Air Apparent

This past Saturday was the Wings Over Houston airshow, and for the second time I went with my father. Last year, the military were not involved with the show because of the government sequester, and it being my first trip I had no idea how much that impacted the crowd – but this year, the event was twice as crowded as last. And, there were loads more planes than last year, including the Blue Angels. It was a great show, and well worth the early rise time (I got up at 5 AM to be at my dad’s house by 7) and the hour-long line we had to stand in when the show was over and we went to catch a shuttle back to the park-and-ride. Now for the fun part: I took THREE THOUSAND PICTURES. How am I ever going to sort through them all?!

The Blue Angels

The sorting has already begun, actually, because the first thing I discovered Sunday morning after processing that shot above, was that everybody with a camera at the event took the exact same pictures as me. Once I realized it, it made perfect sense, but I admit there was a moment of disappointment in comprehending that of course we all took the same pictures, since we were all watching the same show. Allow me to share the example with you that enlightened me:

Hey! No fair!

I’d searched Wikipedia to read up a bit on the Blue Angels, and yep, there it was – my photo! Only, it was taken two years ago. The only difference is that the smoke trailing from one of the planes in the Wikipedia shot is gray whereas all of mine are white – other than that, it’s exactly the same. Once I got over my disappointment at realizing it was highly likely the majority of my awesome three thousand shots were not that awesome at all,  but were actually pretty damn common, it at least provided me with a starting point for culling through them. I decided to try and find more unique shots that perhaps not as many people bothered to capture, like this one:

An F-100F Super Sabre flying into a cloud of smoke during a demonstration

I’m not sure that particular shot works all that well. but certainly the dark smoky background is different than the usual. Unfortunately I didn’t quite get the back end of the plane into the frame, but that’s not always a necessity.

By the time the Angels came out to fly (they’re always the grand finale, and rightfully so) the moon was visible in the late-afternoon sky – it was a welcome appearance, since the sky this day was cloudless, and for aviation photographers clouds add so much  interest to a shot, as well as giving the pictures a better effect of being airborne. I’m sure many picture-snappers got shots of the Blue Angels flying over the moon, but mine has actually gotten 5 retweets and 10 favorites on Twitter, 3 of which were from Blue Angels pilots themselves, so I’m happy. Hey, don’t laugh – 5 retweets on a photo is more than I’ve ever gotten, so I’ll take it!


Aside from the sky being cloudless, it was a gorgeous but COLD day, at least for Houston (in the mid-forties all morning, and very breezy). I was wearing Ugg boots and my long Free People sweater, but I still had to go purchase a big fugly Wings Over Houston hoodie to keep from chattering my teeth off until mid-afternoon; I was quite the sight in my oh-so-fashionable outfit, including kicky scarf, and a big gray sweatshirt stuffed over all of it, but it’s not the Wings Over Houston Air and Fashion Show, so whatever. Plus, the morning chill gave way to an afternoon that was incredibly pleasant, especially when standing in the aforementioned shuttle bus line for an hour. And if you still felt cold, there was always this to warm you up:

The Shockwave Jet Truck

Yes, that’s a jet engine strapped to the cab of a semi, so yes, at some point in someone’s life this was actually considered a good enough idea to make it happen. It’s at the show every year, and while watching it reach speeds of up to 375 miles per hour doesn’t do anything for me, seeing it taxi past the crowd with flames leaping everywhere is pretty awesome. Makes for a nice picture too.

More Blue Angels shenanigans – yep, that’s actually two planes, one right side up and one upside down. Actually, I think this is how baby airplanes are made.

A funny story: at one point during the show, a group of four people came up right in front of us, carrying two poles attached to banners. They had on orange reflective vests that said “Oracle Team Polehandler” on the back, and to us they looked like they were at some point going to parade around with the banners advertising whatever Oracle sells. They sat down on the tarmac in front of us, and I was totally amused by the one female in the group who kept turning to face the crowd and take selfie after selfie (with the tarmac as a backdrop) on her iPhone. She seemed completely unaware of the fact that we could all see her sitting there smiling at her phone camera, and I admit to thinking her a bit oblivious – especially since a pretty amazing stunt flyer was putting on one hell of a show at the time. You would think the fact that the pilot’s stunt plane had the huge word ORACLE painted on it might have clued me in to something, but nope. Then her whole group got up, picked up their poles (in accordance with the title on their orange jackets) and marched themselves with precision over to the active runway, where they proceeded to stretch the thick ribbons that were attached to each pole across it and hold each end. Not soon after that, the completely obnoxious announcer (not the announcer for the whole show; ORACLE apparently had their own) told the crowd that the pilot was now going to perform his infamous “triple ribbon cut,” wherein he flies between each of three sets of poles, cutting each set of ribbons stretched across the runway with his plane – using the left wing for the first ribbon, the right wing for the second, and cutting the third ribbon with the fin of his plane while it’s inverted. WHUT?!

Oh yes he did – see the ribbons?

That teeny tiny person in the white shirt and black pants is the female in question, and after realizing she’d volunteered to stand on a runway and hold a pole while a plane hurtled towards her upside-down to cut some ribbons in half, I conceded her participation was totally worthy of multiple selfies (in fact, I want to find out how she got the gig so I can do it next year). And speaking of the obnoxious announcer, he must have said the pilot’s name a zillion times while describing his various death-defying stunts: SEAN D. TUCKER. He said his name so much, it reminded me of late-night infomercials that use repetition to make a product stick in the viewer’s brain. He also mentioned several times what EXCELLENT PHYSICAL CONDITION the pilot SEAN D. TUCKER was in to be able to endure the G forces while he performed his stunts, and I found myself wondering aloud if this was a performance or a personal ad. Either that, or perhaps the announcer had a serious crush on him. Either way, I decided to roll with it, and since SEAN D. TUCKER was in such EXCELLENT PHYSICAL CONDITION and so obviously proud of it, when he taxied by us after his demo was over I yelled out to him: Take off your shirt, SEAN D. TUCKER!!! OK, maybe I didn’t shout it, but I did mock-shout it to my dad and his friends so we could all get a good chuckle. Still, I think it’s possible SEAN D. TUCKER heard me:

Bask in the gloriousness that is SEAN D. TUCKER!! Actually, he is rather handsome.

My Canon 7D and my used eBay 70-200 lens did me proud, but I admit to suffering lens envy at some of the humongous ones the photogs in the media box were sporting. And while the Blue Angels were performing, a military photographer out on the tarmac stopped right in front of us to pop off some shots, and I drooled at how fast his continuous shooting was compared to mine. But in the end, I got some nice sharp shots with my little “cheap” setup. I still want to get my hands on the new 7D, but I’m wondering if a better zoom lens might be a smarter investment (they cost as much, if not more, than the new 7D camera body). I definitely saw the limitations of the lens today, and would have loved to get a bit more zoom as well as some image stabilization, so we’ll see which way I decide to go. If I move up to a lens that’s much bigger than the one I have, however, I’ll no longer be able to shoot without at least a monopod, which leads to a whole new set of limitations. Plus it might be ridiculous to have a $1600 lens strapped to a old-model 7D anyway. Moving on.

These are just the first shots I’ve had time to edit, and I’m not sure how I’m going to more forward with it all. I hate to bore the crap out of everyone with shot after shot of air show photos, but in the end, if it’s where I’m at and what I’m into, why would I do anything else with my time? So love my plane photos or leave them, people. Because they’re gonna be around for awhile!