This past Saturday, May 1, 2020, the Navy’s Bluebirds and the Air Force’s Thunderbirds soared over Baltimore and the DC metro area skies in honor of the thousands of doctors, nurses, first responders, and essential workers serving on the front line day-in and day-out during this crisis.
LESSON: At times experience and luck can be the key factors in determining whether your photos will work or not.
The organizers of the event even published a flight path and estimated flight times. However, I knew from having covered events like this one in the past, things happen and flight path deviations can occur. So, I went out knowing there was a 50/50 chance these photos would work or not.
However, in a situation like this one where there are so many factors outside of your control as a photographer, you have to think hard before hand on what choices to make. And once you’ve done this, then you must stick to your guns. These referred specifically not only to my chosen location but also what gear would I take with me.
For a location, I chose one of my favorite monuments in the DC Metro Area: the Air Force Memorial monument. As far as photographic gear choices, that was a bit more complicated. I knew I needed a big telephoto to get a detail of them in the sky. I knew I needed a medium range telephoto just in case they happened to fly closer to my location. And I never leave the house without a good wide angle. So, I need bringing 2 DSLRs and my mirrorless #nikonZ7 with me as well as an array of lenses ranging from my 14mm all the way up to 500 mm and a 1.4 TC.
At first, I positioned myself in such manner I had DLOS (direct line of sight) to the Washington Monument about three miles just northeast of my position. But at a location where if they flew right atop of me then I could just use my wide angle.
From my vantage viewpoint, the first pass was simply too far away seemed miles away beyond the monument. The same thing happened the second time around.
This is when things started to get dicey. For I knew I’d only get one more chance when they’d head back from where they came from.
I looked around and decided I’d gamble and emphasize more on the foreground than on the jets themselves. So, I moved closer to a statue depicting an AF honor guard and I said a prayer to the Gods of Photography.
As they flew by at a distance I concentrated on keeping them against a clean horizon while composing the majority of the frame with the foreground elements. After all, I managed to make a sequence with the wide-angle lens and then I quickly switched to my 500 telephoto for a closer look at the birds.
And these are the resulting images, which in my opinion are still too far away but one is unique enough to publish and the other one works as a secondary image and as a good “photo of record.”