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SHOOTING THE BLUE ANGELS FOUR HOURS OUT ON THE RUNWAY AT THE BELL FT. WORTH ALLIANCE AIRSHOW

MY 2ND TIME SHOOTING THE BLUE ANGELS. MY FIRST WHEN THEY WERE ACTUALLY FLYING.

About a week before my seminar in Arlington, Texas, I get a text from my good buddy Larry Grace, who is President of the ISAP (the International Society of Aviation Photographers - LINK), and Larry says, "Hey, you're going to be right there in Arlington on Thursday. We're going to be doing a workshop, and we'll be shooting practice runs with the Blue Angels on Friday right down the road in Ft. Worth — why don't you come out and shoot 'em with us?" Man, I was all over that, and I changed my flight that same day so I could make the shoot. I was psyched! (More on the ISAP in just a minute, but first here's a shot from that dawn shoot in 2015, below):

Here's one from back in 2015 on the ramp at dawn. Never saw 'em fly back then, but I was happy I at least got to shoot them at dawn.

MY 2ND TIME SHOOTING THE BLUE ANGELS. MY FIRST WHEN THEY WERE ACTUALLY FLYING.

I got to shoot the Blue Angels once back in 2015 at dawn when they were on the ramp the day at the Sun n' Fun Fly-in in Lakeland, Florida, the day before the ISAP Symposium (that's a shot from 2015 above), but I had to leave before the airshow even started, so I've never actually shot the Blue Angels in the air (or even seen them airborne for that matter), so this opportunity last week was really a treat.

I only had less than four hours total to shoot last week (from around 10:15 am to 2:00 pm), but I was happy to have any time shooting there at all. The Blues were up for just over an hour of that, so we'll start with them. Here's a few shots of them in action:

This guys are absolutely incredible — doing stunts like this at 450 mph! The precision is just unbelievable!
I'm not exactly sure why the get in front is sharp and the one behind has motion blur, but I like it! Probably couldn't get a shot like that again if I tried.
One of the classic shots you always see (but I had to take it anyway).
Lone doggie.

THE ACCESS WE HAD WAS PRETTY INCREDIBLE

I knew from attending some of ISAPs other symposiums and shooting events, Larry always somehow gets his group incredible access, and this time was no different. We had a special area set up by the Alliance Airshow right along the taxiway and runways, facing right onto the Blue Angels with a completely unobstructed view. Ft. Worth Camera, a sponsor for the airshow, was cool enough to share their space with ISAP, along with Canon (who had cameras and lenses available for loan), and Nikon, all there supporting the airshow, which is really cool.

That's me with ISAP President Larry Grace

He had a whole hospitality area set up, with tents, tables and chairs, and he had lunch brought in for everybody, so you didn't miss a thing. Plus, it was strategically placed right near the Corn Dog truck, so…all in all it's about as good as it gets. Even the weather was pretty incredible — nice blue skies; 70° with a slight breeze.

I USED JUST ONE LENS

I brought two (I already had my 16-35mm with me, but never even pulled it out). I didn't have something light and compact like a lot of the guys there who were out there shooting nice, lightweight lenses like Sigma 60-600mm lens. I only had my Canon 200-400mm f/4 with a built-in 1.4 tele-extender (I had used it for football, but I don't use it enough so I'm going to wind up selling here in the next few weeks). It's quite a big long lens, so I took a monopod to mount it on, but this is really a hand-held type of situation, so I ditched the monopod after about five minutes and hoisted that heavy beast up every time the jets made a pass. After a while I could sure feel it in my back.

I didn't use the built-in 1.4 tele-extender much — 400mm on it's own was usually more than enough, and when they were flying in formation I sometimes had to back out to 300mm and even 200mm quite a bit. I probably could have gotten away with a 70-200mm with a 1.4 tele-extender and saved my back. LOL!

Another one of those classic shots.
I did like this one right when they're peeling off from the formation.
A six pack of Blues performing a Delta Roll.

I WOUND UP SHOOTING SOME OTHER PLANES WHILE WAITING FOR “THE BLUES”

Douglas A-1 Skyraider coming back from its run.

There were lots of other planes in the air, practicing for the opening of the Airshow on Saturday; everything from Fifi the World War II B-29 Superfortress (I shot her on the ground back in 2015. My first time seeing her in the air, too!) to Raptors, the F-16 Viper Demo Team, A one-of-a-kind Yak 110 (two Russian-made Yakovlev Yak-3's Frankenstein'd together into one plane by joining two Yak 55 fuselages with a jet engine mounted in between, becuase…ya know), to some awesome warbirds and the Breitling Aerobatics Team. Parked on the ramp were everything from a C-130 to a FedEx cargo jet to combat trainers, FA/18s — you name it (didn't shoot anything on the ramp — I was too busy shooting everything in the air).

