The Blue Angels, Saturday August 2 and Sunday August 3, 2003

Photos from the annual Blue Angels performance at Seafair in Seattle. The performances are centered over Lake Washington around the I-90 bridge, which is closed during the performances. The aircraft stay at Boeing Field while the Blue Angels are in town. This year, as usual, the Blue Angels did various practice on Thursday, a practice show on Friday, and official performances on Saturday and Sunday. The performances run around 40 minutes for the jets.

Most of these photos are from the Sunday performance. Steve and I walked out on the Seattle side of I-90 (with a few thousand of our dear neighbors) and took photos from there. It's a pretty good vantage point, though it's low so it's hard to get photos that really show how low the aircraft fly at times, and there's a big road sign that blocks off part of the view if you don't get past it - by the time we got there, the crowds past the sign were pretty daunting, so we settled for a good section a bit further back. The best vantage point by far is from a boat at the right location - the jets come right over, very low, at high speed. It's very thrilling. But a good vantage point higher up would also be compelling as it would allow you to get some photos looking down on the aircraft rather than having most of the photos be of the aircraft bellies.

A few of the photos are from the Saturday performance. I was late for this performance, and went down by Boeing field so I could watch the end of the show - there is a very cool bit at the very end where the jets come in fast together then quickly peel off one by one to get some space between them, circle around and then land. Also, this gives an opportunity to see the aircraft as they taxi in. (There's also a park at the north end of Boeing Field where you get a fairly nice but not entirely unobstructed view of takeoff.) Unfortunately, I misremembered from the last time I was there and I set up on the east side of the field. While this gave some good views, it didn't give as good a view of the final maneouver as it would have been from the west side of the field (as the jets peel off to the east and start peeling off further north of where I was set up than would have been ideal).

I deliberately set my camera to overexpose by a full stop for most of the photos, in order to get detail of the aircraft, compensating for the the bright, hazy sky's affect on the camera's light metering. In order to still get enough light at fast shutter speeds (to freeze the action) yet stay stopped down a bit for a bit of depth of field and to keep things a bit sharper, I used 400 ISO setting on my camera for most of the shots, resulting in noticeable grain in the flat areas. This probably wasn't necessary - the aircraft were far enough away for depth of field not to be an issue, I think, and this lens is quite sharp even wide open, so I think I would have been better off leaving it at ISO 100 and leaving the lens wide open.