Every year, the Blue Angels perform in Jacksonville, alternating between the beach and Jax Naval Air Station. I try to make it every year, but it's always at a terrible time of year... Florida/Georgia weekend! It's also an iffy time of year weather-wise as we usually get the first big nor'easter of the year just about this time.
This year, I was all excited because finally after years of missing the show, I actually had the weekend set aside for the show, and my wife was out of town for the weekend to boot (which never happens). They usually have a practice run on Friday, so I figured I'd take a few hours off work and run down to watch the practice show so I could prepare for the real thing on Saturday.
Friday is reserved for special groups (Boy Scouts and such), so the best place to watch off-base is in the Target parking lot immediately adjacent the end of the runway. Target ropes off part of the parking lot and has a police presence to keep order (thanks to Target for not forbidding access to us viewers). It was a bright, beautiful, albeit windy day (first nor'easter of the year).
I set up shop in the parking lot and did the best I could to get some pics, although I wasn't trying too hard in anticipation of better position the next day. The planes are so fast! It was hard to get the camera to my face before they passed. I had a good time hanging out in the parking lot with other amazed viewers, and then back to work.
The forecast for Saturday was much the same as Friday... brilliant sun, windy and cold (a relative term for those outside of Florida). I arose with great anticipation early Saturday morning, only to be greeted by solid low overcast. I took a quick look at the satellite loop... clear at the Georgia state line, only 40 miles away, and the wind forecast for straight out of the north. Perfect!... it should be clearing up anytime now. So, off I go to the base. I was early enough that traffic wasn't too bad (later in the day, it's a nightmare getting on base).
Three hours after waking up... still solid overcast, bitterly cold (again, relative), and a 25 knot wind straight from... the northeast! Ugh! Stupid weathermen! Two hours later, I gave up. No Blue Angel pics and nothing but crummy grayed out pics of other planes. The only excitement was an A-10 blowing a tire on landing.
So, the only pics I got were from the Friday practice session... some not so bad pics, but not the ones for which I was hoping. My favorite pic from Friday is one that I could not have captured on base. Check out the vapor trails from the tips of the propellers of Fat Albert. This was at the end of the short take-off climb out where they level off, engines still at maximum thrust to gain air-speed. This was at the end of the runway, so practically right above the Target parking lot. Neato!
Equipment: Canon 7D, 70-200 f/2.8 USM with a 2X iii extender. ISO-400, f/9, typically 400mm, 1/800 to 1/1600.
Post Script: Got back home around noon and looked at the current weather conditions on the local TV station's web site... "Sunny & Clear"! Arrrrgh!
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