was displaying with his Sea Harrier and L-39. Originally, I was planning to do something with Art after this show although that fell through as a result of a third party letting us down. However, I decided to attend the show to see what it had on offer.

I went for two of the three days. There was a Friday evening show and both days of the weekend. I went for Friday and Saturday. The Friday show was cut short by a pretty excitable thunder storm that moved in just as the Heritage Flight was getting ready to launch. Art had fortunately already displayed but the light was already fading when he flew and the impending storm was not hard to predict!

Saturday started out with another storm but it fortunately blew through before the show was due to start. My morning was focused on a flight with the US Army’s Golden Knights parachute display team as I previously blogged about here. Then it was on to the main show (or what was left by the time I got back down!).

Art flew again and I had more luck than the previous day (although I believe there must be a weather curse that means clouds will appear whenever I am photographing the SHAR – just enough the make the light flat!).  The heritage flight was very good and included Beercan Collier who will make another appearance in this blog in the near future as well as Vlado Lenoch – always a fun P-51 pilot.  The Black Diamond team showed up very short handed.  The plan for four L-39s and two MiG-17s was not met and only three L-39s were present.  They flew well but the display obviously was supposed to have the pair filling in the routine. Without them there were long gaps in the performance which really hurt things. I will return to this subject in an upcoming post since the story has evolved.

Janesville is not a huge show but they had an interesting selection of things on display. The Canadian Hornets that showed up on Friday evening threw themselves around a lot before landing for the static display. I understand their departures were even more interesting although I wasn’t there to witness that. The team that hosted us did a great job and many thanks to them.

Show Season – What to Do?

This time of year brings with it the opportunity for a number of airshows to be visited. I have found myself attending fewer shows in recent years than had previously been the case. This is a function of the changes that have taken place in the acts that are available to show bookers. There are fewer options available to show organizers, particularly with the reductions that the military has had to make in what it can bring to a show.

This is something that is a fact of life these days but the result is that there is less diversity in what is available at a given show. Moreover, some performers are more focused on certain areas so going to a couple of shows that are close to each other can result in the same acts each time. I am not critical of the individual acts and what they do but I am less inclined to see the same thing at multiple locations, particularly if the locations are difficult from an access point of view or if the lighting makes getting good shots tricky.

The result of this is that I have cut back on the shows that I go to. If I am going to a show, it is because there is something specific that is attending that I am interested in seeing. This means that I am less focused on the bigger events and more interested in some o the smaller locations that, while not having a big lineup, do provide a more intimate environment or something a little different from a performer perspective. This also includes events that aren’t shows in the traditional sense but are fly-ins or similar gatherings that provide an opportunity to be more involved with what is going on.

Having said all of that, I have attended a few shows recently and they will be the subject of upcoming posts. Stay tuned…

Chicago Air and Water Show

The Air and Water Show, here in Chicago, has been a regular for me since moving here – and why wouldn’t it be when I can actually walk to the show!?  This year, though, I was not so inspired.  The line up was not looking to be too diverse (at least as far as the things I like to shoot) and they had moved it an hour earlier which means more of the show is in the harsh lighting from a bad angle.

I skipped practice day and Saturday was almost rained out.  Sunday the weather was good and I eventually found I couldn’t quite quit cold turkey and grabbed one camera and one lens (plus a bottle of water) and decided to walk slowly up the lakefront.  This would give me a chance to take some shots from further away but looking more up the display line.  It also made the sun angles a bit better.

As the show progressed, I gradually drifted up the lakeshore until I got the North Avenue beach, around show center, just in time for the Thunderbirds display.  I should point out my timing was better than that of the Golden Knights and the Thunderbirds.  The Golden Knights had finished their jump and were lined up on the beach being introduced by their commentator.  Each member of the jump team was given a personal introduction and they were just getting to their special guest of the day who was getting the ceremonial baton when the Thunderbirds roared in from behind the crowd.

That was the end of the presentations as far as the majority of the crowd were concerned since the PA was switched over to the Thunderbirds commentary team who had probably been doing their introductions previously without knowing that no-one was hearing them.  Don’t know whether the Golden Knights were running late or the Thunderbirds were early but, either way, not a smooth handover.  The Golden Knights jump ship had been orbiting offshore awaiting its final pass but I guess they were told to make themselves scarce once the show box was handed over to the Thunderbirds!

The show was not too bad.  I’m glad I went and I took the reverse stroll home which also worked pretty well.  I guess I can’t pass up an airshow on my doorstep, even if the schedule doesn’t get me too excited!