June 5, 2009
Blue Angels, flying over Lake Washington in Seattle. Every year, the angels come and perform as part of Seafair, in early August. They do warm-up exercises on Thursday and Friday, then “real” shows on Saturday and Sunday. A couple years ago I was lucky enough to be out on my friend Eric’s boat during one of the rehearsals. I mean, it’s an exciting show from ANY vantage point, but when you’re out on the water right beneath them, it’s pretty unforgettable.
Getting these shots was pretty difficult though. I set up the camera with a pretty high ISO (so I could use a fast shutter speed), and I used the continuous fire mode on my camera (which is relatively slow, honestly) to get as many shots as I could while they were nearby. Also, I had my big zoom lens on, because even when something like that looks close, unless you’re zoomed all the way in, it still looks pretty far away in the resulting pictures.
But, it was still tough. First of all, keeping everything in focus is a pain in the ass. Since you’re taking pictures of things that are moving REALLY fast towards you, the camera needs to be able to keep up, and even the delay between when the autofocus locks on and the shutter fires can mean that the subject moves out of your depth of field. Also, there’s the fact that I was on a boat, so the rolling waves made it difficult to keep the angels in the camera frame at all, much less properly positioned for an interesting picture. On top of everything else, the angels fly all sorts of different directions, and then disappear in the distance. So just finding where they are and getting set up in time for a flyby can be pretty tough.
All that being said, I’m pretty happy with the results I got that day. Since I was using a pretty high ISO, some of the images were a bit noisy (it was pretty noticeable with the expanse of blue sky), so I had to use some noise-reduction software, but in this instance it worked great. (I used Neat Image, which I sort of lost track of over time, no clue where my copy went) That software (Noise Ninja is another good one) can be pretty useful, although not in every situation. A lot of times it can remove actual detail that you want to keep, or it can cause things to look plastic-y. (Particularly if there are people in the picture – the result can look like their skin came straight out of a cartoon, kind of weird.) But, for these pictures, it was a fantastic help.
That’s it for this week, have a great weekend!
Map. Somewhere out on the water. http://tinyurl.com/qay5rn
Notes: Canon EOS Rebel XT, Quantaray 70-300 mm lens. 1/4000s, f/8.0, ISO 800. Focal length: 300mm.