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Friday Slide Show: The Blue Angels Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

7 October 2016

Don't get your hopes up. Thursday we climbed Twin Peaks on foot to shoot what we could see of the Blue Angels' afternoon practice session. We used our 18-200mm Nikkor, which is a 300mm equivalent, to catch the action.

Blue Angel. Flying overhead on Twin Peaks.

That's not quite long enough, as you'll see. The planes look like flies, not shiny blue and gold aircraft. Once or twice they flew close enough to get a shot in which you can read their markings, but that was it.

So we took a few images of the neighborhood below us while we waited for them to come back over the Golden Gate Bridge or over Alcatraz or between the skyscrapers downtown.

When they turned on the smoke, we took wide angle shots of their flight pattern. We had the bright idea of shooting continuously during a big arc. We made a GIF of that for you.

Take Two. What happens when you shoot from Fort Mason.

Then we went back Friday afternoon after publishing the first version of this slide show.

We took our own advice and set up at the end of the first pier at Fort Mason. Not all the way to the end, which was mobbed by the time we got there halfway through the first rehearsal session. But along the side, facing the bridge.

We had an unobstructed view there. And because the grandstands are on the Marina Green, most of the action took place right in front of us.

It was quite a different experience being at ground level instead of 900 feet up on Twin Peaks. We were under much of the show.

We used the same setup as yesterday but probably should have increased the shutter speed a bit since we were closer. For post processing, we created a Lightroom preset from one of our final images of yesterday's shots and applied that to our favorites from today.

Four were practicing yesterday. Six today. And they didn't need it. They were great.

When we worked downtown, we would just hate these October afternoon practice sessions. All of a sudden you'd be interrupted by a tremendous roar. And if you didn't know what was going on, it could be unnerving. "Oh, the Blue Angels," we'd say. And wait for them to go by.

We never entirely understood the reason for what Daniel Demay has calculated as a $40,950 display each time the six-plane group takes to the air. For this weekend's Fleet Week show, " the cost is somewhere north of $1.26 million." He sums it up, "The budget for 2016 is $35,475,000."

Four were practicing yesterday. And they didn't need it. They were great.

An urban area seems a particularly bad idea. Things happen. And they shouldn't happen where they can be avoided. Stay away from downtown, for example.

But up there on Twin Peaks watching them, you had to be impressed. Tourist buses came and went during the four-hour session. We lasted an hour. It seemed like everyone had a camera.

Of course, most of those were smartphones. If you think the planes look like flies with at 300mm, they must look like gnats with a wide-angle smartphone lens.

But there was some big glass up there too. And a few megazooms. Not to mention some old travel digicams doing the best they could.

Angels in Flight. An animated GIF.

We wish we could give them some advice for post processing.

The most important adjustment we made in Lightroom was to crop. Severely. The shot of downtown was our tightest crop. We wanted you to be able to see the planes from the buildings.

But we also set White Balance to Daylight, which is something we don't often have to do. But we were shooting with a circular polarizer and Auto didn't quite figure it out. We had to cool the color balance a bit.

We did use Martin Evening's trick for sharpening in Lightroom as well as our default settings for the Nikon D300, which includes a heavy dose of Clarity.

We also indulged in some Dehazing. It was a very clear day but atmospheric haze is unavoidable. So just a bit of Dehaze helped a lot. If you shot video with your smartphone, try the new Dehaze in Adobe Premiere Elements. This is exactly what it's there for.

If you want to catch the show this weekend, the best venues for close-up shots (such as they are) would be along the northern waterfront (the piers at Fort Mason come immediately to mind). But you can't beat Twin Peaks for an overview of the show.

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