The underside of an F22 Raptor with its weapons bay on display!
The USN and USMC newest aircraft The F35C Lightning II from the Strike Fighter Squadron 125, also known as the "Rough Raiders" (a US Navy strike fighter squadron based at Naval Air Station Lemoore, California) just back from blowing all our minds.

THE BREITLING ACROBATIC TEAM

For these shots (below) I went from shooting at 1/2000 of a second and freezing the action, to panning at 1/160 of a second trying to keep some prop blur. You know what you get when you pan along with super fast planes zooming through the sky at 1/160 of a second, while you're holding an impossibly large lens that wasn't meant for this? A lot of totally blurry photos. A ton. Hundreds! However, buried within those hundreds of tremendously blurry images were some pretty sharp ones. Sadly, none of these sharp ones have this incredible team doing anything particuarlly incredible. The incredible stuff they were doing is all buried in blur. So, please enjoy these non-blurry, non-exciting shots.

Those last two shots aren't the Breitling team. That's a Twin Yak 110 with a lear jet engine underneath just for good measure.

BELL V-280 VALOR TILT-ROTOR AIRCRAFT

I'm not sure what to call it. It's not a helicopter; it's not a jet; but it's rotors are just giant-sized. It's like seeing a flying windmill, and it's louder than KISS. Larry let me know that this tiltrotor aircraft is being developed by Bell and Lockheed Martin for the US Army's Future Vertical Lift program. I got a few shots of it even though I didn't know what I was shooting at the time.

IF YOU'RE INTERESTED IN AVIATION PHOTOGRAPHY, MAKE SURE YOU READ THIS NEXT PARAGRAPH

Our ISAP Workshop Ft. Worth Alliance Airshow Group Photo (by Larry Grace).

If you're getting into aviation photography yourself, you need to join ISAP. They are a non-profit organization and they are made up of an absolutely incredible group of great people. They are led by one of the greatest people in our industry (the awesome Larry Grace), and all those awesome kids you see in the front — they're there with their teachers from a local high school — Northwest HS the students are a part of the Creative Media Production Academy; invited by Larry to join in with the ISAP crew, and learn from them, and shoot alongside them. How awesome is that!

I sat in on one of their sessions at the hotel the night before where Larry was doing critiques of member's images, and he was just so great. So helpful, and he works so hard to make each workshop or symposium a really great experience for ISAP members. I'm proud to have been a member for nearly 10 years now, and I just can't say enough great things about them. Here's their official site — go give 'em a look, and hopefully I'll see you at one of their workshops in the future (I've taught sessions at a number of their workshops in the past).

They publish an awesome magazine for their members called ISnAP. Here's the link to check it out: https://issuu.com/isaporg

They hold them all over the country, and the vibe at their events reminds me of Photoshop World — it feels like old friends and family getting together. Everybody is so supportive, and willing to share, and help, and laugh, and love every minute of it. Plus, the access! I don't know how Larry does it, but he gets his members access to planes, and locations, and events you'd never get any other way. I think it's a testament to the trust Larry has built up within the aviation industry. They love and respect what he does, and he treats them the same way. It's a very special organization.

A FEW MORE BLUES TO TAKE US OUT…

One for the road. Errr…the sky.

THANKS FOR LETTING ME SHARE THESE IMAGES WITH YOU

Thank you so much for stopping by and checking this all out. I'm very grateful to Larry Grace and the hardworking crew at ISAP for the opportunity to shoot alongside them at the event. What a great group of folks. A special thanks to the folks at the Bell Ft. Worth Alliance Airshow for their wonderful help and support for what ISAP is doing in the aviation photography community. Also, thanks to ISAP members Jim Wilson (Vice President on the ISAP board) and his Grandson Chander for letting me tag along with them, and for keeping me from getting run over out on the field. Lastly, and most importantly, thank you to the men and women of our US Military for their service, their skill, for inspiring so many with their demos, and for their sacrifices and those of their family. You all are the best — my humble thanks to you all.

CAMERA INFO: Canon 5D Mark IV with a Canon 200-400mm f/4 zoom with a built-in 1.4 Tele-extender. Most Blue Angel shots taken in Av mode; f/8 at 1/1000 to 1/2000 of a second at ISO 400. Shots of planes with props shot in Manual Mode; ISO 100 at f/11 at 1/160 of a second. A few at 1/80 of a second.

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Scott Kelby
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