Apr 7, 2009

The Navy's Blue Angels

Tuesday, April 07, 2009
Summerdale, AL

Yesterday, Monday, while exploring the Naval Aviation Museum over at the Pensacola Naval Air Station we discovered that the Blue Angels would be practicing Tuesday morning, this morning, precisely at 8:30am at the airfield right behind the Museum. Those fly-boys and fly-girls sure do get up early in the morning, don't they?

So Dar set two alarms and we were up at 6am in order to leave by 7am so we could be there by 8am. She was a determined girl and she was going to see this with me or without me. And one way or another, somehow, we got there just a few minutes after 8am, but well before start time.

Behind the Museum and it's airplane restoration hangers are bleachers just a few hundred feet from the main runway. This being spring break week for the public schools in this part of Florida the stands were full of families with kids. Dar and I found a place to stand within a few feet of the front of the cordoned off area -- off to one side. I've always preferred standing during air shows as I'm usually turning and spinning my head looking this way and that, taking in the whole scene. We had two cameras ready for action -- our Canon SLR with our "big" 300mm zoom telephoto lens attached, and our little pocket Nikon that's good for wide-angle shots and movie clips.

From Blue Angels Practice

Right at 8:30am the team thundered into the skies, making tell-tail smoke as they climbed for altitude with full afterburners ablaze. For the next 45 minutes we watched with cameras clicking like crazy. First Dar, then I, learned how difficult it is to take pics of something moving 400mph just a few hundred feet away -- especially with a telephoto lens. I had the best luck by turning off the auto-focus and manually adjusting both focus and zoom, cranking up the shutter speed, pulling the "trigger" and letting the camera take as many pictures as it could while I kinda' pointed it at the blue streaks flying by. By the end of the practice session, the two memory cards held hundreds of pics... even after discarding the clearly bad ones we ended up with a bit more than 100 keepers.

From Blue Angels Practice

From Blue Angels Practice

From Blue Angels Practice

More photos are available in our online photo gallery, complete with Dar's commentary.

We've seen the Blue Angels many times in the past. We've also seen the Air Force Thunderbirds and the Canadian Snow Birds. They all do similar shows demonstrating the best of precision flight by the finest pilots in the world. But seeing them practicing at their home field was an experience we'll always remember.

Click on the Blue Angels Schedule for 2009. You might be able to see them someplace nearby this summer. It's a thoroughly enjoyable show.


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