2012/07/07-07/08 Dayton Air Show (Second part - the 1st day)


(<<Click here to read the previous part)  (Click here to read the last part>>)

I drove all the way from Pittsburgh to Dayton to see A-4 Skyhawk in the air.  It took 40 minutes from the hotel in Springfield to the air-show parking.  To make sure we get a good parking spot close to the gate, we left the hotel a little before 7am.  We got there at around 8:20am.  We saw surprisingly few cars.  The forecast was predicting record-breaking 102F on that day.  Maybe many people stayed home to avoid extreme heat.  We took some rest in the car and then walked to the gate around 9am.

In these days, I keep track of what focal length I used in every air show for each airplane.  I use this data to better configure my camera.  Jet fighters and attackers are fast.  It is nearly impossible to adjust the focal length on the fly.  To take advantage of the focal-length data, I needed to shoot pictures from the same location as the past air shows.  I came to the same spot as the previous years and opened the camping chair.  At that time, the temperature was already 102F and going up.  It was going to be a hot day.

This year, following the opening parachute jumps, two F-16s from "Stingers" based at Toledo Ohio made fly-bys.  According to my past data, when F-16s from Springfield air base showed a nice knife-edge pass, I used 480mm in the scale of the 35mm film.  So, I set up my focal length to 120mm.  I had 2x tele converter and my E-30 had 2x crop factor.  The result was....

It flew high, and didn't give any knife-edge.  I had to extend my lens all the way to the maximum length.

Then came B-52.  It gave only one pass.  My past data indicated 70mm should work.  But, as it appeared on final runway 24R, it looked very low.  I thought I had to use shorter lens.  I quickly switched to my short-range lens.  And,

Actually my data was correct.  With my short-range lens, this was the biggest size I could get.

Lesson learned: Respect past data.

Gene Soucy

Then, A-4B Skyhawk started the engine and taxied to runway 24R!

Finally!  A-4 Skyhawk is taking off right in front of my eyes!  I stood on my stool and tried to capture the airplane on take-off run.  As you can see, the airplane was obscured by the massive heat haze!  But, it should be ok as soon as the airplane went up to 300ft.  That's what I thought.

A-4 Skyhawk is small compared to F-4 or even F-16.  And, this was my first time to see A-4 Skyhawk flying in an air show, and I didn't have my past photography data for this airplane.  But, I assumed that it was going to fly a similar path as F-16 aerobatic demo, and calculated expected ideal focal length, which was 600mm with 35mm film, 150mm with my camera + teleconverter.

A-4 Skyhawk then made a turn and flew to the right of the show center then came back and showed a knife-edge pass!  It was exposing its back to the audience.  Its signature double-delta wings were clearly visible!  The lighting condition was the best!  There was no way I was going to miss this photo opportunity! 

It was clear that 600mm was too short.  I extended my lens to the full length and pressed the shutter button and took three bursts of continuous shots.

Wow!  It was low.  It appeared lower than the speaker poles.  It meant that the distance was farther than the past F-16 aerobatic demo.  Probably the altitude was the same.  I assume 300ft.  Then it showed some aerobatic maneuvers and landed.

Finally!  I saw an A-4 Skyhawk flying!  I shot pictures of an A-4 Skyhawk in the air!  I briefly checked the picture quality of the airplane on my E-30's LCD panel, and it appeared ok.  It looked slightly blur on the LCD monitor, but when I zoom more than 10x, my E-30 smoothes the picture out.  So, I wasn't worried about it then.

Another flight I was looking forward in this year's Dayton air show was QF-4 Phantom II aerobatics.  I saw one Vietnam-War color scheme QF-4 Phantom II in Cleveland.  In this Dayton air show, two QF-4s, one in Vietnum-War color scheme and the other in low-visibility color scheme, flew.

The closest data I had was when Collings foundation took their F-4 to Dayton in 2007.  That time I used 420mm in the scale of 35mm film, and that was good.

Well, I should have gone up a little higher.  But, I can use this data for the next year.

I was able to capture last passes with full frame.

British Sea Harrier owned by Nalls Aviation flew before the Blue Angels.  I was also looking forward to seeing it because the lighting condition in Dayton is so nice.  When I saw it in Pittsburgh, the sun was behind the airplane.  No matter what I did, the airplane was darker than the background.

But, this time, this Sea Harrier was always flying far from the spectator area.  Even with my 200mm+2x tele converter, which is equivalent to 800mm in the scale of 35mm film, the following picture was the biggest I could get.

I noticed Sean D. Tucker was not in Dayton this year.  I was assuming he was coming, but he apparently was taking a break.

I tried something different to capture the surprise-pass of the Blue Angels.  It is a very high-speed pass, and I almost always cannot keep up with the speed.  Angular velocity, relative to the photographer, changes rapidly when it comes closer.  I end up with getting a close-up picture of the engine nozzle.

So, if I often end up with getting a nozzle, why not aiming at the nose of the airplane, then I may capture the whole airplane.  When it came to my mind, I though I was genius!  ....   Sorry, it was so obvious.  It didn't come to me until this time.  So, I tried this new (new to me) strategy, and ....

It worked!  I don't have a chance to see Thunderbirds this year, but I should be able to use the same strategy for the surprise pass of the Thunderbirds.  I'll try next time.

I never get bored of Blue Angels.

So, the first day was over.  But, it was hot!  Hot!  Hot!  Brutally Hot!  We carried six 500ml bottles of water.  We drunk them up by 1pm.  We bought additional one 500ml bottle of water and two cups of lemonades.  But, by the time Blue Angels' flight was done, we were feeling as if we got lost in a desert.  We started seeing our vehicle beyond the mirage....  Water....  We need water....  Well, we walked back to the parking lot across the air show desert ramp.  Iced coffee that I kept in the cooler box with ice cubes tasted like heaven.  It was indeed a brutally hot day.  The evening news was saying like 30+ people were carried to the hospital due to heat exhaustion.

Back in hotel, I checked the photos on my laptop.  My main interest was how crisp a picture of A-4 Skyhawk I got.  Exif data indicated I used a right setting.  I had shutter speed of 1/1250 to 1/1600.  Which should be fast enough.

However, to my disappointment, the pictures were not very crisp.  You can see unscaled pictures by clicking thumbnails below.

The left one, the camera seemed to miss the focus.  But, the mid-air refueling probe looked a little strange.  It appears to be a bit wavy.  The right one, it is wavy everywhere.  If it was a motion blur, I should see some directionality.  But, it's not like that.  It is more like looking something through water.

Was it ....... HEAT HAZE!?

No way!  A-4 Skyhawk was at least 300ft up.  Even for the left picture, my camera may be fooled by the heat haze.  Usually from my experience, jet airplanes are not so affected by the heat haze because they stay higher than other propeller aerobatic airplanes.  But, it was a record-breaking brutally hot day.  The heat haze may have also been record breaking.

The second day was going to be slightly less hot.  But, it was going to be very hot.  I needed to come up with a counter measure for the heat haze.

(Click here to read the last part>>)

Comments are welcome.  Send E-Mail to: 

Back to http://www.ysflight.com